|“||Remember when we went to the drugstore and read the greeting card poems aloud? That was a fun date.||”|
Thomas "Tom" Sloane is one of the few non-adult characters that doesn't attend Lawndale High.
Tom is a smart, polite, and mature young man, despite that he's made a few screw-ups, but he does always mean well.
Tom Sloane is a teenager who belongs to one of Lawndale's richest families, but this is neither apparent from his appearance, nor by the car he drives. He was introduced in the episode Jane's Addition and indeed was the titular "addition" of that episode. Tom continued as Daria's boyfriend throughout the final season.
He has a casual, easy-going personality, unconcerned with most situations and assuming that things are going to go fine for him in a way that crosses the line into smugness.
Tom shows decency and ethics on a number of occasions helping out strangers (A Tree Grows in Lawndale, I Loathe a Parade), trying to repair a Daria/Jane rift (Jane's Addition), and expressing contempt for Wizard Computers' treatment of workers (Prize Fighters), but has also shown a mild arrogance and a habit of assuming people think the same way as him. He is often surprised when this irritates people. Daria summarized him in Is It College Yet? as being "a good guy. A little spoiled, a hair smug, a trifle egotistical, but a smart, funny guy who's basically very caring and sensitive in the not-pukey way."
Unique among the teenage cast, he doesn't go to Lawndale High School but instead to Fielding Preparatory Academy. This is first mentioned in Partner's Complaint, followed by Jane saying Tom's parents "make him go there."
He has certain characteristics in common with Daria: he is intelligent, well-read, and cynical, and he is not afraid to show it. He also shares an interest in older and more artistic films, such as Federico Fellini (Fire!), the works of Luis Buñuel, and The Third Man (he has posters of The Third Man and an iconic Un Chien Andalou shot in his bedroom). Tom's inability to notice he's pissing people off more than he should is also in common with Daria, and in Life in the Past Lane the two of them jointly put down her new boyfriend without realizing it was genuinely angering her.
Unlike Daria (and more like Jane), he is more open and friendly to new experiences and people. Tom is quite adaptable to new situations, able to quickly work out solutions to problems (A Tree Grows in Lawndale), and to social groups. In both cases, this can be faster than others might find comfortable: he quite quickly became attached to Jane and part of her intimate circle of friends/family (disorienting and frustrating Daria) and grew increasingly involved with the Lawndale High crowd; he then moved rapidly from the break-up with Jane to dating Daria, despite the obvious tensions this was causing. He didn't realize that the girls weren't going to adapt and move on as fast as he was, leading to conflict and tensions that he was quite confused by.
In emotional conflicts, Tom attempts to use reason to resolve situations: he approached Daria in Jane's Addition to put forward a calm, reasoned argument for burying the hatchet; he pointed out his relationship with Jane was already dead in Dye! Dye! My Darling; and during conflicts with Daria, he would make appeals to logic and her intellect. This usually works in the end, but has been known to greatly irritate Daria.
He has a younger sister, Elsie, with whom he appears to have a hostile relationship. He seems to get on with his parents, though primarily they are only seen when Daria's present; remember that they did basically steal his old car and dispose of it in the middle of the night before giving him a more 'suitable' one for his class. Either way, he says in Is It Fall Yet? that never tells them about anyone he's dating, and was a bit worried when they caught him with Daria; this seems to be more from embarrassment than any conflict over who he dates though, as according to him his parents like Daria. In Boxing Daria, he made a casual comment that his family (and other rich families) try to ignore their family problems and pretend they don't exist.
It seems to be hinted that Tom is not very popular at his own school, much like Daria and Jane at Lawndale High. He shows little interest in social events of his own class, such as not being interested in going to the dance in Is It Fall Yet? and referring to those events as "dull." In Jane's Addition his good friends blow him off, leading him to seek Jane at Pizza King. In My Night at Daria's when Daria tells him that a rumor is going around Lawndale that the two of them had sex, Tom asks if they could get the rumor going at his school, too. Notably, Tom's friends from Fielding and (post-Jane's Addition are never seen) and are only mentioned once, when Jane mentions going to a bowling alley with them in Of Human Bonding.
Tom & Wealth
It is directly stated by many characters on the show that his family is not only rather wealthy but is also quite powerful. (This was retroactively introduced starting with Is It Fall Yet?)
His interest in this wealth and power varies considerably.
Tom's initial car is a Ford Pinto, considered to be among the more dangerous cars ever made. It can be seen as a clear attempt by Tom to escape or at least not be associated with his family's immense wealth. We later see him driving what appears to be a well-used Jaguar, a car more fitting of his station (he states his parents had his old car towed away in the night). His clothes generally look cheap: he's 'dressing down'.
