Why I Relate to Daria Morgendorffer

Now listen, I’m as nostalgic for the 1990s as any other millennial. It was a simpler time – when social media hadn’t completely taken over our lives and everyone had… beepers.

I was born in August 1991 – so I was mostly a toddler and young elementary school kid in the 90s. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t remember half the shit from my childhood, but I do remember the struggle of not having a phone readily available.

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Basically, I’m a millennial who remembers life before the Internet and other tech advantages happened.

Recently, I had the urge to watch the MTV show, Daria. It kept popping up on my Hulu account and I caved. I remember watching it as a kid – though it was most likely reruns. But, whatever some reason, I connected to Daria.

Daria is the protagonist of the show (duh) and she was unlike any other character MTV was producing at the time or would produce throughout TV history.

Nowadays, when we think of MTV, we think shows that show women to be annoying, superficial and selfish. Think:  Jersey Shore, My Super Sweet Sixteen, 16 and Pregnant, and Snooki & Jwoww. It’s hard to believe that Daria was also produced by MTV.

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photo courtesy of TV Guide

Daria is set through the high school years of Daria (Morgendorffer), who sees herself as an outsider in comparison to her peers. Essentially, the show follows Daria as she deals with shallow cheerleaders and stupid jocks. She also has to deal with the ethics of her teachers and family members (mainly how hypocritical everyone around her is).

Daria doesn’t want to conform. She instead chooses to stick to herself (and her friend Jane) and avoid the ridiculous aspects of high school. She gives doesn’t really care about her physical appearance and hates the idea of popularity, which shows how serious her character is. At the same time, she is often called out on this. For instance, her interactions with Jodie Landon. Jodie is literally the only black character, maybe even student, at Lawndale High School. One scene with Jodie that has always stood out to me was this one:

Jodie (to Daria): You realize your negative approach to everything is self-defeating, right?

Daria (to Jodie): Well, it’s nice to know there’s someone I can defeat.

Jodie: I mean, you may spare yourself some pain by cutting everyone off, but you miss out on a lot of good stuff too.

Daria: Look Jodie, I’m too smart and too sensitive to live in a world like ours, at a time like this, with a sister like mine. Maybe I do miss out on stuff, but this attitude is what works for me now.

Jodie: Then you’ll understand what works for me now. At home, I’m Jodie – I can say and do whatever feels right. But at school I’m The Queen of the Negros, the perfect African-American teen, the role-model for all the other African-American teens at Lawndale. Oops! Where’d they go? Believe me: I’d like to be more like you.

Daria: Well, I have to admit there are times when I’d like to be more like you.

Jodie Abigail Landon: Really?

Daria: I’m not saying all the time.

Jodie is hardworking and definitely just as smart as Daria (if not, a smarter). But, Daria is allowed to embrace her “fuck the world” attitude, where Jodie knows and sees the same hypocrisy as Daria, but she’s expected to accept it and stick to the status quo.

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I wanted to write this article to not only analyze how much I relate to Daria (and Jodie!), but to also come up with an idea of what Daria, or rather who, Daria would be if she was a millennial/gen-z kid. To me, Daria is a genuine female character – a rarity in the 1990s and today.

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I didn’t realize until just now, but Daria was a very influential 90s feminist icons. Ok, don’t run away from the word feminist. Come back! Please!

But, there is a reason I’ve been told I remind people of her. She’s often way too blunt and her bluntness has a tendency to open people’s eyes to how absolutely stupid being “normal” is. Daria doesn’t give a fuck, but there were also a few times when she did. She was cynical and sarcastic, but she was completely self-aware.

And if I’m being honest, high school hasn’t really changed much since the 90s and now as an adult, I have this rekindled appreciation for this iconic character. She is not only brutally honest, but the way she is deadpan as she tells her joke is why I relate to Daria so, so much. She was not about making jokes for cheap laughs.

Daria, to me, is that person who doesn’t necessarily fit into one solid group. And I think that is why I relate to her so much. When I was in high school, I somehow managed to stay under the radar. Sure, people knew who I was, but I wasn’t someone who liked to be the center of attention (OK, I completely avoided those types of situations). But, the people that listened liked what I had to say and thought I was smart – but I wasn’t getting invited to parties the “cool kids” were throwing.

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To top it off, millennials know life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially what we see in the media. We became adults during a recession and if anyone knows that life is full of disappointments and letdowns, it’s us. We’re also not afraid to talk to about.

Daria hits on topics most shows in the 90s were afraid to discuss under a microscope. Sure, most shows touched on race and sexuality, but “Daria” was different. It divulged into the truths behind them and really brought an in-depth discussion to the table through Daria and her friends. The best part about Daria? She was authentic.

If Daria was a millennial today, as in she graduated when I did (2009), I think she would most likely went to school to study journalism or English. She was naturally a writer and I was too, so I’m going to assume she went into journalism or English literature. She would have probably went through an emo phase and she would have definitely loved watching Veronica Mars.

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OK……………………. maybe I am just describing myself, but I did say I related to her a lot. Sure, she grew up in a family that had a mom and dad and they had a house, but they were extremely dysfunctional. My family is extremely dysfunctional!

Daria feels like an outsider wherever she goes. School, home, the mall – Daria is probably sitting in the corner, reading a book, rolling her eyes as she listens to her sister go on and on about some cute boy or some new jeans she just has to have.

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