|First appearance||I Don't|
|Last appearance||Aunt Nauseam|
|Voiced by||Barbara Soehner|
|Family|| Helen Morgendorffer (sister) |
Rita Barksdale (sister)
Daria Morgendorffer (niece)
Quinn Morgendorffer (niece)
Erin Chambers (niece)
Jake Morgendorffer (brother in law)
Amy Barksdale (her last name presumably still her maiden name) is the youngest sister of Helen Morgendorffer and the aunt of Daria and Quinn Morgendorffer. She is quite popular with fans of the TV series and has often appeared in Daria fanfic as a support giver for Daria Morgendorffer. Her roles and appearances in fanfiction are many times greater than her appearances in Daria (three total).
Getting the Barksdale Timeline Straight
Amy Barksdale is the youngest Barksdale sister, behind Rita (the oldest) and Helen. Glenn Eichler said in an interview that at the time of "I Don't," when Daria was 16, Rita was "about 48-49," Helen "45-46," and Amy "about 40." This estimate is roughly consistent with the dates in Richard Lobinske's essay, "The Daria Temporal Analysis Project," but even chronological data from the show itself did not match up exactly.
We are reasonably sure that Helen was born in the summer of 1950, though she was likely 47 at the time of "I Don't," which probably took place in spring 1998 (before Helen's 48th birthday). Amy Barksdale would then have been born about 1958, give or take a year, and Rita about 1947-1948. This becomes important later in working out the major events of Amy's childhood.
Amy is a half-head taller than the 5'2" Daria, but she and her sisters are about the same height. She is shown with a trim but shapely hourglass figure in "I Don't" and "Through a Lens Darkly," with an oval face much like Daria's. However, her face becomes narrower and her figure thinner and less shapely in "Aunt Nauseam." Her thick, wavy hair falls to the bottoms of her shoulder blades and appears to be dark red in color in most images, though it could also be maroon or auburn. She keeps her hair parted in the middle, leaving her forehead bare. Her glasses have large round lenses almost exactly like Daria's, though she also uses contacts without the glasses. Pearl earrings decorate her ears, and she wears a necklace for formal occasions. Her coloration works best with autumn-toned clothing (rust, brown, beige, etc.), as does Daria's. Like her favorite niece, Amy appears to prefer pink lipstick.
More detail and images concerning the minor physical differences between the "Aunt Nauseam" Amy and the previous two can be found on the Daria Fandom Blog II at the top of the right column, in the first five posts (read in reverse order, by date).
It's been said that Amy Barksdale has mild amounts of psychological damage imposed upon her by her family. It becomes obvious from what she says that she was the forgotten baby of the Barksdales, always playing third fiddle against Rita's attractiveness and Helen's overachieving. She was largely ignored by her sisters, who constantly and ostentatiously struggled for attention from their parents. ("You didn't notice my sisters are so busy competing with each other that I don't even register on their radar?" she asks Daria in "I Don't.") Amy's mother, and possibly her father as well, strongly favored Rita; she also pressured the girls to be more like Helen, who had become an overachiever.
Amy, on the other hand, dropped out of sight. She remained "barricaded" in her bedroom and read "weird Russian novels" to avoid the conflicts with her sisters (per Rita and Amy "Aunt Nauseam") and possibly to avoid her parents as well, who paid her little attention and offered no appreciation for her achievements. To some extent, according to Helen, Amy used the other two girl's arguing as an excuse to avoid any "family responsibility".
The situation led, in Amy's own words to "years of bitterness and resentment" between all three siblings. "Nauseum" reveals that while she resents Rita being the favourite, she also resented Helen for showing them up and holds her in contempt for "nursing [her] childhood grudge" with Rita "well into adulthood". It's also Helen that gets the sharpest barb in "I Don't" - Amy's first words to Jake are to commend him for staying married to her - and the automatic (and correct!) assumption that Helen started an argument because she hasn't gotten over Rita getting a better car from Dad.
Amy also grew to resent her mother, and has effectively cut off ties with her, claiming she "never offered us the slightest bit of encouragement or appreciation".
As an adult, Amy is sarcastic to the point of rudeness when speaking with or about her sisters, even if she's talking to her nieces or her sisters' spouses/boyfriends. She says what's on her mind and doesn't care what anyone thinks of it. (In "I Don't," she feels "no particular obligation to listen to anyone else's B.S. Ever.") Her wit is quick but with a sharp, angry edge. Her lack of involvement in Barksdale family life has carried over to the point that Daria and Quinn barely recognize Amy when she appears in "I Don't." Amy can't recall whether Daria is in high school, college, "or something." She's deliberately remained out of the picture for decades, a willing and determined outsider who is always "out of place" when with her siblings.
In "Aunt Nauseam," Amy makes a curious comment. In response to Daria, who says: "Mom and Aunt Rita are on the brink of mutually assured destruction, Quinn's obviously having a nervous breakdown, and Dad's on the lamb," Amy says, "Gee, reminds me of my childhood." This suggests that Helen and Rita's frequent fighting caused their father to absent himself from the home to escape it, and it had a negative effect on their mother as well.
