A Rant About "Evil" Tom

by Admonisher


Forgive my impertinence, but WHY does the question need to be raised and discussed? "Is Tom evil?" He's ink and paper! People are talking like he's trying to put one over on us!

I know ... I know ... we talk all the time about "Is Quinn smart?" "Is Jake really that clueless?" and "Is Daria insecure?" But while Glenn can be subtle when he wants to, he's never so subtle that the situation he's trying to portray has to be GUESSED at. That would just be ludicrous. And in the past season + that Tom's been around, there has been NO indication of "evilness." He's not portrayed as perfect, but there's been NOTHING to suggest that his motives are anything but what he says they are.

More than that, Glenn has taken the show in new and interesting directions BASED on the presumption that Tom is genuine. He's made it the centerpiece of character development for the past year! For him to double-back now, and OOPS! Tom's evil! It was all a hideous manipulative scheme! ... come ON. That would destroy everything he's been taking such care to build. Give the guy some credit!

I'm amazed that more people don't see this. I think they are making the very real mistake of separating Tom from Glenn ... like some sort of independent entity, capable of deceit and treachery. Well it's wishful thinking on the part of people who have invested WAY too much of their own lives into characters that were never meant to represent them.

That's right. You heard me. Daria was NOT created for the purposes of representing you. She's not a mirror for your life. She's not a guideline. Tom, insofar as he actually exists, is not dating you, he is dating Daria. They're fictional characters. It's one thing to identify with them. You're SUPPOSED to identify with them. It's another thing to expect them to identify with you.

This argument may seem contrary to the whole purpose of fanfiction, but it's not. I've always seen the purpose of fanfiction as exploring the options INHERENT in the show and its characters -- whether they lie in parody or homage; canon or off-canon. What I'm seeing is people trying to RE-WRITE someone else's story to the point where it fits their own comfort-zone. It's a fine line, to be sure. But when you introduce a new element -- a "what if?" -- what are your motives?

Saying "What if?" is all well and good, and it can be a lot of FUN. There's nothing wrong with off-canon, either. But there's a good kind of off-canon and a bad kind. The good kind starts with canon, then poses a "what if." The BAD kind skips canon and STARTS with "what if?" In other words: There's more than one way to get into the swimming pool ... you can cannonball, you can belly-flop, or you can just slip in, but your high-dive's not going to be very impressive if you don't use the *&%$ diving board!

Here're some examples of what to do/what not to do, as I define them:


THE FIC: Band Aid

MY MOTIVATION: I had some interesting observations about H.S. Band that I haven't seen reflected in the show.

WHAT TO DO: Write Daria into band and see how she reacts to it.

WHAT NOT TO DO: Write myself into the band and call myself Daria, because the show is all about ME. Become agitated and upset when the show doesn't reflect my band experiences. Tell everyone about it.


THE FIC: Anti-Tom

MY MOTIVATION: I don't like Tom. (I do, but let's say for the sake of argument that I don't.)

WHAT TO DO: Find a reasonable explanation. Maybe *I* never had a relationship, and I'd prefer to see Daria go through High School without one, just like I did. I think the show should stick with aiming at an outcast audience, and according to my experience (right or wrong) outcasts generally don't find a romantic relationship in high school. Glenn may have made a mistake introducing him at this point. Maybe not. At least it's a question worth debating. So I bring it up. But I decide that whatever happens, it's NOT worth distracting me to the point where I can't enjoy all the wonderful qualitites of the show ... unless of course, Daria's stale datelessness was the only thing keeping me watching. In that case, see ya.

WHAT NOT TO DO: Hate the show because Daria's life doesn't mimic mine. Assume that because I don't like Tom, Daria shouldn't like Tom either. Daria hasn't been given a reason not to like Tom. There must be something Tom's not telling us! He must be HIDING something! He must be EVIL! Obsess. Manufacture evidence. Rewrite the show. Who's Glenn Eichler?


THE FIC: Diane Long's continuum. (apologies to Diane)

THE MOTIVATION: The show has chosen not to explore this option, but I (Di) think that, given the well-established presence of warmth, trust, understanding and even caring, it follows that there's POTENTIAL for a deeper relationship between Daria and Trent ... maybe even passion.

WHAT TO DO: Through a gradual process, show how INHERENT qualities in these characters can be aligned. Introduce story elements that reveal conceivable new directions for exploration. Set many of the fics in the future so I can apply my theories, and I don't have to worry about nit-picking canon to death. And because I'm a bit of a romantic and it's fun.

WHAT NOT TO DO: Re-write the characters, ignoring the show where necessary. Change their traits and alter the subtext to the point so quickly that they bear no resemblance to their actual incarnations. Let it destroy my life when the show fails to follow suit, pairing Daria with someone else.


I mean, I HATE what they're doing with "Star Trek: Voyager." But there are still elements of Trek that I enjoy. And while I may wonder what planet Rick Berman is from, I don't go stomping around flinging accusations at Captain Janeway or Neelix. "It's only a TV show!" as the great William Shatner once imparted. Your involvement as a fan is supposed to be fun! If it stops being fun, DO SOMETHING ELSE!

In short, I've been getting real tired of all this pointless "debating." It's a waste of my time. I know I don't have to read it if I don't want to, and I always have the option of keeping my mouth shut. But it's been getting hard to avoid lately, and I couldn't help the desire to vent my incredulity with an essay.

This is just my observation on the state of the fan community in general. I don't expect anyone to conform to my views, nor am I attacking anyone personally. In fact, I've seen a lot of evidence suggesting that as people start thinking about the situation, they start becoming less recalcitrant. And I think that's good.

Anyway, that's about all I have to say on the subject. I've already wasted enough time thinking about it. Much as with C.E. Forman's retirement essay, it includes some observations on the community that not everyone is going to like. I hope no one thinks I'm being "mean" or "unfair" or "intolerant" or "preachy." I just think I see a problem, and I hope it gets fixed.


August 29, 2000