Tired Daria Fandom Tropes

From DariaWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This page could benefit from an old-timer's input. Please see the discussion on the talk page.

The Tired Daria Fandom Tropes are those identifiable and worn plots, character types, argumentative moves, and figures of speech in Daria fanwork and fandom itself. As Jesus said of the poor, they will always be with us; hence this guide. Many weary tropes are often resurrected as Dead Daria Fandom Arguments in message-board threads and chat rooms.

Contents

Origin of the term

A trope is a term from literary criticism derived from the Greek noun τρο´πος meaning variously turn, way, direction, manner, so "trope" in writing on literature designates the category of identifiable turns or types of plot, character, argument (figure of thought), or figure of speech.

General considerations

Just because a trope has become tired over time doesn't mean that it was always tired; for example, there may have been striking examples of stories where Daria is all powerful, but that sort of story became tired through repetition. Vice versa, some tropes may have seemed ill-conceived from their first appearance, but after a while one shining example emerged; however, the ubiquity of the inferior samples made the trope tired before its time.

Furthermore, a present-day author might still try to resuscitate a well-known tired trope by bringing a fresh interpretation - unfortunately, many of these tropes have been tried so many times that new stories in the same vein are challenging tasks.

Tired plots in Daria fanfic

The Daria & Trent shipper

With Season One of Daria, it was clear that Daria had a crush on Trent that was more or less fully realized by "Road Worrier." Since late Season One, Daria fans have tried to match Daria and Trent romantically, even after it was made clear by Glenn Eichler in "Jane's Addition" that Daria and Trent would have been incompatible.

From Invisigoth Gypsy to Diane Long to Michelle Klein-Hass, many of the earlier Daria writers could be considered "'shippers" or "relationshippers"—writers interested in seeing this "obvious" relationship reach its conclusion. Even after "Jane's Addition," fanfiction writers like Ruthless Bunny wrote of Daria/Trent relationships, basically as "what might have been" exercises, taking incompatibility issues into account. The "'shipper" contingent remained active until the earlier writers dropped out of the fandom and newer writers who entered the fandom later and had foreknowledge that Daria and Trent were doomed as a couple decided to explore Daria in other relationships. However, even some recent writers, such as Sleepy Lotus, continue to produce Daria/Trent shipper stories.

As with anything taken to extremes, early relationship writing ranged from the lachrymose to the melodramatic to the inept to the (occasionally) thoughtful. Most of the early Daria/Trent writing was quite poor and is frankly best forgotten, or was written in the middle of the series when the full scope of the mutual incompatibility of Daria and Trent was neither recognized nor made explicit. Today, there are very few writers who write with an eye to pairing Daria and Trent as a couple.

The Daria / Jane slash fic

One of the long-debated questions in Daria fandom is "Are Daria and Jane homosexual?" Any strong friendship between two same-sex members in the media will lead to speculation that the friendship is more than just a friendship. Even though writer Glenn Eichler and longtime fans like Martin Pollard have given well-reasoned arguments as to the contrary, those fans who either disagree with those conclusions, or simply want to see a same-sex romantic relationship explored in the Daria setting have taken this friendship to what they see as the "ultimate" conclusion. (See: Gabrielle/Xena, whose every-third-story-a-slash has made Gabrielle/Xena fan fiction a bad joke.)

This potential pairing has been explored in a number of ways, and viewed from multiple chronological vantage points, from the coming out of one of the characters to the other to a look at both characters several years into a committed relationship. It has been written both as romance and as one-hand-typing pornography. It it also considered an "easy" pairing by writers such as CINCGREEN, who has wondered if a Daria/Jane pairing does not take into account several facts:

  • 1. One can rarely sustain a relationship with one's first love, and
  • 2. Daria does not make much of a romantic partner.
  • 3. Daria and Jane might be incompatible.

Still, the Daria/Jane slashing persists, instead of less obvious slashing like Helen/Amanda, or perhaps male slashing like Kevin/Upchuck, each of which sadly goes unwritten while we read the 367th variation of a Daria/Jane relationship.

Daria triumphs over all odds

Much of Daria Triumphant fan fiction comes from the influence of Season One and Two episodes, in which clever Daria easily undoes the evil of a handful of dim-witted enemies like Ms. Li, Quinn, the Amazon Modeling Agency, and whomever Glenn Eichler and company decided to write about. It might have further been influenced by The Look-Alike Series, a fanfiction series written by Canadibrit whose protagonist, Lynn Cullen, took triumphalism to unheard-of heights.

