If you know me, you are probably familiar with my passion for art and animation, which combined bear cartoons. In fact, watching adult or teen-aged cartoons is one of my favorite hobbies. I like admiring the art and the work that illustrators put in motion, as well as the cleverness and sharpness that the writers demonstrate with punchlines, directions, and other screenwriting techniques.
This past summer, I had the chance to attend a public panel with Mike Reiss, who was presenting his book “Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons“. I enjoyed that book because I could get a sneak-peek of the behind the scenes of a comedy screenwriter, something that I’ve always wanted to do and I had to put a bit in hold during my college journey (even though I kept pursuing creative writing as a minor and through extra-curricular activities).
I’ve recently finished an MTV adult cartoon, Daria. I appreciated this show for many reasons, that I’d like to divide them under three themes: friends, fashion, and family. Daria is the story about this introvert high school girl, who enjoys being an outcast and the weird kid among her peers. Along with her crew, Daria lives her existence as she would live three decades altogether: her body is in her teens, she has feelings like a 20 years old, and she is mature like if she were in her 30s.
Created by Mike Judge, Daria is the classic outcast in a small town, Lawndale, where everyone knows each other and the routine is the same over and over. She sees the environment around her for what it is, displaying a refined pragmatism that very few other people of her age have the ability to discern. Daria might enjoy being lonely, but she is never alone. Her best friend is Jane, an artsy student who has an older brother whom Daria will later have a crush on too, Trent. No matter how stubborn and private Daria is, she shares dreams and feelings with Jane.
I like how the authors were able to portray the special platonic links that Daria has with her few friends and especially with Jane. At the end if the day, Daria is human and soft, even though her cynicism is hard to break down in different occasions. In high school, having a best friend is fundamental and such a blessing bond to experience. You get to share emotions, talk about academic aspirations, and dream about the future.
In the episode “The Lost Girls” in season 3, a shallow fashion editor makes an appearance in Daria’s life. Daria loves writing and that’s the only medium she excels in, by displaying her enlightening thoughts in the most simple and direct way possible. Val, the name of the fashion editor at “Val” magazine (named after her own self) is a 30 years old woman who acts like a teen ager and has a vivid argument with Daria, who jeopardizes her opportunity to work and collaborate with a well-known journalist. What I like in that episode is the reaction and the steady answers that Daria gives with no shame nor reticence to this lady, a member of the media engulfed in the fashion industry. Emptiness and meaningless conversations are Daria’s most detested pet peeves. From that moment on, I’ve seen the character of Daria with a different respect, admiring her boldness considering the age and the background she comes from.
In addition to this particular moment in the whole show, Daria’s younger sister, Quinn, (note the name very similar to “queen”), is very much interested in fashion. Quinn is part of the fashion club at Lawndale high school, along with her friends Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany. The writers decided to take a cliche’ and throughout the show fashion is considered a mundane topic, very superficial and almost childish. Given the period the show was on, the late 90s and the early 2000s, the way they talk about fashion is a reflection of how the industry was perceived by the general public in those years. There would be a total different approach if the show was produced nowadays.
Daria questions various times her role in her family, because even there she is an outcast. Her parents are obsessed with their careers. Her sister is the complete opposite of her. In the late season she finds a closer bond with her mother, especially when it comes to boys problems. Daria’s father is a difficult person to deal with and the very last episode of the series explains a lot of Daria’s personality: she feels like she’s not loved by her mom and dad, but after a heart to heart she finds out that she is indeed loved and appreciated, and her character is everything but a bother to anyone.
Watching this show as a college senior, made me reevaluate my choices and my past. I recognize a lot of myself in Daria and her point of views. Her pessimism and nihilism is sharp because she is afraid of rejection. She is a late bloomer and she likes to take her own time. I could see myself in Daria because my high school years have been pretty much similar, but I had a curlier crown on my head and more melanin in my body. However, my passion for writing was there, as well the presence of an edgy best friend and a series of familiar questions around my identity.
I suggest this show to anyone, but especially to college students at the end of their college careers. They would enjoy more with an hindsight heart and sense of humour. If you don’t know how to laugh or enjoy dark humour, this show might not be a piece of cake.
the curly flower