Interview with Anne D. Bernstein
KW = Kara Wild
AB = You know who
KW: Glenn Eichler seems to be emphatically opposed to any form of Daria and
Trent 'shipping. What are your feelings about them pairing up and about the
AB: Well, when you are writing for a show like Daria, you try to tell the truth
about the world as you see it. And my take on the whole Daria/Trent
relationship is that in the "real" world, it is highly unlikely that a girl
like Daria would end up with a guy like Trent. He is simply a strong
infatuation and it was always fun to play with how Daria was usually in
control of herself, but found herself quite flustered around Trent.
Eventually Trent did catch on that Daria had a thing for him (see the open
eyes in "That Was Then") but he would never lead her on too much. Sorry, the
smartypants in boots does not actually get hot and heavy with sexy, slacker
musician dude. At least that never happened to me. Sigh.
As for Tom, I didn't have anything to do with developing his character. I, for
one, do think that it is believable that Daria would end up with someone who
dated her friend first--so common in high school--and that it would be
possible for Jane and Daria to work through that and remain close. I
personally found Tom a bit dull, but I think there was a need for at least
one male in the series to be intelligent, competent, social, and somewhat
"pulled together". (Note: the screwed up ones are so much more fun to write
KW: What kind of person could you see Daria ending up with? Is there
anyone on the show (besides Trent and Tom) who you think would suit
AB: All I would say is someone like her: smart, funny, maybe with their own set of
emotional baggage that compliments hers. No one who was on the show that I
can think of, except maybe some guy in the background whose potential we
KW: You seem to be the writer behind a lot of episodes that deal with the
cultural trends, such as Alternapalooza/Lalapalooza ("Road Worrier"), retro
culture ("Life in the Past Lane"), the 60's ("That Was Then, This Is Dumb"),
and hyper-scheduling/political correctness ("Pinch Sitter"). Was this on
purpose, or just a coincidence?
AB: I guess those are just things I think about! At the beginning of every season,
the writers would submit episode premises to Glenn, who would then decide
which ideas would make it into the season (with lots of back-and-forth, of
course.) I would often pitch plots that would allow me to vent on topics
that I was interested in or to amuse myself by slipping in details about
things that I know a lot about. "Pinch Sitter" was based upon my own
babysitting experiences. I was heavily into the swing dance scene when I
thought of Jane dating a retro guy. That one just seemed a perfect way to
contrast Jane's willingness to try new things (and deal with guys) with
Daria's overly cautious approach to human interaction. (And if you are into
swing/retro culture, you will get the subtle nuances.) "That Was Then" was
inspired by my older cousin who was a classic ex-60s baby boomer guy who
"went through changes" throughout the decades-and he did have a dog who
wore a bandana. "Road Worrier" just seemed like a good idea at the time, and
I was really excited to write the first Daria/Trent story with heavy duty
sexual tension! I also love flea markets (see "That Was Then") and was very
annoyed by dot-com bullshit (see "Sappy Anniversary").
KW: Of the episodes you wrote, which is the one that you are most proud of
and which do you wish you could have written better?
AB: I like a lot of them, but I guess I would choose my first episode "The
Invitation" which was written when there was so little established that it
was a great challenge. And it was really cool when I got to come up with
characters and details that lived on throughout the entire series. Yes, I
made up Upchuck!
I'm not being coy here: there aren't any episode that I am even close to being
KW: Even so, are there any episodes where you've thought, "I could have
written this scene or conversation better"?
AB: Nope, it's not something I obsess about.
KW: Are there any storylines that you wish you or the show could have covered
during its run?
AB: I'm sure I could dig up some rejected premises, but nothing springs to mind.
KW: Were there ever times you had to step in and tell Glenn or one of the
male writers, "Girls don't say/do things like that"?
AB: Never. In fact, I really hate when people (mostly I'm referring to people who
hire writers) get the idea that women should obviously write female
characters, males are better at males, gotta get the ones fresh out of
college to write for a young demo, etc. If you are a good writer, you should
be able to write for a variety of characters. If you are alive and look
around, you can observe plenty of people of the opposite sex. Maybe you even
live with them! Personally, I loved writing for Jake and I was not male,
middle-aged, married, with kids, a consultant, the product of military
school, living in the burbs, or known to repress my anger until totally
freaking out. (Um.. now I guess I am middle-aged!) Note: Occasionally, I
would take pride in a line that I thought was real girlie, like "Sheer,
semi-sheer, or opaque? Textured!"
KW: Who were the easiest and hardest characters for you to write?
AB: As mentioned, I just had some weird connection with Jake. I loved anything to
do with the Trent/Daria dynamic. And I was so happy when Stacy finally stood
up to Sandi-and I helped to make that happen! I'd say Mack was the hardest
to write for, because he remained rather perfect and was the least complex
character of all--he was somewhat underdeveloped in the first place.
KW: Were there ever any plans to put out a third Daria book or any other
AB: I was not privy to anything having to do with merchandising. I was simply
offered the job to write The Daria Diaries. So I have no idea. (I wish I
bought more T-shirts when they were available! And my Daria coffee cup is
KW: How "canon" was the information on the MTV website (ex. Tiffany's last
name being Blum-Deckler) and in the books (ex. Helen and Jake's wedding
vows, Quinn's glasses on the bedside table in her room)? Were these things
you just made up for fun, or were they parts of a rough story bible?
AB: I had to make up a ton of stuff that did not yet exist for The Daria Diaries.
And then it all became part of "the Daria Universe" so people had to follow
what I established! With great power comes...well, you know. Actually, the
original bible was very short and succinct. When I worked on the website and
the diaries, I just tried to come up with "telling details" as I went along.
KW: So it's safe to say that Tiffany's last name really is Blum-Deckler,
and Stacy's Rowe (both names were on the website)?
KW: How come in the Daria Diaries, you went into detail about Jake's
childhood (the letters home) but not Helen's? It has the effect of making
Helen seem more two-dimensional because her actions don't appear to have a
deeper explanation, a sense of pathos attached to them the way Jake's do.
AB: Well, the book was awful short, did you notice? (Not my decision!) So I just
tried to come up with a Table of Contents that would include features about
all of the main characters. Helen had those email to and from Eric, which
seemed like something appropriate. There was no conscious decision to put
more emphasis on Jake's background. But Helen's family appeared in the
series, so I think her childhood was sufficiently covered.
KW: Did you, or anyone else attached to the show, ever sneak onto the fan
websites during the show's run? Have you read, or do you ever intend to
read, fan fiction?
AB: I have never, ever read Daria fan fiction! May I repeat myself? I have never,
ever read Daria fan fiction! Simply because I didn't want to take any chance
of possibly being accused of being inspired by it. And I won't read it now,
either. But I applaud your creativity! I did, however, read the boards on
occasion (which is how I know that we were accused of being inspired by fan
fiction!) And I did see some of that X-rated art, because how could I
January 20, 2006
Essential DARIA DVD music