Most of this fanfiction was written while Season One and Two were still on the air. Very little fanfiction is now written in which Daria makes defeating an annoying presence as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

The Daria Triumphant trope is very closely related to the Genius Daria stereotype, for obvious reasons.

Quinn gets raped

According to CINCGREEN, there are four components to what is called melodrama (what in some quarters might be called angst):

  • a sensational, "movie of the week" topic
  • the building of suspense
  • the use of coincidence to move the plot
  • a moral which more or less reaffirms the "forbidden maxims" of society. These maxims may be opposed to the beliefs to which society gives lip service.

Any story written which is centered around Quinn's rape certainly satisfies the first of those criteria: such a story would be the very definition of sensationalism. Two authors have written stories where Quinn is raped and attempt to explore the consequences: "So Turns the Wheel" by Michelle Klein-Hass and the better-known "Sins of the Past," by Martin Pollard.

In general, the stories of both Klein-Hass and Pollard were so well received that, in effect, the topic could no longer be explored: any further attempt to write a portrayal of a Daria character being raped would be compared to much-more well-known and well-received stories, and the concept was effectively dead as fan fiction material.

Quinn deserved to be raped

In general "rapefic" is not well received in this fandom, for obvious reasons, particularly if such rapes are explicit and occur as part of the story narrative. However, for a long time, Pollard's "Sins of the Past" had the reputation of being a well-told story.

In summer of 1999, Kara Wild wrote an essay, "On the Subject of Quinn and Rape." Although relatively mild compared to the criticism that would follow, her essay took Pollard, Klein-Hass, and Peter Guerin to task for seeming to validate the notion that rape could redeem Quinn. She argued that the reverse was just as likely, and pointed to John Berry's My Quinn's Delayed Reaction as an example of a way Quinn could redeem herself without experiencing violence. In response, Klein-Hass was horrified that her work might be interpreted as a justification for rape, while Pollard admitted to Wild that he could see her point of view. Klein-Hass would later amend "So Turns the Wheel" to eliminate the "rape redemption" element.

Around 2000-2001, Blue Balls (later revealed to be Crazy Nutso) wrote an essay that also addressed "Sins of the Past" and "So Turns the Wheel." His essay was more in-depth and damning in its language.

In 2002, CINCGREEN wrote an essay called "Controversy More Than Ever" in which he accused Pollard of making the implicit argument in "Sins of the Past" that Quinn deserved to be raped. In the essay, CINCGREEN makes the argument that in Pollard's point of view, Quinn's sin was leading boys on. The essay sparked furious discussion at the PPMB, where the argument between Ruthless Bunny and Pollard became so acrimonious that Ruthless Bunny pulled her fiction from Outpost Daria simply to deny Martin Pollard as website owner the right to post it. This was one of the factors in Ruthless Bunny leaving Daria fandom.

Pollard's position was that he certainly did not intend to make such an argument, and any interpretation contrary to his intention is an incorrect interpretation. He has declined further comment about the story, but still hosts it at Outpost Daria. Pollard, however, wrote no fan fiction since completing "Sins of the Past" until beginning "What Happens in Vegas...." near the end of 2009.

Tired characterization in Daria fan fic

Tom is evil

Since the arrival of Tom Sloane, there have been fans that did not care for the new character designated to be Jane's boyfriend. After The Kiss, the dislike of some Daria fans for Tom Sloane boiled over to outright hatred. Perhaps part of the hatred was in the way that Tom cheated on Jane and perhaps part of the hatred arose from the fact that a Daria/Tom relationship put a big dent in the hopes of Daria/Trent relationshippers to match Daria with her earlier crush. Part of it might have been pure disappointment in Daria, too, as she had claimed such a high moral standard before.

As Tom Sloane's character was poorly defined, serving no other purpose than to be Jane's (and later Daria's) boyfriend, some fan fiction writers created a Tom Sloane who either through malign indifference or through design allowed the events of The Kiss to happen. As such a shockingly indifferent (or maliciously devious) person would not be a nice person per se, the fanfiction stereotype of "Evil Tom" was created.

