Sunday, June 1, 2014

And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make: Final Daria post!

Woo hoo!  Here we are!  I rarely ever finish a project, and between the reviews I've been doing for my side gig, work, and other personal things, I am pleased to see this to the end!  When Thoth and I started watching Daria, I told him I thought I would like to blog about the series progression.  He thought it was a great idea.

The other night, I told him if I ever suggest I will do something like this again, he has my permission to end me.

So, I chose the title of this post not just because it is the last, it is also an obscure reference to the episode New Kid in season 2.  Ted, a previously home schooled boy, enters Lawndale High and becomes interested in Daria.  She "corrupts" him with chewing gum and subversive music.  The subversive music being The Beatles.  I was a bit surprised!  Daria didn't strike me as the type to be a Beatles fan!  But whatever, as the kids said way back when.

Anyway, the Beatles quote fits, not just because it might have been one Daria would have heard (if she owns Abbey Road... which she should), but because it fits the emotional progression of the character.  Slowly, she has gone from being an outcast by choice, to someone who has made meaningful connections.  Painfully, yes, but now that Daria has let people in her life is about to change again.  She is going to college.  The question is, where?

Is it College yet?, is the movie that wraps up Daria's story as far as we were meant to travel with her.  A sixth season was proposed by MTV, but the producers refused, choosing to finish it off in a TV movie instead.

We're not quite here yet!  
Information we can share so far...

So Daria, Jane, and the other Lawndale Seniors are applying for colleges.  Jane would like to go to Boston Fine Arts College (AKA, Massachusetts College of Art and Design in the real world), but is hesitant to put together a portfolio to send in.  She applies to two state schools (whatever state Lawndale is in.  Let's say, Maryland!).  Neither state school requires her to send in any art samples, but Jane seems to be thinking small.  

Default Trent
Trent begins to cut her a bit about going to college.  Staying home worked for him.  Why should she go away and spend money to be taught art, when she is already an artist?  Jane considers this.  She holds off on talking to Daria about it though.  Ah, Trent.  How did you go from dreamy alternative boy, to the lay about who is cramping your sister's chances at higher education?  Well, maybe he always was like that.  Either way, there is a lot about social class and college choices in this movie.  

The Lane family are not terribly well off, and they are free spirits.  Trent makes a good point.  You don't need to go to college to make it in the art field.  Or vice versa.  However, perhaps Jane has more to learn about art?  And maybe it's more about getting out of Lawndale and expanding her horizons.  Sure, it'll be expensive, but Trent basically has gone nowhere since he was Jane's age.  He will always be in and out with Spiral, he will most likely not leave his childhood bedroom until he has to.  But, Trent generally wants better for Jane than he has for himself.  So what's the deal with him here?  He is usually so supportive of her ventures, he even went to her track meets back in an earlier season!  More on this later.

Jodie is applying to Crestmore (AKA, Harvard), but she really wants to go to Turner, which is a "black" college.  This seemed a little bit like self segregation for me, but it isn't my place to make that call. I really feel that can't comment on this, because I have never been a racial minority in any of my schools, and have no basis to pass judgement.  Jodie feels that going to Turner, even for two years before transferring would take the edge off of the stress she has felt at Lawndale to be the "perfect Jodie doll".  When put in this context, it seems perfectly reasonable.  Jodie has always been a pressed to perform as a model student and a credit to her race.  Naturally, her parents would like to see her at Crestmore, because it continues all of their dreams for her.  Jodie is terrified of disappointing them, but applies to Turner on the sly.  It could be a fallback if Crestmore doesn't work out.  She only confides in Mack, who is as supportive as he always is.  Which is very. 

Daria and Tom are aiming to go to school together at Bromwell (AKA,Yale).  Both are model students, but Bromwell is an Ivy League school, and extremely competitive.  The difference is Tom comes from a long line of The Sloanes, that have attended Bromwell.  Daria has none of that blue blood.  Tom doesn't seem worried that they won't be able to both get in to Bromwell, but Daria applies to a Raft College (AKA, Tufts) as a fallback.  But seriously, Tom won't stop talking about Bromwell!  His path is set, and Daria will be walking it with him.  She has the grades to get in, and he has nepotism, so there.  

However, it isn't just grades.  Bromwell requires an interview, and people skills are not Daria's high point.  Tom's mother, Kaye, offers to drive the two of them to their interview, offering to stop off at Raft on the way back so that Daria can see her second choice.

Oh, and of lesser importance, Brittany keeps bugging Kevin to tell her where he is going for college next year.  "It's a surprise babe!"  Is his default answer.  

Erstwhile...

Quinn has charged an insane amount of money to Jake's credit card when she bought some designer shoes.  Helen tells her it's time she gets a job to keep up her shopping habit.  Later that night the fashion club are out at a nice restaurant celebrating Stacey's birthday.  Sandi is lamenting that she had to cancel her date for the occasion and makes a crack about Stacey's inability to find a boy to go out with her.  Stacey gives Sandi a long hard glare.  A cupcake with a candle arrives.  Stacey blows it out.  The girls ask her what she wished for, but she sighs that it doesn't matter.  It didn't come true.  She shoots a look of hurt towards Sandi.

But Quinn digs this place.  She finds out that they are hiring hosts, and applies.  Sandi gives her a hard time about getting a job, but more mature Quinn basically shrugs it off.  Working in the summer might suck, but she's gotta do it if she wants to keep in shoes.  She agrees to take a sabbatical from the fashion club for the summer.  I like this new and improved Quinn.

Let's focus on Quinn (and Stacey) for a moment

So before returning to the main plot, I wanted to look at the fashion club storyline.  It's a B storyline, and not the meat of the story, but since the show is called, Daria, I want to save her and her peers for last.

Stacey wished that Sandi would be quiet.  We find this out, because Sandi loses her voice shortly after
Stacey is getting fed up with your crap!
Stacey's birthday dinner.  Stacey feels terrible for "cursing Sandi", and tries to make up for it.  She resorts to various New Age magic practices, in hopes of reversing what she feels responsible for, but none of it works.  She eventually tells Sandi, who writes "Saboteur" on a note pad.  Stacey sort of becomes Sandi's slave for the remainder of the summer.  She conducts meetings of the fashion club with a mute Sandi, and Tiffany (who says very little), though when she speaks for Sandi, (who supplies meeting notes), she imitates her way of speaking.  It's funny, and makes you wonder if Stacey is rebelling behind the guilt.

As for Quinn, she finds that she enjoys working as a hostess.  She befriends a coworker named Lindy, who is a student at a local college.  Lindy invites Quinn out to a house party.  Quinn actually refuses any sort of alcohol, but Lindy gets sloppy drunk, not before giving Quinn a reality check about life outside the fashion club.

A girl in an outlandish outfit arrives at the party, and Quinn makes a snide remark about how she is dressed.  Lindy mentions that she actually loves the girl's dress and that the two are friends.  She implies to Quinn that being the type of person who cuts others down for their personal style is not cool, and does not fly in this particular setting. Quinn feels "cool" to be invited to a college party, but she is not the coolest kid at the party!  Reality check!  Quinn sees a mirror on the wall, covered in colored glass and remarks that it is pretty.  Lindy thanks her, revealing that she is the artist.  She offers to make one for Quinn, as she makes one for all of her friends.
Lindy

But Lindy's drinking is an issue.  She and Quinn end up hanging out a lot, but usually it involves her bringing a concealed bottle of booze to the movies, or wherever else she they go.  Lindy wants to go to a drink more after already partying hard one night, and Quinn offers to call a cab to take them home, as Lindy is in no shape to drive.  After running into Upchuck, Quinn even offers to ask him for a ride home for the two.  Of course Lindy uses the, "I'm fine" line.  Quinn is having none of it.  The situation is defused when Lindy runs into some friends, and agrees to continue the night with them.   Quinn is concerned, and goes home.

Later, Lindy is caught drinking at work.  When the manager calls she and Quinn in for a meeting (as the alcohol was found at the station where both of them work), it is noted that Lindy's lipstick is on the glass.  Lindy mentions that she lent Quinn her lipstick.

"Oh, Lindy..."  Shockingly, Quinn seems more disappointed than angry that her new friend basically threw her under the bus.  The manager doesn't believe any of this, and Lindy is fired.

