Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Thanks for the Memories
With this post, the Daria Fandom Blog officially comes to an end.
Beginning tomorrow, August 1, I will begin deleting posts from the blog. For all of the archivists out there, you have 24 hours to make a copy if you have not done so.
... well, on the other hand, see this post’s comments. ~ G
Monday, July 09, 2007
Taking a Break
Tafka sent me a private message. While I’m not at liberty to divulge the contents, I will reveal this excerpt:
And some advice from a friend — take some much-needed break time. You’ll feel better for it.
I hadn’t actually asked Tafka for break time — I believe the comment was more like, “I think you need a vacation. Seriously.”
However, I intend to hang on to this advice like a drowning man hangs on to a piece of smoking lumber from a burning ship, and I shall indeed “take a break.” Possibly for a month, maybe more. Lest this be misunderstood as a plea for pity, I shall make it clear — it is not.
The parties involved in the argument will have to solve their own problems. No more HaloScan comments will be posted from this blog, unless one asks very politely — and I’m going to make every effort not to check the comments, lest my resolve break.
As for now, I’m getting out my Hawaiian shirt, packing my suitcase, and enjoying a rest — to my relief, and undoubtedly to everyone else’s.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
The View From Above
I escaped from Daria fandom about three years ago. By “escaped,” I mean I conquered my addiction. At first I can say that I was drawn to the fandom by the fiction, then the people, then the interaction of the people; and then I got disgusted and left.
The addictive nature of the Internet is well documented. Like gambling, the pay-off is intermittent. Human nature is to chase an experience that we once found pleasurable, even if in doing so we subject ourselves to stress and unhappiness. It seems that, again, Daria fandom is performing as advertised.
Last night, James told me about a situation on one of the boards. The short version being that some people were slagging some other people in a forum designed just for that purpose. The result was anger, hurt feelings, and various threats of people taking their equipment and going home.
Normally I smile politely and nod, usually while I am taking mental inventory of the pantry. Frankly, this stuff is boring these days. I don’t even know who the players are anymore. This time though, I did know the players, and I was repulsed.
First of all, I’d like to go on record about three of the four pivotal people in this drama. The first is Tafka. I like Taf and I pretty much always have. I find her intelligent, interesting, and frankly refreshing. I still have a lovely hand-drawn Christmas card that she made for me displayed in a prominent place in our house.
Like most people, there are two sides to Tafka. One is fun and a good friend, the other — not so much. I know that there are certain imbalances that can cause people to have two different personalities. Hopefully one is aware of these tendencies and one tries to head off the more problematic sides of one’s personality. Sometimes the “evil” side takes over and wreaks havoc.
I believe that Tafka gives herself over to these impulses too often. She gives herself license to do so under the guise of not being trodden upon. Sometimes she’ll attach herself to someone else’s cause and tilt at their windmill. Either way, it’s not pretty, nor is it productive.
The other person in the drama is NoNameJane, a.k.a. Cynigal. We were never friends, nor will we ever be. She is responsible for no content of any type; she weaves not, neither does she spin. Oh, so clever is Cynigal! It seems to me that she is an attention whore, probably stemming from having no self-esteem.
The other side of that same ugly coin is the contempt for others that she has, whereby she justifies her pitiable existence with the argument that she is just too smart for the rest of us.
The problem with stagnant intellect is that, like stagnant water, it becomes the breeding ground for all sorts of pests. In the years that she’s been floating around the fandom, she has produced nothing. She has the temerity, however, to dump all over people who are productive, both in the fandom and in society at large.
It is said that Cynigal/NNJ is a delightful person in real life. So that says something interesting about her. She comes to the fandom to use other fans as her whipping posts, and she’s a total pussy. It’s one thing to tell someone something to their face, and to stand by that opinion. It is quite another to slag someone behind their back, and when caught out in your bullshit, to then say: “Can’t you take a joke?”
There is no love lost between us, and that’s just fine by me.
The third person is E.A. Smith. He is a friend in real life. I don’t know him in the fandom, I only know him as a person. He is super-smart, a productive member of society, and he has good common sense. I can’t say the same of Cynigal, and I’m beginning to wonder about Tafka.
As for the fourth person, Deref, I don’t know him from a bar of soap.
So how do these different people converge? In Daria-land, of course.
Frankly, this stuff is the best excuse to not be involved. When I was involved in fandom, it was a diversion. I made some friends, I made some enemies, and when it stopped serving a purpose in my life, I left. Many addictions start as diversions. Gambling, alcohol, and drugs can be recreational or they can ruin your life; it depends on their importance in your life.
So as I stand here, a recovering Internet addict, a bit smug in my recovery, I wanted to testify a bit, here in the den of iniquity, so to speak. First of all, I know: pot-kettle-black. But here’s where I differ. Yes, I was mean, but I was always up-front and direct with the people with whom I had issues. I didn’t say anything behind someone’s back that I wouldn’t say to them directly. That’s just chicken-shit.
I also left behind some darn good fan fiction. You can still go and read it.
What exactly were Tafka, Cynigal, and Deref trying to do anyway? It looked an awful lot to me like high school. Cool kids, ragging on the even cooler kids. I know that both Tafka and Cynigal had horrible high school experiences. Cynigal, I believe, left high school before graduating. The teachers were all such assholes. (Sense a theme here?)
The people who make the most derisive comments about the “sheeple” are actually the ones going around in flocks themselves. It’s still a clique, even if you’re still unpopular.
Is this what your life will always be? Finding an authority figure and rebelling against it? What does it say that the authority figure you’ve chosen is a guy on the Daria message board? It’s like robbing a lemonade stand that’s next to the 7-Eleven. A bit too easy and very lazy.
It’s probably easier than confronting your own demons. You’re stuck in dead-end jobs, have no marketable skills, and suffer through terrible relationships, with family and an ever-dwindling circle of friends. Why try and deal with that, when you can go on a message board and protest “the man” there?
I also posit this to the other Dariaites out there: When Cynigal and Tafka both start up that same, wheezing old calliope of “My job sucks, my boss sucks, my neighbors suck, and half the people on the board suck,” why do you even engage them in discourse? Consider the source. Is anything in their lives any good? What things are they doing that will actually solve those situations?
As my wise, old father said, “When someone calls you an ass, hit them. When many people call you an ass, buy a saddle.” Ladies, it’s time to saddle up.
This is not the first time that something like this has happened, and I can predict what will happen next. There will be some insincere apologies. People who say they’re finally done and over with Daria fandom will come back with a sheepish smile on their faces, forgiving all. Hell, I’ve done it myself.
So either the ladies will get their respective acts together, or they won’t. Deref may learn from this experience, or he won’t. E.A. will return to the fandom, or he won’t. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.
“Seigenthaler was a man who was a newspaper reporter, a newspaper publisher, worked with Robert Kennedy, had a long and distinguished career. Somebody put in an entry saying that he was suspected of shooting John F. Kennedy. Seigenthaler found out about it. Seigenthaler for some reason was pissed.
“Seigenthaler did not do what Wikipedians had done from time immemorial. He did not go onto Wikipedia and start editing, and join the big ball of fun. He went and published an article in USA Today, he took it out of town, and talked about this.
