Daria: A Character Development Masterclass, Part 6 – Stacy and Brittany

Welcome, readers and writers! This is the sixth and final installment of my exploration of Daria – who’s excited?

This show is a fantastic example of writing of female characters as people with a wide range of personalities and drives, rather than relying on tired old tropes. For a more in-depth explanation of why I am embarking on this endeavour please read my previous post here.

Before I begin, all quotes herein can be found in the episode transcripts at Outpost Daria.

In my previous post, I spoke of how the supporting cast in Daria got a significant amount of character development when we compare with other TV shows. That’s not to say that every character in Daria progresses – most of the teachers, as well as Tiffany, Sandi, Kevin, Tom and Mac stay relatively stagnant. However, there is still a significant number of support characters that manage to evolve despite their relatively brief screen-time. As such, this final Daria related character masterclass will focus on bubbly Brittany and timid Stacy, two support characters who actually do change throughout the seasons despite initial appearances to the contrary. Stacey Rowe Daria

Stacy Rowe is one of the original members of the Fashion Club. She’s pretty and popular, but suffers from incredibly low self-esteem. It may seem strange when we realise that she wasn’t in the self-esteem class with Daria and Jane in episode one, until you remember that the general assumption is that pretty and popular kids are ‘normal’ and don’t have any real problems (this is drawn to our attention in Ars N Crass). Stacy is so desperate to get approval from others that she lets them run over her rather than stand up for herself.

We can imagine pretty easily what life in the Fashion Club would have been like before Quinn came along – Stacy too frightened to stand up to Sandi’s bullying and Tiffany too vapid and self-absorbed to actually notice any of it. Quinn is relatively nice by comparison, and Stacy tends to side with her during disagreements (until she’s again bullied into submission by Sandi). She’s also susceptible to panic attacks and bouts of anxiety, and is easily upset. For example, in the season one episode Road Worrier she freaks out when she thinks she’s wearing the wrong clothes:

stacy sandi leggings

Tiffany:  Ugh, stretch pants. Everywhere, stretch pants.
Stacy:  Hey,
 these are stretch pants! I’m wearing stretch pants!
(Stacy panics and starts to hyperventilate; Sandi rushes over, grabs her arms, and shakes)
Sandi:  They’re leggings! They’re leggings! It’s alright.
(Stacy lets out a high-pitched squeak of relief)

In the season two episode Fair Enough, Stacy is reduced to tears when a boy who she recently went on a date with didn’t call her afterward and then ignored her when they bumped into each other in person. Not wanting people to see her with her makeup running, she gets on the Ferris Wheel with Daria and Jane and proceeds to ruin their day. Fed up, Daria decides to lay it all out for her.

Daria:  Look, don’t flush your entire world down the drain just because some jerk didn’t ask you out on a second date. It probably had nothing to do with you anyway.
Jane:  Unless you did something really stupid, like bore him with your petty problems and convoluted logic.
Stacy:  Why would I do that?

stacy daria fair enough

Stacy doesn’t change too much after these events. In Gifted, Quinn stays with Stacy while the rest of the family are out of town. Stacy scares Quinn away by dressing in almost exactly the same outfit and suggesting that they colour their hair the same shade, thinking that the best way to keep friends is to not say, do or think anything that might be different and therefore controversial.

Stacey hair colour

Stacey is also upset by the idea of rejection or exclusion, suffering from a serious fear of missing out. Whenever her friends forget to mention something to her or she’s not invited to a party she becomes terrified that she did something wrong to be left on the outer. In the movie length Is it Fall Yet?, all of the Fashion Club decide to hire the same tutor to try and bring up their grade point average. Quinn does this because she knows she can do better, Sandi does it because she doesn’t want to be second best to Quinn, and Stacy and Tiffany do it because they don’t want to be left out. When the tutor, David, gets fed up with Sandi trying to bully him into letting her go shopping, and with Tiffany being more interested in her reflection, he ditches them. He then makes the mistake of mentioning this to Stacy.

David:  During the Reconstruction, Southerners complained that the newly installed government officials were nothing more than carpetbaggers.

Stacy:  They were making fun of their butts? Wait, that would be saddlebaggers…

(David gets a look on his face: “You can’t really be that stupid, can you?”)

Stacy:  (upset) Oh, no… that’s the look my mother always gets when I say something stupid. I’m such an idiot. I’ll never get anywhere in life!

David:  At least you’re trying. Unlike Sandi and Tiffany, whom I had to drop. Now, the carpet…

Stacy:  Wait — you dropped them?

David:  Yup. The carpetbaggers…

Stacy:  Why didn’t they tell me? I’m being shut out. I can’t believe this is happening to me. I knew this was going to happen to me. Oh, why did I wear that butterfly clip?

(Stacy runs off, crying, leaving David alone to wonder what the hell happened.)

Stacy Is it Fall Yet

The catalyst moment for Stacey’s change doesn’t happen until the third episode of season five, Fat Like Me. When Sandi breaks her leg, her weeks spent in recovery means she puts on weight. This weight gain means she needs to resign from the Fashion Club, due to the guidelines she herself put in place. She tricks Quinn into quitting too, out of “solidarity”, and suddenly Stacy is president. She does everything she can to recruit new members, short of lowering their very high standards. She has a stroke of genius at one point, convincing Joey, Jeffey and Jamie to come over and look at pictures of babes in bikinis. This falls apart when the boys are asked their opinion on fabric. Throughout all of this, Tiffany does basically nothing. She doesn’t contribute at all, and Stacy finally snaps.Stacy Tiffany Fat Like Me

(Tiffany enters the bathroom)

Tiffany:  Stacy, what time is the Fashion Club meeting today?

Stacy:  There is no meeting.

Tiffany:  How co…

Stacy:  How come?! Because I can’t take it anymore. I’m sick of doing all the work while you just sit there. I tried my best, and even if it wasn’t as good as Sandi’s or Quinn’s, a chain is only as strong as its weakest round thingy, and you refused to lift one freakin’ finger! I’m through running the Fashion Club all by myself while you (imitates Tiffany) stare… in the mirror… and talk… about yourself… (normal voice) and I, I, I quit!

Tiffany:  Hmm, maybe I should quit, too.

(Stacy shrieks and runs out, while Tiffany — oblivious as usual — starts plucking her eyebrows)

fashion club

This exchange is Stacy’s turning point. From here we see, in small increments, Stacy standing up for herself. At the end of this episode, when Sandi is back in charge, we see this moment:

Sandi: No one with a low eyelash count should be admitted. No exceptions.

Quinn:  But Sandi… with all the thickening mascaras available you can always make it look like you have more eyelashes than you really do, so is the actual number of lashes really that important?

Sandi:  Quinn, are you proposing artifice?

Stacy:  I agree with Quinn.

Tiffany:  Me, too.

(Sandi looks at Stacy and Tiffany, uneasy)

Sandi:  Fine, but any eyelash-deficient applicants must agree to wear mascara at all times.

(Sandi looks uneasily at her fellow club members- the dynamic has shifted)

This change continues throughout season five. In Lucky Strike, Sandi acts as though Quinn admitting that Daria is her sister is a huge scandal. Stacy and Tiffany responding with “well, yeah, we knew that” is another example of Stacy’s coming out of her shell and Sandi’s power diminishing as a result.

