Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome: Adaptation and Cabaret

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18th, 2011 by Alanna Bennett – Be the first to comment

Cabaret is one of my favorite movies. As someone who has always been a big fan of both film and musical theater, the way that Cabaret tackles both so cleverly has always impressed me. read more »

You’re Standing on My Neck

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25th, 2011 by Alanna Bennett – Be the first to comment

My mother used to beg me to turn the channel halfway through a Daria marathon. “Her voice is irritating,” she would say, “It’s just so monotonous.” And it was. I completely saw her point, but my feelings on the matter were beyond the voice at that point. Daria Morgendorfer was my id.

I was a much more idealistic teenager than Daria. In fact, I was (gasp!) an optimist. And I still am. But when you’re a teenager, especially the particular brand that spent her formative years curled up in front of a television set, you seek out characters that speak to a more hidden part of you–the part that wishes she had the gumption to say half the things that regularly came out of Daria Morgendorfer’s mouth.

Watching Daria was like getting a behind-the-scenes pass on the high school years of Dorothy Parker or Tina Fey. She had a corrosive wit that took no prisoners, and even though she saw the world in a much darker way than I did, it spoke to me in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Daria sat, every day, in a Lawndale High classroom, forever lamenting the state of the world around her. There were the dumb jocks and cheerleaders, the beauty-obsessed sister, the out-of-touch teachers and parents. We’ve all seen those before. They have populated, in some form, every single solitary teen show since the advent of television. We’re used to them. But Daria Morgendorfer was something of a different breed.

In some¬† way the 90s were full of her type–Claire Danes’ Angela Chase in My So-Called Life spends the entirety of her show squirming uncomfortably in the center of her nuclear family and “boring” “normal” life, with bucketfuls of angst along the way. Freaks and Geeks’ Lindsey Weir had much the same experience. In the simplest terms today they might be labeled “hipster,” but to overlook them due to that kind of vastly off-base (not to mention irrelevant) label would mean missing out on some of teen television’s best characters.

Rachel Maddux explores a bit of this in a piece for Paste Magazine entitled “Where Have all the Weird Girls Gone?” These girls were relatable.¬† Daria was mean and intellectual, Angela Chase angsty and raw, Lindsey Weir lost and wistful.

So where have they all gone? TV today is filled with just as many stereotypes as it always has been–some would argue there are more than ever. So where have all the snarky, somewhat lonely, intelligent girls gone? Shows like Gossip Girl showcase characters like Blair Waldorf, a character who took over the show through sheer force of will and a near overdose of snark and scheming intelligence. But Blair holds a dictator-like power that our 90s TV heroines lacked. Daria Morgendorfer, Lindsey Weir, and Angela Chase held quite a different stance in their TV universes; they were exploring what it meant to grow up in a world that was, so far, out of their grasp.

So where did they all go? Maddux theorizes that they all flew to the big screen. Maddux drops the names of Juno’s eponymous heroine, and actresses Kat Dennings, Emma Stone, and Charlyne Yi, and the alt-girl weirdness they bring t every role they’re cast. And while you will rarely find me disparaging the greatness of Emma Stone, is the big screen the best place for these girls to be showcased?

Part of what made Lindsey, Angela, and even Daria so surreal-ly accessible was the weekly access we got into their lives. Their stories were ongoing, and you knew that even after you stopped watching (or after they got canceled, as they all did), they would keep going and so would you. It seems as though the long-form narrative styles of television might be a better fit for them.