In such fanfiction, Daria and/or Jane must contend against the machinations of Evil Tom. Perhaps they are unaware of such machinations, perhaps they learn the truth, but Evil Tom is the master manipulator. After a while, hatred in some quarters of Tom Sloane had become so great that Evil Tom Sloane was called "Evil T(h)om," suggesting that this Tom Sloane incarnation could almost be considered a different person from the canon character.

Recent interpretations of Tom Sloane's actions suggest that Tom acts the way he does because either a) he's totally clueless as to the real world consequences of his actions, or b) he manages to justify what he does in the service of some intrinsic or extrinsic "greater good." He's still evil, though.

Daria is omnicompetent and damn near omnipotent

Stories of this type (a.k.a. Daria Triumphant) borrow heavily from the portrayal of Daria in Seasons One and Two, where Daria defeated the machinations of foes who were no match for her wit or brainpower.

As Daria writers explored further variations on this theme, Daria's opponents in early Daria fanfiction were not so easy to defeat as Kevin or Ms. Li. As little was known about Daria, many early writers fell into the temptation of granting Daria whatever competence it took to defeat her opponent. Daria sometimes had knowledge of firearms, obscure forms of martial arts, homemade explosives making, Internet hacking, Latin, or whatever esoteric skills that would not only ensure her victory, but make her look damn cool in the process.

However, as further was learned about Daria as the series went on, the temptation to portray Daria as an action movie heroine diminished proportionally. Daria is no longer given competencies beyond that expected of an intelligent high school student, and if she has greater competencies, they are explored appropriately.

"Cold Daria"

This is the concept that Daria is too cold and/or emotionally distant or damaged to successfully have a romantic relationship without significant changes to her personality. In the earliest years of the fandom, some fans and writers assumed that Daria had been the victim of sexual assault in the past and as a result preferred no one invade her personal space (e.g., see Daria: The OAV's). This plot twist reappears on occasion (e.g., TAG's "Daria 2007: The Girl from Hope" and NightGoblyn's "The Misery Chicks").

Jane is always trying to set Daria up with Trent

Since "Road Worrier," when it was obvious—at least to Jane—that Daria liked her older brother Trent, the first three seasons often had Jane teasing Daria about her affection for the lead singer of Mystik Spiral.

Earlier Daria fans—most often "'shippers"—carried Jane's teasing one step further, and in those stories, Jane actively conspires to bring her older brother and her best friend together. (Jane is usually paired with Jesse, making two happy couples.) In bad fiction of this type, Jane's machinations become quite involved and every comment Jane makes to Daria seems to refer to Daria's romantic discomfort. This interpretation and these stories were so common that this version of Jane is now called "Yenta Jane," after the name of the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof.

When "Jane's Addition" diminished the prospects for a Daria/Trent relationship, this type of fiction quickly fell out of fashion, even though relationshippers continued to fanwork a Daria/Trent coupling, but one without Jane's heavy-handed involvement.

Daria and Jane will be freakin' friends forever and ever

Some Daria stories have Daria and Jane remaining friends even in adulthood, sometimes going so far as to live together or at least in the same town. However, as Daria and Jane grow older, it is unlikely that their personalities will change in similar ways, and the prospect that they might fall into acquaintanceship, or even lose touch with each other as adults is not an insignificant one. Still, the rule with fan fiction writers seems to be "As Daria goeth, so goeth Jane," even though both are in their nineties.

Helen is a vicious bitch

Helen Morgendorffer in Seasons One and Two was treated by the Daria writers as a more inflexible character than in later seasons, one opposed to many of Daria's goals, particularly the goal of being let alone. Helen was invariably trying to push Daria into being more social and taking more of a part in school activities (re: her conversation with Daria about masks in Is It Fall Yet?), but Helen became more relaxed in later seasons, sometimes giving Daria good advice and trying to help her daughter ("Dye! Dye! My Darling"), if not always successfully.

As writing stories about a character who wishes to be left alone is difficult, many stories have Daria forced into doing something she doesn't want, and in the early history of Daria fan fiction, the opposing force was her mother, Helen Morgendorffer. Sometimes, this characterization of Helen as antagonist was carried to extremes, with Helen the Queen Hell Bitch on Wheels.

