mid S4 (AU)
Nemo Blank has retired from Daria fandom. Never mind, Brother Grimace is still here, and he's written a long, complex, multi-subplotted (technical term) fic messing heavily with OH's head, taking canon (for "canon" in this review, read "the events that occurred on the cartoon as broadcast on MTV" and nothing more than that) only on a "what I want, when I want" basis, and throwing in maybe just a dash of the generally weird for flavour. Needless to say, I got the feeling I could have been reading the erratically great 'Blank here fairly often...

That said, nobody messes with Daria's head quite like Brother Grimace. His earlier "The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow..." laid her soul bare to the fandom in a way no fanfic, essay or MB discussion had done before it, with none other than Satan himself as tour guide. "Respect" covers similar turf (very similar --- read one then the other and you'll get a sense of déjà vu more than once, not that that's anything to complain about) but instead of His Unholiness we have a bunch of LHS victims and some kind of army recruiter/sociology teacher/violent genius type by the name of Dr Kyle Armalin. In spite of my description of him, and indeed the author's early backstory, the good Brother has made him a credible character... one of this fic's greater achievements, I'd say.

Not that it isn't long enough not to need, and have, a lot more. Let's see... don't want to spoil too much here, but Sandi is still a harpy, though not a stupid one, and one we can sympathise with... Trent is a secret maths genius (yes, it's done believably, or at least so as to require the minimum of suspension of disbelief)... Upchuck has a family... Jake is both a competent consultant and good with his daughter... and Helen is 200 flavours of rock-solid, jealous, cast-iron, stereotypical bitch.

Which is the problem, in a sense. Not that he doesn't do a damn good job of rendering Helen this way. It is, of course, a common fanfic cliché (mostly, though not always, with none-too-well-written fanfic) to make Helen the bitch who has it in for OH and Jake the sensitive, caring parent who doesn't. This doesn't matter; if it bothers you now, it won't after reading "Respect". But after so many characters have been developed away from the stereotypes we see on the show and the clichés we see in fic, it's a disappointment to see something go the other way. Then there's details like the Grove Hills Fashion Club (don't ask) and the project solution presented by Upchuck's team (just read the fic) and Armalin having a "previous engagement" with one of Daria's relatives... larger than life, when life-size might have and has worked better. Plus there's the fact that Bro' Grim's interpretation of Daria isn't as fresh and doesn't have as rock-solid a base here as it did in TSWCOT --- or rather, it does, because he's messed round with canon to suit his purposes. Which is fine when the canon (S4 and 5) is of relatively low quality, and especially when the messing-around is done this well, but it doesn't stop you from wondering how near to perfect it would have been if he'd followed it to the last letter (an impossibility, given people's different interpretations, but never mind...) and still been just as on-the-money.

But then again, when at the very end of chapter seven (this is an unfinished work, roll on chapter eight!) you read... no, I won't spoil it; in a shorter or lesser fic it would be setting off everyone's bullshit detectors. In this, with such a long, detailed setup, it almost brought a tear. And not just because I'd been staring at a computer screen for so long. Which is saying a lot, in my case... But the little things still irritate.

The trouble with "Respect" isn't that it's not a brilliant piece of fanfic. It's that you can't help but recall all the petty little nitpicked problems... and think that somehow, it could have been flawless.

Read it at: Outpost Daria