“This broke Wikipedia. This broke Wikipedia deep, hard and fast, because while you may look at Wikipedia from the outside as being this way, it is inside an organisation. This broke Wikipedia.”
Undoubtedly, by now most of the insiders in Daria fandom are left scratching their heads and saying, “What the hell is going on here? E.A. Smith walking away from the PPMB? Roentgen pulling all of his posts (come August)? Something about some thread being edited by somebody ... somewhere ... hell, I can’t keep up!”
To unknot this tangled Web skein requires referring to people I’d rather not refer to. These attention whores love seeing their names in print anyway. I’ll simply not mention the names, so that they’ll miss the vicarious thrill of seeing their names on the printed screen.
Rather, this is the story about the end of a message board. Which, unfortunately, is the Sheep’s Fluff Message Board, a board I formerly frequented as Roentgen. Yep. That was me, too. I mean ... Jesus. You didn’t get it? The fact that “Roentgen” is just an anagram of “not (CINC)green”?
(I would have made the best Batman villain ever, but all the great gimmicks had been taken by that time. Gotham property prices are also through the roof, and you can get mugged five times on the same block.)
Initially, the Sheep’s Fluff Message Board (if I recall correctly) was designed to sort of be the home away from home for people who didn’t get along with the board moderation at the PPMB, for various reasons. It would be the only place where adult materials could actually be posted. Finally, there would be a “Flame Wars” forum where people could let off steam about various issues.
Under Thea Zara’s adminship, the board flourished, virtually becoming a second home to the disaffected Daria fans. For once, porn, in all its sticky glory, had a place where it could be safe. There was sort of a “renaissance of porn works” initially at the SFMB, and it seemed that things were going great on that side of the universe.
However, a few things happened which sort of unhooked the hold that SFMB had on fandom at one time. I’ll mention the forces which would eventually lead to the SFMB’s decline as a co-equal to the PPMB:
• The initial popularity of the SFMB. Oddly enough, the SFMB’s hold as a unique place began to fade with its very popularity. When PPMB regulars began to mingle with SFMB regulars, they would occasionally bump into those who only knew of the SFMB and not the PPMB. Those SFMB newbies were soon dragged over to the PPMB.
The first thought, undoubtedly, of the new arrivals was: “Hey, except for porn, the PPMB has everything I want in a message board!” After a while, it became simpler to go to one place instead of two. You began visiting a place frequently, then infrequently, and then you wonder, “Hey, what the fuck happened to that place we used to go to?”
• The departure of Thea Zara from active moderation. The board never recovered from the loss of her calming influence. Deref is a nice man, and he does all that he can — but I doubt that he can separate his personal relationships from his duties as a moderator. As a moderator, you have to put your foot down, and, if necessary, piss off your friends. I don’t think Deref is capable of doing that.
Good man. Salt of the earth. Bad moderator. Those three properties are not contradictory.
• Flame Wars. Initially, Flame Wars was meant as a place to vent about, well, anyone who bothered you. The idea, initially, was that Flame Wars posts were not to get too personal, except in a jocular way where the people posting there gave as good as they got.
However, something started to happen at Flame Wars. What happened is actually rather hard to explain, and whether it would have happened sooner or later — if not for the bipolar personalities inhabiting the place — will be a matter of conjecture. My own theory, however, is that it would have happened eventually, even if Thea Zara kept a tight rein on the place.
Talking with another fan (who has very wisely stayed out of the dispute), this fan mentioned that (s)he had been on another message board, which also had areas set aside for snarky, flamey discussion. However, setting aside an area for flames and anger is like packing radioactive material in a small, densely packed container. All it takes is the slightest match, and you get fission and radioactive fallout.
The cheapening of discourse eventually spills out into the rest of the fandom. It’s as if there was a bar full of a few belligerent assholes who say, “We should kill that guy down the street,” and before you know it, there’s a pitchfork-wielding mob walking out in wait for the poor sap. It’s the worst of the mob mentality.
However, SFMB could have survived all three of those things, even the third thing, sort of crawling forward like a wounded duck. It’s the fourth thing that will eventually doom it as a message board.
• Lack of content. Frankly, there is no content on SFMB. No original content, anyway, except for pornography, and 95 percent of the fandom just isn’t interested in pornography. Or, at least, not Daria pornography, for the same reasons that they don’t read Yogi Bear pornography, because it’s just not their personal kink. They might have healthy sex lives, but they don’t want to read about Daria in the buff.
Which means that the only real content on SFMB has a very limited audience. True, the work of The Great Saiyaman is great, but I don’t know of anything I’m reading there that I just couldn’t get anywhere else.
Like it or not — content is king. Someone once said, “The most important thing about fandom is the formation of relationships with other people.” Yes, but that’s not what brings one to the fandom. What brings one to the fandom is content. Reading stories about Daria, discussing Daria, and in general, glorifying all that is Our Heroine.
Relationships feed off of that — one finds like-minded people — but really, good people can be found on any chat board.
And without content, that’s what SFMB is: the “porn and slambook” chatboard. The stories I’ve seen at SFMB are usually those mirrored from somewhere else, there only so that those who, for whatever reason, wish to limit their surfing experience to SFMB can read the latest fanfic. Most of those threads have very few page views, because most people are reading those stories at PPMB.
In the end, SFMB will end up like the Rubber Room — a small group of people chatting with each other, and very little about Daria.
I know for a fact that the two malefactors in this brouhaha can’t create content. One never created content in her life. She wouldn’t know content if it bit her on the ass. I mean, if you want to hang around with a psycho, you can have fun doing that but there are psychos on every chat room in the land.
The other malefactor hasn’t written or created anything in years. As far as the active fandom is concerned, she faded away years and years ago.
“But, CINCGREEN,” you ask (they always ask that), “why don’t you join in the big ball of fun at Flame Wars?”
I refer you to the Seigenthaler issue up above. The Wikipedians assumed that that’s what Seigenthaler would do — meet them at their ground, and join in the wonderful editing flame wars, where they would hold all the institutional cards. No. He sued them for libel. That’s when Wikipedia realized the fun was over.
It wasn’t suing that was Seigenthaler’s triumph. It was the fact that the Wikipedians figured that Seigenthaler would be forced to play their game. But he didn’t. He did an end run around them. “Rules? Your rules? I play by my own rules.” They gave him lemons, and he made a Cadillac. Masterful hacking.
“Okay, I get that,” you might ask, “but why yank all of your stuff off of SFMB?”
Well, if I don’t agree with how Deref is moderating the SFMB, and if I think that he’s enabling the worst elements there, then why would I eat up all of his bandwidth, which he has to pay for out of his own pocket, with my little curious tales? It’s sort of like having to accept a collect call from a guy who wants to chew you out — not only does the man say uncomplimentary things, but he makes you pay for the privilege. And I thought that was rather unfair to Deref. (Hey, all that space can now be used for — Flame Wars! Whoopee!)
Like it or not, there are two groups of people in any fandom. Those who create, and those who enjoy the creations. Those groups, whatever you might believe, are not equal. The second group exists because of the first. Sooner or later, everyone comes up against this iron law, this great conundrum.
