: All recognizable characters are owned by Glenn Eichler and MTV; no infringement is intended, and no money is being made. Also, close paraphrasing and some verbatim use from various episodes, again, no infringement intended.A/N
: As there is no absolute definitive time line for the various seasons, I'm going to go with each of the first four seasons depicting a semester, with possible stretching forward or back to cover summers, and IIFY?, Season 5, and IICY? covering the summer before senior year through the summer after senior year. I may write beyond that, but that's where I'm placing things as far as that goes. If anyone can come up with anything more definitive, let me know, and I'm paying attention to the thread I started on this subject. Also, credit for Daria's verse goes to 45Ranger and Erin M. on PPMB.
"Daria, can I talk to you?" Quinn had just stuck her head inside her sister's door.
"Sure, but I'm going to have to charge you. Ten minutes might wipe out everything you got for Christmas." Daria smirked, then waved her hand. "C'mon in."
Quinn walked in and looked at all the books, the Taung Baby and human skull replicas, and shuddered as she sat down. She looked at her sister. "Listen, I know we haven't always got along -"
Daria cut in. "We have had pretty normal conflicts for sisters with wildly different interests. I'd like to think that we're getting better with each other, but time will tell if it's real or just a blip on the radar." She shrugged. "What's up?"
"Well, you see, it's about Sandi..." She went on to describe the latest goings-on in the Fashion Club, and how it was frustrating her. Finally, she ground to a halt.
Daria rested her chin in her hand. "Hmm. Let me see if I've got this right. You're in this fashion club, and it's frustrating you because it's becoming obvious to you that, for most of the others, being in the club is not about fashion. For Sandi, it's a combination of a way to wield power and a way to be popular; for Tiffany, it's all about the popularity, and for Stacy, it's about a group to fit into. None of them care enough about fashion to do more than consult the print version of an infomercial, and Tiffany and Stacy haven't found an issue that they disagree with Sandi enough on to stand up to her until now.
"Which brings us to you. You, when we first got here, were far more about being popular than fashion. I hate to say it, but that girl at the fair bursting your bubble about modeling did you a big favor, and you're concentrating on the parts that you really like, like making clothes. I'm proud of you, Quinn." Daria watched her sister beam. "Now, back to your problem. The first thing is, and this should be obvious to you, is that your priorities aren't the same as theirs, anymore."
"I know." Quinn sighed. "If it wasn't for Stacy, I think I'd have given up and left already. Every so often, I see a smart, conscientious, loyal friend in there, but Sandi keeps on bringing her down, keeping her off balance."
Daria nodded. "And Sandi, bad as she is, keeps you doing your best with the competition. The question is, is this something that you want to compete at, any more?"
Quinn shook her head. "There is no competition, as far as fashion goes. If they'd read something other than Waif
... But I'm pretty sure that I'm the only one that really wants to work in the fashion industry." She looked up at Daria, and her eyes shone. "It's so cool, Daria. Taking these different kinds of cloth, and making someone twice as pretty as she was before! Even more, being able to make
something pretty! Thank you, again, for that sewing machine!" She stopped and took a breath.
"As far as the popularity goes, I can more than hold my own, and after listening to what you had to say about some things, I looked around." Her smile turned into a frown. "The people at the very top of the popular heap get there in two ways. Most times they make themselves look like different things to different people, or, and sometimes and, they climb to the top over people that they've made fail. I don't like the thought of being either of those things."
"You'd rather be yourself, and let the chips fall where they may?" Daria interjected. Quinn nodded. "So I get that staying in the club is making you compromise your integrity. And, by the way, Sandi's been playing a game of her own, with this, 'Oh, Quinn, you're so much better, maybe you
should be president." She looked at her sister. "In poker, it's called, 'buying the pot,' and people like it about as much as you do. Even with rules to prevent the person with the most money to just bet more than anyone else has to win every pot, it means that that you have to decide whether to commit everything right at the beginning. And you're right, it's frustrating. But now that you've told me what your priorities are, there's a way around it. Now, the next time..."