“Lock in profiles”

In the episode Art Burn, the Fashion Club go to an art fair and have a group picture drawn by a caricature artist. They are less than pleased by the results. Sandi and Quinn immediately begin a vendetta of sorts, at first wanting to sue the artist. Tiffany goes along with this, but if you watch carefully you realise that Stacy doesn’t actually say a word at all during this episode. When Sandi, Quinn and Tiffany each go to Helen in turn and are told they can’t sue the artist for defamation or personal injury (“nor can you have him disbarred, deported, imprisoned or grounded”), they agree to at least destroy the picture. They can’t find it. The last scene of the episode is Stacy walking to her wardrobe and there, sitting on a shelf inside, is the cartoon, which we finally get to see.

fashoin club cartoon

Stacy has started her own little rebellion, and is learning to love herself.

fashion club cartoon stacy

Skip ahead a few episodes to Life in the Past Lane. One of the secondary plots to this episode involves Charles “Upchuck” Ruttheimer III performing magic tricks. When the Fashion Club watches him tear up a ten dollar note then magically repair it, Stacy wonders out loud how he did it. Sandi responds with “Oh Stacy, you are so naive.”

lovely assistant StacyUpchuck convinces MsLi to let him put on a magic show in the school auditorium as a fundraiser to buy tracking chips for the school basketballs. The school community are shocked when he reveals his assistant – the lovely Stacy.

images (8)

Their trick involves Upchuck fastened into a straight jacket, then wrapped in chains and locked into a reinforced trunk, so he is forced to “escape, or asphyxiate”. When he doesn’t emerge for a while, Stacy starts to panic and cry. The teachers step in and attempt to break into the trunk. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fashion Club talk to a sobbing Stacy.

stacy cry

Sandi:  Stacy, it’s just tragic how you so completely embarrassed yourself!

Tiffany:  Yeah. And freaked out!

Quinn:  And your mascara! It’s not even waterproof! Oh, I can’t look!

Sandi:  Good thing Upchuck’s buried alive in there so you won’t have to spend the rest of your life seeking revenge for the way he’s humiliated you in front of the whole school.

(Stacy immediately stops crying and drops her hands.)

Stacy:  Oh, Sandi. You are so naive.

Sandi:  Huh?

stacy sandi so niive

The Fashion Club realise Stacy isn’t really crying at all, just in time for the trunk to open, empty. Upchuck appears at the back of the Auditorium, and the crowd applauds.

Upchuck:  Let’s hear it for my lovely and very talented assistant Stacy, and her Oscar-worthy acting job!

(Stacy waves to the crowd.)

Upchuck:  Your crocodile tears bring out the tiger in me! Rowrr!

(They bow. Cut to the rest of the FC.)

Tiffany:  Maybe Stacy can teach me to cry.

Quinn:  It would be useful at home, and in a variety of social situations.

Sandi sits there looking livid, but Stacy has finally asserted herself on a grand scale, actually managing to prank her friends (especially Sandi).

Like most of the others, Stacy’s character transformation is completed in the final movie Is it College Yet. When we first see the Fashion Club all together, they are out for dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate Stacy’s birthday.

Stacy:  Guys, it is so nice of you to take me out on my birthday.

Sandi:  Our pleasure, Stacy. We would never leave you alone on your birthday without a date.

Tiffany:  Brr.

Sandi:  Just because the rest of us had dates on our birthdays…

Stacy:  Oh, yes, Sandi. You mentioned that. Boy, I can’t believe I’m another year older. Time goes by so fast.

(…)

 (a waitress approaches, bearing a cake with a lit candle on top, and places it in front of Stacy)

Tiffany:  Surprise…

Quinn:  Make a wish, Stacy!

(Stacy is about to blow the candle)

Sandi:  And don’t worry. I’m sure that chocolate won’t cause your sensitive skin to break out.

(Stacy blows the candle out)

Quinn and Tiffany (clapping) – Yay!

Stacy:  Thanks, guys.

Sandi:  What’d you wish for?

Stacy:  Ummm; nothing.

Sandi:  Come on, Stacy. Tell us! Don’t be your usual drippy self.

Stacy:  Nothing. Anyway, it didn’t come true.

 stacy is it college yet

When we next see the Fashion Club, Sandi has come down with laryngitis. Stacy reveals to Quinn that she had wished Sandi would just shut up, so  Sandi must be cursed! At a later meeting of the Fashion Club, Stacy tries to give Sandi a potion to remove the “curse”, but accidentally gives it to Tiffany. When Sandi wants to know why Tiffany starts choking, Stacy confesses. When we see them later at Jodi’s end-of-the-year party, Sandi has come up with a list of ways that Stacy can make it up to her, attempting to exploit Stacy’s superstitious nature and knowing full well that she probably wasn’t cursed.

Sandi:  Well, I see I’m the only one who still believes in arriving fashionably late.

Stacy:  Sandi! You got your voice back!

Quinn:  That’s great, Sandi!

Tiffany:  Yeah… great…

Sandi:  Stacy, you’ll be happy to know I figured how you can almost make it up to me for the physical and emotional anguish you caused. (hands papers to Stacy)

Stacy:  You have? Oh, Sandi, thank you! (reads papers) Organize your Waif magazine inventory, ironing any and all wrinkled pages… take over babysitting your brothers all summer… clean your lipstick tubes…

Tiffany:  Whoa, Stacy… I pity you.

Stacy:  Um, Sandi, I’m really, really sorry about what happened and all, but this seems kind of… unfair. I mean, we don’t know if I really made you lose your voice, right? And Tiffany’s the one who drank that horrible anti-curse stuff.

Tiffany:  Eww… the memory.

Sandi:  Are you saying you don’t care if you jeopardize your status in the Fashion Club?

Stacy:  (after a short pause) Sandi, if this is what it’ll take to keep me in the Fashion Club, maybe I’m better off taking a sabbatical like Quinn.

Sandi:  Um… fine. But you’re missing out, because Quinn is coming back. Right, Quinn?

Quinn:  Um, actually, Sandi, the time off was a nice change of pace. I’m thinking of extending my sabbatical.

Sandi:  What?

Tiffany:  Huh. I think I’ll take a sabbatical, too.

(Sandi looks at her three friends, and realizes she’s just become a club of one; she scrambles to save face)

Sandi:  Well, that is certainly an amusing coincidence, because tonight I was going to announce my sabbatical from the Fashion Club. Yes, I find that your precious club no longer serves my needs as a multi-faceted young woman of today. It’s just too confining.

Quinn:  Gosh! Does this mean there isn’t any more Fashion Club?

Sandi:  I guess it’s time to move on.

Quinn:  It’s like the end of an era.

Stacy:  I’m gonna miss it.

Tiffany:  Me, too.

(the four ex-Fashion Clubbers burst into tears)

Sandi:  You want to come over tomorrow and discuss what we’ll do with all our new free time?

Quinn:  That’s a great idea, Sandi!

Stacy:  I’ll bring some magazines to look at.

Tiffany:  I can’t wait to brainstorm.

Sandi:  Then it’s a date.

is it college yet

So there you have it. Stacy and Quinn’s character transformations actually bring about the end of the Fashion Club as an organisation. Without this hierarchy in place they can probably begin a new friendship based on respect… maybe. At least, Stacy has made it clear that she won’t be pushed around anymore. Her evolution throughout the series is arguably the most dramatic example of character maturation.

Which brings us to Brittany.

