She's Daria's best friend. I can't remember an episode where she hasn't appeared. And yet, I feel as though I've never really met Jane Lane.
The thought first struck me as I was writing "Outvoted," when I found myself struggling with how to portray Jane's reasons for running for president. Finally I chose to portray her as semi-vulnerable, wanting to prove to the student body that she was more than what she seemed. Yet I kept asking myself: "Would Jane really act that way? Does she really have those kinds of insecurities?"
Most of the time, we only see Jane in the role of "Daria's sidekick." Whenever Daria makes a cynical comment, Jane usually follows with one that's equally cynical, and vice-versa. For example, in "This Year's Model":
DARIA: Isn't modeling about dropping out of school to pursue a career based solely on your youth and your looks, both of which are declared over by age 25?
JANE: And don't fashion people squander their lives loudly worshiping all that is superficial and meaningless while the planet keeps riding the roller coaster to hell?
Or "The Old and the Beautiful":
DARIA: They may be shallow, but that doesn't mean they should be executed.
JANE: Yes it does.
DARIA: Very well, I'm sold.
Jane is Robin to Daria's Batman. She even aids Daria in the love department, coupling her with Trent when the opportunity arises.
At the same time, we get a lot of evidence that Jane is much more tolerant and open-minded than Daria. In "See Jane Run," she's willing to try out for the track team, not feeling, as Daria does, that the mere act of participating in a sport is selling out. (Rather, it's only after she's crossed over the line of corruption, accepting a "by," that she feels she's done wrong.) In "Through a Lens Darkly," Jane can't understand why Daria is so uptight about admitting she's vain. "You're not Mother Theresa," she says. Oftentimes, Jane's tolerance causes Daria to open her eyes a little wider and see the big picture -- that the world is not black and white.
Yet in spite of this evidence, I still feel as though I don't really know Jane. The reason, quite simply, is that no episode yet has explored her flip side: her vulnerability. At most, we've seen that Jane is capable of making mistakes -- such as when she gets swayed into accepting the "by" in "See Jane Run." Her overall persona, however, is one of unflappability: she's always calm, assured, at peace with herself. She never succumbs to the pressure of fretting about grades, as do most high school students. (But, to be fair, neither do most of the teens at LHS.) Jane is someone we all wish to be like, and the ideal friend for a rigid person like Daria. Yet, ironically, while Daria is presented as someone who never likes to reveal her inner feelings, she is emotionally more accessible than Jane.
Those vulnerable feelings must exist, though, if we are to accept Jane as a three-dimensional character. And several works of fan fiction have done an excellent job trying to "fill in the blanks" of Jane's personality. In Michelle Klein-Hass's Lawndale, CT Continuum, Jane comes across as her usual light-hearted self, but also as someone with palpable insecurities. She's not ready for a committed relationship; she's vaguely jealous of Trent's success in the music industry; and she's unsure of what her future career will be (in "Best Served Cold," she drops out of college to pursue a career in animation). Yet Jane tends to keep these feelings inside, so people rarely get a chance to acknowledge them.
Similarly, Jon Kilner presents Jane as light-hearted on the outside, angst-ridden on the inside in his fanfic, "The Last Days of Solitude." There, we see Jane struggling to hide the fact that she's deeply depressed, even suicidal. Daria's coming to Lawndale High (the story chronicles the events in "Esteemers" from Jane's point of view) represents the life preserver Jane needs to stay afloat.
Both of these works, in my opinion, show what a real -life Jane might be like. Not always carefree, not always secure. Now I just wish the writers on "Daria" would follow suit by giving us an episode or two in which we see that side of Jane. Coming into the second half of Season Three, I had high hopes for "Jane's Addiction" -- as I assumed it was called at the time. What better way to showcase Jane's insecurities than to have her be obsessed with a guy? As many of us know, obsession with another person says a lot about how we see ourselves. Yet, of course, the episode turned out to be "Jane's Addition," in which Jane forms a perfectly healthy relationship with a guy who is nearly as unflappable as she. (Don't get me wrong: I think Tom is a cool character. But I question whether he has the sort of influence that would allow Jane to show her vulnerability.)
So at this point, I guess all I can do is wait until Season Four to learn whether my portrayal of Jane in "Outvoted" was correct. I really hope to find out, because Jane has so much potential as a character. She could conceivably have her own show (as she so often hints during "Daria Day" marathons). Until then, I and other fic authors will continue to "fill in the blanks" of her personality...