Students are required by Ms. Li to sign up for voluteer work during Awareness of Others Week (so that she can win an award). Jane finds her niche teaching arts and crafts to hospitalized children, while Daria signs up to read to seniors at a nursing home. Unfortunately, her monotone delivery and choice of reading material prove unpopular with the residents, particularly when compared to the energetic Kevin and Brittany (who chose the same assignment).
In order to win an award for the school, Ms. Li asks (read: orders) everyone to volunteer during Awareness of Others Week. Jane chooses to teach arts and crafts -- in her own unique way -- to patients in a chidren's ward, the Fashion Club decides -- in their own unique way -- to collect clothes for the homeless, and Daria volunteers (reluctantly) to read to senior citizens at the Better Days Retirement Home. However, the seniors are completely turned off by Daria's monotone, unenthusiastic voice (as well as her "unique" choices in reading material), while lavishing praise on the efforts of Brittany and Kevin. Brittany invites Daria to her house (where she's introduced to Brittany's parents, Steve and Ashley-Amber) and attempts to make Daria's voice "perkier," but soon pronounces Daria a hopeless case. At the nursing home, Daria is shunned by the seniors; dejected and humiliated, Daria is ready to give up when Mrs. Blaine, who apparently is totally deaf, asks her to stay and tells her that she has a pretty voice. At the end of the week, Jane is banned from the children's ward when she teaches the kids to turn the wall paintings into an Old West battle scene, Brittany and Kevin receive awards for their efforts, the Fashion Club ends up being no help at all... and Daria voluntarily returns to the nursing home to keep Mrs. Blaine company.
Historical & Cultural References:
- Mrs. Johannsen's comment about selling chocolate bars is a reference to Daria and Jane's unsuccessful attempt at fundraising in "Cafe Disaffecto" (#104).
- Daria's "Melody Powers" story is apparently part of a series of such stories, the first of which was heard in "Cafe Disaffecto" (#104).
- Theresa, the Cashman's saleslady, is apparently the same "Theresa in Junior 5" mentioned in "Monster" (#206). She will appear in several future episodes.
- The "Brooke" that Quinn refers to could be the same Brooke who suffered a nasal relapse after plastic surgery in "Too Cute" (#109).
- The title of the episode is a pun on the daytime TV soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.
- Ashley-Amber being a poster model for "St. Peter Girl beer" is a joke on a real brand (St. Paulie Girl).
- The book Daria is reading in the kitchen is The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.
- The book Daria reads to Mrs. Patterson is Howl by Allen Ginsberg.
- Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist, whose theory of organic evolution would profoundly alter the natural sciences (and provide controversy for years to come, pitting "evolutionists" against "creationists," or those who believe in the creation of the universe as laid out in the Bible).
- Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States, is an avid golfer, which explains his being mentioned in the same sentence with Pebble Beach, Florida.
- This episode marks the first-ever appearance of Steve Taylor and the first speaking appearance of Ashley-Amber, who was previously seen in "Pierce Me" (#212) as she modelled with stepdaughter Brittany. Brian was previously seen torturing Daria's lab mouse in "The Lab Brat" (#107). Steve and Ashley-Amber were introduced in The Daria Database, and all three would be seen again in "Groped by an Angel" (#411).
- The opening credits were slightly shorter. Parts of some of the scenes were cut, though none of the music was omitted. This is a trend that would continue for the rest of the series (though not on every episode).
Kevin - Darwin's the monkey guy, right? I like monkeys.
Mr. DeMartino - A statement no doubt once also made by your mother!
Kevin - No. She's more into kitties.
Brittany - I love kitties!
Mr. DeMartino - That's terrific, Brittany, and really adds an extra dimension to today's lesson!
Daria - I just think people should volunteer for causes because they believe in them, not because it makes the school look good.
Jane - Absolutely. Run down the list of causes you volunteered for again?
Daria - I protested that book burning last year.
Jane - You yelled at the TV screen.
Daria - Do you think if you breathe on me I might catch your enthusiasm?
Jane - Hey, who knows what you'll catch.
Woman #1 - What a pretty voice she has. Do you think?
Woman #2 - Oh, yes. She sounds just like Frances did when she was younger.
Woman #3 - I always did have a lovely voice.
Brittany - Thanks!
Woman #2 - And I looked just like you, dear.
Brittany - Eep!
Mrs. Patterson - What a pretty girl...
Daria - (upbeat) Oh.
Mrs. Patterson - ... that Brittany is.