The health of a fandom is directly related to how much new content is being created. The reason Daria fandom is in decline (in some quarters) is because of the lack of new content. And the way to reverse this trend is to get up off one’s hindquarters, to write, and to draw.
Friday, July 06, 2007
No New Posts for a While
Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The Frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was.
In a short time the younger Frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older Frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.
To teach the Frogs a lesson, the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor Frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. In mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed. — Aesop
For personal reasons, there will be no new posts for a while until I decide the final fate of the Daria Fandom Blog. If new posts come back, you might with that they had not returned and that the CINCGREEN of old had stayed in retirement.
Right now, I sort of feel like Julius Caesar felt when he saw Brutus standing over him with a knife after he had been shredded sixteen ways to sundown on the Senate floor. “And you, too, Brutus?” he said.
Caesar’s brain was probably looking for the nearest fasces, one of the rods carried by the Protectors of the People, so that he could smile and say to himself, “I’m going to take one of you sonsabitches with me” as he decided which knife-wielding senator was within range.
But when he saw Brutus — noble Brutus! — among his assassins, his heart said, “Oh, fuck it,” and that was the end of Caesar. As Antony said in the funeral oration (according to one W. Shakespeare), that was “the unkindest cut of all.”
I’m coming to the opinion that this fandom does not deserve any of its good points to be registered. None of its stories, none of its essays, nothing. It deserves nothing new or fresh, and nothing more than the proper amount of derision and scorn to be heaped on those who would perpetually leach the good will from those who do their best to keep it alive.
The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of the “nice CINCGREEN.” Perhaps the evil, nasty-as-all-fuck CINCGREEN needs to make a reappearance ...
... but his reappearance might be hailed in some quarters. And I don’t want to give the fandom even the secondary pleasure, the way that I feel right now. I want to bring lamentation and woe.
Kara Wild was right. Sweet baby Jesus. I apologize profusely.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Plastic Surgery Disasters:
A Review of “Too Cute”
Time to add some belated content. June 16, 1997 was the 10th anniversary of the airing of “Too Cute.” If you didn’t remember, you’re not alone — most people have been trying to forget “Too Cute” since it aired.
“Too Cute” was the brainchild of writer Larry Doyle. He would only end up writing one Daria episode, and it would not be the best one, by a long shot. Larry Doyle then moved on to write a few episodes of The Simpsons — not any of the really good episodes, but rather the “second half,” post-peak episodes. After his television work, he has settled on contributing to The New Yorker and Esquire and will soon have a novel made into a film.
You can find out just about everything Larry Doyle is doing here. (Oddly enough, among his many credits, he did not list “Too Cute.” I suppose even he knows it isn’t anything he’d want on his résumé.)
But first, the long and painful recap ... I’ll skip the B-plot and get to the meat and potatoes.
The second scene of “Too Cute” begins with Sandi telling a story to Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie. Sandi finishes her tale of triumph, but the boys want to hear the part about Quinn. When Sandi tells them that Quinn isn’t in the story, they ask Sandi if she could retell the story and put Quinn in it! (Cue to the look of extreme annoyance on Sandi.)
Quinn shows up, but Sandi’s not interested in speaking to Quinn. They are both distracted by hubbub regarding one of the girls at school, Brooke, who appears to have gotten a nose job of Michael-Jackson-esque proportions. The girls “oooh” and “aaah” over Brooke’s new nasal look. Brooke mentions that the nose job was performed by a Dr. Shar, who is supposedly “the best.”
Brooke asks Quinn her opinion, and Quinn says that Brooke’s nosehack is “cute.” Brooke, however, expected something superlative, and Sandi takes the chance to engineer an argument with Quinn, implying that Quinn’s remark was insincere. The argument doesn’t come to a conclusion until Sandi notices Daria and Jane nearby.
Sandi calls Daria over to get the opinion of an “average person.” Tiffany asks Daria if she thinks Brooke’s nose is cute. Brooke looks very hopeful that Daria will say something nice, but Daria’s only comment is “Don’t worry. It’ll grow out.”
Segue to the Morgendorffers at dinner. Undoubtedly, Quinn has brought up the topic of plastic surgery. Helen is against it, although she complains of a double standard, in that professional women are expected to be attractive. Jake is willing to agree with anything if it will get him out of an argument. Quinn, however, thinks her nose has “imperfections” and goes up to her room to obsessively tinker with her face.
Quinn, however, doesn’t plan on letting the matter rest. Feigning sickness, she has the school nurse call Daria out of Mrs. Barch’s class to help escort Quinn home. But Quinn doesn’t plan on going home ... she plans on seeing the esteemed Dr. Shar. She’s called Daria in for escort duty because Daria can be expected to give her honest opinion.
Quinn believes that the rest of the Fashion Club has gone to see Dr. Shar, and wonders why they went without her. (Daria can’t figure it out, since in her opinion, the Fashion Club all have noses like Quinn’s, anyhow.)
The two make it to Dr. Shar’s office and arrive just as the doctor is giving some advice to a patient who claims she can’t breathe through her nose. (The advice is for the patient to breathe through her mouth.) Dr. Shar is ...
... well, she’s a plastic surgery disaster. Bleached hair, permanent tan, cheekbones that could cut through an aluminum can, lips meant for a cow, artificial rackage. She speaks with the accent of a Southern belle and has the eternally sunny attitude to match.
Quinn asks Dr. Shar if she needs a nose job, but Dr. Shar won’t hear of it. “Oh, honey, I wouldn’t touch it ... it would be a crime against nature, and an ethics violation Dr. Shar just doesn’t need right now!”
Instead, Dr. Shar gives Quinn a hard-sell on new cheekbones. With the aid of some computer modeling, Dr. Shar shows that Quinn could be “too cute!” for just six thousand dollars. (The finished result looks absolutely nothing like Quinn, and more in line with the trainwreck Dr. Shar represents.)
Daria makes some cynical comments, and Dr. Shar proposes to give Daria a turn. Despite Daria’s protests, Daria’s picture is mapped into the computer model, Dr. Shar makes the supposed “improvements,” and we finally see that with twenty thousand dollars, Daria can be transformed into ... Quinn.
Dr. Shar tells Daria that she thinks Daria is giving up on herself. She gives Daria a box and tells her to open it when she has free time. On the return bus ride, Quinn bemoans that it will cost six thousand dollars to “fix” her, while Daria finds out that the gift Dr. Shar gave her was a pair of “Pre-Implant Temporary Bust Augmentations — For Evaluation Purposes Only.” In short ... practice boobs.
Quinn returns to school only to find that the Fashion Club are all wearing bandages over their noses — they’ve obviously been to see Dr. Shar. Sandi sarcastically claims that the reason the Fashion Club excluded Quinn was that Quinn was obviously not “shallow” — implying that Quinn considers herself better than her peers — and therefore wouldn’t need the company of supposedly shallow people like the Fashion Club.
