Episode Guide

Through A Lens Darkly
Episode #301 - February 24, 1999
Written by Glenn Eichler

Song List Entries For This Episode
Oops! List Entries For This Episode
Transcript For This Episode
"Write Where it Hurts" (#213)
"The Old and the Beautiful" (#302)

Regular: Daria, Quinn, Helen, Jake, Jane, Trent, Brittany, Kevin, Jodie, Upchuck, Andrea, Ms. Li, Mr. O'Neill

Guest: Amy Barksdale

Non-Speaking: None

Summary: Daria is talked into getting contact lenses after a near-mishap during a driving lesson. She's bothered by her conscience, however, believing that she's compromised her principles for the sake of vanity.

Full Synopsis: After Daria nearly hits a dog during a driving lesson, Helen tries to convince her to get contact lenses. At first, Daria is resistant, saying that people should judge her by who she is and not how she looks, but eventually begins to consider the idea. She swallows her pride and asks Quinn for advice, and when that fails, she discusses the issue with Aunt Amy, who tells Daria that getting contacts is merely an issue of having options, not vanity. She gets the lenses, but her experiences with them are not quite what she expected: they irritate her eyes, and people do not make a big deal over them (after the initial reaction, of course). Daria is still bothered by her conscience, however; she still thinks she's compromised her principles, a point that's hammered home when she foregoes both her contacts and her glasses. After a day of bumping into people, she admits to Jane what she's done, and runs off and hides in the girls' bathroom rather than face her again. Jane and Jodie try to convince Daria that a little vanity is no big deal, but she's not convinced... until Brittany, of all people, says just the right thing to convince her. Daria decides to return to her glasses, but has no idea how to break the news to Helen... that is, until Helen shows up and decides to give a still-lensless Daria an impromptu driving lesson.

Interesting Tidbits
  • According to its production number, this episode was supposed to be the season premiere episode. However, MTV decided to open the season with "Daria!" (#307) instead, banking on the novelty value of a musical episode to draw in viewers.
  • Jane's "talking toilet" comment is a nod to "Pierce Me" (#212) ("Oh, no. The toilet is talking to me again.").
  • Jane's comment about Jodie having impossibly high standards is a reference to "Gifted" (#208).
Historical & Cultural References:
  • The book Daria is reading at various points is The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen.
  • "Final frontier" and "to boldly go" are references to the classic opening narration of the 1966 TV series Star Trek ("Space: the final frontier ... to boldly go where no man has gone before.").
  • E.T. is the title character in the 1983 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, about an alien stranded on Earth who's befriended by a young boy.
  • Actor Ralph Fiennes (pronounced: "rayf fines") is best known for his roles in 1993's Schindler's List (as Nazi prison camp commandant Amon Goeth), 1994's Quiz Show (as Twenty-One contestant Charles Van Doren), 1996's The English Patient (as fighter pilot Laszlo de Almásy), and 1998's The Avengers (as dapper superspy John Steed), which was based on the popular British TV series.
  • Nelson Mandela was a member of the African National Congress, and became a political prisoner under South Africa's apartheid regime. After he was freed and apartheid was abolished, he was elected president in South Africa's first multiracial elections.
  • Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was a Nobel Peace Price-winning Roman Catholic missionary in India. Known for her charitable work, she is currently being considered for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Kevin's "the guy formerly known as the prince" is a pun on rock artist Prince (full name: Prince Rogers Nelson). In the 1990s, he had briefly changed his name to an unpronouncable symbol as part of a dispute with his record label. During this time, the press continually referred to him as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince."
  • Brittany's "Mr. Einsteen" refers to Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the German scientist whose theories and discoveries revolutionized the field of physics. (On a more dubious note, they were also instrumental in the development of the first atomic bombs, which were eventually dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Though horrific, their use did bring a swift end to World War II.)
  • Helen's car, a red sport utility vehicle, is seen for the first time.
  • This episode is the first time we see the fourth wall in Quinn's bedroom (the one with her other closet).
  • This episode is the first (and only) time we see where Aunt Amy lives. It is not known from this brief glimpse whether she lives in a house or an apartment.
Memorable Quotes
Daria - I couldn't live with myself if I killed a dog. Would you mind telling Quinn I killed him?

Daria - I almost killed a dog yesterday.
Jane - Gonna work your way up to humans slowly?

Quinn - You're asking my advice, aren't you?
Daria - Quinn, please, this is hard enough.
Quinn - I always knew this day would come and wondered how it would be. Yet, now that it has, I feel strangely... serene.

Daria - Suppose you were well known for not caring what other people think of you, and then suddenly you did something that showed maybe you do care a little about what other people think of you. Would that invalidate everything you'd done and said up till then and make you a hypocrite?
Quinn - Daria, you're giving me a headache!

Amy - Hello?
Daria - Aunt Amy?
Amy - Hey, my favorite niece.
Daria - Oh!
Amy - Who is this?

Amy - Do you have mirrors in your house, Daria?
Daria - Yeah.
Amy - Do you look in them before you go out?
Daria - Yeah.
Amy - Well, then, you're already going to hell, so you might as well get the lenses; you'll see the brimstone better.