The girls talked well into the evening.
Daria was working hard on her painting in Ms. Defoe's class. This was one class where her brain didn't entitle her to an easy A; she had to train her hands to do what her brain told them. So she didn't pay much attention when Ms. Defoe walked by her and said, "Good," and even less when Ms. Defoe asked Brittany if she had spilled her paint.
Hearing Principal Li and Mr. O'Neill come through the door did break her concentration. The pair stood near the door until Ms. Defoe noticed them, then Mr. O'Neill spoke.
"Is this a good time, Ms. Defoe?"
Ms. Defoe shrugged her shoulders. "Yes, come on in. Class, Ms. Li and Mr. O'Neill have some intriguing news."
"Lawndale High is participating in a state-wide art contest," Ms. Li bubbled.
"That's why we chose an art class to be the place to announce it," Mr. O'Neill said with a smile.
Ms. Li looked the class over. "The theme of the contest is 'Student Life at the Dawn of the Millennium.'"
"What's it like to be a high school student in today's fast-changing world."
Ms. Li nodded. "Entry is strictly voluntary, of course, although frankly, I don't see how any of you could think of passing up the chance to bring honor unto yourself and Lawndale High."
Jane leaned over near Daria. "Unto?"
Daria smirked. "Buckle my shoe."
Mr. O'Neill continued. "Ms. Defoe will choose the entries from each art class, and I'm contest coordinator for the school. Good luck, kids!"
Ms. Li smiled. "Students, I urge you to take this opportunity. Curiosity... inquiry... expression... these are the building blocks of education."
"Ma'am?" Brittany asked.
"No questions! Good luck, all!" Ms. Li responded before she left with Mr. O'Neill, as the bell rang.
"And that didn't undercut her last statement at all," Daria said to Jen, who had walked up to them from the other side of the room.
Brittany harrumphed. "I wanted to tell her I've got a great idea for a poster!"
Daria got an evil grin before she turned to Brittany and, with a somewhat vacant face, said, "Me, too. Mine's going to be about cheerleading."
Brittany looked crestfallen. "Oh, no! Now what'll I
Kevin, passing by, said, "How about something on quarterbacks, babe?" His suggestion was rewarded by Brittany stomping out.
As the girls were getting ready to go, Ms. Defoe motioned to Jane. "Jane, can you stay a minute?"
Daria and Jen waited at the door and listened in.
When Jane walked up to her, Ms. Defoe said, "Jane, I'm eager to see what all the students come up with for this contest."
"All the students who choose to participate," Jane riposted.
"But I really can't wait to see your entry," Ms. Defoe continued as though Jane hadn't spoken.
"Well, you know, I really don't think artists should compete with each other. See, I believe in a community of creativity."
"You're such an accomplished artist, and such an original thinker. If there's anyone in this school who can capture student life today, it's you, Jane. I just want to say, good luck."
Jane looked like she was going to ask for help from above, but, instead - "Thanks."
The girls were walking home, and Jane was complaining. "Dammit! Why did she have to be so nice? Now I have to come up with some stupid poster about student life."
"Where to start? There's so much to hate about it," quipped Daria.
The girls stopped.
"You know, nobody said the message had to be positive. I'm going to do something that really represents student life." Jane ran her fingers through her hair.
"Yes," Daria said.
"And tell the truth about how much it can suck."
"Yes," said Jen.
"To blow away the story-book fantasy about how great it is to be young."
"Yes." Daria again.
Jane looked at the other two. "And you're going to help."
"No," they chorused.
Soon they were in their usual positions in Jane's room. You gotta help me. You're the most negative people I know."
"Thanks," said Jen.
Jane tried pleading. "Come on! Now's your chance to tell the world what you really think of life at Lawndale High."
