All For One and One For None
By: Guy Wheatley
"Human relationships always help us to carry on because they always presuppose further developments, a future--and also because we live as if our only task was precisely to have relationships with other people."
Would Camus's ubiquitous quote also apply to self-proclaimed misanthropes never at a loss for a glib, ironic remark, whilst harboring a penchant for gauche fashion sense? Recently browsing through my copy of The Daria Diaries, I cast my eyes over the trenchant remarks written in the upper-right hand corner on notebook paper, along the cheery lines of "A woman's home is her castle. Excuse me while I go raise the drawbridge," "Does watching television isolate us from one another? God, I hope so," and "I never forgot a face, but I keep trying." Seems to send a clear message that beyond a certain distance into personal space, trespassers will be violated. After all, it can't all be cool disdain and caustic bluster on Daria's part, considering her zero participation in extra-curricular activities, or functions outside the home, interest groups, or social activities at all. She doesn't fraternize at school unless steered into it, and her routine, well, take it from an early journal entry on her days at Lawndale, that remains remarkably up to date: "Go to school, avoid making eye contact with teachers, get called on anyway. Walk halls between classes, be ignored by other students [and ignore them in turn --GW]. Go home, listen to parents' frantic messages on answering machine about working late, watch TV. It's a good life. I just hope I can keep up the frenetic pace."
Of course, the sole, and flashing with almost neon intensity, exception is Daria's friendship with Jane, which interjects into her above routine trips to the Pizza King, Sick Sad World viewings at one abode or the other, and other miscellaneous errands in tandem. Daria may socialize with Jane, though what happens most often is that the two amalgamate into a weird vaudevillian duo and simply be alienated together, complementing each other's differences and remarks like pieces of a puzzle, observing the life that goes on by like biographies in the process of making an update of Don't Know Much About History in a section on suburban high school existence. The thing is that both girls had existed apart before acquainting with each other as entities in a clique of one, removed from usual vestiges of high school life. They forged a bond because in light of each other's sardonic sensibilities, it was the most natural thing in the world, like a soldier lost from his company wondering the battlefield then sighting another in his own uniform. In "It Happened One Nut," Jane comments about keeping Daria company at her tedious cashier job at It's a Nutty Nutty World: "Want me to drop by for a visit? Misery loving company, and all?" "You don't have to tell me that, it's the basis of our entire friendship." Eviscerate the masochistic elements of codependency from such a remark, in that they aren't depressed, and it's pretty apt.
By Season Two Jane had graduated from her more lugubrious, languid artsy persona (as well as the low alto voice), to someone more upbeat, flippant, and not above a little fraternization, and eventually a boyfriend. But has Daria changed in the same way? Camus's "living precisely for relations with other people" has Daria as no exception, true. She and Jane aren't exactly soul-sisters, but Daria has gone through withdrawal when she's gone through trying times with Jane. In "The Misery Chick" she tries repeatedly to get in contact with an alienated Jane, in "See Jane Run" she speaks to herself in lieu of company with her partner-in-crime, and wonders if she was hypocritical in chastising Jane for accepting Gym perks. On a lighter note, Daria drags Jane along in "Cafe Disaffecto" to lighten the weight and tedium of fund-raising and the equally eerie circumstances of baby-sitting the Gupty children in "The Pinch Sitter." However, isn't Daria putting all her eggs into one basket with her sole friendship ("your only friend Jane" as Val curtly puts it in "The Lost Girls")? Aren't they're other potential characters that have been exposed in the course of the show, outcasts and brains alike, that might have the ability to extend a rapport of friendship with Daria? Here are some of the possibilities:
Jodie: For awhile, Jodie seemed to be the most natural pick for Daria as a secondary friend. After all, Jodie was very intelligent, came from an affluent family, had upstanding standards for herself, was capable of making perspicacious remarks and sounding them off to Daria, all the while being extremely popular with her extended resume of extra-curricular activities. Jodie may have been the girl able to make the crossover into Daria's walled off domain and bringing her a little out of her shell. Wasn't the most illuminating scene showcasing the bonding potential 'twixt these two during the disclosure of their respective high school experiences in "Gifted"? Both made concessions as to the advantages of each other's mentality and way of going about things. A natural match to aid each other and alter perspectives? However, the deterrent reality check to such a scenario came in "Partner's Complaint," when Jodie's moral sensitivity became ruffled when Daria inferred at her hypocrisy in their economics project, and a harsh rebuke was delivered. Though they reconciled at the end of the ep, it seems that a very noteworthy difference in their dispositions was revealed; Jodie had a wider pragmatic streak about accomplishing goals, even if it meant sacrificing a little ethical credibility, while Daria was more unyielding and critical about such actions. These moral approaches grated gravely on each other in the ep, giving the impression that if they spent a considerable amount of time together, more arguments of the sort would ensue. Nor would Daria be very interested in straddling both sides of the outcast brain/popularity queen fence as Jodie does, in fact, Daria would viciously chide Jane for even daring to flirt with the enemy's grass.
