Obnoxious Lawndale High football hero Tommy Sherman, in town to attend a ceremony naming a goalpost after him, is killed in a freak accident. While the rest of the student body grieves, Daria becomes annoyed at being treated as "the misery chick."
Lawndale High is being honored by a visit from alumnus Tommy Sherman, who's being honored for his football prowess by the dedication of a new goalpost in his name. Kevin, naturally, is deep in the throes of hero worship, but Daria and Jane are less than impressed, particularly when Jane explains why they're naming a goalpost after him (seems that he insisted on running the touchdowns himself, but he got so wrapped up in waving to the crowd that he'd hit the goalpost). When Tommy arrives, he actually manages to lower Daria's opinion of him by proving himself to be an egotistical and misogynistic jerk. After hitting on Brittany and insulting Kevin and Mack, Daria can stand it no longer and tells the guy off, and in turn, Tommy accuses Daria of being one of those "misery chicks" that's always depressed about everything. Daria blows his comments off, but is still angry that the jerk is going to be treated like a hero for the rest of his life. Jane jokes that maybe he won't actually live that long... words that become prophetic when the new goalpost falls on him and kills him. Not unexpectedly, this event sends the whole school into mourning, but what Daria doesn't expect is the attention she's suddenly receiving, as first Kevin, then Brittany, then Mr. O'Neill, and finally Quinn comes to her for advice on dealing with this tragedy, because after all, she's "the misery chick." What's even stranger, though, is that Jane is doing everything she can to avoid talking to Daria, thereby depriving her of an outlet for her frustrations about the reputation she's been given. Daria finally goes over to Jane's house to ask her what's going on, and after a somewhat reassuring talk with Trent, she corners Jane in her bedroom and demands an explanation. Jane admits that she was disturbed about how her little joke came true, which is making her feel somehow responsible for his death. Daria then vents about how people assume that she's miserable all the time, when the truth is that she's just not like them. She "makes people think," Jane tells her, which is why Jane didn't want to talk to her: she didn't want to think about it. After talking things out, they're able to agree on three things: Jane wasn't responsible, Daria isn't a "misery chick," and Tommy Sherman was a major-league jerk (but he still shouldn't have died). Unfortunately, Daria can't shake her reputation that easily, as she finds out when Sandi asks her for advice on dealing with her depression over her cat eating her makeup and getting sick. Daria decides that if she can't shake her reputation, she should profit from it, and charges Sandi $10 for some useless advice. Afterwards, Daria feels bad about making $10 off of Sandi's suffering... because she should have charged her $20.
Historical & Cultural References:
- "Black clouds swallowing Chernobyl." -- In 1986, the reactor building at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Ukraine exploded, spewing toxic radiation into the atmosphere. It is, to date, the worst peacetime accident in the history of nuclear power, far eclipsing the 1979 partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania.
- "The bimbo signal." -- A play on the "bat signal," the primary means of calling DC Comics superhero Batman into action. (The signal is an ordinary spotlight with a bat symbol superimposed on the glass. Turning on the light and aiming it at clouds or at a building will produce a bright oval that looks like the Batman logo.)
- "The Force." -- In the epic Star Wars film saga, this is described as an energy field given off by all living things. It is the source of power for both the Jedi (Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda) and the Sith (Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine).
- Michael Jordan was the star player of the Chicago Bulls NBA basketball team for most of the 1980s and 1990s; afterwards, and until his retirement in 2003, he was part owner of (and player on) the Washington Wizards.
Helen - Daria, just once, why can't you smile when somebody takes your picture?
Daria - I don't like to smile unless I have a reason.
Helen - Daria, people judge you by your expressions.
Daria - Yes, and I believe there is something intrinsically wrong with that system, and have dedicated myself to changing it.
Jodie - "Good afternoon, students, faculty, and distinguished alumni of Lawndale High. As a representative of your Student Council..." Any ideas?
Daria - "It is my privilege today to once again send the message that learning is no substitute for winning."
