Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quinn the Brain


After getting a high grade on her essay, Quinn adopts a more intelligent persona in order to get money out of her parents, but Daria quickly becomes threatened when everyone in school starts treating Quinn as one of the smart kids.

Previous: The Daria Hunter

Quinn (Wendy Hoopes) has never considered herself to be exceptionally intelligent, too focused on her looks and popularity to put much effort into her grades, but here she learns that she can have both if she simply applies herself. While the thought of being 'a brain' would normally send her running, she soon finds that there are certain perks to be had with maintaining a good grade point average.

Helen (Hoopes) and Jake (Julián Rebolledo) both take different approaches in trying to get through to Quinn, with Helen relating a story about herself as a teenager, while Jake tries telling an analogy involving insects in order to get the point across. Quinn is quick to reject both approaches, as Helen's is too personal, making Quinn uncomfortable, while Jake's plays on her fear of bugs that makes her simply too squeamish to pay attention. It's only Daria (Tracy Grandstaff) that gets through to her sister by pointing out that she's likely to get held back a year and become the oldest freshman at school, a nightmare situation for someone as popular as Quinn, and it gives her the proper motivation to get her schoolwork done. While Daria may be cynical and slightly disengaged from her family, she does care about them enough to help them out when they need it, and it's her resolve to care, from a distance, that keeps her grounded in this family.

It's not long before Quinn's intelligence turns into something of a fad around school, with other students hoping to replicate her combination of popularity and cleverness. This situation allows Daria the chance to examine her own reputation, noting that she "didn't want [her] identity, but if they took it away [from her she's] got nothing," questioning if there might be a place for her amongst the student body were she to put in more of an effort. Daria has gotten comfortable being the smart Morgendorffer, but without that she's simply the unpopular sister, and while popularity's not high on her priorities list, that's also not how she wants to be remembered.

Mr. O'Neill (Marc Thompson) makes a big show out of applauding Quinn's efforts on her essay, reading it out in front of the class to note the drastic improvement over her previous works. He goes as far as to set Quinn up as Kevin's (Thompson) English tutor, later letting her cut class because she's such a fast learner, and it calls his credentials into question since her work isn't even that good, it's just a step above the work that she normally hands in. Here O'Neill is trying to motivate Quinn to continue her path to excellence, but it's so over-the-top that it's lulling her into a false sense of security, as though she can do no wrong, and the longer she's treated as though all of her work is the best of her work, the harder it will be for her later in life when she learns that her talent has been all but an illusion. O'Neill is, unintentionally, setting Quinn up for failure down the line, and while he's trying to get her to work harder he's simply teaching her that she can get by with the half-hearted efforts she's been giving.

O'Neill calls Daria into his classroom and suggests that Quinn tutor her in writing, and it's such a ridiculous suggestion that it's a wonder it even made it into the script. We've been aware, as an audience, that Daria is a talented writer since the events of "Café Disaffecto," when Daria enthralled the student body with her reading of the spy drama she herself had penned. It should come as no surprise to O'Neill that Daria is more talented than her sister in the writing department, and to suggest otherwise is just confusing. This sequence is written just to rub salt in Daria's wound, and it just doesn't seem genuine in any way whatsoever.

Hoopes and Thompson continue to due an impressive job in distinguishing their multiple characters from one another, while the rest of the cast has really settled into who their characters are. Grandstaff does well in her depiction of Daria, conveying the right amount of emotion behind her lines to show how bothered she is by the situation without ever becoming so over-emotional that it seems out of character.

The animation of this season is much more fluid than that of last season, making the stories seem much more fleshed out than they previously did. Directed by Sue Perrotto and Karen Disher, this story lets Quinn stand out on her own, outside of the Fashion Club, while also lending a voice to how Sandi and her friends feel about the situation. In part they feel betrayed that Quinn is trying out a new persona, being somewhat put out by the fact that she's acting so differently now that she's become more influential, but feeling also angry that Quinn's new all-black fashion sense is catching on around school. In trying to get her to change, Sandi attempt to confront Daria only to pause from fear and turn the other way, a reaction that Quinn's suitors have later on, making it that much more apparent the kind of reputation Daria will be left with should Quinn become the smart one.

Rachel Lipman writes a constant war between the Morgendorffer sisters that plays itself out very well on screen. Never willing to make things easy for one another, Daria demands payment for doing Quinn a favor early on, only to have Quinn destroy any chance she has of getting what she wants when she states that Daria will finally have something to do on a Friday night "instead of sitting around like a loser." This leads to Daria and Jane (Hoopes) reveling in how poorly written Quinn's essay is, Daria musing that Quinn will finally have her fifteen minutes of unpopularity. As Quinn's reputation for intelligence takes an upswing, she comes to Jane for advice, admitting that, while she enjoys how much it bothers Daria, she's starting to feel like something of a phony, and wonders if she can ever go back to what she once was. In the end it takes another sisterly manipulation to return to the status quo, Daria forcing a Quinn-like makeover on herself in order to convince her sister to stop being someone she's not, and the entire episode really is a display of how the two of them relate to one another. While neither is particularly happy with their relationship, they understand what their roles are, and should either of them change so drastically again, it could threaten the very nature of both of their identities.

Despite their animosity toward one another, this episode allowed both Morgendorffer sisters to walk in each other's shoes, possibly gaining something of an understanding for who the other is. This is also the first time that Quinn is shown to really excel at anything scholastic, and while it doesn't appear as genuine as her teachers may lead her to believe, she does display a capacity for knowledge that likely will play into future stories.

Next: I Don't


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