Follow-up Questions (Set #3) with
Glenn Eichler

KW = Kara Wild
GE = You know who

KW: It seems as though with few exceptions, the men of Lawndale are weak while the women hold positions of power. Was that coincidental, a comment on American society, or did you have a specific agenda?

GE: None of the above... I noticed that phenomenon myself after we were into the series for a year or two. It wasn't by design, but it wasn't exactly coincidental, because I realized there was something about the women being more powerful than the men that gave the series a unique setting -- almost as if it were a slightly alternate universe. I think in episodic TV, strong male characters tend to overwhelm strong female characters, as a reflection of the balance of power in the real world and in the writing rooms. (Maybe that's why so many shows with young female protagonists place them in fatherless households.) Somehow that balance got reversed in Daria.

KW: Although Daria and Jane considered themselves to be outcasts, they often seemed to mingle with the most popular people in school (such as Jodie, Kevin, and Brittany). Why did you choose to make them more of a focus than other students who might have identified with their "outcast" status more, like Andrea, Dawn, "Shaggy," "Burn-out Girl," etc.?

GE: Because we were trying to satirize high school, not create a comfortable alternative world where Daria and Jane could be stars among their misfit peers (though this may appear contradictory to what I said in the above answer, since the whole world of Daria was a bit unreal). We didn't want to do a show about the misfits finding happiness through solidarity. We didn't want anyone finding happiness, period. A basic tenet of the Tao of Daria is that life is not fair, and any fan fiction that concludes differently violates the secret Daria rulebook buried at the base of an unmarked peak in the Alleghenies. Sorry!

KW: In spite of there being no set year for Daria's graduation, let's say she graduated between 1999 and 2001. What would the Morgendorffers, Jane, and other key Lawndale residents be doing in 2005? Would any of them have been affected by September 11 or the war in Iraq?

GE: I so can't answer that, it's not funny. Well, maybe I can, a little. They would certainly be reacting to the regressive administration we've had for the last five years and squirming to live under the new atmosphere of repression and this strange chokehold that religious fundamentalism has gained on our culture. But I don't think the Morgendorffers would have any specific reaction to September 11th. It's too complicated an issue. (I could see Kevin flying an American flag from his two-miles-a-gallon SUV to show his understanding of the situation.)

KW: During the course of the series, were Quinn or Jane ever sexually active? With the opposite sex? (Lesbian speculation ran high with both characters, and some people thought that was one reason the Allison plot was added to IIFY?, to put the question, where Jane was concerned, to rest. Unfortunately, it didn't work.)

GE: Quinn, no. She was all about attracting guys, not acting on it. Plus Quinn would tend to think of her virginity as currency, a currency she wasn't going to spend until she got a REALLY good exchange rate. (I'm not saying Quinn would maintain this attitude as she matured; this is sophomore-junior Quinn I'm talking about.) Jane... well, she could have been sexually active. I wanted to concentrate on things other than romance in the show, so we didn't focus on it, but having sex would certainly have been in character for her. As for the gay thing, I honestly wasn't aware of that speculation when we wrote IIFY. And though I see Jane as straight or maybe "straight and curious," it's fine with me if the speculation continues.

KW: This one exchange from "Is It Fall Yet?" has intrigued me for quite some time:

Daria: And I judge myself unfit for human contact.

Helen: That's exactly what you will be if you don't start engaging with the rest of us. You keep hiding your real face behind that antisocial mask and one day the mask will be your face. I'm not letting that happen. You're working at that camp.

Helen's repeated references to a "mask" are interesting, considering the lengths she goes to in order to hide her age and appear vital and active. Did Helen have any self-awareness when she made those statements -- maybe regretting how she had let her own personality take on a mask that hid her true self from everyone else, and not wanting the same thing to happen to Daria?

GE: I don't think so. I think parents see the breadth of their children's personalities, especially when those kids are young and uninhibited, and it pains them to see the kids withdraw (in varying degrees, of course) during adolescence. But I don't think adults in their 40s worry too much about having hidden their true self from everyone else -- that's the only way to GET to 40. Helen's efforts to hide her age, unfortunately, often come with the territory for mature working women and, increasingly, men. They're not meant as a comment on her shallowness so much as a comment on the pressures the working world exerts on women and on middle-aged adults in general.

KW: Also, fans would just like to know, in general, what you're up to these days. We know at the very least that you're a consultant for O'Grady.

GE: I'm consulting on a couple of other shows, too, and I've written a bunch of pilots in the past couple of years, but don't sit in front of the TV waiting for them to air. I've also done some screenplay work (again, nothing currently being produced)... just the usual life of a freelance writer in the age of reality TV. But I really appreciate all the continued interest in Daria, and if you all want to write stories about her with happy endings, hey -- to hell with the secret rulebook!

June 11, 2005

Essential DARIA DVD music