The four girls then take notice of the arriving Brooke. It seems that Brooke has had another visit with Dr. Shar, who had performed liposuction to Brooke’s waist and added collagen to her lips. Brooke has now become “super cute.” When Brooke asks if she can join the Fashion Club, Sandi exclaims to Brooke that they might have an opening ... soon.
Jane and Daria meet at Daria’s locker. Jane asks Daria, “Show me your boobs,” but finds the plastic implants rather unimpressive. Upchuck walks by and asks what’s in the box. Daria lets him handle the “merchandise” and then tells him that the plastic sacs are breast implants. Upchuck is skeeved out and flees the scene.
Quinn then tells Daria that she has a plan. Daria will tell her parents that Dr. Shar said she needs human growth hormone. Helen and Jake will pay for the hormone therapy, but instead, Dr. Shar will take the money and perform surgery on Quinn.
Daria declines, leaving Quinn to figure out how to raise the money. Quinn attempts to raise the money by asking for donations, but her attempts are in vain — no one is going to pay six thousand dollars for Quinn’s plastic surgery.
Daria finally tells her sister that Quinn doesn’t need any kind of plastic surgery. “You’ve got the kind of looks that make other girls mentally ill. So stop it. You don’t need any plastic surgery. You’re perfect.” Quinn’s response: “Why do I bother talking to you?”
However, the Fashion Club girls come running by, hanging onto their bandages. As we learn later at the Morgendorffer dinner table, Brooke had a “nasal relapse” — her new nose caved in and all the collagen in her lips moved down to her lower lip, according to the Lawndale High School rumor hotline.
Brooke now looks “less cute than she did before,” and it doesn’t appear that Brooke will be joining the Fashion Club any time soon. Daria dryly states that everyone must be very upset about it. Quinn affirms that the Fashion Club is like a “built-in support group” for each other, and everything is back to normal.
There’s probably more than one Daria fan who has “Too Cute” listed on his or her “ten worst episodes” list. I can name several major flaws off the top of my head rather quickly:
• Poor art direction. Particularly in the backgrounds, which become particularly lazy when Daria and Quinn walk through the RxPlex. The backgrounds look as if they’ve been drawn by a particularly talented sixth grader. (Who knows, maybe the regular animators took a break and some middle schooler got into the studio?)
• Uninteresting new characters. Dr. Shar has to do a lot of heavy lifting in this episode, but she’s about as interesting as Claude and Romanica — more of an over-the-top stereotype than any kind of fascinating character. Shar’s appearance, in particular, is more appropriate for a horror movie than a comedy, and you wonder why Quinn (or anyone) would ever want to have her do plastic surgery. (I’d be afraid of ending up with extra parts.)
Part of the work to make Dr. Shar shine as a character has to be done by the voice actor, and Tracy Lee Bell gives it her all. One could almost imagine Shar as a Southern sorority girl before her med school days, as Bell gives her a genteel Southern accent. I thought Bell did fine work. She, however, suffered from the curse of “Too Cute,” as her only other known voice work anywhere else to date was for the episode “Lucky Strike.”
• A dumb B-plot. The B-plot wasn’t mentioned in the recap because it didn’t deserve a mention. Under the direction of Mrs. Barch, Kevin is required to wear prosthetic makeup to give him a horrible appearance. He then surveys the reactions of passers-by, and they are obviously horrified. Aside from moving Mrs. Barch one notch up the man-hating-harridan scale, this plot is a real time-waster.
• A crappy ending. The A-plot — Quinn’s struggle with the threat to her popularity — comes to a screeching halt with a deus ex machina of the worst kind. Brooke’s surgery goes wrong and she’s no longer cute. Even though Quinn figures that the Fashion Club should at least send Brooke flowers, Quinn appears more relieved than concerned. In fact, Quinn comes off more conceited than ever, and nothing really changes.
• Daria on the sidelines. Daria is given nothing to do. Jane is given even less to do, and Jane’s work in this episode is primarily to react to Daria as narrator.
Daria follows Quinn to Dr. Shar’s for the ostensible reason that Daria will tell Quinn the God’s-honest truth. However, when Daria makes a personal sacrifice and tells Quinn that she’s beautiful (by high-school standards) ... Quinn rebuffs her. It only makes Daria seem even more ineffectual.
• An unlikable main character. In this case, the main character is Quinn. This is Season One Quinn, the stupid Quinn, the fashion-and-popularity obsessed Quinn, the “Daria-is-my-cousin” Quinn. The only good way this episode could end is if Quinn gets her comeuppance from Daria. (They finally get it right in “Monster.”)
However, it appears we’re supposed to sympathize with Quinn. Sandi treats Quinn rather badly ... but wouldn’t you think Quinn deserves it, looking at just the last eight episodes? Quinn treats Daria badly too, blowing off her advice. Furthermore, Quinn’s desperate attempt to raise money for surgery just makes her look dumb. Compared to the theoretically more insightful Quinn, the post-“IIFY” Quinn, the post-“Lucky Strike” Quinn, this one is an embarrassment.
If we’re not supposed to sympathize with Quinn, we still get no reward, because Daria doesn’t do anything to right the situation. Only God sets things right in the end with a nasal relapse, so Quinn never learns anything.
My wife had one comment about this episode — which she had never seen since it first aired. “Boy, this is bad.” There’s really nothing else to say. No. There is. I’ll say it again. “Boy, is this bad.”
“Too Cute” will be known for one good thing: the emergence of “Evil Sandi.” The Sandi Griffin of the other episodes — of “Esteemsters,” “The Invitation,” “Malled” — wasn’t much more than a contemporary of Quinn. The Fashion Club were just a bunch of indistinguishable girls who hung around Quinn.
Larry Doyle, whether on his own or under Eichler’s direction, finally gives Sandi some personality, turning her into what would be called a “mean girl,” a person who uses her popularity to make other people’s lives miserable. It works, because many of us knew girls just like that in high school.
The show needed Evil Sandi. Not only is there a plot device that can be used to make life more difficult for the super-popular Quinn, but Evil Sandi is the first sign that the Fashion Club will be given personalities of their own (Two-Faced Tiffany and Neurotic Stacy). The only drawback would be that fan-fiction writers would make Sandi truly evil, evil at levels of cartoon supervillainy. (Maybe the fanfic character should be called “Evil Sand[h]i.”)
The argument could be made that Daria is neither as attractive nor as busty as fans would like to make her out to be, if one argues from this episode. A man in Dr. Shar’s waiting room thinks that Daria is in dire need of plastic surgery. Furthermore, Dr. Shar gives Daria some take-home bust implants, implying that Daria might be a bit underdeveloped. The remark about “human growth hormone” implies that Daria is short for her age.
And what kind of surgery did the Fashion Club members get from Dr. Shar? Are they wearing bandages over surgery, or just to hide their noses? I can’t figure that out.
Only a few good lines in this one:
Guy (complaining to receptionist at Dr. Shar’s): Hey, wait! We were here first! (sees Daria) Oh, whoa! Emergency! I understand!
Tiffany: It’s Brooke’s new nose. Isn’t it cute?
(Brooke looks hopeful, waiting for Daria’s response)
Daria: Don’t worry ... it’ll grow out.
