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Revisiting Daria: The Unlikeliest of Teen Heroes

Angelica Mae D. Gomez | Feature Writer

“I don’t have low self-esteem. I have low esteem for everyone else.”
– Daria Morgendorffer

“Daria,” the cult television series on Music Television or MTV, was first aired in 1997, running for a total of five seasons before it ended in 2002. Twenty years later, the show proves that it is still relevant today especially to all teenagers out there trying to become their own persons while solving personal issues on their own.

It follows the adventures of Daria, a smart, combat boots wearing, bespectacled, and sarcastic teen that had trouble fitting in with her more “conventional” peers. At the start of the show, her family just moved in to the fictional town of Lawndale to start a new life.

For some people who have seen the show, she was known to be the girl with the utmost contempt towards succumbing to the idiocies and trivialities that define her situation in life at her suburban high school in Lawndale. Declarations like: “I don’t have low self-esteem. I have low esteem for everyone else” or “The world is my oyster, yet I can’t seem to get it open” just proved to be her philosophy in life.

However, in the years since mainstream viewers were first introduced to Daria Morgendorffer, she has become a heroine of sorts and a pop culture icon for many who saw themselves as outcasts or misfits – particularly among women.

It was not very often back then that mainstream depictions of non-traditional characters were popular and celebrated onscreen. But because of the trailblazing efforts of “Daria” creators, Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn, they broke new bounds in the history of television that depicted what it really means to live a life as a teenager and the angst that comes with it.

Even though Daria begins the series as a sardonic character who utters rapid fiery  clever remarks and bitter sarcasm under her breath, she discovered a best friend in Jane Lane, a budding artist who was more than capable of matching Daria’s wit.

Like Daria, Jane doesn’t buy into the high school social hierarchy and the norms of society. Together, this dynamic duo challenged each other in ways that caused them to face their own fears. By contrast, Daria, being the intellectual, was more inclined to live inside her head, while Jane, the more sociable between the two, often dragged Daria to the social scene.

But as the seasons progressed, the show became more critical of Daria’s cynicism and she learned to come to terms with vulnerabilities and how close-minded, judgmental, and self-defeating she can be.

While this may be a frequent laugh-out-loud series, it wasn’t all about presenting the high school and youth culture; it also sets out to tackle issues regarding the lack of cultural diversity, social status, and economic hierarchies presented in several story arcs of different episodes.

Though not an overtly preachy and political TV show, it tried to be socially progressive that paved the way for millenials to embrace root causes of current issues like same sex marriage and Black Lives Matter. (Remember, this show was in the 90’s. People were still opening up to a lot of different causes).

Feminism also takes a seat at the table for representing strong, intelligent, and complex characters shaping their own identities and making them productive members of society.

Although Daria’s little sister, Quinn, started off as a vapid, insipid, and pretentious whose only interests were boys andclothes, she then matured and changed into a responsible, caring, and self-assured individual as the show drew to a close. She even went as far as admitting that Daria was her sister to her friends due to the shame of having an unpopular person as her blood relation.

Another strong female character worthy of notice is Jodie Landon. Jodie was the valedictorian, president of every club, popular, and pretty. She always felt the need to assert herself to be everything people expected her to be because she wantedto represent her race to the entire world full of privileged white people. She was the complete opposite of Daria in many ways. She and her boyfriend Mack were among the few black people in a town almost completely lacking in ethnic diversity.

To sum it all up, “Daria” may not be a perfect show but it is absolutely worth discovering for the first time. Though its original target was female audience, the show was anticipated by everyone.

The show also tells its viewers that it’s okay to be different and it’s absolutely cool to embrace one’s weirdness and one’s flaws. The important thing to remember is to not lose sight of one’s beliefs and to not compromise one’s values in order to fit in with everyone else.

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