Daria - (dejected) Oh.
Brittany - Daria, this is my stepmom, Ashley-Amber. Do you recognize her?
Daria - I think so, but it's so hard to remember your childhood nightmares clearly.
Brittany - She was the poster model for St. Peter Girl beer.
Ashley-Amber - "I'll cure what 'ales' you." (giggles)
Brittany - Ooh, isn't she great?
Daria - It's hard to believe she's real.
Brittany - Face it, Daria. You'll never be like me.
Daria - Guess I'll have to find a new dream.
Delayed Reaction Review
You Didn't Tell Me You Had a Sister:
Kevin and Brittany are portrayed to the heights (or is that depths?) of stupidity in this episode. That whole dialogue at the beginning about Darwin and Curious George made Kevin look dumber than everything we've seen of him put together. Don't get me wrong, most of their scenes led to funny, laugh out loud moments but the way they are going, Kevin and Brittany run the risk of becoming parodies of themselves.
Irony of Ironies:
Of all the things I thought I would ever see on Daria, people willingly choosing Brittany's voice over any other sound known to humanity (like fingernails on a blackboard) was not one of them. I can see some of the residents of the nursing home preferring her physical attributes, but the voice should be a definite turn off. This did lead to one of the most well timed "eep's" from Brittany, when one of the old ladies commented that she used to look like Brittany. Brittany's "help" with Daria's voice was also interesting. It wasn't absolutely necessary since Brittany kind of forced her help on Daria. Daria went to her house anyway, if only to get a glimpse inside, at least trying to add some artificial perkiness (not to mention that awful squeak, which didn't even sound that bad).
The Fashion Club tried to help on their own terms; too bad they're very misguided. They (or maybe just Sandi) decided that the homeless shouldn't get any clothes that they wouldn't wear. They forgot to realize that any clothes that they would wear wouldn't be given away. It's appropriate that Quinn (who appears to be the smart one, despite anything she might say) was the most on target about how to go about collecting things for the needy (i.e. looking through their own old stuff first). She seems more un-shallow all of the time.
The school board is right: Ms. Li is a highly motivated individual. However, her drive is for personal recognition, which in this case required 100% "voluntary" participation from the students. Daria is again asked to do something that, initially anyway, holds no interest to her (at least Jane got to work with arts and crafts). She did try to do her best in her own way, which at first alienated her from the people she was trying to help but ultimately led her to find the person that want to hear her read (and wanted her help).
Missing the Point:
Daria seems to have missed the point of volunteering her time. You don't have to be the best or even the most liked, as long as you put the time in and try to care. I doubt that Mrs. Blaine (the deaf lady) was too concerned in what Daria was reading to her. She was just happy that someone was there to keep her company. It was good to see Daria come to her senses and finally get it at the end instead of going directly back to being completely self-absorbed.
There were a lot moments in this episode that caused me to bust a gut and there were a lot of memorable lines ("I'll cure what 'ales' you" comes to mind). However, this episode felt like a cut and paste rehash of many themes that were extensively covered in other episodes (more on this below). The plot seemed a bit contrived (Why did Ms. Li need the entire school to get her award? Why not only half or two-thirds of the students?) and the subplot with Quinn and her friends was only barely linked to the main plot (except for the very general moral of "do anything you can to help, even if you're not quite sure what to do or how to do it"). Overall, "The Old and The Beautiful" was not a bad episode, but not the strongest either.
The Bottom Line:
Could've been better, but fortunately, could've been a lot worse.
Daria as a Whole, Recycling is Good for the Environment:
As I stated above, I felt that this episode borrowed heavily from those that came in the past (hey, if they're going to reuse ideas, better they do this than just redo one episode). I thought I would just go down the list of some of the things that made me think this way:
1) Daria (or anyone) is made by Ms. Li to "volunteer" to do something that she really doesn't want to do ("Arts 'N Crass," "Fair Enough"), or to a lesser extent is forced by circumstances into a situation she doesn't want to be in (this one's more of a stretch: "Pinch Sitter," "Quinn the Brain," "Monster").
2) Daria is overly insecure about one of her traits or abilities ("The Misery Chick," "Write Where it Hurts," "Through A Lens Darkly").
3) The fat chocolate loving lady is seen; Daria writes/reads a story about her super spy, Melody Powers; and Kevin and Brittany confound Mr. DeMartino with their "razor sharp observations" ("Cafe Disaffecto").
Copyright © 1999 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.