Daria: You don’t need surgery, Quinn. (sighs) I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, and I’ll deny I ever said it, but there’s nothing wrong with you. Physically.
Jane: Oh, Daria. Don’t be shy. Show me your boobs.
(Daria shows Jane the box containing the silicone implants.)
Jane: Hmm. Why did I think this would be more interesting?
Monday, June 18, 2007
The Cool-Down Period
Okay, that’s it. I’ve been following “with much interest” the “Greybird is a jerk” thread on SFMB. There has been some complaining about bannination.
Frankly ... I don’t care. I’m in the middle of a ridiculous workload right now and the absolute last thing I’m interested in doing is moderating a pissing contest. I don't give a rat’s ass if y’all want to make fun of Greybird — I figure that as a grown man, he oughta be able to take care of himself — but I don’t need my fresh comment threads cluttered up by jackassery.
Maybe you should just send him some mail, or something. He does have an e-mail and private messaging. That’s where comments to Greybird belong, not here.
Therefore, I just set HaloScan to “moderation.” Nothing gets posted here without me reading it first and approving it. You can make all of your “CINCGREEN is a jerk” posts, and rest assured, I’ll read them and treat them with all the respect ... they deserve. I’m armor-plated.
By the way, this is not “taking Greybird’s side.” I would have done things differently. But everyone who has had ops on this blog — Jackie Dobson, Frank Sinisterra, Greybird — has been given leave to run things however they wanted to. To delete comments they wanted to, to post comments they wanted to, to have pretty much co-ownership.
The blog just works better that way, without some co-owner having to mail me all the time and asking if something can be done or not.
So now there’s gonna be a cool-down period. So I say, “Chill.” Get some liquor. Take off your socks. Fire up your favorite Daria episode. And create some content, why don't ya?
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Now That’s a Portal!
If Daria and Jane would’ve looked this hot now, the two Dariafen boards would rule the Net, don’t’cha think? (Courtesy of Reese Kaine.)
And as a follow-up on those boards’ being reworked, apparently it’s their transfer to the new phpBB software that’s more or less finished, not the move to a new physical server. Kara Wild posted notes here.
14 June: PPMB will be locked (read-only) for several hours, to move it to the new server, during the evening (U.S. time) of Friday, 15 June. SFMB has already made the transition.
15 June: PPMB’s move began at about 9 pm ET. Unlike with the software transition, though, the board’s contents aren’t available to read.
16 June: And the move finished at about 2 am ET. All appears to be working.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
... As Trent might say. The PPMB is fully transferred to its new server, with posting being allowed again.
And both PPMB and SFMB have been reworked with a new look, provided by phpBB’s updated software! This offers several more user features, such as “Friends and Foes” lists — check out all the parts of the User Control Panel.
It also gives more admin control over such issues as spam registrations. Already, much of that overhang which had been endangering SFMB’s stability has been removed.
I hope that the current clean look on both boards will be preserved as an optional “skin,” even if more tweaks are added later. (PPMB still needs its logo.)
Thanks to the board admins and to Gamer for all the effort in this transition!
“And everyone else is
full of ...”: “Pinch Sitter”
For several weeks, MTV had taken Daria off the air, leaving the nascent fandom with only seven episodes to obsessively watch over and over again until the tape broke. On June 9, 1997, the eighth episode of Daria was aired, “Pinch Sitter,” and new episodes would continue week by week until the first season was finally over.
My initial goal in watching these shows was to plot the slow progress of the characters, tropes, and detail of the Daria universe from episode to episode. This involved a self-imposed restriction: namely, not to refer to episodes that took place after the most recently-reviewed episode.
However, “Pinch Sitter” is so tempting in that respect that I’ll be breaking that rule after the recap, and write about what people thought it was about, and why it might be a more important episode than one might think when one looks at the episodes that followed it.
A quick (HA!) recap ...
The show begins with Mr. DeMartino giving a lecture on the massacre at Jonestown. After a few jokes, he tells the class that he expects each member of the class to write an essay about a cult.
Quinn, who doesn’t have the “cult” assignment, has other goals — namely, to try to find someone who will take over her weekend baby-sitting commitment. She tries sweet-talking a young man named Ronnie into taking over, but Ronnie concludes that Quinn has no intention of ever going out with him, and Quinn tells him, without malice, that no, she doesn’t. She plans on going out with Skylar Feldman, whose family has a boat.
Ronnie tells Quinn that she can forget him taking over and she should ask “her sister” to babysit, as Daria doesn’t look like she’ll be having busy weekends any time soon. (This proves the Fashion Club members aren’t the only people at LHS who know that Quinn is Daria’s sister.)
Daria and Quinn discuss the prospective deal for Daria to babysit. Even though Daria “didn’t like kids when [she] was a kid,” the prospect of $6 an hour (Quinn later adds a $2-per-hour bonus) and time to write her essay is tempting. However, she’s opposed as a matter of principle to helping Quinn out with anything.
Helen, however, walks by and reminds the girls that the Morgendorffers are hosting a “couples’ night” with a “focus on teens” — and she expects both Daria and Quinn to be there. Quinn bails out because she has the “commitment” of a scheduled date with Skylar Feldman. This leaves Daria, but Daria also bails out because she has a “commitment” ... to babysit. Daria has clearly chosen the lesser of two evils.
Helen has found out that Daria will be babysitting for the Guptys — a family that usually calls Quinn as their primary babysitter. Helen feels that Quinn has broken a commitment, but Quinn complains that she accidentally “overbooked.” Helen offers to help Quinn get her time-management skills under control with a visit to time management expert Deena Decker.
Daria chats with the Guptys on the phone. After the pleasant but odd conversation, Daria imposes a $10 surcharge if she has to spend more than 15 minutes with them. Quinn, who probably knows the Guptys very well, thinks that’s fair.
Helen and Quinn show up in Deena Decker’s office. Helen and Quinn each are asked to state their list of priorities.
Helen:After Quinn states her embarrassment, Helen changes this last to “Window treatments for living room.” After Helen learns from Deena that one must be honest, she moves “Get spice back into marriage” to number one.
1) Spend more time with the family
2) Break through firm’s glass ceiling
3) Beat Carly Fishbeck in the library board election
4) Get spice back into marriage
Quinn:Quinn is given her own personal planner. Once she finds out that it comes in coral with matching makeup accessories, she feels she can be “attractive, popular, and organized.”
3) Bouncy hair
Everyone goes their own way. Quinn is busy recording the bonus points for Skylar’s expensive car on her Teen Life Runner. Daria, armed with some babysitting tips from Jane, is ready to face the inevitable. Jake wishes that he could go babysit, dreading the upcoming couples’ night and its enforced sensitivity.
When Daria reaches the Gupty house, she finds that the interior and exterior are decorated with the sort of brick-a-brack from Reader’s Digest. Lauren Gupty asks Daria to wait in the living room until the Guptys are ready to leave.
While waiting, Daria flashes back to the times when someone had to babysit Daria and Quinn. The flashback scenes show:
- Daria throwing a fit because Quinn is crying and isn’t being “punished.”