Brittany Taylor

The archetypal high school head cheerleader, Brittany is blonde, bubbly and air-headed… on the surface. Unlike the rest of the cast, Britt doesn’t change much as a person through the series, but more is revealed about her that shows there really is more than meets the eye. She’s rarely seen without her boyfriend Kevin, the quarterback of the football team, and the two are frequently on and off again. They seem like the perfect match at first, but as the series goes on we start to realise that maybe they’re together because it’s expected of them, rather than because of affection for who the other really is.

This emphasis on appearance is obviously something that has been deeply ingrained in Brittany from the get-go. We meet her father and stepmother in season three’s episode The Old and the Beautiful, and the family dynamic is established as soon as Daria rings the doorbell to the Taylor family home.

the_taylors

(Daria rings doorbell)

Ashley-Amber:  Hello.

Daria:  Um, hi. I didn’t know Brittany had an older sister.

Ashley-Amber:  She does? Cool. Maybe we can get manicures together.

Daria:  No, I mean… if you’re not her sister, then you’re…

Ashley-Amber:  Her stepmother. (into house) Britty, honey, you didn’t tell me you had a sister!

Then we meet Brittany’s dad, Steve, who’s conversation with Daria goes like this…

Brittany:  Dad, this is my classmate, Daria.

Steve:  Hey, Daria. Steve Taylor. Always glad to meet one of Britt’s friends. (shakes hands with Daria) You like cosmetics? I’ll get you into a focus group. The pay is a joke but there’s free lip gloss out the ying yang. Good stuff, too. They try it on cats first. You meet my wife? Boy, was she a knockout when she was young.

He then runs out of the room, yelling at his misbehaving son.

According to The Daria Database, Steve is in advertising. It also says that Brittany’s biological mother ran away to Hollywood to be an actress/model/restaurant hostess. Given that Daria mistook Ashley-Amber for Brittany’s older sister, we can safely assume that she’s in her mid to late twenties and is most likely a trophy wife (confirmed in The Daria Database).

This explains where Brittany is coming from – a world where looks and money are valued before intellect, so the importance of an education was probably rarely discussed at home. This is a pity, because Brittany often displays flashes of potential brilliance.

Cheerleaders_3

Firstly, Brittany is captain of the Lawndale varsity cheerleading squad. Achieving this position means she possesses organisational and leadership skills, as well as solid interpersonal skills. The whole reason Daria goes to the Taylor house In The Old and The Beautiful is because Brittany offered to help her make her voice sound more appealing to the elderly people they were reading to at the nursing home, exclaiming “I can help everyone!” when Daria didn’t disagree.

In the season two episode Ill, she bumps into Daria in the bathroom at the local grunge club. She has dyed her hair black to ‘blend in’, and lets slip that she’s there with someone other than Kevin. But when Daria asks for her help, Brittany goes above and beyond.

Daria:  Uh, Brittany, could you do me a favor?

Brittany:  Um… yes?

Daria:  Find Jane and tell her I had to leave?

Brittany:  Sure, but… will you promise not to tell Kevin about Terry or Jerry or whoever?

Daria:  In the unlikely event that, through some bizarre set of circumstances, I actually end up conversing with Kevin, I won’t tell him about Terry or Jerry.

Brittany:  Thanks!

Trent:  Daria? You in there?

(Daria runs into stall)

Brittany:  Don’t worry. (to Trent) Have some consideration for female modesty, please!

Trent:  Oh, sure. Sorry.tumblr_nmin9s8CV61qf9ndpo3_1280


She later visits Daria in the hospital to see how she is… and because she’s worried Daria wouldtell Kevin about Terry/Jerry.

In a previous post I discussed the episode Through a Lens Darkly, when Brittany manages to talk Daria out of her funk regarding personal vanity, saying ” Daria, I just want you to know I think it’s really brave of you to get those contact lenses and admit that you care about the way you look, even just a little. Because knowing that a brain can be worried about her looks makes me feel, um, I don’t know, not so shallow or something. Like we’re not that different, just human, or whatever.”

This innate ability to connect with almost anybody shows incredible emotional intelligence.

In the season two episode Daria Hunter, the students and teachers go on a paintball field trip. Brittany shows remarkable aptitude for the exercise.

“War’s not pretty, Kevvy”

Brittany:  Excuse me, Ms. Barch? Since they can’t see us very well because of the terrain, we can split up and they won’t know where we are, then we can attack them from three sides, drive them out to the one side that they think is safe, and then set up an ambush so we can capture them all at once! Probably be a good idea to set up a secret observation post on the high ground so we can watch them without them seeing us.

(everyone on the team stares at Brittany, shocked by her knowledge of combat tactics)

Brittany:  What?

Ms. Barch:  That’s very good, Brittany.

Brittany:  Okay, team, let’s go! Come on Jane!

Jane:  I’m more of the mercenary type. You know, lone wolf working on their own type of thing.

Brittany:  Good idea, Jane. If Plan A fails, you can come in on a rescue mission!

This knack for tactics never really comes up again, but it makes us wonder what else she’s capable of.

One of the reasons we don’t see Brittany develop much as a person is because she, unlike many of her classmates, already knows who she is. She values herself enough to be pissed off rather than enamoured by a hero footballer’s propositioning in The Misery Chick, and she always stands up for herself when someone wrongs her. Her strong sense of self often causes problems in her relationship with Kevin, as most of their fights seem to originate from either infidelity or Kevin not respecting Brittany’s opinion. Take, for example, the season four episode Partner’s Complaint.

Brittany:  I know what you think, but I know what I think, and I think I think just as well as you think, don’t you think?

Kevin:  Babe, if it were up to me, I’d want you to have the brain power of a guy, but it’s science. Men are smarter, because we have more muscle mass in our heads.

Brittany:  I’m just as smart as you, maybe smarter.

Kevin:  (laughing) Okay, sure you are.

Brittany:  Don’t you fratronize me! (walks away in a huff)

Kevin:  You think I don’t know what that means? I know what that means! (walks away in a huff)

14a1277c04727b859240e4e65bb5be0c

This fight leads to the two of them working with other people for their economics assignment, but they make up again by the end of the episode.

Two episodes later is A Tree Grows In Lawndale, Kevin gets a new motorcycle and winds up breaking his knee. This means he can’t play football, and if he can’t play football he’s not allowed to date cheerleaders…for some reason. He later uses his broken knee and crutches to become a motivational speaker at elementary schools, teaching the kids about safety. brittany kevin

Kevin:  Say, Britt, you know there’s no law that says a motivated speaker can’t have a babe.

Brittany:  But there is a law that says cheerleaders can only date football players, remember?

Kevin:  Darn! You know, that’s recrimination. I mean, just because I don’t wear a uniform doesn’t mean I’m not the same guy.

Brittany:  Yes, it does. My Kevvy is a football leader of men. My Kevvy wouldn’t let the whole team down. MyKevvy wouldn’t let Lawndale become a loser town! (starts to leave)

Kevin:  Wait, babe, come back!

Brittany:  Forget it, Kevvy. You’re on your own. You’re a… a man on an island.

Kevin:  But, I don’t want to be on an island. I get seasick. Besides, I need… the love.

Brittany:  Huh?

Kevin:  I mean, what’s saving lives if there’s no one to make out with?

Daria:  I believe Gandhi asked that same question.

Jane:  It’s why he had to be eliminated.

(after a moment’s hesitation, Kevin lets his crutches fall away as the other students cheer)

Kevin:  Britt, I realize that without you, I’m by myself. Your love has healed me, babe. I’m… I’m cured!