Andrea: Personally, I've never quite understood the rather portentous support and cultish following for this extremely minor character on Daria. I always viewed her as the token goth character in the teenage ensemble at Lawndale High, meant to chime in with an overtly maudlin, comic relief comment from time to time, as a goth stereotype would. However, she sticks around, and apparently will continue to do so with her recent exposure on "Mart of Darkness" (and a whole paragraph of speech to herself, toping the "Cafe Disaffecto" poetry reading!). Though such mono-cameo characters such as Luhrman and Erin from "I Don't" (and probably even Ethan from "That Was Then, This is Dumb") have technically had more dialogue than Andrea, she remains an organic object d'or, and has quite a reign in numerous fan-fics expounding on her character in ways her brief appearances on Daria can only dream. And there are some legitimate reasons for this, as Andrea is, well, ultra-alienated, always downcast and going about her brusque and singular way. However, though Daria and Andrea may both be outcasts and eschew the popularity games of Lawndale High, the way they bear the marks of such social status are quite different. The way that Andrea bitterly invites Daria to proceed with the belittling remarks that she and Jane indulge with in judging other people in "Mart of Darkness" is a caustic and conscious awareness of this. If there was anything like an informal "Outsider" clique at Lawndale high, a cadre of the geeks, brains, social outcasts, and general "in"-crowd undesirables, Daria and Jane would be something like the "Outsider Elite," not because their so socially inept and have no choice to be trapped to such a popularity purgatory, but by personal choice and proclivity, as well as an ability to sarcastically hold their own against anyone, to never be cowed by the advances of any of the more popular cliques. Andrea is more like an "Outsider Drone" or otherwise lower-ranking outcast, not there by choice, and entertains lifestyle choices more out of frustration and rage than anything else. Additionally, Andrea seems far more emotional than Daria ever is, and considering how assiduous Daria is in avoiding personal disclosure, demons, or extended intimacy with anyone (and even things with Jane are kept on a flippant level most of the time), this is bound to create a rift. So, while Daria and Andrea are both technically "Outsiders," their individual customs are as different as two people sharing the same religion but of different ethnic background.
Stacy: Stacy seems to be the other significant "underdog" favorite in the Daria community after Andrea. Though she is a very different girl than our aforementioned goth, I feel that a lot of the fixation that she garners is based on the same reasons: There is something vulnerable, misplaced, and unexplored about her character which gleans pity. After all, Stacy seems to be the odd girl out in the Fashion Club, and a little too nice to play all the dirty games in being the most superficial and judgmental clique of the school, condemning others by the rigid commandments of ever-ephemeral fashion trends. Though Stacy has gotten far more exposure than Andrea in the show, her most revealing moment is still her paroxysm of broken-hearted anguish in "Fair Enough," when she wails out her woe to an indifferent Daria and Jane on the ferris wheel. Stacy may be the most amiable and open-minded of the Fashion Club, and would probably come in last on a "most disdained Fashion Fiend" list that Daria and Jane compiled on a lazy afternoon, but that doesn't mean that they have warmed up to her in any way. Stacy still fraternizes with the "enemy," harbors no backbone, and exists merely to be emotionally manipulated to the whims of Sandi and Quinn as she continually fishes for validation. Until some drastic changes in her attitude arise, I can't imagine the slightest change in how Daria regards her.