Sometimes, Helen's goal in fanfiction was to have Daria be more like Quinn. (This goal is often not stated explicitly.) More that one story was written about Helen believing that Daria needed psychiatric help to change her sullen and cynical personality. These stories involved Helen committing Daria to the type of institution that was closed in the 1750s. In these stories, Helen is at her preachy and domineering worst, not willing to consider anyone else's opinion but her own, implicitly trusting in authority and giving that authority power to turn all of its force against her daughter. Helen's interpretation as the Ultimate Evil Mother has diminished since the airing of episodes such as "I Don't" and "Psycho Therapy," which made Helen a more sympathetic character.

Daria is a supermodel beneath the glasses

In the episode "Quinn the Brain," Daria dresses like Quinn and pretends to seek popularity and beauty (for approximately 15 seconds) to keep Quinn from infringing on her intellectual turf. However, the sight of Daria sans glasses and wearing less gloomy clothes sparked the conceit that Daria was secretly a knockout.

Works of fiction like Nemo Blank's "Retrograde Girl" actually had an amnesiac Daria become a successful model once away from the "manstopper glasses" (term by Brother Grimace), orange T-shirt and boots. Other characters had Daria win a beauty contest or forced Daria to wear sexy clothes to compel her to realize how attractive she really was. The belief that Daria could be very good looking if she'd just try is still so strong that an Iron Chef challenge was issued in 2006 which required Iron Chef writers to work with the limitation that Daria makes herself over, but doesn't become more beautiful.

A defense of the "supermodel beneath the glasses" trope

Although this is a "tired" trope, it does have merit when viewed in canon and with common sense. As seen in "Quinn the Brain," while Daria does dress like Quinn, she does not seek popularity and beauty.

It could be argued that the most logical reason for Quinn giving up her intellectual facade in the episode (signified by Quinn darting out into the hall, where she tells a waiting Daria, "You win, all right?") is that Quinn recognizes in Daria what Daria has always recognized in her: that each has qualities about that the other has chosen to emphasize, yet are still evident to anyone who notices. (Helen, as well as any boy whose name begins with T, could be said to have noticed that Daria is attractive but has chosen to deliberately downplay those looks, while Daria, David Sorenson, and Sandi Griffin are all aware of Quinn's innate intelligence (and the fact that she does not try to capitalize upon it in favor of her looks).

This could also be argued by Daria's most recognizable feature: her glasses. As the episode "Through a Lens Darkly" demonstrates, Daria uses her glasses as a barrier against social interaction. She does the same with her entire wardrobe, to a certain extent; it could be said that she also does this in order to demonstrate the differences between herself and Quinn. This line of thought is seen in the works of Richard Lobinske in the Last Summer and Falling Into College fanfic series, and it is the primary plotline of the FiC Year One episode, "Freshman Spread."

Furthermore, we see how this image permeates even the pilot episode "Esteemsters." The Morgendorffers moved to Lawndale, it seems, early in the school year. Considering that the family has moved across the country to a superior environment, one would think that Daria would feel somewhat less insecure about her appearance and therefore less reason to armor herself against possible interaction. Instead, she actually changes her glasses from the frames seen during her days in Highland to her trademark "manstopper glasses," unique for their ability to not only obscure her natural attractive features but to do so by projecting the stand-offish persona commented on by Ms. Li. It is possible, given her waifish physical appearance and the personalities of certain males in Highland (such as Todd Ianuzzi), that Daria's entire persona is the result of her long-term attempts to try and make herself as unattractive as possible in order to not be considered an object of male attention and possibly the victim of a sexual assault (e.g., see "Cold Daria").

In any event, the trope is tired only if the writer chooses to make Daria's appearance sudden and without paying tribute to the character's history and backstory.

Daria is already a great writer

Everyone from Diane Long to Scissors MacGillicutty have written tales of an alternate future where Daria is well known as a writer. She can be a novelist, a magazine writer, a newspaper columnist, anything that has the potential for earning fame and fortune.

Of course, we have no idea as to the true scope of Daria's writing talent. Daria's story for Musings was rejected in "The Story of D," but the rejection letter was not a form letter—indicating that the editors saw some point in reading it through. She can reduce Mr. O'Neill or her mother to tears with her writing, but that requires no great talent. And the Melody Powers stories are undoubtedly for a limited audience.

One suspects that stories which hypothesize that Daria will grow up to be a writer have no idea how little money a writer makes.