Later, Quinn goes to her apartment and decides to confront Lindy about her drinking problem.  Lindy angrily denies it, and berates Quinn.  She insists that she has no problem.  Quinn points out that Lindy lost her job due to drinking.  Lindy shrugs this off, because she already got a new job.  She throws Quinn out of her apartment.

Having Quinn as the more mature party in this situation is interesting.  Lindy opened Quinn's eyes to IIFY, and her bonding with her sister, Quinn has become a very likable character.
Quinn makes a sacrifice for her friend.
what college can be like (which comes up later in a conversation with Daria), but she also showed her another side to life.  Something Quinn would have never been exposed to if she spent her summer talking about fashion with Sandi.  It showed a great strength of character that Quinn came to confront Lindy about her drinking, and not about the fact that she stabbed her in the back during the manager's meeting.  Quinn is a much better friend and an overall better person than she was when this series began.  Somewhere between her crush on David in

In the end, Lindy tracks Quinn down at her house.  She comes with the mirror she had promised to give Quinn and apologizes for her behavior.  She mentions she has an alcoholic mother, but Lindy herself does not think she is an alcoholic.  I mean, her mother is way worse, so naturally, Lindy isn't an alcoholic.  It is clear that Lindy will likely continue on as she was.  She and Quinn agree to see each other around, but we know as an audience that the friendship has ended here.  On a better note than we thought, but the chances of these two hanging out again seems slim.

Of course, Stacey gets progressively tired of trying to make up her sin to Sandi.

By the end of the movie, the fashion club meets up at a summer party.  Sandi has her voice back, and a laundry list of things Stacey can continue to do if she wants to stay in the fashion club.  Stacey mentions that she has thought about it, and like Quinn, would like to take a sabbatical.  Quinn has also states that she has raised enough money to leave her job for the rest of the summer, but has little interest in ending her own sabbatical.  From this point on, everyone is on sabbatical from the fashion club, which is no more!  However, moments later they all meet up again, hugging and crying.  They agree they can still hang out, and talk about things, even if the club has technically disbanded.
Everyone gets a sabbatical! 

Maybe the lack of actually club hierarchy in the friendship between these four will make for a more pleasant experience, with less power struggles.  In reality, I imagine that while Quinn will remain in contact with Sandi and Tiffany after she graduates, Stacey will remain a true friend, and vice versa.  Perhaps this is only in my head, but I also speak from my own experiences and observations with high school relationships.

Quick side plot information

I totally forgot to mention the O'Neill, Barch, DiMartino plot!  Ms. Barch tells O'Neill that it is the 5th anniversary of her divorce, to which O'Neill stammers something about marriage being important (yadda, yadda, yadda), to comfort her.  Barch takes this as a proposal, which O'Neill is

Too close!
too timid to retract.  DiMartino overhears this and offers to help O'Neill free himself of the "She devil who walks among us".  O'Neill admits he never intended to propose, and is afraid of what would happen if he tells Barch this.  DiMartino works to help O'Neill develop a backbone, and eventually he and Barch break up.  However, at graduation Barch confesses to O'Neill that his new assertive side is a turn on for her.  The two kiss as DiMartino bangs his head against the nearest hard surface in frustration.

Meh.  I like O'Neill and Barch together.

There's a time and a place for everything.  And it's called,  "College".

So now that we've got those two side plots out of the way, let us return to the meat of the story.


So, Daria and Tom are hoping to be Bromwell bound in a few months. 
Their interviews are scheduled back to back.  Kaye Sloane drives them up, and gives the two The Sloane's up close and personal tour of Bromwell.  She runs into an old professor who asks if they are able to have breakfast with him the next day.  Kaye immediately accepts, but Daria reminds her that Kaye had agreed to stop by Raft for a campus tour.  Kaye assures her if they have an early breakfast, they will make it to Raft.

Tom's interview takes 45 minutes.  He schmoozes with the interviewer about the relationship between The Sloanes and Bromwell.  Daria chokes.  She is not a schmoozer.  The interviewer offers her a chance to start over, but in 15 minutes they are done.  Tom seems surprised that he got a longer interview.  It is becoming clear that Tom is utterly na├»ve when it comes to the college application process.  He knows he is in at Bromwell.  Daria should be in as well, since he wants to be close to her.

The next day, Kaye's professor is late to breakfast.  He practically ignores Daria, while keeping his focus on Kaye and Tom.  On the way to Raft (which is in Boston), they run into traffic.  The tours are over for the day, and all Daria gets is to drive through the campus in the rain.  Kaye does seem genuinely apologetic about this whole mess.  Daria seems depressed and confused.

Later on, she gets her letters from Raft and Bromwell.  Bromwell rejected her.  Raft accepted her!  Of course she is a bit disappointed, so when she talks to Tom, who is already planning their first semester (of course he got in), she tells him what happened.  He ignores the fact that she got into Raft focusing on his confusion as to why she didn't get into Bromwell.  Daria tries to get him to see the good side of this, but Tom suggests The Sloanes write a letter to the registrar suggesting they reconsider Daria as a student.

Daria refuses, and states that she is proud that Raft accepted her without an interview.  Tom makes a crack about it being beneficial that Raft never spoke to Daria face to face.  Understandably hurt, she utters, "Screw you", before hanging up on him.

Jane finds that she has been rejected from both state schools.  Trent encourages her to see this as a good thing.  Who needs college?  When Jane and Daria speak, Jane is happy to hear about Daria's acceptance, but tells her about her own disappointment.  When she suggests college isn't for her, Daria asks if she had sent in her portfolio to Boston Fine Arts.  Jane says no.  Daria proposes that if Jane applies to BFAC, she will swallow her pride and ask The Sloanes to write a letter to Bromwell.  It's a deal!  A very sorry Tom also apologizes for what he said to Daria.  He is very happy that she has agreed to take help.

Meanwhile, Mack and Jodie have their own issues.  Mack's parents cannot afford anything but a state school for him.  Mack is fine with this, but Jodie tells him tearfully that she got into Crestmore.  She also got into Turner.  She knows her parents will never allow her to attend Turner. 

Mack decides to talk to Mr. Landon (without Jodie's knowing).  Mr. Landon dismisses Jodie's desire to go to Turner.  Mr. Landon went to Turner in the 60's when there was no choice but to attemd an all black school.  He wants the best for Jodie, and that is Crestmore.  He tells Mack that Crestmore is closer to Mack's state school than Turner.  Really, it is Mack who wants what's best for Jodie.  Maybe going behind her back wasn't the best idea, but Jodie's own pleas to her parents fell on deaf ears.

Soon after, Daria gets her second letter from Bromwell.  Another rejection.  She and Tom go out for pizza.  Tom is saddened and confused as to how his parent's influence didn't affect the outcome.  Daria suddenly breaks up with him. 

Tom is bewildered.  Daria says that they are already growing tired of the relationship, and there will
Frowny Faces.
be little to keep them together once they enter college.  Tom insists that he is not tired of dating her, but Daria stands her ground.  Jane approaches the couple, and notes that neither one looks particularly happy.

Back at home, Daria is burying her head under the pillows of a couch.  Quinn approaches her and asks what's wrong, and Daria explains that "The unthinkable has happened", she has broken up with Tom.  Even though she made that call, she feels terrible.  She is depressed, and scared about the unknown that is college. 

Quinn comforts her, assuring Daria that she's been to a college party, and people are very nice.  "You will have lots of friends", Quinn tells her sister. 

Later, Jodie confronts Mack.  Mr. Landon spoke to her about Mack's little visit to his office.  She's angry that her boyfriend would do such a thing without asking her -- but it paid off!  The Landons have agreed to let Jodie go to Turner!  The two kiss happily.

I really love Jodie and Mack.  If any high school relationships in this series were to last, it would be theirs.  They are mature and supportive of one another. 

Nothing's gonna touch us in these golden years.
Brittany and the rest of the Cheerleaders all get into some Midwestern school together!  They are elated.  Of course, it is implied that this school took them because their grades stunk, but they are going to college!  When Brittany presses Kevin as to what his surprise location of school might be, he confesses that he will be left back to repeat his senior year at Lawndale.  He asks if Brittany will still be his girl, and she agrees, kissing him.  But she crosses her fingers when she does this.  The breakup is inevitable. 

