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D notices

September 14th, 2008 (01:28 pm)

There was a meme which tree_and_leaf introduced her readers to a few days ago, and it went like this:

* Comment on this post.
* I will give you a letter.
* Think of 5 fictional characters and post their names and your comments on these characters in your LJ.

I commented, and was given the letter 'D'. This is my response...

Daria Morgendorffer. My heart went out to Daria as soon as I was introduced to her, because she reminded me somewhat of me when I was at school. The eponymous teenage heroine of Daria is acerbic without (most of the time) being self-righteous, and - as the first episode of the series showed - crippled by a lack of self-esteem which is balanced by her despair at other people and redeemed by a latent confidence in her intellectual ability. Daria remains an underrated series; it manages to be eloquent about elements of the passing of childhood and the move forward into young adulthood - the uncomfortable discovery that the world is not, after all, specially designed for your self-realisation. "You're standing on my neck," as the theme song says: for Daria, the limited horizons of parents, sister (the spectacularly vapid Quinn) and box-ticking teachers are choking, and retreat into herself seems the only plausible survival strategy. Her deadpan deprecation of her surroundings is fuelled by a sense of isolation which she wishes she didn't have to work so hard with, for so little reward. Occasionally there is false promise of hope that the world can, after all, make itself more Daria-shaped - see the episode The New Kid for an example; but by the end of the series, her high school graduation and her break-up with socially comfortable (in more ways than one) Tom, she has shown an environment of schoolteachers, fellow-students and above all parents that her interpretation of the world, while difficult to classify in terms available to teachers or classmates, is tested and can get her through life.

Dennis J. Brennan. In The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon rightly includes several non-Jewish characters to throw the stuttering half-life of his Alaskan-based Jewish homeland of Sitka into relief. One of these is the journalist Dennis Brennan. He appeals most directly to one of Chabon's inspirations for the book, a phrasebook for English-speaking travellers needing to get by in Yiddish, because he is a non-Jewish incomer to Sitka who has had to learn Yiddish to get by in Sitka newspapers. Brennan's Yiddish is described as "swift and prosperous" and Chabon renders it as ornate English, with erratic but still meaningful word order: "a sausage recipe with footnotes". In the eyes of Chabon's hero, Meyer Landsman, Dennis Brennan is a pathetic figure, all the more so because there are echoes of past flair: once a dashing, influential newsman in Sitka, outside it he has failed, much as the loan of Sitka by the United States to the Jewish people has failed to flourish. Dennis Brennan is a symbol of the estrangement between America and the Jews it has protected; at the funeral of Mendel Shpilman, whose apparent murder Landsman is investigating, Dennis forgets to wear a hat.

Don Draper. Mad Men's leading man, battling to sustain his belief in his own integrity, founded as it is on sand, and nourished by hypocrisy. One of many intricate characters in a series which I would like to know better. Roll on the second series.

Dodo Chaplet. Poor Dodo, intended as the voice of authentic working-class youth by her creators, but whose development went awry when those creators left the Doctor Who production office and were replaced by those looking for a prettier 'damsel in distress'. Still, that might have been a good thing. She has a wonderfully down-to-earth attitude on her discovery of the TARDIS, seemingly taking its internal dimensions for granted and insisting that there ought to be a telephone there so she can phone the police. Unfortunately, this can make her look stupid in a way that potentially distances her from the audience, believing that she will be able to get a bus back from the Ark's 'zoo', believing it to be Whipsnade, and insisting "where else could it be?" While she returned the granddaughter-surrogate to something closer to the original model of 'secondary modern school pupil' which her predecessors Susan and Vicki were too exotic and sophisticated to match simply by virtue of their futuristic origins. Dodo's reserves of intelligence are developed in The Celestial Toymaker and The Gunfighters, and Jackie Lane's abandonment of the stage-Lancashire accent in favour of BBC-RP makes her easier to watch, but unfortunately this is probably a symptom of producer Innes Lloyd's lack of interest in the character. It's still chilling to see Dodo possessed by WOTAN in The War Machines, but the cursory way in which she is written out encourages the viewer to undervalue her memory and exposes the emphasis made in late 1960s Doctor Who on the companion as cipher rather than as a rounded character.

The Doctor. It's still difficult to explain what I see in the Doctor, particularly express why I found him such a compelling figure when I was a small child. I think that he struck me first of all as an extremely friendly authority figure, in a similar vein to many early 1970s children's television presenters. I also appreciated how his leadership seemed based on the possession of knowledge (I think I placed less emphasis on its application, or didn't differentiate application from possession then) rather than on force or physical strength - Doctor Who's great rival at my infants school was The Six Million Dollar Man - but I'd rather have been Tom Baker-the fourth Doctor than Lee Majors-Steve Austin any day of the week. The Doctor, as played by Tom Baker, was an assertive beacon of intelligence and individuality in the playground of physical aggression and conformity. I'm not sure whether David Tennant's Doctor could have meant the same to me if he had been on screen when I was a child.


Posted by: catmint_1984 (catmint_1984)
Posted at: September 14th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
IVFDF 2009 Exeter

OK, give me a letter and if I can think of 5 characters, I'll do it.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 14th, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)

I allocate you 'T'.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 15th, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)

Staying in the latter part of the alphabet... the letter 'W'.