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The self-defeating world of MTV began as a spark in the mind of one
perceptive demographics adviser or another, but soon it grew to
epidemic proportions, numbing and sugarcoating all things rebellious in
a depressingly successful attempt to convince the masses that
nonconformity is all about styles and fads. Any sensible teenager will
tell you that it is an unwitting mockery of the things it believes it
is making available to an already converted audience, but amongst the
throngs of bright colors and loud-but-not-too-loud noises that
essentially is MTV, you will occasionally find a gem; an intelligent,
insightful, informed show of independent thought, sincerity and
sardonic subtlety. "Daria" is one such example.
Anybody who used to watch "Beavis and Butthead" (no comment) will recognize Daria already, as the plain girl with glasses and the monotone voice that would often foil the titular duo's moronic and half-baked plans. When the show began to think about packing it in, MTV approached the creators with the offer of giving Daria her own show. And thank heavens for that. Not only is "Daria" up there with "Frasier" as one of the greatest spin-offs of all time, but it threatens to take a place as one of the greatest stand-alone shows of all time.
Daria Morgendorffer, our bland anti-heroine, is not your average teenage girl. Smart, sarcastic, opinionated but highly unmotivated, her life revolves around observing the actions of others with her best friend Jane Lane, a misfit artist from a family of unconventional thinkers. Together Daria and Jane see fit to mock the sea of stereotypes that is their suburban hometown of Lawndale, mainly the student body of their high school. Daria's deep loathing of all things superficial is regularly tested by the presence of her shallow and materialistic sister Quinn, while her workaholic lawyer mother Helen and her perpetually stressed out and slightly unbalanced father Jake struggle to do the right thing by their daughters in the interactive jumble that is life in Lawndale.
At a mere glance, one might perceive "Daria" as a children's show, due to its animation. However, even the slightest exertion of further examination would reveal that it is no more a children's show than "The Angry Beavers" is a sophisticated portrayal of American Wildlife. Where a lot of shows sell their credibility for cheap laughs and mold their characters on popularity polls, "Daria" is firm in its subtlety, never wavering in its belief that, given time, its audience will get the joke. Some may take longer than others, but all that do never turn back.
The genius of the show lies in its ironic reflection of a culture that would never allow a show like this to get off the ground. Surrounded on all sides by the trivial and materialistic values she lives to hate, Daria takes refuge in the companionship of Jane, the isolated safety of her own room and the glow of the television (which will probably be tuned in to dissocial ironathon news program 'Sick Sad World'), emerging now and again for a futile attempt to significantly impact the alienating world around her. And perhaps the experience might be alienating to us, the audience, if it weren't for the shows strategic and successful ploy to get us to see the world through Daria's eyes. Once there, we're completely hooked, and all the rest of the show's intrinsic jokes fall into place.
Arguably the most enviable quality of animation is its freedom to let characters be exaggerated without being unrealistic. The most brilliant thing about this is that eventually, characters that are truly only meant to serve as tired clichés perversely become beloved, unique personalities. Trent, Jane's lazy soft spoken musician brother with delusions of future stardom with his garage band Mystik Spiral, Kevin and Brittany, quarterback of the football team and head of the cheerleaders respectively, two blissfully ignorant airhead lovers with no aspirations beyond their current high school status, Mr. O'Neal, the hypersensitive English teacher, balanced in the extreme by the borderline psychopathic Mr. DeMartino, an irate History teacher who has lost the will to educate. Even the unbearably shallow and conceited Fashion Club, four fashion-victimized teenage girls who believe their undeservedly elitist circle is doing the world around them a world of good, gradually grow on you until, like it or not, you couldn't imagine Lawndale without them.
