Friday, February 8, 2008

Uncivil Liberties

Sarcasm is a two-edged sword. It's nice to use on those who deserve it, but overdoing it gets you a lot of nasty labels. You might not care about those labels, but other people do, and some of those people who turn away from you might have been good to know.

Lawndale has an abundance of people who deserve the rude and insulting remarks that Daria and Jane dish out with relish. Some are so stupid that they don't even know when they are being insulted. The series is set up that way, of course, and we love every moment of it. There are a few people to whom Daria and Jane are generally agreeable (Jodie and Mack), but everyone else is a walking target for the Dynamic Duo's disdain.

Then there's Andrea, the other outcast. Andrea is that big question mark, the friend who might have been, but neither Daria nor Jane make any attempt in the series to get to know her, and Andrea makes no attempt to get to know them. Everyone goes their merry way, spinning in their separate orbits . . . and then one day the worlds collide.

The one time that Daria, Jane, and Andrea actually meet and have a conversation in the series, that one dramatic moment everyone was waiting for that pops up in "Mart of Darkness," Andrea lets them have it with both barrels. "Well, you found me," she snaps, cornered. "Now you can make fun of the pathetic Goth chick whose parents make her work at a crappy job in a stupid warehouse store. Go on, cut me up like you do everyone else!"

We learn several things from this encounter. For one, Andrea has been paying attention. She knows Daria and Jane very well indeed, doesn't care for them much, and spends most of the episode evading them because she doesn't want them to make fun of her as they do everyone else. When she gets caught, she's angry and defensive and tells them exactly what she thinks of them. She makes her stand and dares them to do their worst.

Another thing we learn is that Andrea knows she makes a good target. Other people have probably been sharpening their wit (or lack of it) on her for a long time. She makes a deliberate effort to stand out with her Goth look, but she does not appear to be a part of a group of similarly dressed Goths. As many before me have commented, Andrea looks very much like a loner. (Which came first, the Goth look or the insults? Which produced which?) Andrea is never shown with a friend in the series. (Upchuck doesn't count.) In "Cafe Disaffecto" she sat alone, drinking what looked like a beer. Her quoted poem in the latter episode and her comic strip in The Daria Database reveal her contempt for her classmates, which sounds very much like what Daria and Jane feel for their contemporaries, except that Andrea doesn't broadcast it in the same way the Dynamic Duo does. Perhaps she is happy with her own company. Perhaps she simply never found a soul mate, her other half.

In his "Delayed Reaction Review" on Outpost Daria, Mike Quinn wrote that he hoped Daria and Jane found a new ally in Andrea as a result of this scene. They do manage to patch things up with a few words, Andrea tells them where the shoelaces are, and D&J wander off, a truce declared. In hindsight, however, we know that no such alliance was ever established. They never again interact in the series. Mike writes: "Daria and Jane saw Andrea as a planet further out in the high school solar system—the Pluto to their Neptune—whereas Andrea saw Daria and Jane as the pseudo-outcasts who complain a lot but don't really have it that bad." This may be so, but Andrea's view is sharper than that. She plainly wanted nothing to do with D&J, and her assessment of them was dead on target. They weren't nice people. Well, duh, right, but still, Andrea had already written them out of her life. Any chance to get to know her was plainly gone.

The whole incident gives an ugly spin to Daria's smart remark in "Gifted" about being "too smart and too sensitive to live in a world like ours at a time like this with a sister like mine." Her next line ("Maybe I do miss out on stuff, but this attitude is what works for me now") reveals her blindness as well as her arrogance. She simply doesn't know what she has missed and doesn't care. I am reminded of the alternate-universe story by The Alchemist, "Jane on the Side," in which a moment of bad temper on Daria's part (following a delay in moving to Lawndale) prevents Daria and Jane from becoming friends. Did that attitude work for her then?

In a magazine interview, playwright Richard Greenberg said, "I appreciate people who are civil, whether they mean it or not. I think: Be civil. Do not cherish your opinion over my feelings. There's a vanity to candor that isn't really worth it. Be kind." Daria and Jane could have learned something from this, but they didn't. Perhaps it is better to be nice, even if the people you're being nice to don't fully deserve it. You might not deserve it, either.


Anonymous said...

Hey - this is what I'd said in all of my earlier fanfics - and it kind of answers the question I just posed In Crossada's latest thread.

BG here, by the way.

the bug guy said...

I saw this as one of the important moments in the show, where Daria is forcefully presented with the results of her behavior.

Revalations like that don't since completely in right away, but the seed was planted.

I also noted that when Daria said, "We never saw each other,", Andrea smiled...the only time she was shown to smile.

The Angst Guy said...

I don't think the revelation about her behavior sank in at all, since she did worse to Amelia.

the bug guy said...

True to some extent, but lets face it, Amelia's behavior was also a little creepy, though the clinginess was a crude mirror of Daria's behavior with Jane at times. Amelia remembering the runaway horse as cool and amusing, when Daria was injured and required stitches because of the incident, was disturbing. The same with Amelia remembering Daria's "boycott" of the end of summer party, when Daria actually was not invited to it. That was probably still painful to 12-year old Daria and a so-called friend remembering it as a good thing doesn't exactly make one feel generous toward them.

Daria and Amelia were at fault in that situation and both came to a new understanding of the other by the end of the episode.