Have any of you ever watched the MTV show Daria? Aired from 1997 to 2002, this is a bit of an older show, but that simply makes it a classic. Set in American suburbia, the show follows Daria Morgendorffer as she navigates the crazy twists and turns of high school with a biting wit and misanthropy that has come to be her trademark. Daria is a satire on pop culture, high school and life in general, poking fun at the absurdities of life while at the same time showing that those who see the ridiculous nature of the world around them aren’t perfect either.
This is the strength of Daria, that the eponymous character herself has plenty of idiosyncrasies. Daria is a principled thinker, constantly condemning the shallowness that she sees around her in people such as her sister Quinn or Kevin, Lawndale High’s “QB”. However, she is distraught to find herself falling short of her own standards in matters as trivial as her temporary decision to wear contact lenses. You wouldn’t think that switching your method of eye enhancement would be a big deal, but when everyone around Daria sees the contacts as a point of departure from her being a “brain”, Daria begins to doubt her own motives for wearing contacts. In the end, she chooses to go back to glasses, admitting that she does so because of the feeling of moral superiority it gives her. Daria doesn’t pull any punches. When our heroine and her best friend Jane Lane experience victories, the result is often a mixed bag, and the girls are honest about the fact that while they may have emerged victorious from their most recent battle, their war against stupidity is never-ending, and their prospects grim.
Daria tackles the question of what it means to be an outsider, not only in high-school, but life in general. It shows that everyone, from the career driven mother, to the lone African American honors student, to the leader of the school’s fashion club, had their own doubts and fears. Many characters’ struggles could be shallow and silly, but you still cheered them on because that’s what a lot of life looks like. When the show spoke on more serious matters such as what sexual interaction means for a relationship or the still present sexism and racism in the workforce, its commentary remains relevant to the present day. Although Daria is over a decade old now, the world it presents really isn’t too different from the one we see today.
While the show may condemn society’s stupidity, it has a more forgiving view toward most of the individual characters we see onscreen. Helen Morgendorffer, Daria and Quinn’s mother, while often absent because of work is still a source of wisdom and encouragement for her daughters. Trent, Daria’s crush and her best friend’s brother, while a slacker, is shown to have noble ideals at his core. Most touching to me is that throughout the show’s five seasons we see Quinn Morgendorffer mature from being so ashamed of her sister that she pretends she is the family’s foreign exchange student to openly acknowledging her kinship to Daria, and while Daria has remained sardonic and cold to Quinn throughout the show’s episodes, we see how much this acknowledgment means to her. Daria may have low esteem for those around her, but she holds her family and friends deep inside the stony recesses of her heart.
Daria’s humor may not be for everyone. It’s the sort of show you watch when you feel a bit disenchanted with the world around you and want to hear from someone who feels the same as you, but can articulate herself more clearly. The issues presented in the show are thought provoking, and while Daria does not always make the same choices I would make, I appreciate that her decisions are well thought out and reflect Daria’s own moral stance. This show is one that will stick with you. I’m always happy to kick back, grab a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos and sing along as Daria informs the audience, “You’re standing on my neck,” one more time.
If you want to watch Daria, the entire show is available on Hulu. You can also pay for episodes on Amazon Prime, but the better deal is to buy the entire series, which is currently on sale for less than 20 bucks! If you enjoy the show, it’s a worthwhile one to add to your permanent collection.