Tom: On first glance, Tom as a friend for Daria seems to be a more logical shoe-in than the other three listed above. After all, he shares Jane's sense of affable, offbeat wit, has always been congenial around Daria, makes an effort to be friendly, has Jane's stamp of approval, and more. There isn't some (in)conspicuous foible about his disposition that keeps him out of the league like it does with Jodie, Stacy, or Andrea--what's not to like about this perfect guy? Well, Daria found plenty, as we saw over the course of "Jane's Addition" and "Partner's Complaint." Daria spurned and insulted Tom at every opportunity until she finally felt she'd played the jealous bitch long enough and anted up an apology to Jane, and accepted Tom as here to stay. Jealous was exactly what Daria was, for Tom was the character who had the potential to suddenly render, in the magnanimous paranoid scheme of things, Daria a third wheel, for Tom offered not just intellectual, but romantic, interest to Jane. No doubt Daria felt like she was in danger of getting out-classed by the number of sheer "qualities" she was up against. Co-existence with Tom wasn't a possibility Daria wanted to consider; Daria probably romanticized her rapport with Jane, she only friends with Jane, Jane only friends with Daria, partners up against the world and impenetrable to the whims of others, particularly the unique complications of a man. In fact, this desire for Daria having a lone bond with Jane and visa versa could be an added qualm against extending her hand to any of the other candidates above. Daria's relationship with Tom would improve throughout the season from her stand-offish position at the end of "Partner's Complaint," even conceding to enjoying herself in his sole, gentlemanly company in "I Loathe A Parade," however to say that she's active friends with Tom would be too much of a stretch. Additionally, Daria still resents being usurped by him when it comes to Jane organizing social plans, i.e. Daria's tonal displeasure on learning that Jane had already scheduled to go bowling with Tom in "Of Human Bonding."
Jane, on the other hand, has come quite a ways from her low-octane, heavy-lidded, crooning self from Season One. Daria may still be her cardinal friend, true, however she is more extroverted and accommodating then her cynical counterpart. In "Arts N' Crass" Jane allows herself to be flattered into partaking in, oh the horror, a school-sponsored art fair and the politics that go with it. With a little nuisance fee, she also partook in managing a Lawndale dance in "Daria Dance Party" as a medium for her creativity. She becomes more actively involved in her charity project in "The Old and the Beautiful" than Daria, actually enjoying the chance for tutoring and culling expression in the children she works with. And most notably of all, she flirts with the realm and camaraderie of school sports in "See Jane Run" and "The F Word." The notion of Daria hooking up with her brother during the days of shippery tensions never irked Jane for a moment, in fact, it encouraged her in some spots for spontaneous matchmaking, from "The Road Worrier" onward. That this begat her whole yenta role in many a shipper-fic has generally led her to be perceived as more outgoing and accepting than the obstinate Daria. Essays by Kara Wild have delved into the posited commonalties of her character with other extroverts Jodie and Helen, and conjecture on what vulnerabilities lie beneath her cool-headed and flippant exterior, vulnerabilities explicated on in many of Jon Kilner's Jane-centric prose fics. Lastly, she made the final step in moving on with her romantic life, adroitly clicking with Tom with expedient pace and chemistry, whereas by comparison, Daria's short-lived crush on Trent just meandered for three seasons before finally fizzling out.
It is these differences in disposition by our two sarcastic protagonists than I think speak to how the Daria fan base respond in turn with their own feelings. In all "favorite character" surveys that I've come across on sites pertaining to Daria on the net, Jane supersedes Daria by a slight to substantial lead, a character that, as vital to the show as she is, is still second seat in focus to our title heroine. Now why is that? I think the answer lies in how accessible Jane makes herself. As a friend, Jane would be more willing to accommodate our faults, twist them into looking more like cute idiosyncrasies, supporting us while we were down, encouraging exploration into personal domains and dilemmas unknown to us before ("Through A Lens Darkly," need I say more?). Jane also actively solicited Daria for her contributions in school projects in eps "Arts N' Crass" and "Jane's Addition," and sought out validation for her own "Outsider" breaching of code during her fling with conventional school activities in "See Jane Run." Jane also tried her damnedest to reconcile Daria's contempt for Tom in "Jane's Addition" and "Partner's Complaint." Hell, she even cut Quinn some slack when she came running and pleading in voluntary exile from the Fashion Club in "Gifted." Daria is more likely, and has been, more critical of these scenarios in these eps concerning Jane's "deviant" behavior. And most friendships aren't based on such exaggerated candor and need to hold up such ethical standards in the eyes of our comrade; we'd far prefer to be flattered and accepted for who we are, and wherever we may roam.