- Daria and Quinn fighting on the floor, exchanging “brain” and “brat” as insults.
- Daria informing her babysitter’s boyfriend that the babysitter stuffs her bra. Quinn informs him that she’ll be ready to date ... in four years.
After the parents leave, Daria informs Tad and Tricia they can drop “the act.” This merely confuses them, as their abnormally good behavior doesn’t appear to be an act. Daria makes the decision to turn on the TV, but not only have all channels except for “The Forecast Channel” been locked out, the kids almost robotically recite “Commercials are bad” and “Commercials lie” whenever a commercial comes on.
While Quinn is evaluating Skylar in her planner at Chez Pierre without his knowledge, Daria deals with the sometimes-robotic, other times sickeningly sweet Gupty children. When the two kids sing a sappy self-esteem song to the tune of a worn-out record, Daria is at her wit’s end and invites the kids to play “Cemetery” — a game Jane had told Daria about if she ever ran out of things to do.
Daria waits for Jane, but Jane must wait for her ride from Trent, which leaves Daria to deal with the kids again. Tad and Tricia tell Daria that they always do what adults tell them to do. Daria asks the children what they would do if two different adults gave them contradictory advice, and the question reduces Tad to tears.
By the time Jane arrives, Daria has consented to letting the Gupty kids braid her hair — truly, it must be a major concession for Daria. Jane has no problem dealing with the Gupty kids, as unlike Daria, Jane has practical baby-sitting experience.
The Guptys ask Daria and Jane to read them a bedtime story, but all Daria or Jane can find are politically correct children’s materials and books like Mr. Potty Goes to Town.
However, there are some classic children’s tales available. Daria and Jane put their ... uh ... spin on the endings of these stories. The kids like the altered stories better, and after Daria and Jane share important information with them (such as that no one will ever ask to see your “permanent record” when you are an adult), Tad and Tricia are astounded at how smart Daria and Jane are.
“Gee, Mom and Dad never told us that people can think for themselves,” says Tricia. She, however, asks Daria and Jane that if it is true that adults can lie, how do they know that Daria and Jane aren’t liars? “You don’t ... and that’s the greatest lesson of all,” says Daria.
After Jane figures out how to unlock the channels on the Gupty TV, Daria and Jane prepare for Sick, Sad World viewing — only to have Tad and Tricia come bounding down to watch. “Just don’t tell your parents we let you stay up late,” says Daria. “Do we look stupid or something?” answers Tad. Clearly, Tad and Tricia have learned a lot from Daria and Jane.
At the Morgendorffer house, Skylar asks Quinn when they will be able to date again. Skylar is suspicious of Quinn’s note-taking, and after grabbing the planner, finds that Quinn has already scheduled her breakup with Skylar in September — because there is another boy who has a ski house.
The Guptys return, happy that Daria had no trouble with the kids. Daria turns her babysitting experience into an essay on mind-control deprogramming, and gets high marks from Mr. DeMartino. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Gupty find out that Tad and Tricia have changed the lyrics to their self-esteem song ... and they find that they don’t know their kids as well as they thought they did ...
Over the previous seven episodes, Daria had been written as a “Bugs Bunny” type character. One who basically would like nothing better than to be left alone, but forces disturb her tranquility, so Daria makes sure to set things straight in the end.
This is probably the first episode of a truly pro-active Daria. Unlike previous episodes, Daria was actually given a legitimate choice (so to speak) — she could have attended couples' therapy night, or could have babysat. Not much of a choice, but at least she was not being compelled to choose one outcome over another one.
This is also the first episode of the “Babe in the Woods” trope. This occurs when a character meets another character who doesn’t seem to have any practical knowledge about ... well ... anything. The second character is completely clueless, and the first character resolves to set the second character straight about modern life. Shows like Mork and Mindy, Taxi, and Perfect Strangers used this trope over and over again.
Daria finds Tad and Tricia’s sheltered life rather disturbing, until the end, where Daria and Jane make the deliberate choice to “deprogram” the kids. Tad and Tricia are given a bit of street smarts by Daria and Jane, and a bit of sassmouth at the end, and this change in them is portrayed as a change for the better.
Up to this point in the series, we really don’t know what Daria stands for. We know what she doesn’t like, but only with “This Year’s Model” did we get any impression that Daria had any core beliefs of her own.
Fans, however, seemed to draw the wrong lesson from “Pinch Sitter.” They came to believe that Daria was an advocate of subversion of the status quo, a person who wanted everyone else to be as cynical and suspicious of authority as she was.
Most of the early fanfic reflected that, with Daria in opposition to something that was too “normal” — say a prom, or a dance, or some sort of school competition — and working actively to undo it or destroy it because it displeased her.
How fans got the conclusion from “Pinch Sitter” that Daria was some sort of anarchist — a person who is in opposition to authority because it is authority — is unknown. But that conclusion seemed to fit the pattern of the “Daria Triumphant” fan fiction of the first two seasons, and, oddly enough, might have cemented Daria’s popularity with the fans.
Daria was now a combination of misanthrope and crusader, and what was worse, she could put on and take off these roles whenever it seemed convenient for the writer.
“I am cool, and that is it, and everyone else is full of” ... shit. A motto used for humor at the end of the episode, but unfortunately, too many fans took it seriously. It could have been the motto of much of early Daria fanfiction, and, unfortunately, it became the personal motto of some of the fans in early fandom.
As it turned out, this was the second episode written by Anne Bernstein. It’s a funny episode, and it has a lot of funny lines, but it never explores any consequences of this change in Tad and Tricia’s behavior.
I suppose it was a smart thing for Ms. Bernstein to end the episode where it was ended. I don’t think it would have been that funny for the viewers to see the Gupty parents take away the record player and ground the kids for a week for being potty mouths. (Also notice that Daria is never asked by the Guptys to come back and babysit again over the next fifty-nine episodes.)
Indeed, it’s not an episode as complex and as rich as “The Invitation,” the first episode written by Ms. Bernstein. The only enlightening parts of the episode were a look back into the relationship between Daria and Quinn — a relationship that had apparently always been acrimonious — and a look at Daria’s complete inability (at first) to deal with or understand children. Her discomfort at the Guptys’ is palpable.
Part of the problem with the episode was the choice to end it with some kind of moral. The danger in ending an episode with a moral when there is no obvious moral to be found is that a writer might choose the wrong moral — and the fans picked up the wrong moral and ran with it for two years.
It would have been a much stronger and more realistic episode if, like “The Invitation,” the episode ended with no moral, just a wacky story about Daria’s bizarre experience in babysitting the Gupty children. (The punchline could have been that the Guptys wanted Daria back!)
... And now we look back, using the knowledge of future episodes to examine this particular episode.
My first comment is that Lester and Lauren Gupty are not malicious parents. They might be overly protective, and a bit misguided, but one gets the sense that they love their children and care for them. One also gets the sense that this feeling is reciprocated, and that neither Tad nor Tricia hate their parents in any way or resent them for their overprotectiveness.
Further proof is that Daria writers Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil dust off the “Babe in the Woods” trope and use it again in “The New Kid.” Once again, we have a character that seems clueless of the world around him — in this case, the character is Ted DeWitt-Clinton.