Jane is already a great painter

There are much fewer stories where Jane Lane has reached the top of the artist world, or at least a comfortable position in it.

Oddly enough, there is more evidence that Jane is a talented artist than evidence that Daria is a talented writer. Whereas one can't convey writing talent by reading prose on a screen, the animators of Daria could let their imaginations shine, giving Jane noteworthy ability as a painter, sculptor, graphic artist, or whatever the situation required. Jane is already talented enough as an artist that by her senior year of high school she is able to sell "knockoff" paintings of artists like Van Gogh, so close to the originals that it would take someone with above-average art knowledge to notice the difference.

Most likely, fan fiction writers shy away from an in-depth exploration of Jane's successful art career for the same reason the cartoon shied away from examining Daria's writing talent -- given the choice of medium, those intricacies are difficult to convey.

The source of both Daria The Great Writer and Jane The Great Painter undoubtedly come from assuming that some talent of a protagonist will lead to a successful career. Jodie and Quinn seem to be used in this manner, with Jodie some successful businesswoman and Quinn involved in fashion. Even Future Mack has ended up a pro football player in some stories.

At least one member of the Fashion Club has anorexia or bulimia

Usually, the member is Tiffany due to her apparently slower mental capacity and common inquiry of "Does this make me look fat?", but another member of the Fashion Club could be chosen based on story needs. In many cases with this trope, the author assumes that giving one or more of the Fashion Club an eating disorder is automatically believable (because of their goals of beauty and popularity) and uses the trope as a crutch to make the character(s) instantly sympathetic without developing much of a backstory. When the author relies on this without further justification, the story tends to suffer.

Mystik Spiral is a practice session away from the big time

Once again, the assumption by many fans is that if a character has skill in some area, that skill will lead to a successful career. However, in some cases, it is assumed that Trent Lane and his band mates in Mystik Spiral have enough raw talent to make it in the music industry, given the right breaks and the mastering of the open "D" tuning.

This view ignores a few facts: that Daria (and sometimes Jane) have been critical of the band's overall talent, that Trent takes the same approach to practice as he does to work in general, and that the snippets of Spiral songs from the series are rather unimpressive. The only polished song of Mystik Spiral's, "Freaking Friends", is played during the intermission of Is It Fall Yet? While the guitar playing of Jesse Moreno stands out, Trent's vocal interpretations are as leaden as ever.

Still, fan writers from Michelle Klein-Hass to Ruthless Bunny have written future tales with either Trent or Mystik Spiral possessing enough talent to eke a successful living from their music.

Tired arguments about Daria the show and Daria fandom itself

"It was all downhill after season two"

As stated earlier, Seasons One and Two could be seen as the "Daria Triumphant" years. Some of the best writing of the show came from Seasons One and Two, and these were the seasons in which Daria was the most sure of herself, and in which her opponents were clearly no match for her intelligence or her sharp tongue. The last episode of Season Two, "Write Where It Hurts", is considered one of the best episodes of Daria ever.

There was never any discussion that Daria might have suffered some precipitous decline in quality -- "jumped the shark" -- until Episode 207, "The New Kid". Many fans were angered by the potential pairing of Ted DeWitt-Clinton with Daria, and were quick to show their anger. Some fans even speculated that the character of Ted was a negative portrayal of fans in general!!

Season Three started strong with "Through a Lens Darkly" but, in the eyes of many fans, the last three years of Daria did not match the high expectations set by its first two strong seasons. There was much to complain about. The episodes "Daria!", "Depth Takes a Holiday" and "Murder, She Snored" challenged basic assumptions regarding what was canon and what was non-canon. Episodes that were considered parodies of other TV programs or movies like "The Lawndale File" or "Just Add Water" were roundly panned.

The arrival of Tom Sloane in "Jane's Addition" was the beginning of a long dramatic arc that culminated with the Daria-Tom-Jane triangle of "Fire!"/"Dye! Dye! My Darling"/"Is It Fall Yet?." Many fans hated Tom Sloane and hated both the circumstances and the conclusions drawn from the romantic pairing of Daria with Tom and how it affected the Daria/Jane relationship.

By Season Five, Daria was a different person than the Daria of Seasons One and Two. She had learned to challenge her rigid beliefs about life and other people, but fans interpreted this new Daria as timid and hesitant. The unhappiness in fandom regarding the Daria/Tom relationship had not abated, and many claimed that Daria was not only the weaker partner but also particularly whiny and annoying in her expectations. "My Night at Daria's" and "Is It College Yet?" marked the end of the Daria/Tom relationship -- but also, the end of the series.

