It might sound weird to say that out of all the TV shows revolving around high school, the one that really nailed the teenage experience was a cartoon. It's true, though. With Daria, there was no soap opera-style drama, no heavy-handed moralizing on the part of the writers. It was just a show about a really sarcastic, nerdy girl, Daria Morgendorffer, and her equally sarcastic and nerdy best friend, Jane Lane, trying to deal with their completely ordinary surroundings. They got bored, they stirred up trouble and, occasionally, they fought over boys. It was kind of like real life, except funnier and animated.
Two weeks ago, MTV finally got around to releasing Daria on DVD. For those of us who were hardcore fans, it was a long wait considering that the show ended more than eight years ago. I ran out to the local DVD-carrying shop and picked up a copy the day after it hit the street and spent the ensuing fourteen days re-watching every episode. Daria: The Complete Animated Series, is a sizable boxed set, consisting of eight DVDs that feature all five seasons of the show, plus the TV specials Is It Fall Yet? and Is It College Yet? and bonus footage. Even though the original soundtrack has since been replaced with generic music, the episodes still stand strong. They are every bit as funny and true-to-life as they were back in 1997. Here are some the best moments:
Episode: "The Invitation"
Despite being woefully unpopular, Daria gets invited to a high school house party because she helped cheerleader Brittany with an art assignment (also, Brittany needed some less attractive girls at the party). Jane is able to crash the event by giving a security guard her life drawing sketchbook. Over the course of the night, some random guys hit on Daria and Jane, a few other guys end up fighting over Daria's sister Quinn and havoc erupts in the house. As Daria says, "I didn't talk to a whole bunch of new people. I made Quinn want to throw herself down a well and I'm going home with a bonus sock. All in all, a great night."
Daria and Jane's Best Project
Daria is a writer, Jane is an artist and together they come up with one great, if not controversial, project after the next. For a class assignment, they decide to film an exposé on Quinn. Though popularity-obsessed vice president of the Fashion Club ends up having a meltdown on camera over the size of her pores, the film, The Depths of Shallowness: A True Story, catapults her to iconic status at Lawndale High.
Daria: "We set out to make an exposé, it ends up a love letter"
Jane: "See, we're like artists, and this is how we screw ourselves."
Best Episode Where Daria Isn't Acting Like Herself
Episode: "Pierce Me"
Overall, Daria doesn't care about popularity, dating or any of the conventions of teenage life. There are times, though, when she does and this frequently involves Jane's cute, musician brother, Trent. When Trent takes Daria out to find a birthday present for Jane, he convinces her to get her bellybutton pierced as part of a two-for-one special ("Daria, it would look really hot."), which leads to a crisis. Did Daria just do something to impress a boy?
Jane: "Don't you get it Daria? You did something stupid for a guy. Gee, you may join the human race after all."
Daria: "I didn't do it for a guy. I did it so Trent could get the special."
Daria's Best Worst Idea
Daria is an inspiration. Her sarcastic comments constantly prompt her teachers to give new assignments to the class. During an economics lecture, she mentions that "repository of human greed and debasement-- the mall" as an example of supply and demand. And so, her class ends up going on a field trip to a brand new mega-mall, where Daria is, literally, sickened by public displays of affection and the students end up the subjects of a market research session.
Best Mystik Spiral Gig
Jane's brother, Trent, is the frontman for Mystik Spiral, a band constantly on the verge of changing its name. They play a few gigs in the series, but the best one is at a dive called The Zen. The band is so loud that Jane has to shout to Daria, but the song ends before she finishes her sentence and the whole clubs hears her. All the drama, though, is in the girls' bathroom, where a group of people is crowded into a stall, Brittany, who just dyed her hair black, is freaking out over boys and Daria breaks out into a rash. I've seen a countless number of tiny bands playing hip, but rundown venues and, yes, the gigs are almost all like this.
Best Fashion Club Meeting
Episode: "Fat Like Me"
Quinn Morgendorffer, is shallow, vain and boy-crazy, but still isn't quite as horrible as her fellow members of the Lawndale High Fashion Club. That honor goes to Fashion Club president Sandi, who, in one ill-fated meeting, insists that there should be weight guidelines for all potential members of the club. The meeting ends with her falling down a staircase and breaking her leg, thus resulting in-- gasp!-- weight gain. She resigns as president "out of respect to the Fashion Club's stringent obesity policy," which almost causes the club to disband. This might be the only time in the series that Sandi comes close to changing her mean girl ways. Almost.
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Best Sick, Sad World Teaser
Episode: "The F Word"
Daria and Jane are obsessed with a weird news show called Sick, Sad World. The teasers for the program are funny enough to warrant their own blog post, but, for now, I'll leave you with one of my favorites.
"What's that you're really stirring in your tea, honey or bee vomit? Animal secretions that make us say 'yum' tonight on Sick, Sad World"