Words by Georgia Cameron Art by Leitu Bonnici
Daria was the cynical MTV cartoon from the late ‘90s that filled the afternoon for millennials across the globe.
This show was one of many that those in their twenties and thirties grew up watching, and now like many other shows from that era such as Beavis and Butthead, Rocko’s Modern Life, Angry Beavers and Rugrats, it emotes a sense of nostalgia among those who watched it. But, unlike many of the other shows, the themes and characters in Daria are still things that resonate with viewers.
“Every time I watch the show the more real it gets,” one avid Daria viewer noted. They then went on to talk about how every time they rewatched the show, they gained further understanding of each character and issue that the show brings up. This sentiment is one shared by many of the kids who grew up watching the show who are now in their twenties. But, what makes the show that was once so gloomy, so relatable now?
Daria Morgendorffer, the show’s namesake is the sarcastic and monotone main character. But, despite her seemingly depressing attitude, she made valid points that many millennials have grown up to share today and have developed a similarly sarcastic world view. It’s not only Daria’s character who watchers of the show can relate to. Each personality was designed to be extremely relatable and to represent various social and political issues in the show. Many of these are still prominent issues today; such as the roles of women, life at a public school and the perceptions of race and mental health in the community. Some of the most obviously
relatable characters for people today are the personas of Mack and Jodie, the only two major characters of colour. An issue that many people face today is the racism that is still evident in society, and people trying to compensate for this without actually helping. Mack and Jodie are often put in positions of power by the school, leaders from the black community, so the school can be seen as diverse and are often exhausted by being the “token people of colour”. This idea is mirrored by the small representation of different races in major Hollywood films and TV, and is still a major issue today that was highlighted by this show from 1997. Many of the characters mirror people we were, or people we knew growing up.
In the first episode of the show, where Daria discovers that her school believes she has a self-esteem issue, her mother states “we always tell you how wonderful you are” in disbelief. This kind of reductive thinking is a problem many people suffering from mental health issues are faced with everyday. Throughout the show Daria’s mental health is never really discussed by her family, friends or the school, often passed off as something else such as just being the “Misery Chick”. As a result, she is left to her own devices to cope with the traumas of her past.
While a lot of shows cover similar issues and character archetypes, Daria’s cynical and sarcastic observations about the world around her are similar to the way millennials view the world today. With this Daria is more than just a point of nostalgia, but a show that represents a lot of the ideas and issues we still face today. Due to its popularity, a Daria reboot prominently featuring Jodie Landon is due for release this year. It is rumoured to be covering more modern issues, but with that same cynical tone we all know and hopefully will continue to love.