By Amma Marfo, Contributor
“[T]to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”-Joan of Arc, 1412-1431
“I’ve never been able to live up to her, and that’s why instead, I became a cynical, angst-ridden goth girl.” -also Joan of Arc, 2002-2003
In 2002, MTV introduced its audiences to the second coming (in a sense) of a number of historical figures: Abe Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, JFK, Cleopatra, and Joan of Arc. The catch: the second coming came in the form of clones, developed in the eighties and now of high school-going age. The ensuing adventures lasted one regrettably short 13-episode season, of which the US only got seven (but some determined YouTube searching can catch you up). In addition to being sharply written, filled with timely guest stars like Mandy Moore, Marilyn Manson, and Ashley Angel from “God and television’s gift to the world O-Town,” it was the first major show of talent from show co-creators and writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The pairing would go on to give us The Lego Movie and FOX’s Last Man on Earth…but sadly, not a film in the Star Wars Universe.
For high school me, Joan of Arc in particular was a revelation. Civically minded, not afraid to stand out, hopelessly in love with her best friend- she ticked all the boxes. In a season of TV so strong it merits a yearly rewatch, the sardonic yet relatable teen (voiced perfectly by MADtv’s Nicole Sullivan) stood out for her role as the voice of reason, but also as proof that if you wait 12 3/4 episodes, (Class) President (candidate) Abe Lincoln will fall in love with you.
In a number of ways, “of Arc,” as she’s often referred to by adults on the show, was ahead of her time- of course, in ways parallel with her historical gene-mate. When faced with the ban of girls or animals on the boys’ basketball team, she masqueraded as John Dark (yes, as in Jeanne d’Arc) to carry the team to victory. After her retainer was bent, she started hearing voices…from the local Christian rock station. Thankfully, the closest she came to being burned at the stake was during a demonstration to get her peers to stop smoking raisins…but I’ve gotten waaaay ahead of myself already.
Joan was exactly what we need most high school girls to be. Hell, what we need most people to be. She took care of her friends and called them out when they were being reckless or short-sighted. She was smart, both academically and in rooting out the true nature of the people around her. So far from self-absorbed, she was involved in her community in ways that Clone State would have undoubtedly appreciated. She was this wholly unique blend of Darlene Conner and Jessie Spano, and I still maintain that no one currently on TV touches the spot in my life that she held for one season in the early 2000s. Well, once the Roseanne reboot starts up, we’ll have something close.
In the meantime, I can’t recommend highly enough heading to YouTube to get introduced (or to revisit) her and her classmates in one of the most regretfully cancelled shows of the past several years. Watch it and get mad, or as Joan puts it, “so mad you could piss glue.”
Amma Marfo is a writer, speaker, and podcaster based in Boston, MA. Her writing has appeared in Femsplain, The Interrobang, Pacific Standard, and Talking Points Memo. Chances are good that as you’re reading this, she’s somewhere laughing.