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Good Shows: Daria

I saw a lot of animated shows growing. I loved to watch cartoons. I like to think that I was able to catch most of the good ones while they were still running like, say, Hey Arnold and Clone High. However, they have been many times where I completely miss the boat on a good show and don’t watch it until long after it has gone off the air. Most people (myself included) had this experience with Firefly, but there is another show I absolutely loved that I didn’t even watch for the first time until it was long off the air and that I didn’t watch in its entirety until this past year. That show is Daria.

For those unaware, Daria was a spinoff of Beavis and Butthead, a classic MTV cartoon show that many people love. I… think parts of it were okay, but I never really got into it. Daria was a very minor character who was occasionally the soul voice of reason in whatever dumb adventure the titular characters involved themselves in. Eventually, she got her own show.

It aired on MTV and the basic plot of the show sounds like standard MTV fare. It’s about a girl going to high school. Now, I personally don’t like teen dramas. Luckily, like Clone High, Daria is more like an anti-teen drama more than anything else. Daria is a very smart girl with strong beliefs, but she is also mercilessly sarcastic and holds nothing but contempt for the idiots around her and the tedious bullcrap she deals with as a result of being a teenager in high school. Its very relatable, especially if you didn’t really fit in while you were in high school.

A strong point of Daria are the characters. There’s Daria, her equally sarcastic artistic best friend Jane, Daria’s sister Quinn who is a popular ditzy girl who initially seemed like a polar opposite of Daria, the school quarterback Kevin who is super friendly and dumb as a sack of rocks, his cheerleader girlfriend Brittney who isn’t that bright either but is a genius compared to Kevin, and hosts of others. Even though the show is predominately a comedy, the characters are consist and most of them develop over the course of the series (especially Daria, but we’ll come back to that). Quinn, who initially seems like a pretty archetypical character, has a lot of hidden depth in that she is rather intelligent in her own right but feels like she has to keep it repressed in order to be popular. Jane starts out as someone Daria can make sarcastic comments with, but later fleshes out, showing both good elements of her personality (creativity and more sociability than Daria) as well as her weaknesses (mostly jealousy). No character is strictly two dimensional and has a little more going on with them than initially shown. The best thing is that, since this is mostly a comedic show, none of this development is overdramatic or forced like in bad teen dramas. Don’t get me wrong, there are dramatic moments (quite a few actually in the last two seasons), but it is always consistent with the characters and usually funny in some way.

The most satisfying thing about Daria, by far, is the main character herself and how it shows her growth. Daria is a fun character, if only because she cuts down almost everyone around her in amusing ways, but she can be quite a jerk. After she becomes friends with Jane, someone like her, she slowly starts to open up more. She is always sarcastic and often apathetic about everything around her, but she starts to interact more socially with others and grows as a person. The entire series basically ends up being a coming of age tale, without really beating you over the head with it. The last two seasons are where the coming of age aspect is the most obvious, but I won’t spoil exactly what happens in those two seasons if you haven’t seen it since I want people to enjoy the series themselves. The series shows her through her last two years of high school and by the end of the series, her growth as a person is very obvious. The Daria at the end of the series is not the same one in the first episode. It is a funny series that also manages to show gradual, clear character growth.

If you’ve never seen Daria, do yourself a favor and pick up the series on DVD. I cannot recommend it enough. If you like animation or you just want to see a good comedic series with a sarcastic tone, pick it up. You will not be disappointed.

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