(Brittany runs into Kevin’s arms)

Brittany:  Oh, Kevvy. I’ve missed you so much.

Kevin:  Like, me, too, babe.

 a tree grows in lawndale

That there is some sort of social “law” that says cheerleaders can only date football players puts Brittany and Kevin’s whole relationship into question. We’ve seen from previous episodes that Brittany has a strong romantic side (such as in Partner’s Complaint: “we shan’t let anything mar our love!”, and The Old and the Beautiful when she reads steamy romance novels to seniors). This strong yearning for romance, coupled with the cheerleader/footballer “law” means that her relationship with Kevin is based on inevitability rather than respect and common ground. This might explain why both of them are so prone to cheating on each other, and it leads us to the obvious conclusion to their relationship at the end of Is it College Yet.

Brittany has managed to achieve the grades and extra-curricular activities needed to get into her choice of college (“They have the best cheerleading squad in the country!”), but Kevin remains cagey about his prospects for most of the film.

Brittany:  Kevvie, do you want to go to the place we have to go to get the cap and gown with me?

Kevin:  Mmmm, nah! But, you go ahead.

Brittany:  Why? Did you already get yours?

Kevin:  Um, Brit… remember when you said you’d still be my babe, no matter where I went to school?

Brittany:  Umm… I think so.

Kevin:  But you will, right?

Brittany:  Sure! Where are you going?

Kevin:  (points to Lawndale High School) Right here, babe!

Brittany: Huh?

Kevin:  Right here. Lawndale High. See, um, my grades were so good, they want to see if I can do it again.

Brittany:  Ohhh. Wait a minute… your grades aren’t good… Kevvie, you flunked!

Kevin:  No, no, no! I just, um, didn’t pass. But, see, if I repeat this year, then my grades will be really good. Mr. O’Neill says I can go away to any college in the country!

Brittany:  Really?

Kevin:  Or did he say some college way out in the country? Anyway, we’re still, like, boyfriend and girlfriend, right?(takes Brittany’s hand)

Brittany:   (puts her other hand behind her back)  Ummm, sure.

(they kiss; behind her back, Brittany has crossed her fingers)

brittany cross fingers

Brittany may be an airhead, but she has enough sense to at least suspect that tying herself to Kevin might not be the best course for her future. Or maybe she just sees college as an opportunity to meet and date new and different people. While she began season one as a stereotype, the writers allowed us to see certain layers to Brittany other than just the blonde bimbo.

So, there we have it – the women of Lawndale, as examples of how to to write many, varied and complex female characters that are easy to relate to. The key to remember is that men and women are essentially the same, in that we are all different. But we all feel loss, isolation, joy, pain, love and friendship. Our differences lay in our roles in society and how we react to those assumed roles, either by rebelling against them or by working within the system. It is generally put to us by the media that the male experience is many and varied, while the female experience is ‘niche’ and that all women are essentially the same. Daria is a sensational example of what happens when you really consider your audience.

Now if we could get more shows on TV with greater gender, race and sexuality representations we might really be on to something.

I suppose we should all get writing.

Daria!

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Daria: A Character Development Masterclass, Part 4 – Quinn Morgendorffer

Here it is, the one you’ve all been waiting for (I assume…)

Hello and welcome to part four of my exploration of Daria.

This show is a fantastic example of writing of female characters as people with a wide range of personalities and drives, rather than relying on tired old tropes.

For a more in-depth explanation of why I am embarking on this endeavour please read my previous post here.

Before I begin, all quotes herein can be found in the episode transcripts at Outpost Daria.

For this instalment I will be focusing on everybody’s favourite fashion fiend, Quinn Morgendorffer. Fair warning – this post includes liberal use of the word “cute.” Proceed at own risk.
Daria Dance Party

Quinn is Daria’s sister, and on the surface she appears to be the complete antithesis of our titular character. Quinn spends most of the series insisting that Daria is her cousin, au-pair, cabana girl’s cousin, and sundry other identities in order to distance herself from Daria’s reputation as a geek. She also thrives on being the centre of attention, often bursting into a the middle of a scene and talking, expecting everyone else to automatically pay attention. Perky, popular and not particularly interested in school outside of its supply of cute boys, Quinn possesses an innate confidence of which many grown women would be envious. If we look under the surface we realise that while Quinn is confident in her looks and social skills, she is constantly trying to cover up how smart she really is so she can fit in – as opposed to Daria who chooses to embrace her intelligence and the life of an outcast. She’s a character who appears shallow, but has a lot of depth – something very tricky to write properly.

For the most part, season one establishes Quinn’s character and where she fits into the world. We see from episode one, Eisteemsters, that she has no problem fitting in at school; as soon as she gets out of the car she is swarmed by people asking her name, complimenting how cute she is and asking for a date. When Daria announces that she and Quinn are sisters the whole school gasps, and Quinn gets asked “Are you a brain, too?” Not wanting to be tarred with the same geeky brush as her sister, she starts distancing herself as much as possible throughout the show until season five.

Throughout season one, we mostly see her bratty and superficial side, until we get to episode nine, Too Cute.  Brooke, one of the background characters who never really pops up again, gets a nose job. The Fashion Club are standing around and admiring the surgeon’s handy work, all proclaiming that it’s cute, with a number of other enthusiastic adjectives. When Quinn is asked her opinion she actually gives it some thought before saying that she, too, thinks the new nose is cute. Sandi, the despotic head of the Fashion Club, immediately jumps on this pause and simple response, essentially accusing Quinn of thinking she’s more ‘deep’ than the rest of them. This serves to point out Quinn’s insecurities regarding fitting in, but also shows us that Quinn won’t always blindly agree with what everyone else says.

"Don't worry; it'll grow out."
“Don’t worry; it’ll grow out.”

Quinn’s desperation to fit in becomes manifest in her conviction that she, too, needs cosmetic surgery. The next day she’s dismayed to find that the rest of the Fashion Club aren’t at school, as they are all off getting nose jobs without her. She manages to convince the school nurse that she has cramps and needs to go home, with Daria as an escort. They instead go to see Dr Shar, a cosmetic surgeon. When Daria asks why Quinn wanted her company rather than one of her many friends and admirers, Quinn begrudgingly explains that she needs someone who is honest by her side. It’s hard to fault Quinn’s logic – all of her friends are either sycophantic or trying to undermine her confidence, whereas Daria is honest to the point of fault. Dr Shar tells Quinn that her nose is just perfect, but proceeds to show her everything else that she could ‘fix.’ When Daria seems less than enthusiastic about Quinn getting surgery, Dr Shar tries to undermine Daria by showing how she can make her ‘cute’ too, which in this case means making her look exactly like Quinn. Daria later tries to offer Quinn some sound advice.

"Oh look, Daria! You're cute!"
“Oh look, Daria! You’re cute!”

Daria:  Quinn…

Quinn:  I mean, I like being attractive and popular. It’s, like, me, okay? So if Dr. Shar makes everyone else attractive and popular, then I’ll have to be even more attractive just to keep up, and then if they, like, go back her to catch up to me, then I’ll have to go back, and pretty soon it’ll be like one of those vicious things!  Where will it end Daria? Where will it end?

Daria:  You don’t need surgery, Quinn. (sighs) I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, and I’ll deny I every said it, but there’s nothing wrong with you…physically. You’ve got the kind of looks that make other girls mentally ill. So stop it. You don’t need any plastic surgery. You’re perfect.