Jane discovers that she has gotten into BFAC!  Trent reacts with indignation at first.  Why does she need school!  He thought she agreed to stick it to the man!  But then he relents.  Jane is his only ally in Casa Lane.  They are so close, and he will miss her too much to see her go.  Jane offers him a place to stay when he visits. 

Remembering how I felt when my brother decided to stay in his college area, I get what Trent feels.  I discouraged my own brother to spending his last summer before senior year up at school.  Mainly because I knew it would be his last, and greedily I wanted to spend the time with him.  I remember crying to myself, as I helped him find a job and an apartment a year later.  It was a hard pill to swallow, but I really did want what was best for him, even if I don't get to see him much.  Trent wants the same for Jane, but in his own moment of greed, tried to keep her with him for a while longer.  In the end, he is a good brother.

Love on the Rocks

Tom and Daria are heart broken.  They listlessly lie by the phone and contemplate calling, but it doesn't happen.  Finally, Tom drives to Daria's house and waits for her to come home.  The two
Missed connections.
discuss the end of their relationship.  Tom admits that they have grown apart, as Daria suggests, but is sad to think she won't be a part of his life anymore. He liked her a lot, and looks up to her.
 Daria agrees, and admits that she still likes him a lot.  He's a good person (albeit a bit spoiled).  They agree to stay in contact as friends.

Helen watches the whole scene from outside, telling Jake she is concerned that heartbreak is on the horizon.  But when Daria comes inside, she confesses to her parents that yes, she and Tom broke up.  It was her idea.  She is actually excited about going to Raft next year, and they needn't worry about her.  Helen seems happy with this development. 

At the same party that the fashion club breathes its last, Daria and Jane discuss the future.  Jodie approaches them and asks about Tom -- this feels like a parallel scene to IIFY?, where Jodie approaches Tom and Daria asking for Jane's whereabouts.  Daria spills that Tom is no more, and when Jodie assumes that he dumped both of them Jane informs her that this time Tom was the dumped!  Jane happily discusses the implications of she and Daria attending college in Boston together.  Maybe now they can have separate boyfriends!

So raise your glass if you are wrong, in all the right ways!
Thoth and I began talking about Jane's whole "saving herself for 11 AM move in day" on the first day of college.  How would that go?  Jane grabs the first random dude to flirt with her, a while later he's bewildered and outside her room, as Jane walks by on the phone.

"Hey Morgendorffer!  Wanna  grab some pizza?  Oh, yeah, I did.  It was OK, no great shakes.  I don't know, I didn't get a good look at him.  Alright, I'm heading to the T now.  See you soon."

Knowing what I do about Boston, I am sure that both of these girls would do just fine in the college scene in that town.  It's got its preppy crowd, but it's got some serious nerdy/artsy subculture that would be very welcoming to these two.

Also, Upchuck hits on Alicia (the goth chick).  Alicia is genuinely surprised at this.

"Wait a minute.  You're hitting on me?  OK, fine let's go."  Chuck's amorous voice drops to timid.  "Really?" he gulps. 

The Adolescence of Daria

Here we are!  At the end! 

So, graduation day is upon us!  Trent, and the Morgendorffers arrive to see their girls in their caps and gowns. 

Jodie is the valedictorian, and delivers a lovely speech, to her fellow students.  But before the end Ms. Li has an announcement. 


 "And now, people, and now... and now, awards time! We'll do the sports and other good prizes after I get these academic jobbies is out of the way. Now, as you know, at Lawndale High we prefer to reward students for both their scholarship and contribution to student life. But, occasionally, a student does so well in one area that we are forced to recognize him or her despite crippling deficiencies in the other. And so, I give you the winner of this year's Lawndale High School Diane Fossey Award for dazzling academic achievement in the face of near-total misanthropy... Ms. Daria Morgendorffer!"
Who, me?


Stunned, Daria walks to the podium to accept her award.  On the spot, she delivers this speech of her own.


"I'm not much for public speaking, or much for speaking, or come to think of it, much for the public. And I'm not very good at lying. So let me just say that, in my experience, high school sucks. If I could do it all over again, I'd have started advanced placement classes in preschool so I could go from 8th grade straight to college. However, given the unalterable fact that high school sucks, I'd like to add that if you're lucky enough to have a good friend and a family that cares, then it doesn't have to suck quite as much. Otherwise, my advice is stand firm for what you believe in, until and unless logic and experience prove you wrong. Remember, when the emperor looks naked, the emperor is naked. The truth and the lie are not "sort of" the same thing. And there's no aspect, no facet, no moment in life that can't be improved with pizza. Thank you."

And there we have it.  Daria has made it through the purgatory known as high school.  And in the face of opposition (her own in many cases), she did it with the help of her family, and her best friend Jane. 

After the diplomas have been collected, Jane and Daria wonder what they will encounter in college.  Daria suggests that they will find self centered professors and a corrupt system.  Jane takes back a crack she had made earlier about Daria getting soft. 

And that is the end.  For a show that is supposed to have had no happy endings, I felt that it was pretty optimistic.  Daria may have grown into a swan, but she is a phoenix.  And maybe that's what teenage girls and boys should aspire to be.  Sure, it's nice to grow up and look pretty, but as Quinn discovered, looks won't float you through life.  It is much better to rise above one's circumstances, so you can better see the road ahead.

Now, how about a reunion special?
 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Daria season 5 : Breaking the girl (Part two)

Let's continue, shall we?

Relationship Status
Now that we have established Daria and Quinn's reconciliation (can it be a reconciliation if the loathing was always there in the first place?), season 5 begins to show a new dynamic between the two.

Daria has been dating Tom for a while by high school standards, and Quinn, while she dates a lot of guys, never seems to get close to any of them.  I'm not sure talking about her squeamish attitude towards sexual matters -- I will get to that later-- but more that Quinn enjoys being the object of desire, but behaves in an aloof manner towards her admirers.  And she has many.  So many, they send her gifts for anniversaries of dumb events.  The first time they lent her a pencil, and such ridiculousness.

Daria has never had a boyfriend, and while we can argue that Quinn hasn't either, Daria actually does take her feelings for Tom seriously.  So when Quinn reminds Daria that their 6 month anniversary is coming up (6 months since they got together, or 6 months since they kissed between Jane's back?), she tells Daria that she should be furious if Tom does nothing to commemorate.

So when he picks Daria up for a date, this new protective Quinn gives Tom the cold shoulder, hinting that he has something important he should be remembering.  Daria, who doesn't like to fuss or to be fussed over passively brushes this off, but she considers the quality of a relationship where Tom doesn't make any grand gestures of romance.  In fact, she confides in Jane that she feels like he treats her like furniture.

They never really go out, and he says he feels very comfortable with her.  Obviously, the latter is Barch and Mr. O'Neill, and she quips, "This must be like the scene in Pinocchio, when he realizes he is growing donkey ears just like everyone else."
meant as a compliment, but Daria hears it as Tom comparing her to a couch.  When she realizes that Tom took Jane on a series of romantic dates, she begins to act passively hostile towards Tom.  A dance she does quite well and quite often.  When she looks around her school she notices everyone is having relationship issues.  Kevin and Brittany, Ms.

Ani Difranco's song, Superhero, also addressed this feeling, but in the angry/somber lyrics that she was known for at the time.  Daria is no longer untouchable.  The connections she has made have her acting like an "ass".  Or worse!  A typical teenage girl!  Ugh!  When she confides in her mother, Helen recalls her first anniversary with Jake, when he crafts her a candle that looks like a huge blob.  It was supposed to look like a Hobbit dammit!  Helen had bought Jake a first edition copy of a book.  I honestly forget what it was.  She tells Daria not everyone makes a huge deal about anniversaries, but if Tom forgets outright, show him no mercy.

It is important to note that in this episode, Helen and Jake are kept apart by work, and don't get to spend much time together.  Jake has been running around like a madman, trying to figure out what exactly his job is in a hip new dotcom company that has hired him.  He can't even figure out what the company does!  He pulls all nighters trying to prove his worth, but in the end he is let go from his position, with the promise that he can be a "consultant" for the company when needed.  In spite of this, Helen reveals that she still has the candle he made her, and it reminds her of why she loves him (though she almost says she loves him in spite of his being a "failure").  Anyway, this confession makes Jake super happy.  You can guess what happens next.

