Daria is given a special assignment by Mr. O'Neill: write a short story with moral dimensions. When she becomes angry and frustrated over the fact that she's unable to write anything meaningful, she gets help from an unexpected source.
Mr. O'Neill's class assignment on moral fiction is giving Daria a bit of a problem... namely, she's already read all the books on his reading list. This inspires Mr. O'Neill to give Daria a special assignment: rather than read a story with moral dimensions, he wants her to write a story with moral dimensions. She's not exactly enthused, and her first few stories -- riffs on The Graduate, with Jane disrupting Kevin and Brittany's wedding and running away with him, and Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility, with Daria and Quinn as sisters being courted by various English suitors (who are driven away by talk of marriage) -- definitely show it. Helen tries to help Daria get over her writer's block (between phone calls and rescuing Jake from his latest culinary adventures), but manages to completely alienate her daughter by trying to compare her to Quinn. Upset and angry, her next story is probably her worst effort to date: Helen and Jake as laid-back parents, with Daria as the "good daughter" and Quinn as the "other one." After confiding her worries to Jane, blowing off a remorseful Helen, and writing yet another sub-standard story, she tries to get advice from Mr. O'Neill... bad advice, as it turns out, since it doesn't help her one bit. Just when she's totally convinced that she's a no-talent hack, Helen manages to cut through her defenses and give her what turns out to be good, solid advice: write something honest, something that she'd like to see, rather than trying so hard to write something "meaningful." Inspired, and not a little impressed by Helen's insight, Daria proceeds to write an honest, meaningful story about how she'd like to see her family in the future: Helen retired from the law firm, Jake happily retired and stress-free (after a triple bypass), and Quinn a mature, responsible parent of four. Though Daria still doesn't think she's accomplished her goal, Helen's proud, tearful hugging of her oldest daughter proves otherwise.
Historical & Cultural References:
- The book Daria is reading for Mr. O'Neill's class is On Moral Fiction by John C. Gardner.
- Daria's first story is a parody of the ending of the 1967 film The Graduate, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.
- Daria's second story is a parody of Jane Austin's novel Sense and Sensibility.
- The list of books on Mr. O'Neill's blackboard includes George Orwell's 1984, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, and Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, all of which are works of fiction with a moral message (the evils of totalitarianism in 1984, a warning against playing God in Frankenstein, etc.).
- Helen's comment in Daria's final story about Daria working in television is very likely an in-joke about Daria itself.
Daria - It's a book. For school. About how fiction should do more than just entertain.
Helen - That sounds interesting.
Daria - Yeah. A writer writing a book about how writers should write books. Must have been a huge seller.
Daria - Let's see... nobody talked to me again this week, I wasn't invited to any parties for the weekend, and I think I'm getting one of those really painful cold sores. So all in all, another great week.
Mr. O'Neill - So, what Gardner is telling us is that the writer of fiction has a duty that goes beyond the mere telling of a story. His or her job is to tell a story in such a way as to leave the reader... what, Kevin?
Kevin - Screaming for more full-contact martial arts excitement?
Kevin - People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. I got one, babe. I got one!
(Mr. O'Neill begins sobbing)
Mr. O'Neill - Well, why don't you write a story taking people you know in real life and turning them into fictional characters?
Daria - I wonder if anyone would notice a difference.
Jane - What's the problem? Take people you know and have them do whatever you want. I'd make them crawl, I tell you. Crawl!
Daria - Easy, tiger.
Minister - And do you, Kevin, take this pulchritudinous woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?
Jane - (muffled) Kevin!
Kevin - I, uh... what did you say?
Minister - I said, do you, Kevin, assume legal responsibility for this overripe specimen of femalehood standing next to you? The one in white, son!
Daria - I mean, if I were going to write about mating rituals, I think I'd go back a couple hundred years, when women either married or shriveled up and blew away.
Jane - Instead of marrying and then shriveling up, like they do now?
Miss Morgendorffer - Mr. Lane's temperament, outlook, indeed, his very manners are such as to arouse bemusement rather than endearment in the object of his attentions.
Miss Quinn - Huh?
Miss Morgendorffer - He's flaky.
Miss Morgendorffer - Dear sister, I would hope that whoever does become Lady Lane does so out of regard for Mr. Lane and not for his estate.
Miss Quinn - What about his car?
Miss Morgendorffer - Hmm...
Miss Quinn - Oh, sister, your wit and judgment assure that you will marry not only well, but wisely.
(Miss Quinn and Miss Morgendorffer embrace)
Mr. Lane - Did she say "marry"?
Mr. Moreno - Yeah.
(guys turn horses around and gallop away)
Daria - How can you talk to me about Quinn? She'll never have this kind of problem. It involves thinking. You make me tell you what's wrong, in between calls, and then you bring up Quinn? Don't you know me at all? (leaves)
Daria - Shouldn't we comfort her or something?
Jake - (laughs) Oh, let her go.
Helen - She'll get over it.