Quinn:  Why do I bother talking to you?

Quinn doesn’t end up getting surgery, because Brooke’s nose caves in and we can presume Dr Shar gets hit with a malpractice suit, but this episode does serve as a solid starting point for Quinn’s slow but steady transformation into the person we see at the end of the series.  This episode also shows us who Sandi is as an antagonist; really she’s the only consistently antagonistic character in the series. We can presume that before Quinn came along the Fashion Club was just Sandi’s personal gang of yes-girls, but as soon as it becomes apparent that Quinn is more popular Sandi does her utmost to tear Quinn down. This kind of relationship is something remarkably unique to high school that the writers capture magnificently; by the time school ends these toxic people either mature or are removed from your life.

While Quinn’s main weapon is that she’s generally nicer than Sandi, she is too much Helen’s daughter to just take Sandi’s venom without standing up for herself. She manages to deliver snark back to Sandi in such a way that it takes  a moment for it to sink in, reminding us that underneath all the makeup and hair product Quinn has smarts. Take, for example, this snippet from the season two episode The New Kid:

You're definitely scary, Sandi

Quinn:  Well, I hear she’s a brain. You can’t reason with brains.

Sandi:  I’m still going to talk to her. As president of the Fashion Club, I can be kind of intimidating.

Quinn:  Oh, you’re definitely scary, Sandi. But I think this is a special case, so let me talk to her. It would mean so much if you let me try.

Sandi:  You’re the best.

Quinn:  No, you.

The line, ‘you’re definitely scary, Sandi’ is thrown in there so quickly that nobody in the show registers it, but it’s really quite the burn.

Two episodes later in Gifted, Quinn needs to stay with a friend while the rest of the family are away for the weekend. Of course she chooses Sandi, because there’s a hierarchy, but this leads to the inevitable argument.

Sandi:  (pointing to the TV) Oh, look, Quinn. She’s wearing sandals like yours. Is this a rerun?

Quinn:  I don’t think so. (stands) Can I get you a diet soda?

Sandi:  No, thanks. But help yourself to the grapes. I hear they’re good for breakouts.

Quinn’s feuding with Sandi plays out in a number of amusing ways throughout the show. In Fair Enough she gets the lead in the school play over Sandi. In Pierce Me she convinces Helen to enter the mother-daughter fashion show with her just so they can show up Sandi and her mum, Linda. In the episode Daria Dance Party, Sandi convinces Quinn to volunteer to head the committee to organise the school dance, saying that the Fashion Club would back her up. As you can probably predict, Sandi disagrees with every one of Quinn’s ideas out of pure spite, then convinces the others to bail on the whole project, expecting Quinn to fail miserably at planning the dance all by herself. Sandi then organises a party on the same night with the explicit purpose of kyboshing Quinn’s efforts by splitting the attendees.

Sandi:  Good. So you’ll be at my party next Saturday. I mean, it wouldn’t be the same without you, Quinn.

Guys:  (chanting) Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!

Quinn:  Saturday? But that’s the same night as the dance.

Guys:  (chanting) Dance, dance, dance!

Sandi:  You’re kidding! I forgot all about the dance. Gee, that’s too, too bad. I mean, I can’t un-order all that free pizza.

Guys:  Pizza? Cool!

Quinn:  Well, I can’t un-order, um, the free soda and tacos I was going to order.

Guys:  Tacos? All right!

Sandi:  Outdoor turbo-jet hot tub.

Quinn:  Preferred seating for the popular.

Sandi:  Green Bay on big screen!

Quinn:  D.J. on dance floor!

Sandi:  Miniskirts!

Quinn:  Strapless!

Both:  (to guys) Well?!!

Jeffy:  My head hurts!

Jamie:  Mine, too.

Joey:  Oh, man!

Quinn and Sandi fight 

Quinn winds up winning by recruiting Jane (as discussed previously) who throws a sensational art-inspired dance. Sandi’s party bombs miserably.

Their feuding doesn’t end until Quinn finally realises that she doesn’t need to hide how smart she is. This is tangled up with her relationship with Daria, and it’s not until Quinn embraces her sister that she finally comes to terms with her own intelligence and is able to get Sandi to back off. So, let’s examine Quinn’s relationship with her sister.

enhanced-buzz-23702-1390853338-0 (1)

In the first few seasons, Quinn’s purpose is to provide Daria material for jokes and biting criticism of the popular crowd. She manages to get her own back in the episode Quinn the Brain. When she’s told that she’s going to fail English because she doesn’t put enough effort into her school work, Quinn buckles down so she doesn’t become the oldest freshman in school. Mr O’Niel is so impressed by her improvement that he reads the essay aloud. Daria is initially thrilled (“Quinn’s going to see firsthand what it’s like to be a brain”), but then Quinn is asked to tutor Kevin, who convinces Brittany that he’s going to observe the way a brain acts so they can be cool, too. Yes, Quinn is so popular that she turns being smart into a fad. Daria is seriously irked by all of the perks that Quinn is getting, and then Mr O’Neil suggests that Quinn tutor Daria to give her writing more “zazz”. She also overhears this choice conversation between the Fashion Club:

 Quinn:  Yeah, I might do writing for a career. It’s not like real work or anything.

Sandi:  Really. I mean, how hard it is to type stuff?

Quinn:  And there are lots of opportunities. Like, did you know they pay money for those poems in greeting cards?

Stacy:  Oh no! I’ve been giving away my poems for free!

"Do me a favour, would you? Close my locker."
“Do me a favour, would you? Close my locker.”

Quinn decides to co-ordinate her wardrobe with her writing, even going as far as asking Daria what “existential” means.

Daria:  For your purposes, existential means “pseudo-intellectual poser with accessories from the street fair.”

Quinn:  Listen, I’m still available if you want some help with your writing. Does this black match?

Daria:  Matches my mood.

tumblr_ntnchl0IPV1tg0clto1_400

This outfit change enrages Sandi and the Fashion Club, who boot Quinn out until she “comes to her senses.” Daria, meanwhile, is brooding over Quinn’s encroaching on her identity. Quinn winds up seeking Jane’s advice, which is a smart move given that Jane can give an objective viewpoint.

Quinn:  Can I ask you something?

Jane:  I guess. What?

Quinn:  You don’t think I’m a brain, do you?

Jane:  The thought never crossed my mind.

Quinn:  Mine, either. I mean, I really like the way this getting to Daria, but I’m starting to feel like a phoney.

Jane:  You’re starting to feel like a phoney?

Quinn:  So I wrote a stupid essay! What’s everyone making such a big deal about?

Jane:  Well, you know, condition people to expect nothing and the least little something gets them all excited. Ask Pavlov.

Quinn:  The custodian?

Jane:  (puts hand to head) Whoa. Never mind. Return to your world, and I’ll return to mine.

Daria finally reaches her breaking point and serves Quinn back some of her own medicine by taking on Quinn’s identity as “perky popular kid”. This has the desired effect.

300px-QuinnAnalysis

"You win, okay?"
“You win, okay?”

The feuding in this episode is a great way to establish 1) Quinn and Daria’s relationship before going in and evolving the dynamic, and 2) Quinn’s internal struggle between the desire to hide who she is to fit in and the desire to be seen as moderately intelligent. The former wins this battle, but not the overall war.  This episode is the beginning of the two sisters empathising with each other and lays some more groundwork for Quinn’s substantial changes.

