Daria: Supreme ’90s queen of sarcasm

Illustration by Rachel Razza

Emerging from occasional appearances on MTV’s former ’90s show starring the idiotic duo, Daria Morgendorffer was granted her own show, transcending the “Diarrhea, cha cha cha” jingle that Beavis and Butthead tended to sing with her appearance. Heh, heh.

As a barely ’80s baby, ’90s toddler, I had to cultivate my appreciation for Daria later in life. Despite the bans on crude cartoons — of the “Ren and Stimpy” and “Beavis and Butthead” variety — in my house growing up, I couldn’t have possibly understood the genius of the show in my yet to be fully developed

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social awkwardness. It wasn’t until freshman year of college that we were reunited.

Whether her appeal was due in part to the desperate nostalgia leads several of my peers to return to their pre-teen roots — often in the form of Pokémon paraphernalia — I found in her unavoidably relatable qualities. She’s sarcastic. She’s passive-aggressive. She sports combat boots. Needless to say, I was won over.

She’s technically a social outcast, but it’s only because she’s more conscious of the ignorance and superficiality of everyone around her. She brandishes wit as her only defense in a population of predominantly shallow and often idiotic people. As she aptly explains in the first episode of season one, when she is forced to take a course to boost her self-esteem: “I don’t have low self-esteem. I just have low esteem for everybody else.”

My hero.

In addition to her fabulously grunge style, monotone wit and overall alternativeness, or as Quinn would say it, “alternivteevness” — all preceding the advent of the modern day hipster — the contrast between characters is the root of its hilarity. On one end of the spectrum are Daria and Jane, the sometimes morbid, but perceptive duo, who never fail to deliver sardonic quips when the situation calls for relief from the ridiculous characters. The other end of this caricatured social compass? Everyone else.

Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorff are the perfect exaggerated parents, perceived presumably from a teenager’s perspective. Mrs. Morgendorff acts as the over zealous, demanding mother, accompanied by her overly oblivious, painfully dorky husband. Quinn fills the role of the insufferably popular, ditzy younger sister. The show capitalizes on stereotypes, especially in establishing the dynamics of the students and teachers of Longdale High. After all, what depiction of high school is complete without the conceited, beautiful cheerleader and her dopey, but attractive football star boyfriend?

As the series matured, Daria was occasionally plagued by momentary insecurity. Dimensions were added to her relationships with her family that detracted from the usually satiric interaction and teetered into the melodramatic. The show ran its course on MTV for five seasons, ending in 2002, coinciding with Daria’s graduation from high school. The series enjoyed a short-lived revival on The N but has since been retired. Though MTV has decided to resurrect the show where Daria got her start, similar plans for her series have yet to be announced, much to my relief. To try to recreate her attitude and her primitive, but brilliant ’90s persona would be a crime.

Katie Brenzel can be reached at brenzel2@tcnj.edu.