However, Ted’s parents are not just overprotective, but actively paranoid about the dangers of the outside world, believing that the Beatles and chewing gum have the power to lead their sweet, innocent Ted to become a corporate sellout and a Tool of the Machine™.(It’s kind of odd that Daria isn’t as willing to “subvert Ted’s paradigm” as she was willing to “deprogram” the Guptys.)
I’ll even play Devil’s Advocate: How in the fuck was it Daria’s business to do what she did with the Gupty kids? The Guptys never asked Daria for their help in child rearing. The Guptys could argue that Daria seems like a miserable, distrustful, and unfriendly person at heart ... so why do Tad and Tricia need Daria’s philosophical advice?
We can argue about that later, but the fact is that Tad and Tricia are only about six or seven years old. They’re not that capable of making adult decisions, and Daria and Jane’s misguided attempt to help might lead Tad and Tricia to implicitly distrust authority figures that might have their best interests at heart.
At some level, Tad and Tricia need protection from the outside world, and the only real argument is how much protection they need. Do they need to be turned into cynics when they still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? (Or perhaps, in the case of the Guptys, when they still believe in the Kwanzaabot?)
When I saw this episode with my wife, she suggested another motive for Daria in doing what she did — jealousy. Yes, the Guptys are overprotective. But they also love their kids and probably have a great deal of involvement in their children’s lives.
Whereas Daria has, till this point, been the victim of parental neglect. For most of Daria’s youth (“Boxing Daria”), Jake had been the breadwinner and primarily an absentee figure in the children’s lives. Now, the roles are reversed, and Helen is the breadwinner and workaholic mom. For most of Daria’s and Quinn’s lives, either one or both parents have simply not taken part in building Daria and Quinn as people.
Jake has paid the heavier price. Now that he is a “consultant” (a lousy one who makes no money), you would think he has all the free time in the world to get to know his kids. The problem is, his kids are now teenagers and he’s been absent for so long that he can’t connect. (“Cat’s in the Cradle” cues up in the background.)
He doesn’t even know the most essential information about Daria or Quinn, and now prefers to hide from any sort of conflict that might illustrate just how absent a figure he’s been. Or he prefers to drown his sorrows in a martini and ruminate as to how his own absent and emotionally abusive father destroyed him.
Helen still tries to be an influence in the lives of Quinn and Daria, although “Psycho Therapy” implies that she’s essentially given up on Quinn. But she’s like Jake — she really doesn’t know how to relate to them, except professionally at first, when she rides to the rescue like Custer’s cavalry on horseback to provide use of a legal threat to Ms. Li in “Arts ’n’ Crass.”
Only later in the series does the relationship between Helen and Daria reach the point where Daria doesn’t automatically assume the worst of Helen.
As for Jane, her parents have been absent in the truest sense of the term — physically absent. Amanda and Vincent are essentially self-centered hippies who, for all of their cant about peace and togetherness, see no problem with hiking to Iceland and literally abandoning their own children like feral cats who can take care of themselves.
Jane’s parents simply lack any sense of responsibility, and this ethos has filtered down to all of the Lane children in one way or another, with Jane being the only child who has a chance to escape it.
So maybe there is a tinge of jealousy — or, if not, a tinge of sadness and regret — in Daria and Jane. It’s an interesting thought, that Daria and Jane might be hurting more than helping.
The story of the back relationship between Daria and her parents is much more interesting than the story being told in “Pinch Sitter.” Indeed, the “B story” of Quinn’s time-management skills falls flat. One suspects that it’s a prop that’s used to hide the weaknesses of the “A story,” but only serves to illustrate those weaknesses all the more clearly.
This is the first (and only) appearance of Skylar Feldman, who was pressed into the role of “Figure of Menace” in Martin Pollard’s “Sins of the Past.” To this day, Skylar is still seen as some fundamentally bad person ... although from what I can see, his only sin was that he was even more conceited than Quinn is.
Of course, in terms of the lines and dialogue, “Pinch Sitter” is one of the funniest Daria episodes ...
Ronnie: You want me to take over your baby-sitting job?
I’m not sure, Quinn.
Quinn: Please?Just this once? You’re the only person I can
trust to do this, Ronnie. I can tell by your eyes ...
Quinn: Yeah! They’re so ... sincere!
Ronnie: Well ...
Quinn: And your face, it’s very ... honest! You’re so nice,
and dependable, and ...
Ronnie: “Nice”? “Sincere”? ... You’re never gonna go out
with me, are you?
Quinn: ... No.
Jane: Hey, there’s Quinn with one of her many admirers.
Daria: She’s well liked among classmates of both sexes,
and yet, strangely, she turns my stomach.
Ronnie: Skylar Feldman?
Quinn: His family has a boat! It’s almost summer!
Ronnie: Yeah, right. Ask him to baby-sit for you.
Quinn: But I didn’t mean to double-book. It’s hard to keep
track of dates when you’re attractive and popular!
Helen: I can’t have another fiasco like last Saturday night.
Think of how it must have felt when those three boys all
showed up here at the same time!
Quinn: It felt great!
Jake: Hey, Daria, where are you going? It’s couples therapy night!
Daria: Baby-sitting job, Dad.
Jake (to himself): ... wish I had a baby-sitting job ...
Daria: Your parents put one of those lock-out things on here,
didn’t they? All I’m getting is “The Forecast Channel” ...
Tad and Tricia: Yay! The five-day report!
Quinn: Oh, Skylar, you’re number one in my book ... by
Tricia: Sugar is bad.
Tad: Sugar rots your teeth.
Tricia: Sugar makes you hyper.
Tad: Hitler ate sugar.
Jane: “All hail, Pippi Longstocking!” Hey, Trent, come look at this!
Lauren: I just love the new picture in your living room!
Daria: You were at my house?
Lauren: Yes, and we had a breakthrough tonight ... your father cried!
Mr. DeMartino: Brittany, although your topic — “The Cult of Abs” — was an intriguing one ...
Saturday, June 09, 2007
The Wiki by the Numbers
In light of Greybird’s post on the Daria Fandom Wiki, “Wiki Wacky,” I decided to take a purely quantitative look at the recent activity there.
Using the Wiki’s “Recent Changes” page, I generated a list of the last 500 changes to the “(Main)” namespace (to exclude changes to “User:” and “Talk:” pages), with changes flagged as minor omitted.
One annoying perl program later, I had two comma-separated files I could feed into Excel. Here’s the executive summary:
- 135 articles were changed
- Only 38 of these 135 articles accounted for more
than 75% of the 500 changes
- The most changed article was the one on Stacy Rowe,
with 52 or 10.4% of the changes
- 23 authors made these changes
- Only five authors of the 23 accounted for more than
81% of the 500 changes
- The most active author was The Angst Guy, with
163 or 32.6% of the changes
New Server Cooking
The PPMB is currently being transferred to its promised new and faster server, and that’s why access to the board has been spotty for about the last 18 hours. It’s either been out of operation or, when available, has turned off the ability to make new posts.
