Bacner’s latest essay, re-visiting Daria and her family history. Please e-mail reviews of it (if any) to

On the topic of Lord Toede and Daria

This essay had been fuelled by an e-mail message of one Janet Cochran to me. She had offered me a bunch of comments on several of my stories and essays, and one of them concerned my very first essay about "Daria", about our Protagonist, about Daria being very conscientious, full of principals, and over all, a picaro (a rogue) type hero rather than a knight. On the other hand, claims Ms. Cochran, Lord Toede had been little else than a villain, and an insignificant one at that (kind of like Ms. Li). Well, let’s see if I can rehabilitate him (sort of), and also elaborate on our Protagonist and her Sidekick, Jane Lane.

To begin with, I want to cite a quote from H. W. Beecher: "The cynic is one who never sees a good quality in man, and never fails to see a bad one. He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness and blind to light, mousing for vermin, and never seeing nobler game." (Lectures to Young Men, 19th century). Now, since Daria is a cynic as well, does it apply to her too?

One of the more prominent features of Daria’s character is her principles. You got to give her that. In the episode "Partner’s Complaint" she states that clearly, criticising Jodie’s actions in using her (Jodie’s) father’s influence to secure a loan. But, on the other hand…

There are two ways of developing responses in the living world – from positive stimuli, and from negative ones – the carrot and the stick, in layman’s term. And while both of them seem to reach a similar goal on the outside, on the inside they’re quite different. Now let’s turn back to Daria.

Daria - By the way, do you mind paying for this? I’m broke.

Jane - What happened to all your paper-writing money?

Daria - My mom wouldn’t let me keep it. She said it was wrong to encourage cheaters and to profit from them.

Jane - So, she’s giving up being a lawyer?

Daria - I asked her that. And I’m sure some day we’ll once again be on speaking terms.

(College Bored)

In other words, Daria may’ve developed her moral code of life simply because nobody else in her family did; in fact, her morality may actually act as a counterweight to her other family members – Helen certainly is quite comfortable in bribing her family at least, and Quinn certainly wasn’t concerned about morality (at least until IIFY). Jake… that’s a slightly more complicated case; we will talk of him at a later date. But the bottom line is that in a family that as a whole doesn’t think highly of morals and principals, Daria stands-out in that hypostasis. And furthermore, the more I think about think about this gloomy – owlish-looking – girl, the more I see in her shadow a certain other character – the much referred-to, but never seen, "Mad Dog".

As a side-note, Ms. Cochran had noticed (and probably quite a few others), Daria’s last family name – Morgendorffer – is German. And I think that it’s a safe estimate to theorise that the original Morgendorffers – perhaps even Mr. "Mad Dog" himself – had arrived in USA in the beginning of the 20th century… perhaps because they didn’t think highly of actions of a certain leader of a certain German party? I don’t think that that’s much of a stretch. However, if Morgendorffers were truly Germanic, this theory would suffer a serious credibility blow, because such people actually quite approved that leader’s action. No, the Morgendorffers were probably Jewish, and thus they probably left Germany with great haste because of that. Then they settled-down in US, and then Jake met Helen… etc.

So what does this side-note has to do with Daria? As I’ve written in my first essay, in the episode "Jake of Heart", Daria has shown herself to be more closely related to the Morgendorffer part of the family, while Quinn takes after Helen. And that’s where "the Jake factor" comes-in. You see, despite their great difference, Jake and Daria have several similarities – like their communicative skills. When talked-to by Helen Daria immediately launches into sarcasm and irony, forcing Helen to turn back to Quinn’s brainless chatter (and given the hint in "College Bored" she may have a good reason to). When Helen turns to Jake, he starts to talk completely out of tune, often undercutting Helen… and often cheering for Daria, even if it is done in a completely clueless way. In other words, both Daria and Jake, daughter and father, retreat from active communications with others – Daria behind her glasses and her semi-haughty, know-it-all attitude, Jake behind his newspaper and his apparent cluelessness. And that, in turn, brings us back to "Mad Dog", who was probably an old-fashioned man, and ruled his household in an old-fashioned, patriarchal way, turning Ruth Morgendorffer into a complete housewife, (she doesn’t approve of Helen "the Career Woman" at any rate) and causing Jake to rebel by causing the hippie way of life. That much is at least obvious – after all, that movement was a sort of a rebellion of a younger generation against the older. And it becomes rather clear that while Jake may or may not have inherited his father’s behavoristic characteristics, Daria most probably has – after all, she doesn’t take after anyone else in her immediate family (and as Kara Wild had noted in one of her essays, Daria’s kinship to her aunt Amy isn’t as solid as it may appear at a first gaze). And that, in turn, may spell a sort of a "doom" for Daria, to become the next "Mad Dog" of the Morgendorffers (especially since her grandfather may’ve inherited it from his ancestors as well).

But then Jane Lane comes into that picture – and the picture changes. For while Jane may not be as smart as Daria, she’s much more vivacious than Daria is. Jane’s actions often land them both in hot water (like with the posters), but truthfully, Daria probably enjoys getting out of such an unwelcome bath all the same, since the alternative would be staying in her padded room, and despite Daria’s rather unsociable attitude, she probably enjoys doing something active for a change.