So, back to Daria, who tells Tom why she's been upset with him, and laments that she was too busy playing games to voice it in the first place.  Tom apologizes stating he really had no idea that anniversaries were important to her, and the only reason he took Jane on elaborate dates was because he was trying to make up for their failing connection.  The problem is, Daria doesn't know that these occasions are important to her.  Maybe she doesn't want to admit that they are?  But she doesn't want to be taken for granted.  The two come to a perfect resolution.  They decide to stay in and cuddle on the couch while they eat all the chocolate Quinn's admirers gave her for their anniversaries.  It's not like Quinn would eat all of that chocolate anyway.  It would go right to her thighs, or something!

But, slowly, Daria's walls are coming down.  Whether it is with her boyfriend, or with her sister, even her parents, she is not the same girl we met in the first season.  This doesn't mean she has nothing left to learn, simply that she has opened herself up to change.  Something season 1 Daria would have scoffed at.

But relationships are a big part of this entire season.

At one point, Jane moves on in her dating life, when she meets Nate, a swell "swell" who is really into the 1940's.  At first she is willing to enter Nate's world, even dressing like him.  She admits to Daria that it's all a bit silly, but she's having fun.  Daria even goes so far as to joke that if this relationship doesn't work out for Jane, she wonders if she will have to date Nate as well.  Cute.

When Tom and Daria go on a double date with Nate and Jane, Daria challenges Nate that the 1940's
weren't all that great due to racism, oppression and you know.  Whatever.  Though, she admits his gathering with his swinging friends at an abandoned drive in is kind of cool, she and Tom eventually fall asleep, bored out of their skulls.  Nate doesn't think Daria and Tom are boss enough to hang out with his friends (I don't even know if "boss" is an era appropriate phrase here, but Nate's a douche, so who cares). The relationship ends when Nate refuses to leave the house with Jane mixing 1940's era clothing with 1950's.  Eh.  She doesn't feel it's a great loss, but It's nice to see Jane back in the saddle again.  Especially after the summer she had!

Speaking of summer, Daria and Quinn take a trip up to their old sleep away camp.  Of course, Quinn was the perfect camper, complete with a trio of friends who look and act suspiciously like the fashion club.  I mean she didn't do outdoor activities or anything, but she had boys running around and waiting on her, just like at home.  And of course, a posse of girls to hang around with.

I totally relate to Daria's hatred of her old camp.  I was never the camper type.  And minus the religion (on my part, since my camp was a religious institution) , Daria's memories of camp felt pretty right.  But when she arrives she is immediately greeted by another bespectacled girl, named Amelia, who is actually excited to see Daria!

Jane and Trent (who provided the ride up to the camp), are in shock!  Daria always made it a point to say that she has always been a big outcast with no friends, and here she is having a friend and all!  But it seems Amelia's friendship is one sided.  Daria hated camp and everything about it.  Amelia has fond memories, of camp, and of Daria's misanthropy.  In fact, Amelia seems to think that Daria is a hoot!  An overly eager ex camper bullies his former campers into participating in things they don't want to.  Daria does what feels comfortable and familiar in this situation.  She picks up a book, and insults Amelia for reaching out to her.  I mean, who does Amelia think she is?  A friend?  She's "one of them".

Later, Amelia steals the stage from the over eager camper (I forget his name), and criticizes him for being a bully.  She turns the tables and says that even though Daria is unpleasant and rude, and hates people, at least she (Daria) is honest.  And for that reason, Amelia has always looked up to people.

Guess, once again, Daria is looking like an ass.  And she feels like one too.  She apologizes to Amelia for how she behaved!  Once again, a huge step.  But beyond that, Daria is realizing that she is not simply a wallflower.  She inspires people, even when she is trying to alienate herself.

Back on the home front, another familiar relationship plays out.  Jake and Helen are trying to clean out the garage and begin to argue.  Jake finds a sexy nighty that Helen has NEVER worn for him!  But she reveals she wanted to surprise him with it.  The garage door closes, and...bow chicka wow-wow, is implied.

You've got to look outside your eyes, you've got to think outside your brain, you've got to walk outside your life, to where the neighborhood changes.

Say what you will about Tom (Really.  Say it.  I do, a lot), but at least he challenges Daria to do things she normally wouldn't.  I mean it's not like Jane doesn't, but somehow Tom's influence gets her to submit a story to a literary magazine.  Unfortunately, Mr. O'Neill happens to catch her at the post office when she submits it, and spills the beans to everyone in class in his excitement.  After all, he's Daria's mentor!  Right?  Good intentions embarrass Daria, who doesn't want attention, but when she gets a rejection letter from the magazine, she is dejected.  Tom offers that she put herself out there, and can try again, but this offers little consolation to our misery chick.  Until Tom realizes that the letter isn't an outright rejection, but praises the story and claims it isn't what they need at this time.  It invites Daria to submit more of her writing in the future.  Tom's aunt got a "thanks, but no thanks" letter, with none of the kind words to follow.

But Daria isn't the only one who puts her work out in the open.  Jane contracts to an art seller who buys her reproductions of famous paintings and sells them at a high price.  She needs money to help with some home repairs which I will get into in a minute.  Is Jane being true to her self, or did she sell out?  The seller has no interest in any of her original pieces.   The money is great.  She makes more than enough for what she needs, and contemplates staying on after the construction is paid off.  Why shouldn't she make money from her art?  Of course, Daria has "opinions" about this, but doesn't she always?  In the end, when Jane realizes that the buyers know that her paintings are "cheap reproductions", she decides to end her employment with the art dealer.  But he really wants her to stay!  Flattering, but not what Jane wants to do with her talent.  She has years until she will really have to sell out.

In the mean time, Trent is put in an uncomfortable position when he wrecks the gazebo in the yard of Casa Lane.  His emotional brother, Wind, (who is crashing at his parents' due to his latest wife needed some space), exclaims that the gazebo was where their parents took all of them in order to name them.

That sounds about right, in Lane Land.  We've already established that Jane can use money from her paintings to pay contractors to fix the gazebo, but Trent's role in the matter is to oversee the project.  Trent is just not the "boss" type.

Trent argues with Jane about her not being true to her art.  Jane replies that she doesn't want to have no money for the rest of her life, and anyway, Trent can't play the foreman to save his life!

Well, he tries to be the heavy, but the workers refer to him as being "the man", which is probably about the worst thing Trent has ever been called.  Eventually, the gazebo is fixed, but Mom and Pop Lane (AKA Amanda and Vincent) return from wherever they were early, and exclaim that they planned on taking the gazebo down anyway.  The whole "naming gazebo" thing was just something they told Wind when he wanted to change his name to Ronald.  I guess Lane Land isn't as predictable a place as we thought.

Let's face it.  Trent is a good brother, and a good friend, but he doesn't transition much within the series.  Maybe this is because at this point he is about 24 years old, and this isn't often an age when a slacker becomes a doer.  Not someone like Trent at least.  But Spiral really doesn't have any legs as a band.

On their way to drop Daria and Quinn off at camp, Trent rethinks his goals in life, since "inspiration" and his band seem to be falling apart.  They meet an elderly couple who grow and sells their own food. Trent thinks he can jive with this, until he realizes, that even they are sort of phonies.  He regains "inspiration", and you know Spiral will always get back together eventually.  Really, Trent is in a rut.  Alas, it's a rut he's comfortable in.  Again, this is yet another reason why he and Daria really could never work as a couple.  Sure, it can be argued that neither one has much drive, but Trent's lack there of would be bad for Daria, who is forever in transition.  She is moving towards something.  We don't really know what that something is yet, and frankly, she probably doesn't either, but Trent will always opt to return to Spiral.

I mean if Stacey can push the envelope with the fashion club dynamics, surely Trent could change his life if he wanted.  He isn't intimidated by anyone.  Sure, his family (sans Jane) gets under his skin, but he has seemingly no desire to change his circumstances.  Hell, even Quinn is feeling a rift in her routine.

And monogamy is that carnival trophy that you earn, when you throw that ball into that urn, it's somewhat dumb luck, somewhat learned, and you just know when it's your turn.