It is because of this paradoxical attachment to the characters that serious plot developments towards the end of the series are able to engage the audience on a level that is more than just honesty for the sake of mockery. Once we've grown accustomed to Daria's detached and cynical attitude, the show begins to admit that perhaps it has been having us on a little bit, at least concerning the rigid personalities of our beloved caricature personas. Therefore, once Daria has opened up a smidgeon , so does her/our view of her world, in an event suspiciously symptomatic of personal growth. And from there it's a small step to actually caring about the students, teachers and residents of Lawndale as we farewell them in the "Daria" movie finale "Is It College Yet?", in which we see our little high-schoolers graduate and move on. It says a lot about the show that it is able to gradually soften its bite enough to let us feel for the characters without ever feeling inconsistent.
If one were to only catch a few episodes of "Daria", then they might like what they see, and they'd be well justified. But they'd ultimately be missing out. Because as entertaining as the self-contained half-hour segments of the show can be, the world of Daria is not about separate jokes, separate characters, separate stories or separate anything. Everything within the show works to build to a greater understanding about teenage life, indeed about life in general, and everything it entails; a simple masterpiece that's value only increases when put into social context.
I've read the user comments for "Daria" and I noticed one thing. All the bad
reviews are written by elitist goth kids who disliked that an "alternative"
show like it was aired on a "mainstream" TV channel like MTV. Don't let
yourself fooled by these comments.
Sure, this show aired on MTV. Doesn't it seem a bit weird that it bashes everything MTV is all about? Sure, it is trendy to be different and artsy to some extent. Didn't MTV just want to take advantage of this? Personally, I think that Daria is one of the best and funniest shows that I've ever seen.
This show might seem like it's about teen angst. It might seem like Daria is your typical high school outcast with her artistic friend who are proud of being "different" yet aren't that much different after all. But this is not at all what it's like.
First, this show isn't particularly aired at teenagers. It's aired at any young people, I'd say anyone from 12 to 35 but people in their late teens and 20's can enjoy it more since they've gone through high school or are still in high school. Daria criticizes high school life. Aside from the "be yourself and screw what others think" moral, the goal of the show is to make it's watchers laugh. Daria lives in an exagerated version of reality where teenagers and adults are completely brainwashed by society and often act in ridiculous ways. This is what is so funny. Even though the show is so realistic, the fact that it's exagerated reminds us that it doesn't take itself too seriously and that the goal isn't to be preachy but to be humorous.
As I said earlier, Daria is not your typical rebellious teenager. Daria and her friend Jane are spectators in the show and their only roles are to let us see the world through their eyes. However, Jane and Daria are two completely different characters. Jane is a lot less negative than Daria about a lot of things, by example. This only makes the show more interesting because they aren't just two goth teenagers whining about the world around them. Daria is a realistic character while not being a stereotype. Many people view her as a person who's unconfident but I think she's more confident than most characters in the show. She just views things as they are, with a tint of bitterness, without falling into the "gothic" category, yet she still treats her surroundings with respect.
If you disliked the superficial world that is high school, I suggest this show for a lot of laughs.
Considering multiple aspects, this is a wonderful show. Every character
has a very specific personality, and most all of them actually develop
as the show goes on. The humor can be dry, but is incredible if you
actually get it. If you were expecting Beavis and Butthead, sorry, you
will be disappointed. I've noticed that most of the negative comments
talk about how Beavis and Butthead was so much better. I think it can
be best said that you have to be able to appreciate intelligent humor
to laugh at this. If you think, say, that Jackass is the greatest show
ever, then you will most likely hate this.
However, if you like a humorous show that's incredibly well developed for a cartoon (the character development, themes, etc.), then you will enjoy this.
I'm 34 years old as of this writing, so why do I like this spin-off of
Beavis and Butt-head? The sarcasm of Tracy Grandstaff will sting you
with laughter, not to mention Miss Morgendorffer's refusal to go along
with the "conform-or-die" mentality that's forced upon teenagers,
whether it's from her elders, the popular creeps, or the various
counter-cultures. Imagine a girl like her in previous decades of
teen-dom. Her attitude toward peer pressure is close to the one I had
when I was in high school (..and now feel even stronger about), as is
her Dad's seething resentment toward the people who robbed him of the
"joy of youth."
