(Re)Animations: Daria (1997)
The clubhouse welcomes back Guest Contributor, Camiele White from Star Costumes with a guest post on MTV’s gone but not forgotten girl wonder: Daria!
It’s not very often that I find myself going back to a show directly after having already watched the entire series. However, every once in a while I get so nostalgic, so emotionally attached that I just can’t let go. It’s like a one-sided relationship: you know that the person at the other end doesn’t really care, but you just keep going back because 1) the feeling of being with someone blinds you towards the obvious or, 2) the sex is just too damn good. Anyway, I digress.
As it is, Daria is one of those shows that’s got me fiending like Ennis del Mar for Jack Twist –I just can’t quit it. It’s old hat to say that the show was the beacon with which most troubled adolescents learned how to cope. It’s completely cliché to say that the snarky humour and fearless look at the high school hierarchy was almost biographical in its delivery. But, even clichés are birthed from truth. In all honesty, I don’t know what I would’ve done without the show’s inherent desire to paint the grisly and grotesque picture of the Seven Circles of Hell so vividly.
Daria Morgendorffer is an American high school student with a penchant for the brutally honest –at the expense of personal relationships. However, her bond with the few is more powerful than the adoration and ass kissery of the multitude. She’s intelligent, unapologetic, and sarcastic to a fault. Many who may’ve only heard of the show (read: kids born in the 90s as opposed to being brought up in the last illustrious decade) or who only really remember the premise may confuse Daria for a borderline depressed high school outcast. Au contraire, mes amis. The show highlighted the stark and cruel dynamic of the so-called popular kids with those kids who simply wanted to be left to their education in order to avoid the pigeonhole of the parade.
Of course, no circus is complete without its sideshow, right? Enter Daria, stage left. She’s got a pocket full of sarcasm and enough brains to make her seem downright unfit to walk among the fray of lip gloss jockeys and muscle-head lost causes. It would be expected that she’d be the prime candidate for the kid who sits alone in the cafeteria. But, hold on now. How could we ever forget that even the loners have their clique? Enter stage right, Jane Lane –the artsy smartass with enough vitriol in every word she spews to slaughter a stampeding herd of teenagers. Add an entire cast of popular kids (including Daria’s younger sister, Quinn, and her hapless followers), misfits, and brains and you’ve got the paragon of high school of mania.
Need I go on? Probably not, but it would be worth mentioning that those who may have forgotten Daria may have also forgotten its incredible intelligence. It’s a show that proves some things only get better with age. After a decade of negligence (I see a pattern forming here), I returned to Daria with new experiences (including graduating high school the same token as Jodie Landon –the “Black friend” who’s just trying to get enough extracurricular and academics to go to a great college where colour is simply subtext and not a defining factor), relationships, and aggravates. One day I was suddenly propelled by an overwhelming urge to revisit the shrine of the silver monkey where my childhood memories are stored dusty and ready for reconsideration. What struck me after my short life of fun and folly was the maturity the show portrayed. It was actually very smart and meticulous in its exploration of the high school experience from each year of torture an “outcast” endures.
High school is that concentrated microcosm that defines society to a reasonable extreme, forcing students to carve out a niche for themselves in a universe thrust upon them. Daria took the derangement of plopping into a new social environment and highlighted those moments when you’re forcibly kicked out of your comfort zone and made to experience everything around you and relate. From being on the fringe of society’s “in-crowd”, to having your first relationship, to growing up with uncertainty, Daria covers the spectrum of what it means to be a kid trying to understand yourself. It also explores the concept of maturing out of your preconceived notions about the world around you while still holding dearly to your moral code.
With segments like Sick, Sad World¸ an opening theme song that proclaims a constant pain in the neck from the societal boot cracking the spine, and two movies that summed up each step of realising one’s high school mortality, Daria was miles ahead of its time in terms of innovation and the need to peel back the layers of bullshit that we couldn’t have predicted to be just around the corner.
I watched every single episode of the show and am now going back for more. There’s so much about life that can be gleaned from it that I’d be a fool to think that I’d gotten it all the first (technically, second) time around. I’d like to say without equivocation that Daria is probably the smartest show to come out of the hodge-podge of the MTV generation. Without its wit, honesty, and ballsy approach to the prefabricated system, I doubt any of us would’ve survived the high school turnaround that saw new responsibility, new asses to kiss, and more Lady Gaga than we can stomach.
Guest Contributor – Camiele White
Camiele White suffers from too much film information. In order to remedy her psychosis she’s decided to write about it. Right now, she’s trying something a bit different and writes for Star Costumes. If you want to engage in a little conversation (at your own risk) she can be reached at cmlewhite at gmail [dot] com.