Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The New Kid


Daria bonds with Ted, a previously home schooled student, when she's forced into contributing to the yearbook. Their relationship is later complicated, however, when Daria inadvertently rejects him, and the nature of their friendship is called into question.

Previous: Monster

Rarely the one who reaches out to newcomers, Daria (Tracy Grandstaff) cultivates a fast friendship with Ted (Sky Berdahl) and is soon made victim to rumors that the two are romantically linked. Having little experience in this kind of situation, Daria is not the only one unsure of how to handle everything, but she does her best to navigate these uncharted waters without hurting anyone's feelings.

Though Ted is shown to be extremely awkward in both his actions and manner of speaking, pointing out the hyperbole, sarcasm, and irony used in Daria's speech, and not reacting to things in a natural manner, he still manages to make an impression on her, convincing her to check out art she'd never before heard of, and the two manage to bond slightly in a short span of time. This is the first time, aside from her interactions with Trent (Alvaro J. Gonzalez), that Daria makes an effort to impress someone, appreciating Ted's intellect and the fact that he's so against the norm of what everyone else in her life is, and she finds herself taken aback when he admits that he thinks that she's the remarkable one. Despite the fact that Daria genuinely likes Ted, she refuses to accept his gift of a hand-made necklace, stating that she doesn't want people thinking that they're involved romantically, only to later apologize and, in turn, be rejected by him. Ted is shown to be incredibly stunted in regards to his interaction with people, but it's also made clear that he can be very clever in social situations as well, getting the Fashion Club to leave him alone by alluding to a fake sale and beating Kevin (Marc Thompson) in a grip contest despite the vast difference in their levels of strength. In the end Ted ends up hanging with the cool crowd, and it's apparent that, should Daria have made any kind of effort in the past, she, too, could be leading this life. Daria's situation is made of her own doing, and Ted's story here displays the path that she could have taken to gain acceptance.

Tell calls Daria shallow, stating that she reminds him of Quinn (Wendy Hoopes), and though it's made to appear that Quinn blackmails Daria into the double date with her friends, it's actually Ted's comment that really turns her around. Daria really respects Ted's opinion, and his overtly negative view of her paints a picture that she's never seen of herself, reconsidering her position and wondering if she's meant to be more like her sister. Daria's date is given a stack of study cards with topics written on them in order to talk to Daria, giving her the chance to give genuine and thought-provoking answers knowing that he has no opinion on the topics at hand. This very well could have been a throwaway plot, but her former date, and his friends, later return to hassle Daria and Ted during their date, eventually becoming friends with Ted and stealing him from her.

At one point Ted's parents come to the Morgendorffer household to complain to both Helen (Hoopes) and Jake (Julián Rebolledo) about Daria's influence on their son. The biggest issue that they have is that Daria gave Ted a stick of gum, later getting angry as Helen offers them alcohol and coffee, and while their frustration with their son is somewhat understandable, they're shown to be extremely immature and hot-headed. This is a series that often is capable of showing both sides of an argument, but it is equally prone to bias against those that would oppose the main characters, and it seems that that's the case here, vilifying Ted's family in an effort to make them seem insane.

Jane (Hoopes) is uncharacteristically uncouth about Daria's relationship with Ted, and even though she knows that Daria's not interested in him romantically, and understands that she thinks he's nothing more than a nice guy, she keeps teasing Daria about the romance and even alludes to the idea that Daria is simply unwilling to accept her own feelings. The friendship between Jane and Daria is at it's best when their mockery of one another is kept tame, but Jane is depicted as being mean here when it's simply not the dynamic that they should have with one another. Were the situation reversed, and Daria was unrelenting in regards to Jane's interaction with a boy, the episode likely would have focused on the guilt that she felt in tormenting her friend, but Jane's not given that opportunity here, and it seems as though the writers have done a disservice to her character in this story.

Berdahl's choice of inflection for Ted is incredibly grating, but given that that's the voice he chose he at least provides steady use of it. Thompson proves very funny in a moment where, as Mr. DeMartino, he mimics Brittany's (Janie Mertz) cadence of speech incredibly well, and the cast is relatively enjoyable here.

Tony Kluck's direction of this episode is somewhat spotty, and it seems as though Ted's attempts to convince DeMartino to cut the pages for sports and clubs from the yearbook is simply an effort to turn the other students against Daria, despite the fact that she had nothing to do with the idea and was never vocally in favor of it. Daria gives Ted a stick of gum, that then sends him bouncing off the walls, and while it's understandable that he had never experienced anything like that, and may have had an exaggerated reaction to trying it for the first time, it's really far beyond the bounds of disbelief to imagine that he would become so manic so soon. The worst part of the episode involves the ending, wherein Daria, angry with her sister, locks them both in Quinn's room and proceeds to start hitting her. Daria has never been violent in this way, and for this to be the end of the story, as though it's in some way justified, is mildly disgusting.

Written by Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil, the story here seems like a series of setups that simply lead nowhere, starting with Jodie's (Jessica Cydnee Jackson) attempts to convince Daria to join the yearbook committee, and eventually ending with Daria's resignation from the yearbook due to "ethical issues" that are never really elaborated upon. Daria is shown to be somewhat conniving, joining yearbook in order to bribe her parents into buying software to make a web page, then planning to trade that software for an ultra violent video game that her parents likely wouldn't buy for her. This is largely a strange story, and it doesn't really work in the context of who these characters have been portrayed as so far.

While there could be a future in the works for Daria and Ted, it seems unlikely given his adoption into the cool crowd.

Next: Gifted


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