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Why That '70s Show Fans Are Split Over Donna

That '70s Show draws on the exaggerated personality traits of teenage tropes interacting in a world of bell bottoms, Star Wars, and disco. The problems within the show are the same problems teenagers go through regardless of the era they grew up in — hence the universal appeal. A lot of those issues revolve around young love, exploring new relationships, and growing from childhood crushes to more adult, sexual relationships. The characters are caught in struggles to find themselves and negotiate the complicated world of being a teenager in '70s, small-town Wisconsin.

The friendly "girl next door" type of the gang is embodied in a feminist tomboy named Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon), whose identity is forever tied to the main character, Eric Forman (Topher Grace). Almost every aspect of Donna's character arc has to do in some way with her and Eric's romantic relationship. She starts on her career path at a local radio station, and even this massive step toward independence is colored by the way it strains their relationship. Donna wants to go away to college, but decides to stay in her hometown to be with Eric. Eric, Eric, Eric. Donna's character grows through the show's progression, but that growth is ultimately influenced by her scrawny boyfriend at every turn. Some fans don't like the person Donna grows into as a result of this problem of perspective.

Some fans think Donna changes for the worse

There are fans on both sides of the Donna dispute filling up the That '70s Show subreddit. Some of these fans, as evidenced by the thread entitled "What happened to Donna?," think that Donna's character has grown in ways they find upsetting.

"I'm on Season 3 and oh my god she is just not the same, cool, chilled out Donna from Season 1. She's p***ed at Eric every time he has a thought and is just whining about everything all the time ... Jeez what happened to her? Tell me she gets better," wrote u/misanthropeint, the original poster on the thread.

u/ThatsMyBounce echos a similar sentiment, writing, "Donna had some pretty cool moments in the first couple of seasons of the show, but then her character went to s**t. She turned into a hypocrite who thought she was always right, had to have the last word, would storm off in a strop and quietly agreed with the people who thought she was a lot better than Eric."

u/misanthropeint cited a couple of particular incidents that highlight this perceived shift in Donna's behavior: In season 2 when Donna tells Eric that he couldn't possibly get with a hot blonde classmate (Shelly), and in season 3 when the couple is writing an essay together and Donna tells Eric that he's wrong and she's right.

"Between Seasons 1 and 2 where the writers took the personality of someone who was deeply flawed but entertaining and redeemable," u/misanthropeint wrote of the exact moment writers let Donna's character go, "and made her into someone who is deeply flawed but thinks she's God's gift to humanity by Season 2 and onward so far."

Other fans are more sympathetic to the character

The fans on the other end of the spectrum seem to think Donna grows in response to her surroundings throughout the That '70s Show storyline, and is actually a pretty good character.

U/echoslala sparred with some of the Donna naysayers directly. In response to the essay issue, they claimed that Eric's attitude in the argument "drips of his belief that he is smarter than her. If my boyfriend would have ever spoken to me like this," they explained, "it would have been insulting since it would have felt like he was saying that I shouldn't worry my pretty little head over this, rather than allowing me to hear his actual perspective and rationale."

Other users looked for outside factors that affected the way Donna behaved. Referring to the pervious thread, u/Avatar1555 wrote: "Most of it is examples of yours as to how she treats Eric like crap. But in her defense, it can't all be blamed entirely on her, as things at her home with her parents drive her crazy and have likely contributed to her decline as a quality girlfriend."

If we hop over to another thread in the That '70s Show subreddit, "I Like Donna, Actually. Here's Why.", we see a common thread in support of the maligned character. The majority of the Donna fans on this thread argued that the Donna haters simply view the character from a sexist point of view.

"I love Donna! I feel like a lot of the bashing is sexism," u/Slytherin111 commented. "And her being Feminist and a tomboy really bother some people. They'd probably prefer if she was 100% girly and if she was less opinionated." 

Several other fans commented similar things in agreement. Whatever your opinion of Donna, it's hard to argue that the show could have been as successful without her piece of the Point Place puzzle, and for that we will always be grateful.