On March 3, 1997, Daria premiered on MTV. A spin-off of Mike Judge’s show, Beavis & Butthead, Daria focused on one of the minor characters — who Beavis and Butthead continuously referred to as “diarrhea.” Unlike the bro-y fanbase that Beavis & Butthead appealed to, Daria was MTV’s attempt at attracting a female viewership.
“MTV had no female viewers,” says Glenn Eichler, co-creator of Daria in an interview with Variety. However, Karen Disher, who came up with the plot of Daria’s pilot episode, always believed the show to be gender-neutral. “There are no [episodes] where they’re talking about their periods or having slumber parties,” she says.
While many young women did (and still do) heavily relate to Daria’s anti-social attitude and contempt for all things vain and shallow, she was far from perfect. Sometimes she said the wrong thing, like when she upset Jodie in the episode Partner’s Complaint (Season 4, Episode 1), implying she was a hypocrite for using her successful father’s name to be taken seriously for a school project:
“What I think happened is: you went to one bank and a loan officer dismissed you on the basis of your youth and possibly your race, until he found out who your father was, at which point he started kissing your butt, you called him a hypocrite, and we walked out,” Daria said, matter-of-factly.
“That’s right,” Jodie replied.
“Only to go into a second bank where the first words out of your mouth were your father's name,” Daria stated.
“What are you getting at, Daria?” Jodie replied, suspiciously.
“Well, which was more hypocritical: the first guy's changing his tune when he found out who your father was, or you making sure the second guy knew who your father was before he formed an opinion?” Daria struck back.
And though Daria hated the idea that people are judged based on their appearances, she still participated in vanity from time to time - once (Season 2, Episode 12) getting a belly button piercing to impress Trent, her best friend Jane’s brother who she was crushing on; and even indulging in contact lenses under the guise she needed them for driving (Season 3, Episode 1). She was a typical teenager, only more attuned to the world at large.
Daria, her best friend Jane and classmate Jodie are still lauded for their profound, though often pessimistic, views of the world. Here are 24 times they hit the nail on the head.
1) When Daria pointed out that she doesn’t have low self-esteem, she just doesn’t like the people around her:
2) When she wondered when she’ll stop being judged for her appearance:
3) When Daria explained to her mom, Helen, that she’s not a pessimist, just a realist:
4) When Daria expressed her introverted nature:
5) When Daria and Jane put together a thoughtful piece of art, critiquing the focus on appearance many young women face, that totally went over everyone else’s head:
6) When Daria reminded us that pizza makes everything better:
7) When Daria summed up what we were all thinking during high school:
8) When Daria dismissed her sister Quinn’s body shaming:
9) When Jane stood up to the pretentious jerk she was dating:
10) When Daria called out the corporatization of “youth culture:”
11) When Daria called BS on the idea that women should always be smiling:
12) When Daria had the realization that you really can’t trust people:
13) When a young Daria chose books over friends:
14) When Daria validated our caffeine addiction:
15) When Daria had the perfect response to a geeky pickup line:
16) When Daria criticized the idea that teens must decide their career plans while still in high school:
17) When Daria, as per usual, condemned her sister’s shallowness:
18) When Daria proved that liking/having kids is not a requirement for being a woman:
19) When Daria pointed out the stupidity and harshness in our world, and how she sees through it:
20) When Jodie voiced her concerns about how she’d be judged because of her race instead of her hard work when applying to colleges:
21) When Daria used the F-word (feminist):
22) When Jane attempted to join the cheerleading squad but instead came up with this sarcastic chant:
23) When Jodie and her boyfriend Mac pointed out their tokenism:
24) And when Daria had to explain, because of her monotone voice, when she was joking:
images from Daria
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Rafaella is a graduate of The New School, where she majored in journalism and minored in gender studies. She's passionate about feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, combatting online harassment, and ending herpes stigma. Visit her website: ellagunz.com