Amy appears to be bright, well-read, introverted, irreverent, prone to respond in an intellectual rather than emotional manner, and highly judgmental. Her smoldering anger over being the forgotten baby expresses itself as razor-sharp ridicule and scorn, delivered face to face. She prefers to dress casually but with style. Comfortably self-sufficient, she can travel far afield on vacations, such as to Hawaii. Her car is a flame-red late-1970s Triumph Spitfire convertible with the radio set to her favorite station. She does not appear to be married, and nothing is ever said about her previous (or current) romantic or sexual relationships. Her remark in "Through a Lens Darkly" about Ralph Fiennes implies she is (at least) heterosexual.
In many ways, Amy presents herself as what Daria could one day be, for good or ill. This point was made during "I Don't" and cemented in "Aunt Nauseam," when Amy got into a verbal fight with her older sisters in a way uncomfortably like Daria might someday do with Quinn, unless they found the means to get along. Quinn recognized this point well before Daria did. Though Amy and her sisters made up with each other at the end of "Aunt Nauseam," it is doubtful that four decades of hurt and rage will remain so easily buried.
To paraphrase something Canadibrit once wrote in a fanfic, Amy is the best indication that Daria is related to these people. That is likely why she has appeared way more often in fanfiction than she has in the series.
Beyond the three episodes in which she appears, we know almost nothing about Amy. That's probably the way she wanted it. She had no desire to share any part of her life with her sisters, except on her own terms.
A little can be guessed about her childhood. When she was born, Rita was about twelve and Helen was eight, both still in grade school. By the time Amy was ten (1968), both older sisters had already left home. Most of the fighting between Helen and Rita went on while Amy was in elementary school. If Amy was reading "weird Russian novels" at this time, she must have been (and still be) a genius. Perhaps after high school Helen and Rita came home for short visits, during which time Amy locked herself in her room to have uninterrupted reading. Amy grew into her teenage years with no one else in the house but her parents, who again did not pay much attention to her. What kind of life she lived until she graduated high school can only be imagined.
In his essay, Richard Lobinske deduces that Rita was married for the first time in December 1974 or January 1975. Helen and Jake were married in June 1975. Amy would have been 16-17 then. A year or two later, given the information in "Jake of Hearts," Jake's father died. When asked about the death of Amy, Helen, and Rita's father, Glenn Eichler thought he would have passed away "when Helen was about 30," which would be around 1980. Amy would then have been 22.
Mr. Eichler said in his interviews that he thought the Barksdales were from Virginia, a Southern state with a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Amy says in "Aunt Nauseam" that she drove "a few hours" to get to the Morgendorffer home, and the wedding for Rita's daughter Erin was not a long drive for the Morgendorffers. All three sisters and their mother probably live within a 200-mile wide circle, not terribly far from each other. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland suggest themselves as possible home states.
In "I Don't", Amy was last in contact with Rita before the death of her boyfriend Roger - she had no contact after that death and is unaware it happened. She can identify Daria and Quinn on sight, but is unsure how old she is; she hasn't spoken to Helen and Jake in a long enough time to 'joke' that she's amazed they're still married.
Appearances in Daria Episodes
In "I Don't," Amy attended Erin's wedding, then escaped with Daria to get cheese fries and, more importantly, implicitly suggest that there's a place for one of Daria's mindset in the real world after all. In "Through a Lens Darkly" she gave advice about Daria's wearing contact lenses. Finally, in "Aunt Nauseam," Daria called her in to mediate between Rita and Helen. Amy ended up, to the surprise of many viewers, adding more fuel to the fire until Daria and Quinn saved the day.
Presumably due to her similarity to Daria, Amy proved to be very popular for fanfiction writers, despite her appearances in the series being rare and ambiguous.
The most common stereotype, particularly in fanfics written just after Season Two in the TV series, is Saint Amy. Amy Barksdale is believed to have developed a special relationship with Daria in "I Don't" and "Through a Lens Darkly," offering her advice and moral support. In certain ways she appeared to be a grown-up version of Daria herself (see their mirrored images in "I Don't"). This has been taken to the extreme in fanfiction, leading to situations in which Amy rides in like the cavalry to rescue Daria from bad situations. (Amy even says, "The cavalry has arrived!" in "Aunt Nauseam.")
However, in "Aunt Nauseam," Amy tries and fails to make peace between her sisters, prompting Daria to remark, "So, then, after Aunt Amy arrived to save the day and within three minutes had totally regressed into the same preschool encounter group as her sisters...." The notion that Amy could "save the day" was not inherent in the episodes where she appeared; in "I Don't," she and Daria merely bonded, while in "Through a Lens Darkly," she advised Daria to get contact lenses (which Daria ultimately discarded). Where did the writer of "Aunt Nauseam" get the notion that Amy could "save the day"? Possibly from Daria fanfiction or fan comments.
Related to the Saint Amy theme is Maternal Amy, in which she either has a baby or else acts in loco parentis for Daria because Jake and Helen are either dead, absent, or otherwise unable or unwilling to raise her. The best example is the Amy Barksdale of Kara Wild's Driven Wild Universe, who has a baby with her live-in boyfriend, Joel Silverman. Amy proves herself a good if occasionally exasperated mother. Perhaps the best Maternal Amy story in this series is Ms. Wild's "Mother's Milk."