Jane - "And that it's not how hard you study, it's how hard you play football." (the last word is uttered with mock intensity)
Kevin - I'm Kevin Thompson. This is Michael Jordan Mackenzie.
Tommy - Michael Jordan Mackenzie? You're kidding, right?
Mack - It was Michael James Mackenzie, but Dad went to a Bulls playoff game when I was 12 and then he changed it.
Tommy - That's sick, man.
Daria - Excuse me.
Tommy - You're kidding, right? You think I'm going to talk to you? (looks at Jane) You, maybe. Like, four hours into a kegger.
Jane - Perhaps after I vomit on your shoes...
Tommy - Do you know who I am? Tommy Sherman?
Daria - I know the whole school's turning itself inside out because of some egotistical football player, and I've seen you insult or proposition just about everyone you come across, so my guess is that you're the football player guy. Congratulations, you must have worked very hard to become such a colossal jerk so quickly.
Daria - (writing on notepad) "Feeling bad... not feeling worse... good."
Mr. O'Neill - I figured you're be dealing with it. You probably think about the dark side all the time.
Daria - The dark side? Are we talking about "the Force"?
Mr. O'Neill - Yes, I'm sure you're dealing with it. (pause) I'm not dealing with it! (starts to cry)
Daria - (awkwardly) There. There.
(discussing Lord Tennyson in Mr. O'Neill's class)
Daria - He says, "Emotional involvement brings pleasure and extraordinary pain." Then he declares that it's better than feeling nothing at all.
Mr. O'Neill - That is excellent, Daria.
Daria - Of course, this was before the advent of community property laws.
Jane - You just made ten bucks off of that poor girl's suffering.
Daria - Yeah. That was wrong.
Jane - Really. Next time...
Daria - Twenty.
It Really Makes You Think: I guess I'm not that surprised that everyone in Lawndale thinks that Daria is good with the dark side of life. I think that label is unwarranted, but that poker face could definitely give someone the wrong impression. Helen is right, people do judge you based on your facial expressions to a certain extent. If you almost never smile, you're considered miserable.
Jane doesn't want to think, so she avoids the most thoughtful person she knows. Her assessment hit the nail right on the head: the others don't usually think so when they are forced to think (through the death of a "local hero"), they look right to someone they know to be a thinker to see how they cope. They're miserable because they're not smiling.
Jerk of the Millennium:
Tommy Sherman was a jerk but only marginally deserved to be crushed by a falling goalpost. He brought out the worst in everyone he came across (except Kevin, who had no idea what was going on); even Jodie, who is usually even tempered, was made upset just by his presence (and having to write that speech for him). He didn't have to work very hard to get like this; most people who are this way were always this way and probably will always be this way. On the plus side, he was a hero for the rest of his life. :)
Random Act of Kindness:
Trent did a good deed for both Daria and Jane by telling Daria to just go up to Jane's room. He must have realized that his sister was trying to avoid Daria and that it probably wasn't the best thing for either of them. Eventually, they would have to face each other and the longer it takes the more their friendship would suffer. It's good that stuff like this doesn't make Trent think.
People dying at my whim would be too much responsibility for me to handle. It was more of a coincidence for Daria and Jane than anything but it was a weird coincidence.
This was a very thoughtful episode. Most "mainstream" animation would never take a plot about someone losing their life this seriously. I liked the advice "find another way to feel and then you won't feel bad" (words to live by). My only complaint is that "The Misery Chick" didn't feel much like the season finale that it was supposed to be.
Note: "The Misery Chick," animation wise, looked like it came from either a different production run or a different animation studio. Maybe it was a second season episode that was finished early. [Nope, it was done by Plus One Animation, just like all the other first season episodes. All season two episodes were produced by Rough Draft Studios, Korea. - MJP]
Copyright © 1998 Mike Quinn [All Rights Reserved]. Used with permission. The views presented here are those of the author, and may or may not necessarily be those of Outpost Daria.