Quinn agrees to let Daria and Jane follow her for a day and film her activities for their English class project, not realizing that their actual goal is to expose the life of a shallow and self-absorbed, yet popular teenager.
Jake forces Daria and Quinn to relive their past when he plays for them a videotape made when they were kids (specifically, Quinn stealing the spotlight at Daria's birthday party), and announces that he's having all his old home movies transferred to videotape. (Unfortunately, Jake winds up reliving a lot of bitter childhood memories, specifically one incident involving his falling off a bike. So much for the past...) That's not the end of Daria's cinematic experience, however, as she and Jane run into Mr. O'Neill at a local movie theater. While getting a ride home (reluctantly, thanks to a sudden rainstorm), Daria inadvertantly gives Mr. O'Neill a suggestion for a class project: students will team up to create their own movies, as an exercise in "living literature." Daria and Jane team up (naturally), while Jodie, Mack, Kevin, and Brittany give it a go. Brittany wants to film a love story -- with herself as the star, of course -- while Jodie would rather make a documentary about a local supermarket strike. Jodie's suggestion wins out, but Kevin winds up getting beaten up by the strikers when he tries to cross the picket line to buy Brittany a snack. Meanwhile, Daria and Jane try several ideas -- "tree cam," an art film, and an existential puppet show -- before hitting upon the perfect idea when Quinn asks to borrow one of Daria's outfits for a "fashion don'ts" party: they'll make a documentary about a day in the life of a shallow, self-absorbed, yet popular teenaged girl. Quinn readily agrees, but has no idea that their ultimate plan is to humiliate her. Unfortunately, they doesn't get the chance -- Quinn acts all nice and perfect and nauseatingly sweet -- until Quinn finally loses her cool at the mall, when she suspects that Daria is zooming in on her "perfect pores." She and Jane start editing the video, and are salivating at the prospect of Quinn's total humiliation, when Helen steps in and tries to kick-start Daria's conscience. It doesn't work... until Quinn tells them that she's looking forward to seeing her video, and hopes that it doesn't make her look stupid (because she knows that acting shallow and being obsessed about fashion and popularity is silly, but it's what she does best). "The Depths of Shallowness," which does not include her "pores" rant, winds up showing Quinn in the best possible light, and makes her more popular than ever.
There seems to have been an event or series of events (not necessarily traumatic) that made Daria the way she is, especially in her dealings with Quinn. There are two such cases shown or mentioned in "Monster." The first is the video they are watching at the beginning with baby Quinn blowing out Daria's birthday candles, and the other is Helen's mention of a ballet recital. Quinn has pushed Daria out of the spotlight so often that she doesn't want to try anymore.
It's All Coming Back to Me Now!!
Daria and Jake have at least one "special" moment in this episode. They both seemed to realize that it wasn't that special, but as Jake said, it worked for him (since he couldn't let go of the pain involved in falling off his bike as a child). Jake is a man of dizzying highs and cavernous lows, and doesn't want Daria to miss out on the "golden times," like he really had any of them himself. This is still the dream, right?
Daria eventually collapsed under the pressure put on her by her mother and sister to "go easy on her." Helen's attempt didn't do much except make Daria overly aware of what she was doing (destroying her sister), but she did get to Jane a little bit by saying "do what you think is right" (Jane's response was great -- "I don't like the sound of THAT"). Quinn did more of a job by laying an effective guilt trip on Daria and Jane (to a lesser extent). One is left to wonder if Quinn was sincere in her little monologue or did she do this on purpose because she knew what Daria and Jane were about to do.
Which Is My Best Side?
Daria has never been interested much in what Quinn does away from her, so auto-sleep is an appropriate mode for her during the taping. Daria got a lot of good stuff about Quinn including the "shopping instructions" for "Guy," and of course the stuff about Quinn's not so cute pores. She didn't use any of this stuff in the long run because she felt bad about it. The even sadder part for Daria is that the movie had the opposite effect that she wanted -- it made Quinn even more popular.
I really enjoyed this episode. It wasn't the standard Daria story in that her devious plan was foiled, but it does continue the idea that Quinn and Daria have more common ground than either of them would like to admit. Quinn shows that she does realize how shallow she could be. Except for the repeated lines (I used two of them as section headers -- I'll let you guess which ones), "Monster" was great.
Copyright © 1998 Mike Quinn [All Rights Reserved]. Used with permission. The views presented here are those of the author, and may or may not necessarily be those of Outpost Daria Reborn.