In this same vein, Amy gets married to a wealthy Air National Guard pilot, Maurice 'Reese' Wyatt, in Brother Grimace's "A Path of Roses and Thorns," a Dariaverse crossover with Richard Lobinske's Falling into College series. Amy inherits twin girls from Wyatt's previous marriage and becomes a beloved stepmother to them both. (She is more than a bit of the Saint Amy here.) Amy gets married and has children in Richard Lobinske's "Alien Heritage."
Amy takes Daria directly under her wing in a number of stories. In Richard Lobinske's "Misery's End," Daria's parents and sister perish after ingesting the "glitter berries" in "The Teachings of Don Jake." Amy moves into the Morgendorffers' home and acts as guardian for her niece. A similar situation unfolds in "Quinnts," with Daria often staying with her aunt in an apartment. In this case, however, Daria's parents are overly concerned with their world-famous quintuplet Quinns, who have successfully pushed Daria out of the nest and hijacked most of the attention their parents might have given Daria.
Further afield we have a group of stories in which Amy actually becomes Daria's stepmother by marrying (gasp!) Jake Morgendorffer. The champion of this class of tales is either the startling "It Stays in the Family," by BlackWolfhound; the amusingly offbeat "Big Jake's Harley-Davidson," by Ranger Thorne; or the angsty "Surprises," by Legendeld. A number of fanfics have people mistake Daria for Amy's child (e.g., "It Stays in the Family" again, and Thomas's "It's a Wonderful Life, Not," in which Jake and Amy once again get married). A curiosity here is the AU in which Amy marries Vincent Lane and becomes mom to the Lane kids (Brian Taylor's startling "Through a Closet, Darkly").
A trope-breaking version of this appears in "It Slipped Through My Hands, Like a Shadow, Like a Dream," in which Amy eventually becomes overwhelmed dealing with a mentally retarded Daria who has received little love and affection from her parents or sister.
This one was traditionally a reaction to Amy's fandom sainthood: deliberately pointing to her flaws, or creating new ones, to create an Amy that could be less saintly or even an outright bitch. Longer fics that have done this include "It Slipped Through My Hands, Like a Shadow, Like a Dream" by TAG and the Driven Wild series. Shorter ones include "I Don't, Honest" by JoeMerl, Amy's debut scene done with everyone talking honestly about their motives and thoughts.
Amy of the Undefined Job
One issue with which a number of fanfic writers wrestled was Amy's occupation. What exactly did she do? Kara Wild (in the Driven Wild Universe) suggested that she was an art appraiser, an idea that was adopted by other writers, such as Greystar in his The Longest Year series. Peter Guerin's fanfics portrayed her as an intrepid reporter, while Richard Lobinske set her up as a college professor at Tennyson University in the Falling Into College series and as a magazine writer in "Misery's End." Show creator Glenn Eichler offered his own suggestions (see "External Links").
There are more unusual occupations, however, which fanfic writers have not hesitated to apply to Amy Barksdale's life. Amy has only herself to blame for keeping so much of her life out of public view. The following tropes explore the Extreme Amy.
Amy the Spy
The Abruptly Amy parody brought forth the intriguing notion that Amy was secretly a spy. This trope has been taken up elsewhere (e.g., The Angst Guy's "Prayers for a SAINT" and "Invisible Planet"). Brother Grimace parlayed this even further in "It's All About Respect," where the insinuation was made that Amy was part of a special-operations group with the U.N. (However, Brother Grimace has retconned his works to bring this Amy into line with the Falling Into College series.) This latter Amy has been brought into Doggieboy's post-atomic war series, "Apocalyptic Daria."
Amy the Wicked Adventuress
An unusual characterization that is occasionally seen is the Amy who has gone bad in an eye-popping, over-the-top way. Most famous of these tales is probably Ranchoth's "Janissaries," in which Daria, directing "public relations" for Cobra, abruptly discovers her aunt is an infamous supervillain at the same moment that Amy recognizes Daria, too. Also of note here is the mad scientist Amy of Wyvern337's "Monsters" and assassin Amy of "Outcasts from Beyond."
Amy Barksdale's facial appearance becomes narrower and more angular (and less Daria-ish) between her two earlier appearances in the series and her final appearance in "Aunt Nauseam." Why this happens has never been determined. (It was an animation error, yes, but fans want an in-story explanation for everything.) Her bust also appears to undergo a dramatic reduction in "Aunt Nauseam." (Or maybe it's just the sweater she's wearing.)
In "Through a Lens Darkly," Daria asks her aunt if she wants a picture of Daria with her new contacts. Amy replies, "Either that or a shot of Ralph Fiennes. Whichever." In "Aunt Nauseam," Rita Barksdale initially says she cannot visit Helen because "I promised Ralph—you know, the actor I've been dating—I promised to take him to New York for his birthday, maybe catch a play or two." Did Rita steal Amy's secret heartthrob?