Damn, I'm quoting Ani Difranco a lot in this post.  Anyway, Quinn has spent 4 seasons and a movie (sort of) pretending that she doesn't want to be anything like Daria.  At first Quinn doesn't seem impressed by a first edition book that Tom gives Daria as a gift, but Helen is positively giddy about the level of their relationship.  Now she hears Helen fuss over how "mature" Daria is for having a steady boyfriend.  Quinn realizes that Daria has something she doesn't.  Not necessarily a boyfriend, but maturity.  To be fair, Daria might be more mature than Quinn, or ever half the girls her age, but she has her issues.  Still she's come a long way, and Helen praises it.  Quinn wants that praise as well.  She knows if she really wants a boyfriend, she has her pick, but what does she actually want out of a relationship?

Helen is planning a nice dinner where Tom comes over to spend time with the Morgenddorffers, and Quinn immediately asks if her serious boyfriend can come as well.  Helen is a bit bemused by this, but tells Quinn she would be welcome to invite a boyfriend over.

Daria is actually not sold on having Tom over for dinner.  It's really Jake that she's afraid of.  He's a great guy, but he's super quirky, and he's had an obsession with catching a squirrel that is wreaking havoc on his garbage cans.  Jake comes up with several hair brained plans to catch the squirrel, but of course they end in hilarious failure.  This is what makes Jake so endearing to the audience, so exhausting for Helen, and so embarrassing to Daria.  Quinn doesn't seem to fret about her father's antics.  She just wants to be seen as "mature".

So what's a popular girl to do?  She speed dates nearly every boy who is interested, settling on one of
the three J's that worship her.  By that I mean, Jamie, Joey and Jeffy.  These are the boys seen in several episodes, following Quinn around, agreeing with everything she says.  Most of the fashion club doesn't get why anyone would want one boyfriend, but Sandi thinks it's a great idea.  Of course, Sandi's motives are hopes that with Quinn "taken", boys will be more interested in her.

Dating the J's doesn't go well.  Quinn has grown up a bit, but she insists on one way conversations going on about herself and her interests, showing not the least bit of interest in what Jamie has to say.  She discovers he left a rather long one sided phone conversation to use the bathroom while Quinn was talking, and gets dumped.  Poor Joey's crime was an inability to score last minute tickets to a sold out concert.  He had a nice date planned, but when Quinn heard about that concert she wants to do that.  The band is some sort of prefab boy band.  Joey doesn't want to even go.  Thus he is the latest dumpee.

So this leaves Jeffy, who comes over for dinner.  Everything starts off well enough, until the squirrel makes an appearance.  Jake manages to trap it and Tom and Jeffy elect to get in the car with him to release it into the wild.  All three "men" bond over the experience while listening to "Whoop there it is" (the second actual original song from the original airing we hear in the DVD collection).  There is something a lot of fun about watching these three very different male characters shout out the horrible lyrics while driving to the wilderness to set a troublesome critter free.  At first glance, you would consider that none of them would have anything to bond over.

Daria is a show driven by very strong female characters.

I don't mean "haha lol I heart strong female characters", like some people go on about when they talk about Joss Whedon's shows.  I loved Buffy, but I have some beef with the whole "Whedon = feminist" theory.  But Daria's more imposing characters are all female.  Helen dominates Jake.  Ms. Li dominates the school.  Mr. DiMartino is basically a basket case who lives in fear of Ms. Barch who dominates Mr. O'Neill.  Quinn runs the show when it comes to boys who are interested in her.  Sandi can be fucking terrifying.  Amy is the voice of reason.  Even Daria and Jane, who are not really imposing are just good characters with authentic strong voices.  Tom is the most competent male character we have met, and Trent has his moments, but is just a lovable slacker.  This is a female run show, and there are some strong characters, not just in the sense that they run the show, but they are good characters.

But here, we see Jake taking the boyfriends of his two daughters on an adventure where all three let loose.  Sure they are singing one of the most annoying songs ever, but who cares?  It's so much fun!  We are pretty sure that Jeffy's days are numbered, but it's fun to think that the best memory the doomed guy will have of dating Quinn will be the road trip he took with Jake and Tom.

Back on the ranch (casa Morgendorffer), Quinn and Daria lament the confusing nature of men.  Awwww!  Quinn admits that she wanted to be seen as mature "like Daria", so she thought she needed a steady boyfriend.  Helen tells her it's fine if she's not ready.  She should do what makes her happy.

To be fair, Quinn was actually rejected by the first boy she legitimately liked.  But, her desire for monogamy in this instance is to be like her sister.

I never let school interfere with my education

College is fast approaching, and Daria applies for a scholarship that she ends up competing with Jodie and Upchuck for the prize.  Jane gets snippy with Daria for some reason, so Tom helps her with her interview prep.  All the while, he also informs Daria that the company issuing the reward (Wizard Computers), has a terrible reputation for discriminating against women and minorities.

She is already miffed at Jodie, who applied for the prize after Daria told her about it in the first place.  Knowing how much Jodie values respect as a minority, she passes Tom's information along to her.  Maybe part of this is to eliminate Jodie as competition.  Daria is horrified at what she finds out about Wizard, but she still wants to compete.  Jodie doesn't drop out at all.  In fact, when the three are interviewed (at the same time), she alters her interview answers to fit what she feels will be accepted in Wizard's conservative world view.

This isn't the first time we've seen Jodie "play the game".  Remember back in season 4, with the group project?  Upchuck kisses the interviewer's ass like only Upchuck can.  So what does Daria do?  She may have changed a lot, but she can't be untrue to her feelings.  She gives a long winded analysis of how she feels that Wizard has failed in it's practices.  None of them get the scholarship.  They all admit to be embarrassed of how they behaved, as they all wanted to win.  Jodie and Daria part with mutual respect as they usually do.  Upchuck is Upchuck.  No feelings are changed on that front.

Also, Jane admits that she felt left out in the battle of the intellects.  Jane and Daria have things in common, and things that cause a rift.  On Jane's part it's her ability to socialize and take part in activities (like track), on Daria's it's her smarts.  Doesn't mean they can't be friends.

This week, on a very special episode of Daria

An interview with the creators of Freaks and Geeks, describes one theme of their show as "fear of sex".  There are so many high school centered shows where everyone is doin' it.  Some teenagers are petrified of the act!  Daria also addresses this feeling well.

Tom and Daria move their study session up to Daria's room when Quinn won't stop bothering them
with her latest make up crisis.  This entire season Helen has been freaking out about Tom and Daria being alone in her room.  Really, Helen?  I hope you pack Quinn with mace in her pocketbook, because she dates all the boys, ever.  We know Quinn is non sexual, and hope she has never had to ward off an assault, but seriously?  Maybe Helen is afraid that Daria, being the quiet one, is the lustier of the two.  After all, Quinn has no interest in having an actual relationship.  

But Helen is at a client's dinner with Jake, so the coast is clear, to retreat to Daria's bedroom with the padded walls. They fall asleep studying, and Tom slips out at after 4AM!

After running into a deliriously sleepy Jake, who stumbles to the kitchen for a midnight snack, Tom is discovered. Helen decides it's time to have a "talk" with Daria.  Jake can't even look at his eldest daughter without stammering.

Helen's talk is well meant, but makes absolutely no sense, and provides zero actual guidance.  If Daria thinks an awkward parental sex chat is the worst that can happen here, she is wrong.

Shocked, Quinn calls Stacey to tell her the news!  "My sister had a boy in her room all night!"

Needless to say, word gets out pretty quickly from there.  It's very funny, actually.  Daria can't understand all the attention she's getting.  Brittany approaches her with a wry grin.  Now they can talk about womanly things!  Uh huh.

Finally Jane spills that Daria's reputation has been sullied.  Apparently, the rumor has evolved that Daria's parents walked in on she and Tom in the act, while Daria wore some kinky high heels.  Daria confronts Quinn who quickly insists she doesn't want details.  So, Daria retaliates by spreading a rumor about Quinn's toe fungus or something.

Jane jokes that she should have jumped Tom when she had the chance.  Jane is saving herself for college, 11AM on move in day.  Jane is awesome.

Jodie provides some consolation.  She assures Daria that it's no big deal.  She and Tom have been together for a while.  People know they are a couple, and there is no shame in having sex with your boyfriend.  However, when Daria asks if this means that Jodie and Mack are knocking boots, Jodie quickly brushes her off promising to tell her everything, once her parents are dead.  Jeez, Jodie.  You've basically admitted the answer, by avoiding the question.