The empathising goes both ways – a few episodes later is Monster, the episode where Daria and Jane film Quinn for a school project.  Jane and Daria are determined to expose Quinn as a vapid and shallow phoney, but Quinn does everything she can to stymie them and come across as the perfect teen. Daria and Jane almost give up, until…

(camcorder view of Quinn and Tiffany at cosmetics counter)

Quinn:  Oh, my God, they’ve been… they’ve been zooming! You better not zoom that thing. Stop zooming, I mean it. If you can see any of my pores on camera, I swear, I’ll kill you. Stop the tape! I do not have pores! My pores are cute! My pores are tiny! You’re fired!

(Quinn pushes her hand into the camera lens; taping stops in a burst of static)

Daria:  Anything you say can and will be used against you. (to Jane) We’ve got our Quinn.

Jane:  That’s a wrap.

Daria:  But a wrap skirt is a definite don’t. (puts hand to face) Oh, my God. Did I really just say that?

 

"You're Fired!"
“You’re Fired!”

While Daria and Jane are editing the footage, Helen happens by and witnesses the ‘pores’ scene. She lets Daria know that she disapproves of portraying Quinn in such a ridiculous way, and despite Daria’s assurances to Jane that the scene will remain, her conscience gets the better of her when Quinn says the following:

Quinn:  I can’t wait to see it. I just hope I don’t sound stupid or anything. (short laugh) Not that I would.

Daria:  Perish the thought.

Quinn:  I just, I know that sometimes certain types of people, jealous people, might think, who does she think she is? Because I sometimes think that. But I can’t let myself go on too long thinking that.

Daria:  Or anything else.

Quinn:  I mean, sometimes I’m walking down the hall with Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany, and suddenly I’m outside of myself, watching, and it’s, like, “Who are these girls? Can’t they talk about anything besides guys, and clothes, and cars?” But then, what would we talk about? You have to be good at something. You’re good at your reading and writing and stuff, and you’re good at your little paintings.

Jane:  They are miniscule, aren’t they?

Quinn:  I figure, being attractive and popular, that’s what I’m good at. Maybe it’s not that important, but, you know, it’s what I can do.

(Quinn laughs a short laugh, then exits; without meaning to, she’s managed to guilt-trip Daria and Jane like Helen never could)

Daria:  Aw, hell.

Jane:  Yeah.

Monster

The ‘pores’ scene is left out. The video that results is much like Quinn herself – sweet and popular on the outside with the approval of most of the audience, but for those looking a bit deeper it was a disturbing insight into the mindset of a self-involved  nitwit. Most of the class cheered, but Jodie later says to Daria, “Your sister makes me so…sad.”

daria quinn Ill

More examples of compassion follow in dribs and drabs, including in the episode Ill, when Daria comes down with a mysterious rash. Quinn happens upon Daria in the girls’ bathroom while Daria is freaking out over her mysterious ailment and offers to help. When Daria asks why, Quinn states that according to Fashion Club bi-laws skin care crises transcend personality conflicts. This seems oddly altruistic and shows remarkable foresight for the Fashion Club, and you could probably deduce that Quinn’s making this bi-law up.

We’ve already discussed Daria trying to convince Quinn that she doesn’t need plastic surgery, and while Quinn doesn’t appear to take this advice on board right away it does lay the foundation for the two of them to start going to one another for advice. Quinn later goes to Daria for advice about how to deal with death in The Misery Chick.  Daria, in turn, seeks Quinn’s advice on a number of occasions. In a previous post, I mentioned the discussion they have about Daria getting contacts in Through a Lens Darkly. In Lane Miserables Quinn actually tries to consol her sister and give Daria dating advice. Daria witnesses Trent leaving on a date with a more age-appropriate woman, and is rendered thoroughly miserable (kudos to the music department, by the way; use of the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”  in this scene was the final kick in the feelings we needed to empathise with the situation).

Daria Trent

Jane:  Don’t worry. You’re twice the woman she is.

Quinn:  No, that would be a size 12. Listen, Daria, I always say that just because a guy has a girlfriend, it doesn’t mean he’s off-limits. Unless you’re the girlfriend. By “you” I mean me, of course. Remember that.

Daria:  Mmm, got any more pearl drops of wisdom?

Quinn:  Daria, all you need is a little confidence. Just close your eyes and imagine what you want.

This helps Daria come to the realisation that she and Trent would never work out anyway, as much as fans ship the pairing. That Quinn would offer advice rather than teasing her sister for having a crush shows some remarkable changes in their friendship.

 Daria and Trent

The season three episode, Speedtrapped, is a fantastic turning point for Daria and Quinn, when the two realise they actually complement each other.  Jane and Mystic Spyral wind up in jail one state over because they don’t have the money to pay a vehicle fine. Daria, who has just got her license, has to drive all the way over there and bail out the band. Quinn decides to ride shotgun on the adventure, not really giving Daria a choice in the matter. When it becomes obvious that Daria is still nervous about driving on the highway, Quinn takes the wheel, saying “It’s all about confidence. You’re too timid, Daria!” She then stops to pick up a country-singing hitchhiker, and when they make a pit-stop so Daria can un-clench her hands Quinn and the hitchhiker spend all the bail money on clothes.

Quinn then comes up with a plan to get the money back, which involves going to a nearby cowboy bar.

Speedtrapped

(Quinn, dressed as a cowgirl, climbs on top of bar)

Daria:  Uh, Quinn?

Quinn:  Attention, guys. We’re just two little city gals from Lawndale.

Cowboy #1:  Lawndale’s a suburb.

Quinn:  Right. And we know we shouldn’t be here, but some friends of ours got pulled over by the sheriff recently. We brought the bail money to get them out, and now some mean old cowboy’s stolen it. Now, I’m not saying all cowboys are mean or old or thieves, but it does make me think twice about ever considering a cowboy for a boyfriend.

(cowboys murmur)

Cowboy #1:  Well, heck, little lady, I’ve been pulled over myself. It’s humiliating, and bad for the soul. Here’s ten bucks. (puts money into jar)

Cowboy #2:  Doggone it, we’re not all bad, little miss. Take 20. (puts money into jar)

Cowboy #3:  Now hold on. How do you know we’re not the ones being flimflammed here? You fast-talking suburban gals think you can just march in and con some cowboys? Is that your game?

Quinn:  (nervously) Um, no, not at all!

Cowboy #3:  You think we’re a bunch of dumb hicks. What do you know about us?

Daria:  I don’t call ’em cowboys till I see ’em ride.

Cowboy #3:  What?

Daria:  ‘Cause a Stetson hat and them fancy boots don’t tell me what’s inside.

Cowboy #3:  Hey, that’s Conway Twitty. You like Conway Twitty music?

Daria:  You bet your lonesome prairie campfire I do, partner.

Cowboy #3:  All right! Now these are cowgirls. Fellas, step on up here and empty your pockets.

(everyone starts putting money into jar)

Quinn:  We’ll be through the criminal justice system and home in time for Buffy. Good thinking, Daria!

Quinn’s plan was a good one, but it required both her charm and Daria’s knowledge to make it work. At the end of the episode they concede that they do work well together, on occasion.

Toward the end of season four, in the episode Groped By an Angel, Quinn watches a TV special about guardian angels. Through a series of fortunate occurrences, Quinn becomes convinced that she, too, has a guardian angel. Daria becomes exasperated by what she sees as Quinn being irrational, but at the end of the episode when Quinn predictably becomes disillusioned and disappointed when her angel doesn’t keep her from embarrassing herself, Daria can’t seem to kick her while she’s down.