Amy - I'd love to see how it turns out. Send me a picture, okay?
Daria - You want a picture of me with my contacts?
Amy - Either that or a shot of Ralph Fiennes. Whichever.

Daria - Do you think contacts reveal the you-ness inside?
Jane - I don't know. Who's Eunice and why doesn't she get her own body?

(horn honks)
Daria - Who's that?
Jane - It's Trent.
Trent - Hey, Daria, looks good. (drives away)
Jane - Now, watch out for the girl with the red face who's forgotten how to walk. Oh, never mind. That's you.

Upchuck - You'll be back. They all come back.
Jane - Name two. (walks away)
Upchuck - I could!

(Jane waves hand in front of Daria's face)
Daria - I can see that, funny gal.
Jane - (holds up two fingers) How many fingers?
Daria - I've got one for you.

Jane - But why no glasses?
Daria - Um, sheer vanity?
Jane - Yes, yes, very witty. Now, really. (sees look on Daria's face) Daria!

Jane - Daria? (pause) Daria. (pause) Talking toilet?

Jane - Are you still hung up on that vanity thing?
Daria - That's not it. Everyone already knows I'm vain.
Jane - Oh, yeah, you're one huge narcissist.
Mike Quinn's
Delayed Reaction Review

More Sisterly Love: Quinn and Daria are both almost constantly looking for ways to gain an advantage over each other. Quinn briefly has one such opportunity when Daria goes to her for her opinion in this episode. However, she turned out not to be able to withstand Daria's over-analysis of her contact lens "problem," like whether she's being hypocritical or not. The little duel of this conversation ended up a stalemate with Daria giving Quinn a headache and Quinn making Daria run away screaming.

Reverse Psychology: Helen probably thinks that one of the reasons that Daria isn't more popular is her glasses (personally, I don't think that Daria is too unpopular, but that's beside the point). I can also see that it appears that Helen has finally found the perfect excuse to push Daria into getting contact lenses: it'll keep her from hitting any stray dogs while driving. Helen proceeds to use some convoluted fast-talk to try to convince Daria about the benefits of contacts (like avoiding the "brain" stereotype associated with glasses). Her efforts were unnecessary, since Daria decided to try it anyway when Helen seemed just about ready to give up. Sometimes things work out despite your best efforts.

Am I Too Vain? Vanity seems to be one of the major themes of this episode. Daria was nervous about getting contact lenses because she felt that she would be considered a hypocrite because she did something that says she cares about her appearance. But deep down inside, she may have wanted to try contacts. However, she was afraid of how others might react. She seemed to be unwilling to admit this, even to herself. The call to Aunt Amy almost seemed like an attempt to get someone to tell her not to ditch her glasses; she wanted validation of her fear. There was really no good reason for Daria not to get contacts (there was no social reason, anyway), since she seemed to be the only person who had any problem with the change (almost everyone else was either indifferent or reacted positively to Daria without glasses).

You May Join The Human Race, After All: Daria is getting a little softer. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The best example of Daria's emerging humanity is when she admits to Jane that she isn't wearing her contacts or her glasses. Daria responded to Jane's "why no glasses?" with "sheer vanity." Jane first thinks that it's a cynical, wise-ass response and even asks for the "real" reason. When Daria doesn't respond, Jane lights up, realizing that Daria does have some similar traits to the rest of civilization. She does have to move slowly, though: she's not quite ready for lipstick, yet.

Hey Ein-steen: I could almost see the light bulb over Kevin's head when he was told that glasses make you smarter. The strange thing is that, for some reason, it almost seemed to work for Brittany. She did know exactly what to say to Daria in the bathroom. Brittany seems to be smarter than we've been led to believe, or at least she has some hidden talents that tend to pop up when she most needs them.

This episode was great. We get a glimpse into an internal struggle for Daria that seems simple on the surface but is truly complex. She is the only person that has any problem with her using contacts and she doesn't understand why others have nothing against it. She comes to realize that it is all right to be a little vain once in a while: it is perfectly normal. In the end, she still feels that her glasses define her and sets her apart from everyone else. The only thing that is important is that she is happy, no matter what anyone else thinks. If that means she wears glasses, so be it.

The Bottom Line: A well written, character driven episode that gets its point across well: that it's OK to be vain as long as you don't go overboard and are happy.

Grade: A-

Daria as a Whole #1, Sicker and Sadder: The "Sick, Sad World" trailers seem to be getting more and more twisted. "Severed Pianist?" (The story wasn't really sick or sad, but it was good for a really cheap laugh.) It will be tough to keep topping these very funny throwaway lines.

Daria as a Whole #2, Running Gag, Stopped In Its Tracks: When Daria used the line "they're for driving" twice followed by "then why are you wearing them now?" in a relatively short period of time, I was prepared for the worst. How many times can they force that line into the show unnecessarily? Thankfully, the line wasn't used again and another running gag travesty was avoided.

Daria as a Whole #3, Fueling the Romantic Fire: It seems that someone is teasing those whom can't wait to see Trent and Daria hook up. Trent's appearance was gratuitous and really served no other purpose, except to tease some of the fans.

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.