Fans such as Daniel Suni made it clear that they considered the Daria of later seasons to be a betrayal of Seasons One and Two. (Suni would leave the fandom after Season Four, unable to tolerate the Daria-Tom-Jane triangle.) Many fans see the Season One and Two Daria as the "real" Daria and find the Daria of later seasons disappointing.

On the other hand, later fans often see the Daria of later seasons of a much more complex and richer character than the "Daria Triumphant" character of Seasons One and Two. Many fans prefer to "write" the Daria of later seasons, which allows them to not only use Tom Sloane as a character but to provide a more flexible interpretation of characters like Helen Morgendorffer.

However, the general consensus seems to be that the writing of Seasons One and Two was better than the writing of later seasons. Whether or not this means that "it was all downhill" is a matter of interpretation.

"It was all downhill after The Kiss"

Curiously, there is evidence that some fans thought the show went downhill when Ted DeWitt-Clinton appeared in "The New Kid" (see this reference). Situations in which Daria is depicted as less than competent in the romance sphere are not well received at first. More to the point, the fandom survived Daria's mortifying behavior during The Kiss quite well, and thanks to alternate universe stories and a sense of humor, has prospered despite it.

"Any perceivable flaw in the show is really a sign of how well made it is"

Some Daria fans over the years have held the opinion that perceived weaknesses in the show, such as the lack of evidence that Daria suppressed strong feelings for Tom from "I Loathe a Parade" until "Dye! Dye! My Darling," were done that way by design and as such are extremely effective. For instance, this sort of fan might argue that the lack of insight into Daria's thoughts post-"I Loathe a Parade" made everything more exciting and suspenseful, and that Glenn Eichler was trusting that the fans would be able to fill in the blanks. Similarly, many of these fans dismiss arguments that there has been a break in quality or tone between the early seasons and the late ones, arguing that any changes only made the show better.

These sentiments were strongest prior to Kara Wild's interviews with Glenn Eichler, who spoke at length about the decision making involved in producing the show.

"Daria fandom isn't what it used to be"

Well, duh. The show's over, what did we expect? While the series was running, fans had the luxury of anticipation, the excitement of The Great Unknown that would appear with the next showing of Daria. Now that the series is over, fans have the luxury of knowing how it all came out, seeing the full picture at last. This has had a profound effect on the fanfic that's been produced. Everyone knows Daria isn't going to go out with Trent, Daria and Tom aren't a couple anymore, and Daria and Jane are going to college together in Boston. There are pros and cons either way.

And, sadly, fans do come and go. It is painful to watch a well-liked contributor lose interest and move on to other things, like getting married, raising a family, or getting into gay G.I. Joe porn, but it happens. New fans come in, the fandom is revitalized, and the showboat paddles on. It happens in every fandom. Try to imagine how Star Trek fandom has changed over the decades.

"Daria fandom is dying"

Now that Daria has been axed and has also been run and axed on two networks other than MTV, there is of course the perception that the fandom will in time fade away. The slow die-off of active fandom websites is also a concern. When it was announced in spring 2007 that Outpost Daria would no longer be updated (during the Great Daria Fandom Implosion of 2007), the shock was profound and served to drive a number of fans to update their own fledgling websites or start new ones.

In addition, a number of new authors and writers introduced themselves to the fandom, bringing with them a sense of renewal.

Daria fandom has appeared to have gotten a renewal by MTV's upcoming release of Daria: The Complete Animated Series, with over a quarter of million fans on the release's Daria World Facebook page. Whether a significant number of them will integrate into the traditional fandom is not yet known at this time.

"Unless a fic satisfies the set of criteria {α, β, γ, . . . } it isn't a real piece of Daria fan fiction"

It has been argued that Daria fan fiction must contain a persistent undercurrent of satire, and fan fiction that doesn't isn't any good. The same argument has been advanced in favor of eschewing science-fiction or fantasy themes, using scripts, and so on. Perhaps in-canon fanfics have the widest approval, but the show itself pushed the envelope for what could be presented.

"Script-fic vs. prose-fic"

For much of the history of the fandom, advocates of the two basic writing formats have debated the relative pros and cons of prose and script. At times, these debates have become heated and personal.