Reports from Gamer, via AIM chatters, say that the PPMB was grabbing too much attention from the server’s processor, which caused the funky shutdown messages many received yesterday. No posts were lost, but Gamer is taking this as a good occasion to make the server swap.
Friday, June 08, 2007
I’ll make an assessment, falling short of an outright prediction: The Daria [fandom] Wiki, newly adorned with a spiffy logo showing Our Heroine, has potential.
That potential, unfortunately, is for it to become the most divisive element in what’s left of the fandom. I wasn’t around to see most of the earlier battles first-hand, but I’ve read many of the words in their wake by now, and I’ve seen their like in other fandoms.
From what I’ve gathered, battles over this wiki may rival “Trent vs. Tom,” “Shippers vs. Dramatists,” and, yes, even “Everyone vs. CINCGREEN.”
I’ve not been much of a fan of wikis, either in theory or in practice. I said so directly to Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales, the man who put the Big Kahuna of wikis, Wikipedia, on the map. He and I corresponded for several years, both privately and, through an individualist-oriented list, in public.
When the idea of Wikipedia was broached, it tried to take up a potent notion from free-market economists, that of a spontaneous or emerging order. Many elements of our lives end up being organized not by someone being in control, but by millions of individual choices interacting to produce a larger phenomenon. “By human action, but not by human design.” Marketplaces, languages, and most scientific interplay all tend to function this way.
Jimbo thought that an encyclopedia could be assembled this way — by setting only the broadest of ground rules, creating a foundation for funding, and letting millions of contributors write on what interested them or what they were trained to do. With everyone being able to edit every page.
I saw this as being highly dubious, and said so. It suggested that not merely a workable set of interactions, but a reference work of considerable authority, could be created by millions of edits that had no standards applied to them. It ignored that even in an emerging order, parts of it would only become stable by human design and guidance. That’s why, even though language is “alive,” dictionaries are still published to record and frame usage.
Jimbo thought my concerns were excessive, and proceeded with it all nonetheless. I have to say, now, that we both ended up being correct, in different ways. Wikipedia has pulled in many knowledgeable people, despite their work often not standing for long as they’ve written it — often at considerable effort.
On the other hand, an intricate apparatus of rules and procedures has grown up by mutual consent, making it much less spontaneous in its organization. Order has indeed been emerging, often painfully slowly.
What has fueled an enterprise of that size, though, has been that it’s tried to cover nearly everything, in an audacious way that hasn’t been seen in nearly 250 years, since the height of the Enlightenment and the French “encyclopedists.”
And the Wikipedia project has drawn on vast numbers of participants from every walk of life. That’s usually diluted personal enthusiasms from skewing vast portions of it one way or the other.
Dariadom, sadly, doesn’t have millions in it. It probably never even had thousands. It has a few hundred, by now, if that, all with passion for one series. And such a project is weakened, and personal conflicts magnified, if it’s ruled by enthusiasms.
I’d say the most daunting weakness of the Fandom Wiki, thus far, is quite simple. Everyone involved knows each other. That is, outside of the wiki. Few do, by contrast, at Wikipedia, where pretty much all that one can be is what one posts.
Here, though, all the participants have longer or shorter connections elsewhere, mostly over fanworks, but also through general discussions. Those provide an illusion, a common and seductive one on the Net: We often assume that we know all about others’ contexts and scope of knowledge. Well, we don’t.
Those who share a more abstract interest, in tussling over a Wikipedia entry and its nuances, have more of an incentive to stick to the facts. Especially when the object of their struggle is a third party, event, institution, historical fact, scientific issue, or public figure.
Those who share an enthusiasm, as with Dariafen, have glosses from their passions and personal interactions to add to the mix. And the subject matter involves other human beings more directly, not as third parties. Those factors make it far harder to be objective.
The wiki is too personal, in more than one sense. Some who’ve described themselves have gone on at nearly absurd lengths. Others are loath to edit such pages. Their subjects are known from elsewhere, and sparred with on message boards, and why would such edits be made, if they would endanger other relationships?
On the other hand, some are quite ready to classify others into categories that they see as being appropriate, ignoring that others are, indeed, more than what they post. Trying to create something “objective” tramples on the richness of viewpoint and nuance that is often readily available.
I’ll give my own example. The entry at the DFW describing me was initially set up by someone else, who not only noted (some of) the facts of what I’ve done in Dariadom, but also felt compelled to add some categorizing. I was, supposedly, a “fan-fiction prescriptivist” and a “controversial figure.”
Well, I demur on both points, and for different reasons. I’ve sought definitions and contrasts in fan fiction, trying to get a handle on what starts to diverge in excess from the original material, not to “prescribe” what others should do, but to make a stab at paying proper respect to the original creators.
And as to “controversy,” I find that difficult to measure. Anyone with pointed or unsheathed opinions, especially about art, is going to have others who aren’t pleased with them. To say that personal pique is the same as principled disagreement makes no sense. Controversy, as such, also measures someone by how others react to them, not by what he or she says.
I removed such categorizing. I didn’t want it, and I placed a statement on the “talk” portion of the page about me that said so. (That’s not the same as the personal page which exists from having registered as a member of the wiki project. I posted it there, though, as well, for reference.)
The category-building around other people has proceeded vigorously, though. Not everyone seems to mind. Where this spills over into weakening the project is where “edit wars” go on, especially involving personal descriptions.
One such war is raging at the moment over Stacy, the character, and her partisan Starmeshelion. Too many of the words, changes, and reversions are made because some have a general revulsion to Stars’ particular enthusiasm. He wants to highlight shades of opinion that he sees as distinct, and others are removing them or making them appear less important.
Why, though, are they doing so? Is this from being genuinely concerned that a discussion of Stacy is going astray? Is it from being frustrated or annoyed with Stars for his concerns or wording, or for his demeanor elsewhere? It’s difficult to separate these issues.
You can’t easily create a reference work with a “neutral point of view,” or even make a stab at it, when personal assessments are ground into the mixture. Either in citing others’ takes — or what one thinks are others’ takes — on a subject. Or in ruling out discussion aspects because someone else’s enthusiasm is annoying. That’s why detached, neutral editors and writers exist.
Nobody, though, is detached at this Fandom Wiki. Too much is bound up with every major player having commented on, joked with, beta-read for, or battled with the other players in other forums.
It makes for a fun “club,” or, as one DFWer said at the PPMB, “All the cool kids are there.” Yet the push toward a reference work heightens the battles, and risks blowing up personal differences beyond their real importance.
I’d hope this doesn’t come true, but for now, I see too much potential for real, complex, living people to be hurt by what others want to do to describe them, or to put them in verbal boxes, at this wiki.
Nobody who doesn’t share the enthusiasm for the series is present, or is likely to even visit ... just the “cool kids.” I’d say that objectivity requires more than a few who aren’t passionate, if only to drive by and say, “You’re being too personal here.” Or, for that matter, “You really need to clean up your grammar and spelling.”
It’s a paradox: A tool for insiders may be made better only by being shaped, in part, by outsiders.
We’ll see what happens. I wish the project well, but more to the point, I want to see the fans taking part in it remaining civil with one another.