And now we come to Trent. If becoming the next "Mad Dog" Morgendorffer was Daria’s "doom", then Trent (in combo with Jane) might’ve saved her from that Nietzchian nightmare, by making her feel human - by having her have a crash on him, he made her feel as an average girl, and not as some Super-Brainy-Misery-Chick – and that’s very important. For despite her proud stance, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Daria was secretly jealous of Quinn’s active social life - she was certainly rather steamed, when Tom had forgotten about their anniversary, though she vehemently denied that. In other words, while Daria may enjoy her superiority over other humans, she probably wouldn’t mind experiencing some of those plain human pleasures (unless it would involve dating Upchuck, for then Daria would probably rather go to a monastery; heck, Brittany Taylor probably would, if the choice was between that and Upchuck). And let’s not forget Tom – Jane had introduced him into that show as well (just like Trent had sort-of introduced Monique). Basically, if we were talking Zodiac, then Jane’s probably a fire sign, Trent’s an air sign, and Daria’s an earth sign, and not just because Jane’s always blazing ahead, Trent is almost completely in the clouds, and Daria’s solidly rooted in the ground. Jane’s fiery spirit inflames quickly… but it equally quickly dies down, especially if Daria isn’t fully supporting her, for Jane, despite her bravado, had been as lonely as Daria was before the two of them had met – and (at least before the show started and the two of them met for real) she certainly probably didn’t handle it as well, for while Daria has some sort of an unspoken, unofficial family tradition of loneliness to fall back to, Jane didn’t. The Lanes are apparently a social breed, given the size of their annual family tribe meetings, and in the time period that was immediately before meeting Daria, Jane was stuck with mainly Trent, who wasn’t ever really there, spiritually, if not physically. Needless to say, that was probably why Jane was taking those self-esteem courses – self-esteem or not, she really did have problems with loneliness, though she hid them well.

But then came the episode "See Jane Run" – and the situation changed. Jane was suddenly popular – and she liked it, to Daria’s chagrin. For Daria probably likes being a centre of attention of others as much as an owl likes being a centre of attention of other birds – in "Misery Chick" she was rather unimpressed when she became the popular one for a while. Jane, on the other hand, doesn’t have such a problem at all.

So why didn’t our two friends break-up? Because Jane’s no dummy. She knows that Daria is her real friend, while her crowd of new friends and fans is a temporary thing, for as soon as she stops being popular, they all vanish.

What is the main point of this episode, though, is that it showed that Jane was the impulsive-compulsive member of the Morgendorffer-Lane team, Daria was the thorough thinker, and Trent just pretty much hanged in the background, providing moral support and what-not, but nothing really serious. (Although in Jane’s case plain moral support may be quite important.) And it is those features/characteristics that make "Jane’s Addition" possible. For if Tom had started to talk with Daria first in that ep, there’d be probably no follow-though, for Daria isn’t the one to start conversations with strangers, even in the "Esteemers" Jane started it; but Jane is.

And so, Jane made a new friend, and Daria immediately grew worried and unhappy and jealous over her (in a friendly way). To make matters worse, her "suppressed humanity" had re-asserted itself, and she realised that she liked Tom too – and since he was a guy, it all got even more complicated. (Of course, if Tom was a girl this may not have simplified things any – remember Allison in IIFY?) Add to that that Tom’s an ordinary guy who’s been stuck with two girls at the same time, of whom both are terrific, but one of them is closer to his heart than the other one. Sounds cliché? Well, remember the movie "My Best Friend’s wedding"? Its’ plot wasn’t so much different from Daria’s Season 4, and especially "Dye! Dye! My Darling!" and yet it was a hit! (Or so I was told.)

Plus, in "Jane’s Addition", Trent’s Lawndale Lane flakiness may’ve re-asserted itself as well, when he let both of the girls down with their multimedia project. True, Trent may’ve wanted to stay out Jane and Daria’s Tom argument, but still, he could’ve done something to soften the initial conflict, but he did nothing. That brings-on a sad possibility, that like his and Jane’s parents and older siblings, he isn’t really into taking the responsibility on a grander scale, he may be just a "slacker" after all.

Fortunately however, for Daria, Jane, Tom and Trent, the crisis of the "love triangle" of Tom, Jane, and Daria, had resolved itself by the trio deciding just to be friends. And that’s quite in order, for all of them isn’t quite in their twenties (except for Trent, but he isn’t really there), and none were probably really into a lasting relationship, while friendship(s) is another matter.

Now about Lord Toede and Daria. My idea about the two being similar came after reading Jeff Grubb’s "Lord Toede" DragonLance novel that tells about his adventures after he got fried by the dragon. Basically, in the beginning he starts as an average hobgoblin, interested in only making himself and the school… I meant the city of Tarsis, look good in eyes of the superintendent… sorry, I meant the Queen of Darkness. However, as his adventures progress he starts to demonstrate cynicism, sarcasm, quickness of wit, a superior attitude to practically everybody who’s not him, and quite a few other features similar to Daria’s. And in the end, he learns responsibility as well as other valuable knowledge – like how to manage a school… err, a city correctly, and what it really means to lead. Pretty good for just a hobgoblin.

Now, I admit. He doesn’t really sound as a Daria Morgendorffer gone evil or at least nasty and selfish (that’s more Sandi’s department), but the two of them show quite a few similarities (and who knows how would Daria feel if she died… and come back to life with no one on her side but a companion with an attitude worthy of any of the 3Js – who certainly show enough intelligence to make an average hobgoblin feel quite intelligent!) that one feels quite safe to compare to the two. But you can find similarities anywhere…

And now, let’s once again say good-bye to Daria and her friends. Let us wave them good-bye as they go off to college and off our screens. But keep in mind though, that what made them great that they’re no perfect heroes, but they’re a trio of average teens, with all the troubles and problems of that particular age… plus the fact that Daria and Jane still have their own special personal inner demons to deal with… and Tom may not be so different either. What makes you think that he has a perfect family life, hmm? Why not someone write a story about "A day in the life of the Sloane family" or something like that? That would certainly be a change from "Tom is evil" fics.

…And on that high note, this essay…