Many of the early and mid-period Daria fan fiction writers wrote in script form. Daria: The OAV's, The Lost Seasons, The Look Alike Series, and the Driven Wild Universe are written as long form scripts, with lines prefaced by the name of a character (usually in capital letters) and followed by a line of dialogue.

Some writers have made the argument that they prefer this style to prose writing for several reasons:

  • Daria is a dialogue-heavy show. Daria was animated, but did not take full advantage of the power animation had to offer. Essentially grounded in realism, Daria was conversation-driven and scripted dialogue gets to the heart of the characters' relationships with one another. By contrast, prose fics often rely on external events as a vehicle to advance the story.
  • The Daria characters are most "in character" in scripted format. Writing a script facilitates keeping Daria's lines sarcastic and sharp, as well as keeping Daria and Jane's back-and-forth dialogue true to the show. Otherwise, readers would not accept the story as believable.
  • Prose-fic often constrains the reader's use of their imaginations. Prose-fic, in essence tells the reader what he or she should be seeing...or thinking. The script form gives the reader maximum freedom to imagine and visualize for themselves.
  • Script writing generally requires greater writing skill than prose writing, particularly in handling the character dialog.
  • Natural conversational pacing is disrupted by the prose structure of extra, non-conversation text that's often required for each line of dialog.
  • For younger fan fiction writers with dreams of working in TV or movies, what better practice than writing fiction in script form? It might not be exactly like a real teleplay (which relies on strict rules of its own), but it will help you make your dialogue skills stronger, which would transfer well to a real teleplay.


During the early fandom debates over prose fiction versus script-form fiction, the prose writers had some rejoinders. Their arguments were:

  • Daria script fiction has only a limited relation to how a screenplay or movie script would be written. Music is not added in real scripts, nor are stage-blocking directions. Supplementary paragraphs are also not present. In effect, the script style that scriptfic writers praise is an artificial construct.
  • Prose writing generally requires a greater level of skill than that required for script writing.
  • In order to introduce new characters, the script fic writer must either add a brief narrative or develop new characters through conversations via contrived exposition. Since the visual element provided by a cinematographer is missing, these visual cues are added in ways which further break up the natural flow of the action.
  • Natural conversational pacing is disrupted in script stories as characters swap dialog line for line at an unknown tempo.


Currently, prose stories are more common than script. Over half of all fan fiction written now is prose fic, a reversal from the earlier days of fanfiction. Though given that the current output is smaller, it is unclear how great a shift has really occurred.

One could argue that the reason was, with the lack of new episodes, there was no reason to keep writing stories in episodic form, whereas when the show was still airing, an episodic script could be somewhat accepted as part of the show's canon. However, the biggest reason might simply be that Fanfiction.net, one of the largest fan fiction depositories on the Internet, started prohibiting scripted stories from being posted, its owners threatening to delete any that slipped through its doors. With only a few active Daria fan fiction sites besides Fanfiction.net, fans who wanted to try scripted format might have decided it wasn't worth the reduced exposure.

All in all, the argument is largely moot, as fine stories have been written in both script and prose; neither format needs to be excluded.

Some authors, such as Richard Lobinske, have combined elements of both script format into prose writing in an attempt to capture the dialog facet of script within the prose structure. Scissors MacGillicutty had a different rationale for combining prose with script in Where's Mary Sue When You Need Her?: a deliberate attempt to mimic early Daria fan fiction.

"Angst bad, canon good"

One argument is that the downside of the growth of prose fan fiction is that a lot of the show's trademark humor and low-key realism has become superseded by story lines that deal heavily with angst.

"Dariarotica bad, canon good"

In compliance with the famous Rule 34 - "if it exists, there is porn of it" - Daria fans who had naughty thoughts about the characters in question moved quickly to fill the vacuum, and sooner or later, Daria fandom would have its own set of erotic/pornographic Daria stories, known as Dariarotica.

Examples of early Daria erotica are few and far between. Wanting to maximize the size of the fandom by including its youngest members, there was an informal "no porn" rule in early Daria fandom. With the show on the air, fans did not want to call negative attention to themselves.

