Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Life As Daria

Today is my brother's 21st birthday. This past weekend he had a party with a bunch of his friends during this same weekend I decided that since I'm currently unemployed I wanted to watch all of the animated series Daria. At one point during my viewing I posted this tweet

While at my brother's party the topic of Daria came up. It quickly became clear to me that these kids (only 4-5 years younger than I) didn't love or appreciate the cartoon to the same level that I did. It was also around this time I realized my tweet actually had more truth to it than I expected or intended.

Having just watched all 5 seasons as well as both TV Movies I feel like I can now explain why this show is actually worthy of most people's time; despite time not being kind to it. Daria was a spin-off of Beavis and Butthead, a cartoon that is frankly more brilliant in retrospect than it was at the time it was on. Daria was the only logical thinking person in Highlands and despite being sarcastic and helping with making Beavis and Butthead make fools of themselves, actually could tolerate the two. The only reference to Beavis and Butthead is found in the first episode of the first season when Daria's parents mention leaving Highlands. Like most TV shows, the first season is admittedly a little rough; it tries too hard to push it's concept 'Daria and Jane are the outcasts and thus the smartest and coolest kids at school despite being unpopular; meanwhile all the popular kids are shallow (cheerleaders, jocks and even Daria's younger sister) with the exception of Mac and Jodie the only black students at the school who are both popular and extremely hard working and intelligent.

Here's what I think is an extremely important thing about Daria and Jane; it's what made the show the most realistic depiction of high school; it's the reason why the show is loved by many and it's also the reason why the show should get a second chance. Daria and Jane aren't unpopular. They're not exactly popular, but they're also not constantly picked on or ridiculed. More so, they're not ignored by their fellow classmates. Despite them being two of the dumbest characters in cartoon history Brittany and Kevin are the Football and CheerSquad leaders; and they frequently socialize with our two main characters. Jodie and Mac are constantly seen talking to them and admiring them. The fact is this, Jane and Daria represent the average high school student. I know they certainly represent me.

I was never someone who was picked on in high school. I was on stage crew and TV studio and that was about it. I had a very small group of close friends and while I was never 'popular'. I'd say 90% of my graduating class knew my name and knew about me as a person or at least knew of my interest in making movies and writing. I recall one time a girl asking me about a party she was throwing. She wasn't inviting me to the party of course, but she wanted to have some really scary horror movies and asked me for recommendations since I was the 'movie guy'. That single story basically sums up my high school life pretty appropriately.

Beyond this Daria's family relationship is another extremely relatable aspect of the show and not just to me. Obviously not everyone's family life is perfect. The relationship that Daria has with her family almost completely mirrors my own family life (minus 2 siblings), specifically at that time. I have a Dad who is a little high strung at times. In high school I was always known as my sister's older brother (never the other way around) and I think she attempted to avoid me at all costs. My mother was a hard-working women as well. Neither of my parents had the high-profile jobs like Daria's but that didn't really matter. What matters was this, the parent (and even her sister) were depicted as many things... dumber than Daria (jake), putting their job before their daughter (helen), being selfish and shallow (quinn) but episode after episode we're still shown that deep down they're good people that care about each other.

Does every single joke work in Daria? No. In fact until Season 3 the show is mostly just chuckle worthy. But when the show hits it's mark, it hits it in a big way. The show manages to be both anti-stereotypical and yet tackles every possible stereotype. It's like an animated mid-90's version of a John Hughes film.

The TV Movie (which was basically a 90 minute Final Episode) Is it College Yet? isn't just funny, it's heartwarming and touching. Daria's graduation speech sums up the high school experience wonderfully. Take sometime to revisit a great show.

I'm not much for public speaking. Or much for speaking. Or, come to think of it, much for the public. And I'm not very good at lying. So let me just say that, in my experience, high school sucks. If I had to do it all over again, I'd have started advanced placement classes in preschool so I could go from eighth grade straight to college. However, given the unalterable fact that high school sucks, I'd like to add that if you're lucky enough to have a good friend and a family that cares it doesn't have to suck quite as much. Otherwise my advice is; Stand firm for what you believe in, until and unless experience proves you wrong. Remember, when the emperor looks naked, the emperor *is* naked. The truth and a lie are not sort of the same thing. And there is no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can't be improved with pizza. Thank you - Daria

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