Daria looked up. "Tell the world that I, Daria Morgendorffer, have something to say."
Jane nodded. "Or you and Jen, but yes."
Daria looked back down. "No."
Still pleading, Jane said, "Come on!"
Daria looked over at Jen and sighed. "All right. We'll make our personal statement, and we'll stand behind it."
"I knew you would." Jane smiled.
"But only on condition of strict anonymity."
Jane smirked. "You're a real Joan of Arc, you know that?"
Jen groaned. "Yeah, and I think we just ordered a stake."
"How about we call it, 'America's Future Leaders,' and we just enlarge a picture of Kevin and Brittany?" asked Daria.
"Come on, that's too
depressing," Jane replied. "How about we call it, 'Beauty is only Skin Deep,' and we attach the actual skin of a student?"
"Yeah, but we'll get one donated about the same time that us three get married," said Jen.
Daria's face lit up. "Hey!"
Ms. Defoe was looking at the various students' paintings. "Well, it's very gratifying to see so much participation in the art contest," she said as she walked up to Upchuck. "Charles, what's the name of your poster?"
"I call it, 'Ride, Chucky, Ride'."
"And what exactly does it say about student life at the century's edge?"
"It's more of a personal mission statement," Upchuck smarmed.
"More like Mission, Impossible," muttered Daria.
Moving on, Ms. Defoe went to Brittany's canvas, which had a crude depiction of bottles of whiskey and pills. "Tell us about your poster, Brittany."
Brittany perked up. "I call it, 'Don't Drink or Take Drugs.' And the message is, don't drink or take drugs!"
Ms. Defoe looked puzzled. "But how do we get that message? All I see is the alcohol and the drugs, with no negative imagery to symbolize their dangers."
Brittany paused in thought, reached into her bag, took out a tube of lipstick, and proceeded to draw a large circle with a slash over the poster. "There!"
"Well, Brittany, that's... um... let's talk after class." Ms. Defoe walked up to Jane. "And Jane, what did you decide?"
Ms. Defoe looked at the poster, depicting what appeared to be a pep rally. "So beautifully detailed!" Football players and cheerleaders, in Lawndale colors, were dancing around and throwing wood on a huge bonfire, that seemed to be up against a building. Already on the fire was the effigy of a Halloween witch - pointy hat, wart on the nose, and all. Parents and boosters seemed to be clapping and pointing at the building. Next to the fire, there was a large window that showed two beautiful girls in ball gowns, and two dapper young men in tuxedos. Outside, two equally beautiful girls and two equally handsome boys were tied to stakes near the fire, with another two being carried up to a third stake. Then she read the card attached at the bottom:Look at them in the window
They're the belles as they twirl,
They're the men with a plan;
Look what happens when they show
That she's in love with a girl,
And he's in love with a man.
And now the bonfire is lit
As they let out a cheer
And the message is sent
"No dykes or fags here."
Ms. Defoe frowned. "Oh, Jane, I don't think that's funny."
"Um, you don't?" Jane said, searching for something to say. After Jen whispered into her ear, she responded, "It's not meant to be funny."
think that it's your place to pass judgment on people who do silly things, just because you don't?"
"But that's not what I'm saying at all...hold it..." Jane seemed confused again, and looked at Daria.
"What are you saying?"
Daria rolled her eyes. "She's saying that many activities, thought to be necessary for kids to be popular, like cheerleading and pep rallies, can become dangerous experiments in mob psychology. When you first see the picture, you say, 'what a nice pep rally - bonfire.' Then you catch the elements that make it a literal witch hunt, and that, among other things, the mob is taking down their so-called 'leaders,' the very popular, if they ever show that they're different."
Ms. Defoe raised her eyebrow. "Oh, is that what you're saying, Jane?"
Jane mumbled, "Pretty much."
"And you felt you had to say it in such graphic, unappealing language." At this, both Jane and Ms. Defoe looked at Daria, who sighed and pointed to Jen.