The advocacy of Daria pornography was set back greatly by the story "Ragged Denim," which despite its quality was received negatively by the fan community. The fact that the story was that of a Trent/Jesse relationship didn't help, as American culture as a rule finds male/male relationships more disturbing than female/female relationships for some inexplicable reason. Its author ended up withdrawing from Daria fandom partially due to the reception the story received.

However, Daria fans interested in writing erotica soon found safe havens, such as Daria After Dark and the Sheep's Fluff Message Board. In spite of a gradually changing attitude towards Daria erotica, the major Daria fan site (Outpost Daria) does not accept erotic works; this policy has not changed since its foundation 10 years ago.

Below are some possible foundations for the "Dariarotica Bad, Canon Good" trope:

  • Many writers simply have no interest in writing Daria erotica; thus Daria erotica didn't have the advantage of having as many excellent writers to champion it. The best erotic stories therefore are likely to be of lesser quality than that of non-erotic work.
  • Erotica is seen by many as a lesser genre of writing; a sort of "slum category" from which a Daria erotica writer might not escape. As a result, authors who might be interested in writing erotica shy away from it. (Or, as in the case of CINCGREEN, choose to write some or all of their erotica under pseudonyms.)
  • Many people dislike erotica and are not ashamed to say so. (This is their public position on the matter; what they do in private is impossible to determine.) The fact that one of the easiest ways to claim that one is a "moral" person is to hate erotica doesn't help matters and can intimidate new writers.
  • Public laws regarding child pornography have begun to expand their scope. Formerly, a child pornographer was one who created or purchased graphic and explicit media of child sexual acts; the definition is slowly being expanded to those who create art (such as cartoons) or write literature (such as fanfiction). The American legal definition of underage pornography requires that those depicted in media be unable to give consent. This definition includes any one under the age of eighteen.

Theoretically, all Daria fanfiction is child pornography unless the characters are explicitly stated to be at least eighteen. Future writers might see it as simply not being worth the potential trouble to create new Daria erotica works.

"Writers don't want real criticism/Critics can't take rebuttals"

Both of these arguments have been made at throughout the history of the fandom with highly variable levels of accuracy. It is an axiom of writing that the writer must have the emotional hide of a rhino to withstand some comments that will be offered about that writer's work, and a realistic review would offer many examples of fans who stop writing after being subjected to intense criticism.

The truth is, writers do want approval for their work. The whole point of writing fanfiction is for a fan to create fiction to be read by other fans. The better writers, however, want to improve, and they recognize that only by getting feedback will they become better writers. Alfred Hitchcock used to offer his wife and friends previews of his movies so they could pick out the parts that did not work, and Stephen King has a small, close circle of beta-readers who go over his work in the same manner. Posting your writing online in essence offers everyone in the world the chance to critique your material. The writer's tolerance for feedback will be tested time and again, and any writer who intends to stick around for long had better cultivate a system for dealing with the most pointed commentary.

"The fandom went downhill after this person left"

A variant of this claim is: "All the good people are leaving, so fandom must be going downhill!"

Since Daria fandom's early days, well-known fans have come and gone, often to be mourned by the remaining fans. Rowena Stubbs's decision to discontinue Planet Daria caused a panic amongst fans in fall of 1998, as her website was then the premiere Daria fan site. All wondered what would happen to the community, until Martin J. Pollard more firmly established his own website, Outpost Daria.

Another panic broke out in winter of 1999/early 2000 when Michelle Klein-Hass pulled down Lawndale Commons, right around the time C.E. Forman, fandom's (then) most celebrated fanfic author, announced that he would not finish Lost Season Two of The Lost Seasons series. Fans were truly convinced then that Daria fandom would never recover, until Pollard and the Paperpusher established their own message boards.

The conventional wisdom that everyone was "jumping ship" really took hold after Daria finished its run on MTV in 2001-2002. Some fans announced that they had nothing to stick around for, while several noted fanfic authors, like Nemo Blank, announced that they were writing their last fanfics ever. Many remaining fans were convinced that, with no fresh episodes, there would be nothing new to discuss, which meant Daria fandom would inevitably die out. While it is likely that the number of active members is fewer than when Daria was in its first run, fans have managed to find new topics or rally around new causes (like DVDaria). The fandom continues to pull through mass collapses (e.g., the Great Daria Fandom Implosion of 2007) and sail on, like every other fandom.

"The fandom went downhill after this person arrived"

[That would be me.—TAG]

External Links