Daria tells Tom, and he seems to take it in stride.  Of course he does.  He's the Tomcat in this situation (pun intended), Daria's honor is in jeopardy.  But the rumor opens the question of sex.  Apparently they've already discussed it, Daria wasn't ready and Tom backed off.  But maybe the idea of being thought of as a sultry seductress has reopened the question.

Tom says if she feels ready, they can revisit the question.  Daria says she's ready.  Tom says OK.  No, wait.  She's not.  Tom says OK.  Actually, nope.  She's ready.  Tom says OK.  But, Daria points out, they don't have a condom.  Tom says he has one.  Daria gets up in arms that he happens to walk around with some "neon colored" condom in his wallet.  Tom insists it's not neon colored, and he isn't pushing her.  She brought it up.  They agree to a time later that week to do the deed, when The Sloanes won't be home.  Just as long as the condom actually isn't neon colored.

I mean, this whole scene is just hilarious.  Not only does Daria's imagination go to weird places (does she think all condoms are neon colored?  Would they be less scary if they weren't?)  But referring to sex as to, "Um, do the thing."  Usually she is so articulate!  

Tom actually makes an effort to make it special.  He lights candles, gets a dozen roses.  And he gets stood up.  Daria leaves a note on his doorstep that she's sorry for standing him up.  She wasn't ready after all, and she accepts that this is the end of their relationship.

Eventually she and Tom meet in the park to talk it out.  He's mad, but not because Daria didn't sleep with him.  He's mad that she stood him up and dumped him, assuming that not being ready meant he would want to end the relationship.

Daria admits that she thought she was ready, but just isn't.  She's scared.  Tom admits she isn't alone.  But Daria is scare of more than just the act.  She is afraid of the amount of intimacy sex presumes.  Worse, she is afraid she won't be very good.  That it would be disappointing.  Tom feels that having such an open conversation has given them a stronger sense of intimacy.  They kiss and make up, agreeing to wait until the time is right for both of them.

It's just my 19th nervous breakdown!

 Here we are!  At the end of season 5!  I know I still have Is it College Yet? to get through, but I'm so happy!  I never thought I would make it this far!

Regardless of how well IICY? wraps up the story --which is pretty damned well -- Boxing Daria is significant because it is the technical end of the series.  Producer Glenn Eichler has stated that this signifies the end of Daria's emotional journey.

Boxing Daria, opens with a black screen.  A car crash is heard, and someone runs to ask a woman if she is alright.  Cut to present time.  Tom is at a family wedding at "the cove", it seems The Sloanes have a summer house on the beach.  Daria was invited, but declined. 

Mr. O'Neill approaches Daria and Jane asking if they wouldn't mind giving tours to incoming freshmen for Lawndale High.  Once again, Daria declines. 

When Daria arrives home, she sees a large box from a new refrigerator on her lawn.  The sight of this seemingly inane object stirs something in her.  She asks Helen if they had a box like this when she was younger.  Helen doesn't remember, and asks Daria and Quinn to take the box to the curb to be
picked up.  Looking at the box, Daria recalls some angry dialogue between her parents.

The next morning the box has moved from the curb back to the lawn.  Helen angrily yells at Quinn to throw the box out, but Daria rescues it from the curb again.

The rest of the day, Daria is in a foul mood and takes it out on everyone around her.  She berates Mr. O'Neill, who once again begs her to assist as a tour guide (since Brittany and Kevin are a disaster).  Usually, she will make offhanded comments that might be interpreted as "snide", but here she is plain nasty.  Back at home, she snaps at Helen, accusingly asking her where Jake is.  Later, Daria asks Quinn if she recalls a box of this type from their childhood.  She says she doesn't, but appears concerned.  Daria calls Tom, who begs her to join him at the cove, but she declines.

Jane comes over to check on her friend, and while Daria is showing her the box, she crawls inside -- and a memory returns.

Young Daria is in bed listening to Jake and Helen fight.

Helen - "She's just a child.  She doesn't know how to fit in!"

Jake - "She doesn't want to fit in!"

And then the door slams, and Jake's car drives off.

Dismayed, Daria picks up a book and crawls into a large box in her room, which she has painted to look like a house.

Back in the now, Quinn comes back and joins Jane trying to coax Daria out of the box.  Quinn says she thought about it and does remember a time when they had a box like that.  She recalls her parents having a fight.  When Daria asks if her sister can remember what the fight was about, Quinn sadly admits it was about Daria.

Another memory is evoked. 

The Morgendorffers are driving somewhere with young Quinn and Daria.  Helen and Jake discuss Daria's trouble making friends.  Daria looks pained, but little Quinn bounces in the back saying that she's alright, because she has lots of friends.  The trip was to a child psychologist where Daria is given a rorschach test, among others.  It is interesting, because Daria is a writer, and clearly has an imagination, but to her the blots of ink just look like ink.  She is very literal minded, and makes no stories up about the images in front of her.  I wonder if this show was written today, if Daria would have been considered on the autism spectrum.

Really, Jake and Helen just want her to socialize, but all Daria wants to do is read.

When Jake comes home (he's been at a conference), he and Helen try to make sense of Daria's strange (er than usual) behavior.  Quinn tells them about the memories, and the three of them coax Daria out of the box for a chat.

Helen and Jake admit that they did fight about her.  They were already under a lot of stress due to Jake's then boss, and they were constantly fielding calls from Daria's teacher about her anti-social behavior.  Everything came to a head, and they fought.  Jake stayed in a motel overnight, and the two made up the next day.

Stunned, Daria grabs the car keys and runs out the door in the rain.  She calls the cove, but Tom's mother picks up.  She asks if she can still visit, and Mrs. Sloane says she is.  But then, a fender bender on the road causes Daria's car to swerve off the road, resulting in the accident heard at the beginning of the episode.

Waiting in a booth at a diner, a disheveled Daria watches the door.  And when the person she needs the most walks in, she throws her arms around...Jane.

As close as these two are, Daria has never made physical contact with Jane like this.  It can be argued that she has always kept Jane at a distance.  But it is now clear that Jane is the most important connection she has ever made.  The hug surprises Jane as much as it does the audience.

Daria explains to Jane that she ran away out of guilt for the pain that she had caused her family.  She never had considered her behavior to be anything but justifiable in the past, but now she feels terrible.  She needed to talk about this with the most trustworthy person in her life.  Jane.  Jane offers that Daria should return home and try to hear her parents out.  Finishing the conversation could give her the closure she needs.  Daria agrees.

Another important thing we learn through this conversation, is probably the darkest aspect of Daria's personality she has admitted to.  When she was 15, she wrote violent revenge fiction, "to get a reaction".  This episode is only a few years post Columbine.  There had been school shootings before Columbine, but that particular one was the first to be so widely followed by the public.  Focus on the shooter's websites and writings (plus a lot of bogus claims about their "outcast" lifestyles) became public obsession.  One can wonder if this revelation was the catalyst for the Morgendorffers to move to Lawndale in the first place.  After all, Daria was 15 (a sophomore) when the series began.  If this had happened throughout the timeline of the series, Jane would have already known about it.  The first episode begins with Jake driving the girls to school and commenting on how he hopes Daria makes friends in their new town.  The implications are pretty heavy.

Back home, Helen and Jake welcome Daria back safely.  Returning to the talk, they assure her that they were never unhappy with her as their daughter, rather they were uneasy that Daria herself was unhappy.  They both admitted that they expected some social issues to stem from Daria's high intellect.  Thanking them for their patience with her, Daria admits that she must have been difficult to raise, but says this with no irony.  She is sincere.

Throughout five seasons, this antisocial character worked to avoid relationships of all kinds.  Now, here she is.  She has a best friend, among other peers who care about her.  She and Quinn have found a way to connect.  She has made peace with her parents.  Sure, she has a boyfriend, but that's not the most amazing breakthrough.  Daria has learned that, while it may be easier to build a wall around herself, it is important to allow people through.  She doesn't want to be social, but she needs others.  And sometimes needing is more frightening than wanting.

When she retires to her room, Daria finds the box waiting for her on the floor.  On top is a note from Quinn, indicating that she saved it, "just in case" her sister needs it.  Damn it, Quinn!  You had to go and make me like you, didn't you?