Quinn:  If there are no guardian angels, what do you believe in?

Daria:  I guess I believe in treating people the way you’d want to be treated.

Quinn:  But, there’s nothing watching over us? Nothing keeping track?

Daria:  Well, there’s the IRS and those guys with the black helicopters. Quinn, until I see some pretty convincing evidence to the contrary, I think we’re on our own.

Quinn:  But, but, that’s so sad.

Daria:  Um, then again, I don’t have any proof that there isn’t something out there.

Quinn:  But what about the bullhorn?

Daria:  Maybe the angel didn’t think saving an overpriced, undeserved knickknack was the most efficient use of his time.

Quinn:  Yeah! Maybe angels only get involved with really big stuff. He was probably playing his string thing when the bullhorn broke and didn’t even hear it. That makes sense, right?

Daria:  I think what makes sense is to believe whatever makes you feel best.

Quinn:  You know what? I’m gonna stop relying on my angel so much for little things and let him do his important stuff and just know that if I need him for anything really critical, like a complexion crisis or an unanticipated weight gain, he’ll be there. Thanks, Daria.

As Helen points out later, it was very sweet of Daria to put aside her own strong feelings on the subject in order to make Quinn feel better. Aside from giving us warm and fuzzies, we learn that Daria really does care about her sibling’s happiness, despite her posturing to the contrary.

Which brings us to Is It Fall Yet. Quinn’s story in this movie-length episode is the pivotal moment that fosters a noticeable change in her character. In the beginning, we see Quinn and the Fashion Club on their last day of school before the summer break, being handed the results of their PSTAT exams. Mr O’Neil explains that their results should give them a good indication on whether they’re doing well enough to get into college, or will seriously need to buckle down in the next two years. Quinn gets a similarly low mark to the rest of her friends, but she appears to be the only one of the group upset by it. Here she realises that she can’t just keep coasting and that maybe hiding her intelligence from her friends by not paying attention in class is actually a bad idea. This leads to her hiring a tutor.

 David and Quinn

The tutor, David, has an uphill battle. Not only has Quinn learned basically nothing in the last year, she also spends most of their tutoring session on the phone. When he threatens to leave and she begs him to stay, David delivers the verbal slap that Quinn really should have gotten long before now.

David:  Hey, the only reason you’re popular is your looks, and those won’t last forever. You have nothing interesting to say and no intellectual curiosity whatsoever. Do the world a favor and don’t go to college. Give up your spot to somebody who wants to learn.

Quinn: (gasps) But… you just said I was bright!

David:  So what? It doesn’t matter, if you’re hell-bent on achieving complete brain atrophy before you’re old enough to vote.

Quinn:  I’m not!

David:  Do you even know what atrophy means?

Quinn:  David, my friends and I all got practically the same scores on our P-STATs.

David:  So?

Quinn:  So they were bad. And I know I can do better. It’s not like I care or anything, it’s just that I know I can.

David:  It’s not like you care? It’s not like you want to do better? Then why the hell am I here?

(Quinn pauses for a moment to let that sink in. Finally, she comes to a decision as she places the phone in the middle of the table.)

Quinn:  All right. I care. I want to do better.

Once Quinn stops getting distracted and puts her priorities in order, she discovers she actually enjoys learning. She also discovers that, unlike the boys she dates based on their looks, she actually enjoys David’s company. For the first time Quinn starts trying to get a guy’s attention, rather than the other way around. Once she makes it known to David that she likes him, he politely declines, saying that they really have nothing in common. This is Quinn’s first real taste of rejection, and it stings so badly that she talks to Daria about it.

 Is it Fall Yet

(Daria is on her bed, reading, when Quinn walks into the bedroom)

Daria:  No, those sandals don’t make your toes look fat.

Quinn:  So David was right. I am superficial.

Daria:  At least you know your strengths. (she glances up and sees the devastated look on Quinn’s face) He really called you that?

Quinn:  He said he only dates girls with “depth.”

Daria:  How did it even come up? (Quinn’s look gets deeper) Oh, boy. You asked him out?

(Quinn turns away and starts crying)

Daria:  Quinn, you’re, um, not as superficial as you act. I’m sure you just feel obliged to stress the moronic aspects of your personality so you’ll fit in better with the fashion drones, like a mask you wear ’cause you think they wouldn’t like the real you.

Quinn:  You mean sort of the way you keep people away by being really unfriendly and stuff?

Daria:  Hey, we’re talking about you here. (pause) You really liked that guy, huh? (Quinn nods) Well, he certainly wasn’t what we intellectuals call a “totally buff hottie”, so if you saw past his looks, you can’t be completely shallow.

Quinn:  Thanks, Daria. Damn it, I even told him I liked him! I never do that!

Daria:  Quinn… sometimes you reach out to someone and all you get back is a slap in the face. (sees Helen appear in the doorway)

Quinn:  Then why even bother?

(Daria waves Helen back)

Daria:  I guess because, um, you got to give people a chance. Otherwise, there’s no point to the whole being-human routine.

Quinn:  Why? David didn’t give me a chance!

Daria:  Sure he did. Wasn’t he going to quit before you begged him not to?

Quinn:  Yeah. So?

Daria:  So you learned a whole bunch of stuff and found out you don’t have to be a dummy if you don’t want to… because he gave you a chance.

This conversation gives Quinn the confidence to be herself when she gets back to school. When Mr DeMartino asks if someone can provide an explanation of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny (mirroring Daria’s first encounter with him in the very first episode), we can see that Quinn is finally ready to embrace her brains.

Quinn:  “Manifest Destiny” was a phrase politicians used to say that God wanted the U.S. to keep expanding west all the way to the Pacific ocean. Because why bother owning the country if Hollywood wasn’t included?

Mr. DeMartino:  Ahh, Quinn, that’s very good! Thank you for making my day rewarding.

(class starts to murmur amongst themselves)

Sandi:  Gee, Quinn… I hope that little foray of yours into Geekland just now is the result of heat exhaustion, and not an unpleasant side effect of all that tutoring. I mean, you’re not turning into a brain, are you?

Quinn:  Sandi, just because someone can answer a simple question doesn’t mean they’re a pedagogue.

(Sandi wants to respond, but can’t: she doesn’t know what Quinn said. Quinn smiles)

 pedagog

By and large, Quinn’s plot in Is it Fall Yet shows a complete step forward for all of Quinn’s evolutionary qualities – she’s learning to look beneath the surface, that being smart doesn’t make you a dork, and that Daria is actually a pretty great person to have on your side. It’s also the beginning of her final takedown of Sandi. This change is completed in season five and the final movie.

fat like me

Part of this change in character is Quinn’s empathy – rather than just feeling for others, she actually starts going out of her way to help them. In Sappy Anniversary she tries to surreptitiously remind Tom that his and Daria’s six-month anniversary is coming up, because she cares about how Daria is treated. In Fat Like Me she helps Sandi to lose weight, despite the fact that Sandi’s weight gain got her kicked out of the Fashion Club (Quinn also got tricked into quitting, so it’s not complete altruism here).  It’s the sixth episode of season five, however, where we see Quinn finally defeat Sandi.