Now, here's a novel suggestion, maybe sacrilegious to some: Daria may have more in common with Sandi Griffin than any other character on the show. A stretch would be an understatement you say? Austin Covello has already written an essay challenging the demonic status of our cardinal Fashion Fascist. What about beyond that? From what I've observed, Daria has quite a bit in common with Sandi, especially compared to her genetic counterpart and other significant Fashion Club fiend, Quinn. The main differences that place them worlds apart are intelligence and priorities, however traits in their respective character may render that border thinner than presumed. Both are snide and sarcastic, never at a loss at a disparaging remark. Daria speaks in deadpan, Sandi in a level, monotonous valley-girl tone. Both are judgmental of the behavior of their company, Daria in the realm of ethics, ideas, writing and literature, Sandi in decorum with fashion sense and how au fait her members are with trends. Sandi doesn't have so much friends as glorified lackeys that she keeps in line with threats and intimidation, and goads them (namely Quinn) on the flimsiest codes of fashion transgression. Daria's bond with Jane is far more genuine and generous that that, however at times it seems almost conditional to Daria's standard for proper "Outsider" mores. Both Daria and Sandi keep the doors of their respective company closed from the contamination of outsiders, or would like to have it that way. And as a bonus bit of trivia, both maintain an enmity with Quinn (and Daria even has a past as Highland's fashion reporter).
In fact, there's no evidence that Daria was pining for companionship when she was driven up to Lawndale High for the first time. She didn't mumble or brood about her loneliness, or go around introducing herself to whoever she could. She behaved very much in the same manner pre-Jane as she does post-Jane, all the way up to the point when she was fortuitously introduced to Jane via a whisper in Mr. O'Neill's self-esteem workshop. It seems to me that Daria can be comfortable both as a lone wolf or with company, but only has the vitality and interest to sustain one strong friendship at any one time, which is the only sort she is interested in, being not one for superficial aquaintanceships. I feel like Daria's disclosure she makes to her psychologist Dr. Phillips in "Psycho Spa," and to Helen towards the ep's end, were of prodigious importance to this personal stance. She admits to keeping most everyone at arm's length to avoid rejection when they finally get to know the inner Daria and do it on their own instinct, however, to me she makes little effort to be tactful in the presence of most people, so the outer Daria pretty much resembles the inner Daria. I also think this extends only to individuals outside her immediate family; for Helen and Jake, she addresses Helen's concern about neglecting her eldest daughter: "I know you'd hang on to my every word, and who could handle that sort of responsibility?" Here Daria is saying that she precisely can't, and has never been comfortable with intense levels of emotional intimacy, and would prefer playing her games of wry badinage to get her feelings across, though her medium renders her feelings no less genuine. With minimal emotional needs in such a fatalistic cynic, I could have realistically seen scenarios where a strained friendship with Jane finally reached a breaking point, i.e. Not reconciling with Jane after all in "See Jane Run" or deciding to ditch her in turn in "Partner's Complaint" after Jane had gotten involved with Tom, and then gone about her merry, deadpan way.
Yes, as my Camus quote proclaims, Daria abides by the visceral need to live precisely for other human beings, however, she may in fact be the female, 21th century suburban teenage version of his own Meursault, with a liberal dash of irony, dry wit, and purposeful asexuality. She's apathetic, uncompromising, navigates life in her own unassuming, clinical fashion, and happens to be comfortably proud about it. One of those other maxims that Daria penned in The Daria Diaries, "I screen my calls...and all other human interaction," may speak more than the whimsy surface value implies, implying the mindset of a new breed of Outsider that my favorite philosopher E. M. Cioran spoke of in one of his prescient axioms:
"If relations between men are so difficult, it is because men have been created to knock each other down, rather than have "relations."