Monday, Tom drives Daria to school.  They discuss the events of the weekend, and things seem good.  Daria and Jane arrive in order to give a tour to the middle school students after all.  Mr. O'Neill felt that it would be good for kids to hear about Lawndale High from an honest perspective.

And that's all.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Daria Season 5: Breaking the Girl (Part one)

I've got to tell you all.  This whole Daria blogging thing has been kicking my butt.  Especially with the other reviews that I've been doing for "work", and actual work, and my life.  But I want to finish it.

Season 5 begins a but slowly, especially coming right out of Is it Fall Yet?.  However, by it's end, it accomplishes not only some of the best character development in the series, but manages to end with the emotional break down of it's title character.  Within these episodes, we see Daria and Quinn finally reconcile their differences, Jane makes another attempt at dating, the Fashion Club experience a shift in dynamic, and oh yeah. There is a "sex" episode.  Really, really.  Most importatnly, as I mentioned before, the very last official episode of Daria, features Daria having an emotional break.  That's pretty gutsy.  Now, I know there is a movie that finishes up the series.  I know that now.  I can't remember if I was aware that it was happening when this season aired.  From what I have read, MTV networks gave producer Glen Eichler a choice between a 6 episode season to wrap things up, or a movie.  Feeling that Daria's emotional journey had come to an end, Eichler chose a movie.

Some criticism has come from fans of this season regarding Daria's voice acting.  Tracy Grandstaff had voiced the character since her B&B days.  Daria was always monotone, lacking expression at times, but people felt that this season she was even less expressive than usual.  This is not a criticism of Grandstaff.  She is Daria.  She gave her the unique voice that made the elderly want to unplug their life support to get her to stop talking, and we loved her all the same.  Eichler mentioned that he didn't direct Grandstaff in the studio during most of the season.  However, he did come back to do so for the final episode Boxing Daria.  I noticed a little more flatness to Daria's voice in this season, but the film theorist in me wanted to attribute it to the changes that were affecting her.  IIFY turned her life upside down.  Now even more things were changing for Daria.  Maybe the lack of expression was her emotional state leading up to the break?  I like it, so I will go with that.

The Episodes:

Title Original airdate Production code Ep #
"Fizz Ed" February 19, 2001 501 54
Lawndale High signs a clandestine sponsorship deal with Ultra Cola which Daria tries to bring to light, but Ms. Li soon resorts to insane measures to keep the soda makers happy after learning that she hasn't honored the company's contract.
"Sappy Anniversary" February 26, 2001 502 55
Daria can't figure out how to celebrate her anniversary with Tom and worries it may be the end of their relationship. Meanwhile, a bored Jake finds work at a dotcom company where it's not clear what, if anything, he's actually supposed to do.
"Fat Like Me" March 5, 2001 503 56
Sandi breaks her leg after tripping down the stairs and gains weight after becoming sedentary. Meanwhile, Daria and Jane take running bets on whether or not the Fashion Club will disband.
"Camp Fear" March 12, 2001 504 57
Daria and Quinn attend a not-so-happy reunion at their old summer camp, while Trent and Jane try to find new snacks in the countryside.
"The Story of D" March 19, 2001 505 58
Daria sends a story she doesn't think is very good to a magazine at the insistence of Tom, and the results drive a wedge between them. Meanwhile, The Fashion Club tries to put together a successful advice magazine.
"Lucky Strike" March 26, 2001 506 59
The teachers at Lawndale High go on strike following the latest impasse between Mr. DeMartino and Ms. Li over a proposed 10% raise in salary for the new teachers' union contract, prompting Ms. Li to hire scabs as substitutes — including Daria, who becomes Quinn's teacher after the original substitute is fired for lewd conduct with the students. Meanwhile, Jane and Trent help the striking teachers use art and music to gain support from others.
"Art Burn" April 2, 2001 507 60
Jane gets paid to make copies of famous artworks and finds that the sideline is interfering with her original work, while she tries and fails to get Trent to focus on fixing the Lanes' backyard gazebo. Meanwhile, The Fashion Club is upset after a caricature artist draws an unappealing picture of them.
"One J at a Time" May 21, 2001 508 61
Inspired by Daria and Tom's relationship, Quinn tries to pick a steady boyfriend among the three boys who fawn over her. Meanwhile, Jake tries to get rid of a squirrel who keeps knocking over his garbage cans.
"Life in the Past Lane" May 28, 2001 509 62
Jane meets a guy who is into clothing from the 1940s and dates him, prompting Daria and Tom to try and talk her out of it when Jane's new boyfriend doesn't like either of them. Meanwhile Upchuck's magic act finds a supporter in Stacy.
"Aunt Nauseam" June 4, 2001 510 63
Helen's sister tries to deal with her daughter's divorce and shanghais Helen to manage it, opening up old wounds for Helen and her sisters, as Jake flees in terror. Meanwhile, the Fashion Club seeks to resolve a dispute over two members wearing the same dress.
"Prize Fighters" June 11, 2001 511 64
Daria applies for a prestigious scholarship, but discovers that Jodie and Upchuck are going for the same prize, and the company offering the scholarship has a history of mistreating women and minorities. Meanwhile, Jake screws up an online purchase and ends up with a huge order of unwanted hot dogs.
"My Night at Daria's" June 18, 2001 512 65
After Tom falls asleep in Daria's room during a study session, his mad dash out of the house at four in the morning prompts rumors to spread that Daria and Tom had sex with each other and makes Daria consider whether she and Tom should actually consummate their relationship. While Helen isn't able to offer any good advice to her daughter, Jake is preoccupied with a consulting job for a very bad Japanese restaurant.
"Boxing Daria" June 25, 2001 513 66
Daria finds a refrigerator box in the backyard, which brings back memories of being isolated in grade school and having to put up with constant parent/teacher conferences about Daria's antisocial ways. Meanwhile, Jane and Daria are chosen to show eighth graders around Lawndale High and tell them about life after middle school.

And let the analysis begin! 

Hot Fizz.

As mentioned before, this season starts off slow.  Mainly, this is due to the opener, Fizz Ed, which is considered one of the most hated episodes in the run of the series.  I would call it Fizz  wasn't that it was really awful, just that it lacked...well much of anything.  Maybe if this was a mid season episode it wouldn't seem so, meh, but coming off of IIFY, I was expecting a bit more. 
New uniforms.
weak, but not awful.  I think what bothered me about

The plot goes that Angela Li has sold out Lawndale High to a soda company in order to gain funds.  The company plants their machines and logos all around the school (even making the cheerleaders wear a giant can instead of their cute little skirts) making the students one big focus group.  Daria objects to this and begins to voice this to everyone.  Actually, if I liked anything in this episode, it was Daria's revelation that, in spite of her policy to stay uninvolved, she complains a lot.

While talking to Jodie about the soda deal, Daria says, "I don't like to complain."  To which Jodie replies, "But that's all you ever do!".  Even if Daria doesn't fully realize that Jodie is a true friend, Daria certainly respects her.  She takes the question to the cardboard cut out she calls her boyfriend.  Sorry, Tom!

Daria: "Tom, do I complain a lot?"
Tom "What are you bitching about now?

Alright, Mr. Sloane.  That was a pretty funny response.  I still think you suck, though. 

Tom encourages Daria to take her grievance to the superintendent of schools.  At first he blows her off, but when he visits the school, he sees the circus created by the soda company (which cares nothing for actual education), he demands that Principal Li revoke the deal.  Oh!  I think it is also in this episode where Li remarks that she is ranked # 3 in the tri-state area for Female Asian high school principals.  I might be getting the exact wording wrong, but it seemed such an absurd statement, that it is worth noting.

My Fat Friend, And other Fashion Club Adventures.

Getting Fizz Ed out of the way, I wanted to briefly touch on a Fashion Club centered episode  Fat like me.  It seems that Quinn is back on the train to superficial-ville.  In Fat, Quinn tried to speak up against Sandi's mandate that the Fashion Club have a weight limit for girls they would admit to join.  This is horrifying, yet, no one but these regular four are ever shown having Fashion Club meetings.  Sure, they are all cute and "popular", but it is no wonder that anyone else actually wants to "join" their club.  Is it even an official school club at Lawndale?