In the episode Lucky Strike, all of the teachers have had enough. They go on strike, causing Ms Li to hire substitute teachers. One of these substitute teachers is a creepy, Woody Allen-esque English teacher who acts out parts of the novel he’s writing as an excuse to stroke Tiffany’s hair and be generally creepy. Quinn complains about this at dinner and Helen immediately calls the school to have him fired. Ms Li Drafts Daria into the job. Daria has to teach Quinn’s English class while they study Romeo and Juliet. Sandi tells Quinn that if Daria makes the test too hard she’ll spill Quinn’s “deep, dark secret” – that Daria and Quinn are sisters. That evening, while Daria is planning the test with Tom’s help, Quinn begs her to go easy on the class.

Quinn:  Daria, you know the test tomorrow? It’s going to be easy, right? Because if you make it really hard, some popular people won’t like it and might take it out on another completely innocent popular person, and besides, it’s good to help the popular, because if you don’t, it might make you even more unpopular, although I don’t know if such a thing is possible.

Daria:  Ooh, wouldn’t want to risk that.

Quinn:  So you’ll do it?

Daria:  Right after I change into my fur bikini. (Tom smiles at this)

Quinn:  Daria!

Daria:  You know, I didn’t ask for this stupid teaching job. I don’t need the work and I don’t need the stigma. I’ve tried to make the class interesting and focus on the play, not the grades. And if, after all that, the only thing your vapid friends can think about is how to finesse taking the test, then they deserve to fail it.

Quinn:  Daria, do you want everyone to hate you?

Daria:  Hey, why should you go out of your way to protect the stupid? You’re not one of them!

Quinn:  I… I… you don’t understand anything! (storms out of the room)

Tom:  Hmm, maybe you should make it easy. Give the poor kids a break.

Daria:  I lied about the fur bikini.

Tom:  (fake anger) Damn!

Daria essentially just reminded Quinn that she’s smarter than her friends, ramming home all Quinn had learned over the summer. This is re-enforced when Quinn discusses Romeo and Juliet with Jake, and realises that she actually knows it pretty well.  Daria sets an essay test with the question “What is Romeo and Juliet about?” The rest of the class despairs (“200 words!?”), but Quinn starts writing away with a smile on her face. When they get their results back, Quinn gets a B+ while the rest of the Fashion Club get D-s. Sandi starts berating Quinn, saying she only got a good mark because she and Daria are relatives. It’s obvious that Sandi is building up to the big reveal, but Quinn heads her off by sticking up for Daria.

 Quinn:  I’m not taking anyone’s side, Sandi. I’m just saying that sometimes people get put in awkward positions. Like a girl who has to wear huge braces in fifth grade, and years later her brothers find pictures of her with them and give those pictures to a friend, who hasn’t shown them to anyone out of the goodness of her heart… yet.

Sandi: Oh.

Quinn:  Besides, why shouldn’t I act sisterly towards her? After all… (she looks right at Daria) …she’s my sister.

Sandi:  (gasps) Did you hear that? Oh, my gosh! Quinn just admitted that weird girl is her sister!

Stacy:  Well, um, of course she is, Sandi. We knew that.

Tiffany:  We were just being polite about it.

we were just being polite about it

And just like that, Quinn has removed Sandi’s only real weapon – she’s no longer embarrassed of Daria or her own intelligence. After this episode, nothing Sandi does really bothers Quinn, to the point where in the movie Is it College Yet Quinn takes a sabbatical from the Fashion Club and then decides to extend it, essentially quitting altogether. She’s outgrown them. Her relationship with Daria is then rounded out nicely in One J at a Time  and Aunt Nauseum.

In One J at a Time Quinn shows dismay that although she tries, she can’t hold down a steady relationship like Daria and Tom’s. She’s upset at not being as mature as her sister, but Helen points out that the important thing is that Quinn does whatever makes her happy; neither way is better and neither is a marker for maturity. Quinn goes back to casual dating, safe in the knowledge that a woman can do whatever makes her happy when it comes to dating.

In Aunt Nauseum, Daria and Quinn are witness to their Mother’s ongoing feud with her sisters. Helen agrees to handle her niece’s divorce, and her sister Rita comes to stay and help with the proceedings in her daughter’s stead. Daria and Quinn can’t stand their constant arguing, and Jake bails completely (to be fair, he’s out of his depth). Daria calls in their other sister, Amy, to mediate, but Amy almost immediately sinks to their level and starts squabbling too.

Aunt Nauseum

All of this fighting affects Quinn in an interesting way – first she suggests that she and Daria stay home for the weekend to act as peace-keepers and offers to make Daria a carrot juice. Daria is too miffed at the suggestion that she has nothing better to do to notice that Quinn is trying to be nice. Quinn then tries to break up a petty squabble of the Fashion Club, but overdoes it a tad.

 Quinn:  Guys! Guys! Stop the madness. Is a dress really worth destroying the sacred bond between Fashion Club member and Fashion Club member? Stop your fighting before it’s too late!

Sandi:  Quinn, are you all right?

Daria and Quinn finally manage to make their mother and aunts realise how ridiculous they’re being. Daria starts imitating them, and Quinn jumps in immediately.

Daria:  Gee, Rita, are you ever gonna’ get a job? Why should I, Helen, when you won’t pay attention to mother? And you, Amy, who asked you?

Quinn:  Yeah! You had a dance floor at your wedding!

Daria:  You’re a show-off and a know-it-all.

Quinn:  You just hide in your room like a kermit!

Daria:  Mom likes you better!

Quinn:  That’s because I call her better!

Their teamwork stops the sisters from fighting, but Quinn is still unsettled. She asks Daria to watch Gone With the Wind with her, because she thinks (erroneously) Daria would enjoy it (Daria and Jake had been discussing the civil war at the start of the episode). At the end of the film, we get to see this brilliant exchange.

Quinn:  That movie was so sad.

Daria:  I know it made me feel like crying. Um, Quinn? There’s something bothering you, other than the saga of our fair nation being torn apart, isn’t there?

Quinn:  (pensive, glancing at Daria but not facing her) No.

Daria:  I only ask because I finally realized all that stuff going on here this week was making me act strangely toward Tom. So maybe you were having a similar, unanticipated reaction? Such as, oh, wanting to spend time with me?

(…)

Quinn:  (faces Daria) Daria? You don’t think we’ll end up having the same fight over and over again, for the rest of our lives, the way mom and Aunt Rita do, do you?

Daria:  No. We’ll use weapons.

Quinn:  Don’t say that!

Daria:  I’ll make you a deal. The only weapon I’ll use against you will be my winning personality, and the only weapon you’ll use against me will be your merciless silent treatment.

Quinn:  Silent treatment? I never- ha. Deal.

"Can I make you a carrot juice?"
“Can I make you a carrot juice?”

This final exchange completes Quinn’s and Daria’s relationship dynamic, showing that they have come to love and appreciate each other despite their differences. These personal changes that we see in Quinn provides the tools she needs to tackle the problems she faces in Is it College Yet?, which include getting a part-time job, calming Daria’s fears about College after her breakup with Tom, and telling a new friend that they might be an alcoholic.

Quinn’s character really is superbly written; we think all that’s there is what we see on the surface, but really there is so much more going on. It is very hard to write a character who appears so shallow but who has so much depth – it takes some serious character study and reflection to pull off.

Wow! They just keep getting longer! Thanks for sticking with me. Next week we’ll take a look at the transformations of the “B” ladies – Jodie, Brittany and the Fashion Club (mainly Stacey). Until then, remember that “Fashion is fun and everything but we should really do something about the rainforests and stuff”.

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