Daria - We should at least tell her about that eight-lane highway they built outside the house during the night.
Jake - Hmm... you may be right.
(cars collide outside)
Helen - That can't be good.
(more cars collide)
Quinn - Ow! God!
Jane - Let me get this straight: you're telling me you want to write something, not just anything, that says something about something.
Daria - Right.
Jane - Gee. Who'd ever believe you're having trouble communicating.
Helen - Daria? Daria, the TV's not on.
Daria - Shh! I'm watching this.
Daria - When the hell did you learn so much about me?
Helen - It's a funny thing, Daria. You give birth to someone, you just get an urge to keep tabs on them.
Daria - Mom... you know I'm not ready for kids. The whole idea makes me uneasy and I'm not sure why.
(Quinn enters with children)
Girl - Give me that!
Boy - No, it's mine!
Girl - Mommy!
Daria - Oh, yeah. Now I remember.
Quinn - You know where Grandma's TV is. Go watch something educational.
(kids scamper into living room)
SSW Announcer - Breast implants for chickens...
Quinn and Daria - Not that!
Daria - It's not very good, is it?
Helen - (tearfully) Oh, Daria...
Daria - It wasn't that bad.
(Helen sobs and embraces Daria)
Daria - Stop, stop! This isn't a story, it's real life!
Jane - Well, listen, now that you've got such a great attitude and everything, can I have your boots?
Daria - Yeah. Turn around and I'll give you one right now.
Jane - Daria, do you think... someday... I can read your story?
Daria - No. But you can read the one where you run away with Kevin.
Jane - What?!
Delayed Reaction Review
Recycled Joke of the Week:
Usually, I don't pick up on this sort of thing, but I've heard the line "What's the number for 911" on The Simpsons before. I'm not accusing the writers of this episode of stealing material; but if they did at least they used one of the best. However, I hope this doesn't become a consistent thing; and that it be kept to a minimum.
Self-Reference of the Week:
In Daria's final "story," Helen says something to the affect that "Daria couldn't be on TV...." Well, we are all watching her on TV. Also in the third "story" (where Quinn wants to be more like Daria), Jake tells Quinn that she lacks depth, which she did (at least at the beginning of the series). The self references are refreshing and if you can't make fun of yourself...
You've Got Me Feeling Emotions:
Daria's angry side really comes out in her conversation with Helen. "How dare you talk about Quinn." The tone of her voice puts to rest any debate about whether she is monotone. Daria's response to Helen's crying ("It can't be that bad") while Helen reads the story is a defense mechanism. She wrote a touching story that affected her mother and Daria's first response is to think Helen thought it was bad. Perhaps she needs to go through self-esteem class again; the girl needs some confidence.
Daria's attempts at story telling using people she knows could be insightful to her character. It doesn't take much inspiration for her to come up with those scenarios. Jane only had to say "Kevin and Brittany's wedding" and that she would "like to be there when they tie the noose" for that one. We all know where the second one came from; her semi-intense crush on "Mr. Lane." And as always, the idea of marriage scares away the boys (hey, it scares me). The third attempt was reactionary more than anything. She used her anger at her mother to provide the spark for that idea. Daria is, or could be, a better writer than she gives herself credit for. I would think that anyone that could come up with ideas that quickly, even if they are "bad," is capable of being a good writer.
Of all the advice Helen has tried to give, this was by far the best advice she's ever given. "Write about how it should be, not how it is." Mothers know their children better than anyone, even if their children don't think so, and Helen knows what Daria's talents are and gives her a new perspective that is different enough for Daria to shine with it.
Daria's final story may have been a bit on the sappy side, but it was poignant. It does show how Daria would like things to turn out. Daria is a successful writer, Quinn grows up a lot (made some mistakes, but who doesn't) and both Helen and Jake are approachable and a lot mellower (a triple bypass will do that to you). But her story was good even if she's is not quite ready to accept it, yet.
As far as season finales go, this episode did its job (unlike "The Misery Chick," which was a great episode but didn't truly end the season). It did take some of the major themes of the second season and start to bring it all together. Almost every character is becoming three-dimensional. The story of this episode by itself is an original idea and it was done well and brought a small sense of finality to the second season, I look forward to next season already. The only possible (and this is very minor) complaint I have is the use of some semi-obscure references in the stories Daria wrote. While this was used in a funny way and isn't bad for a change of pace, I don't think that it is the strength of a series like Daria.
Daria as a Whole:
These are a collection of comments that I made as part of my "Initial Reaction Review" for this episode. They all have something to do with the end of the second season and what that meant to the Daria watching community.
MTV marks the end of Daria's second season with their usual fanfare: NONE.
Next Week (in my own fantasy land): Jane is still crying over the thought of actually falling in love with Kevin, Mr. O'Neill is just crying and Daria has dropped out of school and become the ringmaster of a traveling circus.
Next Week (in reality): Reruns, Reruns and more Reruns!!!
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.