So Quinn tries to protest, but Sandi steamrolls her.  Quinn gives in way too easily in my
opinion.  Shortly after, Sandi falls down the stairs, resulting in a broken leg.  When she returns to school in crutches (which are so not cute), Sandi has visibly put on some weight.  Realizing that she is now too heavy for her own club, she abdicates the presidency to Quinn, only to guilt Quinn out of actually taking the position.  Since Tiffany is not really much of a doer, poor Stacey takes on the roll and is instantly annoyed that all Tiffany does at the meetings is to check her reflection in the mirror, and agree with everything Stacey says.  Stacey gives up in frustration.  Meanwhile, Quinn is unhappy with how things turn out, and Daria suggests that Quinn coach Sandi in a fitness regiment to make her shed pounds fast.  Quinn relishes the chance to push Sandi around (for once) and the Fashion Club returns to it's normal hierarchy.  Mostly.

But mostly, things appear status quo, if not on shaky ground for the quartet.  In one episode, Stacey and Tiffany buy the same dress, and both "fight" over who should be allowed to keep it and who should return it.  Stacey tries to stand up for herself here, and to a degree, she does, but this involves an accident where she ruins Tiffany's dress, and Stacey offers up her own.  Overcome with (as much emotion as Tiffany can show), she hugs Stacey, accidentally spilling something on Stacey's dress.

If only this really happened.
Stacey's best moment in this season comes when she becomes "involved" with Upchuck.  Sort of.  Upchuck stages a magic show in the school auditorium, and it appears that Stacey has been acting as his stage assistant in secret.  Of course as soon as the curtains part and reveal this, Sandi begins her assault.  A magic trick goes awry and Upchuck's safety is compromised. 
Stacey runs into the audience crying, and Sandi criticizes her harshly for getting involved in something so below a member of the Fashion Club.  But, lo!  Stacey's tears were just a diversion, and Upchuck appears to have escaped the situation which was actually the big reveal for his trick.  The students give both performers a standing ovation.

Stacey throws a wry grin to a stunned Sandi, and chastises her for being naive.  So, if Stacey, who is lowest in pecking order in the Fashion Club can open her mouth to Sandi, maybe this is  a true sign that her (Sandi's) reign of terror is reaching an end.

So, this leaves Tiffany and Quinn.  Tiffany has no original thoughts, and is unlikely to stand up to Sandi, but I don't think Sandi see's her as a threat.  Quinn on the other hand, has been on Sandi's hit list since Too Cute.  Because she is so popular with the boys, Sandi has had to use underhanded methods to keep Quinn in her place, as ousting her from the group would blow up in her face.  But Sandi knows that Quinn has one big red mark on her record that she can exploit when needed.  That is the fact that the unpopular Daria is actually Quinn's sister.

Why shouldn't I act sisterly?

is actually her flesh and blood.  She has gone so far as to refer to her as a maid, a cousin, or whatever is convenient at the moment.  Sandi and Tiffany frequently refer to her as, "Quinn's cousin, or whatever", or "That girl that lives with you".  Quinn has encouraged this, but now things are changing.
Too cute to be street legal.
Up until this point, Quinn has denied that Daria

Quinn and Daria are starting to interact supportively to one another.  This slow transition began  mainly in season 3, but it has been growing steadily.  Both are surprised when this happens, but it has been occurring much more frequently, especially after the whole David Sorenson incident in IIFY.  Furthermore, we now know that Quinn is much more intelligent than she acts.

There are three big things that happen this season that draw a sisterly bond out of Quinn and Daria.  The last one involves Daria's breakdown, which I won't get into here, but the very first is in Lucky Strike.

In this episode, the teachers at Lawndale High go on strike for a raise.  Ms. Li hires scabs, but the English substitute is dismissed for hitting on underage girls.  So, in either an act to contrive the plot, or because she is a cheapskate and doesn't want to relent, Principal Li recruits Daria as the new teacher.  She is tasked with teacher "Romeo and Juliet" to Quinn's class.

Most of the class gives her a hard time, but Daria actually tries to make the subject interesting for everyone.  Of course, Sandi presses Quinn to make Daria ease off and give the Fashion Club good grades, lest she expose their relationship.  At home Quinn complains that Daria is deliberately making her life difficult, but Daria asks her this,

"Why are you trying to protect the stupid when you're not one of them?"

Well, we know why, but that was actually sort of a compliment.  Of course, Sandi wouldn't have that excuse, to Quinn moves on to Jake, asking her father why Daria is being so hard on her and, why she should even care about Shakespeare... and in the midst she realizes that she knows Romeo and Juliet front to back.  She barely even has to study!  And when the test comes in the form of an essay, "What is Romeo and Juliet about?" she gets a B+.  Daria also grants a decent grade to one of the boys who claims that Mercutio had a thing for Romeo, because it was a well written argument.  That's a good teacher!

But the rest of the Fashion Club didn't study, and didn't do as well as Quinn.  So Sandi immediately begins accusing Quinn of having an in since she and "that girl" seem to act almost sisterly.  Quinn retorts by defending Daria as a teacher, and suggesting that she might have an embarrassing picture of Sandi in her awkward stage (given to Quinn by Sandi's younger brothers).  And then Quinn does what we have been waiting for.

"And why shouldn't we act sisterly to one another?  After all, she is my sister!"

Brava, Quinn!  Sandi tries to point out this admission to Tiffany and Stacey, but Stacey smiles and says that everyone already knew this.  They were just humoring Quinn all the time.  And in true Tiffany fashion, Tiffany agrees, "Yeaaaaaaaaaah."

The sisterly progress continues in Aunt Nauseam, when Helen's sister Rita bullies Helen into acting as a divorce attorney for her daughter Erin.  The one who got married back in season 2's I don't.  It seems that Erin's marital bliss was short lived.  From what we gather, part of the reason they even got married was because the groom had given Erin herpes, and she thought no one else would want to be with her.

Helen, "Honestly, people have such outdated views of sex!"

Aunt Nauseam
But divorce is not Helen's business even if she is a ruthless lawyer.  Rita shows up on Helen's doorstep and the two immediately begin arguing.  Jake, terrified of what happens when Rita and Helen are in the same room, retreats to the garage until she leaves.

Daria deals with the stress by pushing people away.  Tom comes by to pick her up for a date, and she breaks plans.  When he suggests talking to him could help, she is unmoved.  Quinn becomes extra clingy, leading Daria to believe that she wants something.

There is no reason for her not to feel this way.  As mentioned in a previous post, any cooperation in their relationship thus far has been based on bribery.  But now, Quinn looks somewhat depressed, and she keeps wistfully mentioning that Gone with the Wind is going to be on television soon.  Between Quinn's odd behavior, avoiding Tom, and the catfighting, Daria decides it is time for Aunt Amy to intervene.  But when Amy arrives, Rita and Helen drag her into their fight.  Helen has always resented Rita.  Rita was always mom's favorite.  Amy always locked herself in her room with her books.

Exasperated and helpless, Quinn and Daria begin to argue with each other, using the same words their aunts have been using.  Suddenly, they all get it.  Helen, Rita, and Amy hug it out, and Amy says while Daria had called her to solve the problem, she had the solution all along.

Amy advises Daria to reconcile with Tom, as he was trying to help her through a difficult time rather than meddle.  So the two go out for pizza, and Daria apologizes for being distant.  Relationships are difficult for her.  Seeing her mother fight with her sisters made her feel even more adverse to making a connection.  They kiss and make up.  Tom suggests some after dinner plans, but Daria explains that she already has some.  She promised Quinn she would watch Gone with the Wind with her, which is adorable.  The little brat totally grew on me.

After the movie, Quinn tells Daria she doesn't want them to grow up to be like Helen and her sisters.  Daria makes a snarky remark about how their fights will never be that explosive.  Sarcasm aside, an agreement has been reached.  They have their differences, but they are sisters, and they have seen what their future could be.  Neither one wants that.

Next post:

More on Daria and Tom (and the SEX EPISODE!)  Does a relationship take away her power?  Does it humanize her?  DO THEY DO IT?  It's a very special episode indeed.

Also,

Helen and Jake do what they do best.  (Hint:  It's not parenting.)

Jane dates a poseur!

Quinn tries monogamy!

Trent rethinks his life!

Daria revisits the summer camp she hated as a child, only to realize she had friends there all along!

And what relationship is the most important in Daria's life?  Also, she has a breakdown.





 
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