Tom has also stated repeatedly that he finds the social gatherings of his social class to be deathly dull, as well as the family get-together's at "the cove" where his Aunt Mildred has a summer home. He has been seen trying to sneak his way out of the former (he never seems to pull off sneaking from the latter), and generally prefers to laze around at home most of the time instead. When Andrew Landon joked about his mother having great "power" by being on a country club board, Tom looked briefly mortified by both the suggestion and it being made in public (and in front of Daria).
However, he is not only gleefully going to attend the pompous, Ivy League school known as Bromwell, he never shows any concern that he might not get in (though he has got safety colleges) and is shown having and using Bromwell contacts & influence through his family, though he shrugs that off when Daria points it out. He also uses his family's influence to get Daria into Bromwell as well, which (despite being a helpful act on his part) irked Daria. He could get defensive when criticized for any presumed elitism, and sometimes appeared unaware that his family's wealth (and assumptions that came with it) might confuse, irritate, or embarrass people who were less wealthy.
Jane referred to Tom as being forced to go to Fielding, which is possibly how Tom had described it to her; Daria was unimpressed by this claim, implying Tom can't be too bothered or he'd have done something about it. He never expressed any irritation or concern about Fielding to Daria.
Generally, Tom seems to enjoy his family's wealth while noticing and casually disparaging some of its absurdities. His family's wealth and power was a source of tension between him and Daria during their relationship, sometimes from his unnoticed privilege and sometimes because she automatically assumed the worst because of his class.
The "Love Triangle" Story Arc
In the episode Jane's Addition, Tom was introduced and began dating Jane Lane in a very short time span. They met at a Mystik Spiral gig, while Daria was briefly absent. The amount of time Jane spent with Tom became a source of tension between Daria and Jane for many episodes afterward, much as Jane's dates with Evan had been ("See Jane Run").
Daria and Tom, however, had a lot in common. Though Jane was never portrayed as not being intelligent, she was definitely not as "book-smart" as Daria or Tom. By the episode I Loathe a Parade, however, it was clear that the tension between Daria and Tom had blossomed into something else. Meanwhile, Tom and Jane's relationship began to deteriorate, with increasing clashes between the two; Tom made several big romantic gestures to Jane, ones that were out of character for him, to try and revive the relationship (Sappy Anniversary). After the end, Tom admitted they'd just been getting bored of each other. (Notably, he didn't blame Jane for this and said this is something that just happens in relationships.)
Meanwhile, Daria and Tom began a strange flirtation in Fire!, which did not go unnoticed by Jane. ("When," she asks bitterly, "did I become a third wheel in my own relationship?") While Tom and Daria hadn't been shown doing anything before then, Jane appeared to have been worried already that he was becoming interested in her friend.
In Dye! Dye! My Darling, Tom tried to talk to an unwilling Daria about their situation, leading to a moment known as The Kiss in Tom's car. This betrayal nearly ended Daria and Jane's friendship. Daria's relationships with both Jane and Tom were not fully resolved until Is It Fall Yet?. At the end of that movie, Daria and Jane's friendship was revealed to be stronger than the boy-drama, and Daria decided to pursue a romantic entanglement with Tom. In the rest of the series, the characters would occasionally make jokes about how Daria was dating her friend's boyfriend ("Life in the Past Lane", "Is It College Yet?").
In the Off-Canon Ccanon IIFY Post-Movie Chat, when asked which of the girls was a better kisser, Tom covered himself by claiming he had "no memory of ever kissing Jane" - Jane responded with "Tom who?"
In a 2006 interview, Glenn Eichler said Tom was created as "I thought it was really pushing credibility for Daria to have only had one or two dates during her whole high school career, I thought it was time in the evolution of her personality for a boyfriend to enter the picture. And of course it would provide us with some fresh storylines, always welcome after thirty-nine episodes." The reason Tom started as Jane's boyfriend was both because Glenn felt Daria would need to grow on a high school boy for him to ask her out, meaning "he would need to spend a fair amount of time in her company BEFORE they started dating", and because "I thought the situation would allow us to explore and test Daria and Jane's friendship". He admits this "may have backfired" as a chunk of the audience didn't buy Jane would forgive Daria for that.
Daria actress Tracy Grandstaff has suggested that Daria's part in the triangle happened because she "never expected a guy to be interested in her—until Tom came along" and because "she sat in the shadows crushing over the unattainable Trent for so long, she was blindsided by Tom’s attention". (Also a more tongue-in-cheek answer of "maybe the writers wanted to make the storyline more interesting")
Guy Moore, director of most of the Daria/Tom/Jane love triangle stories, said in 2014 "I never much understood why anyone found Tom appealing, as his personality was fairly bland, and he didn’t seem to have any chemistry with either Jane or Daria. But the mess of having all your relationships change because you got caught off guard by new feelings, THAT I understood—that sort of thing had happened to me, and to plenty of other people I knew, and I was very familiar with the resultant awfulness. So I gave the writers kudos for going there and exploring it, even as I was cringing."