Long live Daria. If the show doesn't last, may it's legacy do so.
Network: MTV; Genre: Animated Comedy; Average Content Rating: TV-PG;
Classification: contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);
Season Reviewed: Completed series
'Daria' was a show that I didn't like for a long time. At some point during that time it attached to my unsuspecting self and grew on me like a leech. I found that it is a show that is unable to fully articulate itself in isolated episodes. Instead, 'Daria' is more about it's tone and an attitude that works more than any story it can come up with. It throws together a small world of conflicting characters and lets the sparks fly. As all their adventures begin to pile up the show's real vision comes together. I wonder if even MTV got it. 'Daria' mocked fads & shallow teenagers (and the culture that feeds off them), regularly taking aim at the heart of everything the network makes a living on.
The world around Daria Morgendorffer is filled with ditsy cheerleaders, brain-dead jocks, zit-faced nerds, miserable artists, touchy-feely teachers, favorite siblings, condescending or aloof parents and teenage garage bands trying to hit it big. If your willing to buy that Daria and the show share the same vision (not a big leap at all) you're one step closer to getting the show's great, subversive running gag: that the show is depicting what it believes are real teenagers, and that teenagers have been influenced and conditioned by the culture into acting out the stereotypes that come with their position in the high school caste system. It's art imitating life imitating art.
And in the middle of it all is Daria - our central axis to call everybody out. She knows her place in the world and stands outside it all. Daria herself is as daring a lead as TV gets. So (intentionally) abjectly dull that she sucks the air out of every room she enters. She rarely changes the bland expression on her face or raises the pitch of that monotone voice. It's not entirely clear if she has a low self-esteem or thinks she is above everybody. Even the most exciting weekend adventures are a nuisance to Daria. Everything just gets in her way and keeps her from lying around on the couch watching 'Sick Sad World' (a show within the show apparently based on the idea that there is an entire untapped niche of Daria Morgendorffers around the world).
The best and most admirable thing about this show is its unflinching guts to let Daria be Daria - in all her faceless, bland, monotone, personality devoid glory. It is also the only show in my memory (apart from occasionally 'Seinfeld') that was content to reduce it's leads to taking the role of spectators to the story. They never grew, they never learned a lesson, they never swoop in and save the day, they rarely even impacted the world around them. The show was not worried with contriving phony problems and solutions. Whether it was being dragged to camp or dragged to the mall with her sister Quinn, Daria and Jane where content to spend entire episodes hanging on the sidelines watching everyone else makes fools of themselves.
Picking up the slack where our heroine can't was a well constructed cast of supporting characters. Jane's deadbeat brother Trent, would-be Casanova Charles Ruttheimer the 3rd & Daria's rage-filled father Jake (who longs for his hippie days) all walk off with the biggest laughs.
'Daria' was a sharp, sardonic, timely, funny and substantive series that dared to bite the hand of it's own demographic on a network that is to dumb to know the difference. It had a learning curve, but if you can get over that hump it can be rather addicting. A contemporary classic that ranks with 'The Sifl and Olly Show' as one of the few really great MTV offerings.
* * * ½ / 4
Most of what should be said about Daria has already been (in previous
reviews) so let me just add a few things.
First, contrary to what everyone keeps saying Daria was NOT canceled by MTV. Glenn Eicler, the creator & exec producer, decided to stop at five seasons (actually five 13-episode half seasons & two 90 min episodes). MTV would have ordered a sixth, but he felt the show had run its course. And to MTV's credit they didn't hand the show over to someone else just to try and milk some more money out of it with what would have undoubtedly been inferior episodes.
Not to MTV's credit however, Daria reruns were yanked from the schedule almost immediately after the series finale. I guess its just the nature of the beast. MTV just doesn't 'do' reruns. They're so last season...