"The choice of words was deliberate, to contrast with the liveliness of the image and shock the viewer into paying attention to the parts that they might not have before," the blonde girl said.
Ms Defoe smiled. "You know what, Jane? This really is a work of art, and it really does make a statement, in an original way. I'd like you to let me enter it in the state-wide competition."
"And how does it sound to your collaborators?"
They nodded, while Daria muttered, "Next time we give you a prepared statement."
The three girls sat, not unexpectedly, in the principal's office the next day. As soon as they were seated, Timothy O'Neill began.
"Daria, Jane, Jen, this poster is beautiful!"
Ms. Li added her kudos. "Truly accomplished. A real credit to yourselves and Lawndale High."
O'Neill continued. "And the poem...an - interesting - counterpoint. Except..."
"Yes?" asked Daria in her traditional monotone.
"There's these two lines, and a part of the poster. Ewww." Mr. O'Neill shuddered.
"Yes?" Daria raised an eyebrow.
"I'm just wondering if you would consider changing the part about 'fags' and 'dykes.' They're kinda yucky."
"And if we could exclude the part to the right of the bonfire. It presents a distasteful picture to the student body. You know we wouldn't want people doing that." Ms. Li put in her two cents.
Daria tried to rein in her temper. "That's the point."
"So we're all on the same page!" Mr. O'Neill seemed pleased.
"What are you smoking?" asked Burnout.
"Look, our view is that a lot of high school is a popularity contest, egged on by the parents and other adults in the picture, where you are rewarded if you conform to the mob, but if you don't conform, even if you were leading the mob before, you will be dragged down and destroyed." Jane looked at the shocked look on Daria's face. "So it takes me a while."
"But they look so happy and active," Mr. O'Neill said. "Why not make the theme positive? 'Teamwork can get anything done!'"
Jen narrowed her eyes. "Boy, you really don't get it at all, do you?"
Daria sighed. "Look, I didn't even want to write this stupid poem. I don't care about what other people do by themselves. But if you change those lines and cut the poster, it becomes just another phony dishonest message. It'll applaud the same thing it criticized before. Don't you see that?"
Ms. Li chipped in. "Ms. Morgendorffer, is it a crime for people to have pride in their sports teams?"
Standing, Daria said, "Do whatever you want to the poster. Just take my name off it."
Also standing, Jane and Jen echoed her sentiments.
Ms. Li put her hands on her desk. "Now, now, ladies. Emotions are running high. Let's all take 24 hours to think about it, hmmm?"
Daria shook her head. "We don't need to. Ms. Li, you have three options. Either you take our names off the poster, you submit the poster exactly
as it is now, or you return the poster to us." She got out her cellphone. "Any other course of action will result in my calling my mother, who will then be on her way to winning another
lawsuit with the school district. I hardly think that the superintendent will thank you for that." She poised her thumb over the first speed dial button. "So which is it?"
gave in?" Trent's rough voice asked later that evening, as the three girls sat at a table at Pizza King, two pies sitting demolished in front of them.
Daria nodded. "She knew that my mom would sue the school and win, if she didn't. So she decided that her best bet was to enter it as it was. We'll see how that turns out, but I think that any painting by Jane, here," and she turned and kissed Jane on the cheek, "has a good chance of winning, and that's before Jen," and she kissed the blonde's cheek, "and I helped with the words."
Trent sat, flabbergasted. "You- you're -"
Daria smirked. "Gay? Yes. Jane's known since the second day after I moved here, and Jen, almost since we met." Her face morphed into its normal unreadability. "While we were putting together the poster, it occurred to me that one of the reasons witch hunts worked was that people were afraid of them. The mob almost always was chasing a fugitive, not defending itself from someone fighting them. So, while I'm going to do it slowly, because I am afraid, I'm going to be myself. The mob be damned."
Nods and murmurs answered her as they got up to head home.