Relationship With Daria Morgendorffer
Tom is the only character to have actually "dated" Daria, in the sense of having a mutually-understood, ongoing, romantic relationship. Daria described him as "very caring and sensitive in the not-pukey way" in Is It College Yet?
His relationship with Daria was marked by clashes and periods of friction, due to Daria's emotional and intimacy issues: this had been a problem since the start and she regularly pushed against him, sometimes to the point of trying to get him to stop dating her. This sometimes irritated him, though the two would make up afterwards. Other times, such as "Sappy Anniversary", Tom could inadvertently tick off Daria with his unconcerned, laconic personality, and a habit of assuming she'd feel the same way as him and not asking her ("Sappy", IIFY?, IICY?).
Between its clashes, the relationship was shown to be quite laid back and not traditionally romantic: in "Sappy Anniversary", Tom said he liked this about the relationship, that neither was going in for big gestures and they were happy to be lazy. (Ironically, that was the one time she was hoping for a gesture.) Usually, the two would hang out at his house or hers, making sarcastic comments about things. In "Life in the Past Lane", both of them were bemused and snarky over the retro scene and the elaborate dates Jane's then boyfriend was taking her on. In "Fizz Ed" and "The Story of D", however, Tom pushed Daria into taking action on things.
MTV's It Takes Two to Tangle feature summed up the pairing thusly: "They have a healthy sense of boundaries, probably due to the fact that hers are extra-thick and lustrous. His family background puts him at risk for hyper-exclusivity."
It is not clear how far Daria and Tom went physically in their relationship, just that no intercourse was had. In My Night at Daria's, it came out that Tom and Daria had discussed sex before and that Tom had backed off early on after Daria said she wasn't ready; he still carries condoms with him 'just in case', and was annoyed when Daria got in a dig at him for it, pointing out he was being responsible. He was very eager to have sex when she raised the idea again but when she was unable to go through with it, he made it clear he didn't view this as a relationship killer.
In Is It College Yet?, the relationship once again came under strain, this time during the college application period. Their differing views on where they were going and what it involved began to clash, and Tom again assumed Daria's view for her: she ended up missing out on visiting the Boston colleges after Tom decided - without asking her - that they could stay at Bromwell for an extra half-day so he could encourage Professor Woods to put some "influence" his (and Daria's) way; he assumed they still had "plenty of time" (to Daria's silent anger) when they were late getting away, and when they didn't, lightly joked (much to her anger) that it was a good thing they weren't that late to Bromwell. Later, during an argument, she threw at him that she wasn't able to get an application interview at Raft University, and in anger he claimed she probably got in because they hadn't met her. He later tried to make it up to her by trying to use his influence to get her into Bromwell, something she initially found off-putting ("some crappy romance novel where the troubled young viscount decides the lowly stable girl is good enough for him after all", as she put it to Jane).
It was Daria that broke off the relationship in the end, citing (ironically) that they were both starting to lose interest and that they were simply going down different paths after high school and they wouldn't be able to keep it going. Tom initially tried to argue against Daria's claims but stopped after she asked him if he was truly not bored with the relationship or if he was just upset Daria pointed it out first. Tom was left despondent and tried to call her, only to bottle it and hang up when she answered. He later met up with her, admitted in person she was right about what she'd said, and the two agreed to stay friends, with Daria saying she was glad they had dated and Tom telling her "I really look up to you, and your opinion's important to me".
Tom's potentially ending the relationship between Daria and Jane, and effectively sealing the fate of the (already dead) flirtation between Daria and Trent Lane, caused Tom to be a very controversial character in fandom. Many loathed him for coming between Daria and Jane, and that Daria was stabbing her friend in the back. Many were disgruntled he wasn't Trent, who was seen as better. (Anne Bernstein spoofed this with the website feature "Guy vs. Guy", a fake argument between two fans).
Others felt Daria was weaker as a personality when around Tom, more prone to second guessing herself. Others took a more favourable view of the actual relationship as it forced Daria out of her comfort zone and into new stories, and the two had a workable, easy-going relationship.
In his Q&A, Guy Moore - who worked on "I Loathe A Parade", "Fire!", and "IIFY?" - said that various show admin kept an eye on the fan's views and "mention[ed] in a general sense that the viewers WERE reacting furiously [to the Kiss plot], waiting to see how it resolved. They never qualified "reacting well" or "reacting poorly" I assumed it was well."
- When he was dating Jane, there rarely was any interaction between him and Jane's brother Trent. The exceptions are The F Word and Mart of Darkness. In the former, he pleads with Tom not to abandon Jane because "she needs [Tom] right now" (she'd started dressing 'conventional' and he was worried). In the latter, while Trent seems to have no issue with Tom, Trent's laconic, easily-distracted approach to things was shown to drive Tom up the wall.
- In the Latin American dubbing, he was voiced by Jorge Ornelas.