What really annoys me though is that they decided to rerun Daria on Noggin', a cable channel which is a joint venture between PBS & Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon is owned by Viacom which also owns MTV. Which means Daria reruns were essentially 'dumped' there (i.e. since they own Noggin' they didn't sell it to them and since Noggin' is non-commercial it isn't generating any revenue for them). A very indignant way to treat a show that was both a critical and ratings success, to essentially treat it as worthless filler material.
And to really add insult to injury Noggin' is absolutely the wrong place for Daria. Yes it features a very smart, semi-realistic, teenage girl lead character, but again contrary to what others have said, Daria is not and never was a show for teenage girls (let alone pre-teens)!! It was always aimed at a 20-something and up audience. And not just female. Its true that most of the main characters were women (and a lot of the male characters had 'interesting' eccentricities) but the show never, EVER pushed any kind of feminist agenda (or any other kind of agenda except for maybe 'damn what others think, just be yourself').
And since Noggin' IS aimed at pre-teen girls Daria episodes have not just been edited, they've been emasculated. They've been stripped of all the adult wit and gritty, biting satire that was the essence of the series. Airing them this way is, IMO, worse than not showing them at all. In fact at least a half dozen episodes are so adult that Noggin' has never shown them. Please, PLEASE Viacom sell the series to Cartoon Network. They'd buy & air it (unedited) in a heartbeat!
If you've never seen Daria I beg you, don't watch it on Noggin'! A few episodes are out on video & DVD (search for 'daria DVD' on eBay).
This cartoon is a lot better that Beavis and Butthead, even when i used to like Beavis and Butthead when i was a teenager but Daria is simply superior in many ways. Daughter of parents who only think about money, and sister of a dumb popular girl Daria Morgendoffer feels she is alone in the world when she feels the stupidity of all people who are around her. With a cynical humor in the series we can see things many of us know, the football player that are very dumb, the not very smarter cheerleader girlfriend, the popular girls that only think about fashion, even the principal of the school who is always thinking in the school like a way of make money. These and many others stuffs we can see everyday we can see them in Daria, all with a great and sarcastic humor. That's why i say Daria is one of the greatest 90s cartoons.
I started watching Daria when I was in college and absolutely fell in love with the show. Daria and Jane's friendship is probably the best aspect of the show, and anyone who has had a close friendship like that will probably agree with me. As a matter of fact, I still hang out with my Daria (I'm definitely more the Jane) to this day. And I totally have the memories of High School and my Brittany and Kevin - like schoolmates as well. Most people didn't like the whole Jane/Tom/Daria love triangle, but I think it was one of the things that made Daria's character more vulnerable and more human. And I really loved how the series ended with Daria realizing that shutting everyone out in her life was not the answer. I only wish I had made such a realization at that age! All in all, I say that Daria is a wonderful coming-of-age show that should be enjoyed for generations to come.
It amazing to see what MTV airs now, and to see Daria. Daria is a
twisted view of what MTV portrays now: Skinny, white, girls that only
talk about fashion, sex, and boys. Daria shows our world through the
eyes of a jaded girl who doesn't give a crap for anything.
It is a comedy that, give it time, and you'll be cracking up. Daria's delivery of all her lines is still hilarious today. Quinn's voice might get to you, but soon it doesn't matter. Every character is interesting, and it is just a show. Funny show.
It lost its steam when Daria got a boyfriend, but don't watch those episodes. Just keep to seasons 1-3 and you'll be laughing your ass off.
Daria Morgendorffer gets her own show, after being featured in some of
Beavis and Butt-head's episodes. Daria gets a new look and personality.
What makes this show so unique is that it focuses on adolescent life
seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. What makes her funny is that
she communicates with everyone in a sarcastic manner, including her
family. She is very unpopular in school whereas her sister, Quinn,
tries to be so cute and awards herself too much credit for it. Let's
not forget her parents, Jake and Helen. They are the stereotypical
career-minded type, enough said. Jane is Daria's best friend who always
stands by her through good and bad times. Daria may not be a
laugh-a-minute show, but rather a social satire about growing up. If
you love Beavis and Butt-Head, then give this one a try.
My evaluation: B+
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