An idea has crept into the back of my brain and lodged itself inside, refusing to leave. During the day, I can’t focus on anything else as the idea’s constant, whining cry demands my unceasing attention. At night, I can’t sleep as the idea’s steady drum beat forces my eyes open until it’s morning again. The idea is unsettling. It is disturbing. And it is forcing me to question everything I know and every fact I once thought unassailable.
To be frank, I’m starting to realize that Daria Morgendorffer was actually the asshole in most situations.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Daria? The Daria? The voice of reason in a world gone mad? The lone hero willing to stand up to the petty trials and cruelties of teenage life? You must be joking! Let me click on the ‘Funny’ button right away because the very absurdity of the thought makes me laugh aloud! Daria is cool! Daria is great!”
Oh, how I’d love to agree with you! How I dream of returning to a time when up was still up and black and white had yet to be replaced by a baffling, maddening grey! But I can’t. Because Daria is not “cool.” Daria is not “great.” Daria is a fucking asshole who is mean to everyone for absolutely no reason and teenage me was an idiot for thinking otherwise.
Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about the obvious asshole moments we can all agree on like when Daria just totally stole her own best friend’s boyfriend. No. I’m talking about every single moment in 66 different episodes of television.
Don’t believe me? Well, let’s look at the facts shall we…
People Daria was An Asshole To
Her Parents:In every single episode, Daria makes snide comments deriding her parents. But that’s cool, right? I mean, of course Daria’s mean to her parents. Parents suck. That’s what I thought. Now, though, I realize that Daria’s parents don’t suck. At all.
They’re stable, they have good jobs, they love each other, they love their kids, and the worst thing they ever did to their snarky monster of a daughter was force her to move. Big bummer, Daria! I can’t believe your folks took you out of a school district filled with inbred, parentless animal abusers and forced you to live in a FUCKING MANSION.
Her Sister:You can’t watch five minutes of Daria without seeing the titular walking black hole of emotion inflict some nasty insult on her younger sister, Quinn. If she isn’t dissing her to the poor girl’s face, she’s shitting on her to her equally cruel friend, Jane. Does Quinn deserve this? I once thought yes. After all. she’s mean to Daria too and acts like she doesn’t know her to her Fashion Club friends. Daria’s totally justified. But, again, no! Daria’s sister is fucking 14 years old! She doesn’t know what she’s doing! As the older sister, Daria should be a good role model for once instead of torturing her own flesh and blood for the simple “crime” of having a healthy social life!
Her Teachers:A group of adults take the criminally low-paying job of teaching in an American public school. They’re under-appreciated, over-worked, and disrespected. But they carry on, every day returning to the high school they can never leave because they realize that it’s their duty to prepare the next generation for the life ahead of them; lives typically more comfortable and exciting than these poor civil servants could dream of achieving.
Suddenly, a new student arrives. This student is smarter than all the others. Does she use this intelligence to help the staff by rallying her peers and guiding them towards a brighter academic future? No! She makes snarky comments about everyone in the building and shits on the teachers and their assignments in front of everyone.
Who’s the hero of this story? Is it Angela Li, the woman of color who defeated adversity and rose up to become the principal of a high school where she makes tough decisions every day regarding the school’s harsh economic realities? Is it Timothy O'Neill, the English teacher who tries his hardest to maintain a positive outlook and get his students in touch with their feelings? Or is it the awful new student sewing discord and interrupting the education of her fellow young people?
20 years ago, I would have said the latter. Ladies and gentlemen, that just isn’t the case.
The Popular Kids:Here’s where I knew my idea had to be wrong. Popular kids are mean. They always are. Daria was merely defending herself from the bullying that students like Kevin and Brittany have hit her with. But, actually, that’s not the case. Right now, think of the meanest thing that Kevin and Brittany ever did to Daria.
Having a hard time? You probably are. BECAUSE IT NEVER HAPPENED.
From the fan-run Daria Wiki:
— Daria Wiki
He has an extremely cheery and friendly personality, never showing any malicious attempt and - unique for a star quarterback character in a outcast-centred story - is never shown to be a bully. He generally wanders through life with an oblivious smile.
Yeah, the popular kids in Daria are just cheerful folks who like sports. Does Daria shrug them off as just people with differing tastes and interests? No! She shits on them left and right! And, guys, Kevin and Brittany clearly have learning disabilities! Daria is a show about a witch who goes around mocking the handicapped!
Moving Forward in a Post-“Daria is an Asshole” World
Look, I don’t want to see the world this way. In fact, I was in deep denial for weeks. I tried to persuade myself that someone had just gone back and re-edited the episodes of Daria like theStar Wars special editions in an attempt to make Daria mean for some reason. However,this was just my wishful thinking. Same as when I thought someone had re-edited Friends on Netflix to make it all seem super homophobic. The truth was just always there. Joey and Chandler were a ten-season long reductive gay-panic joke and Daria was an unfeeling monster who left a trail of pain and destruction in her wake.
So, what does this mean? What memories of my life can I trust? What eternal truths will soon be shown to be nothing but lies?
I can’t stop thinking about this. I can’t get it out of my head. But I have to. My boss just told me I need to finish filing this report. I wanted to make some snarky comment about how useless the report is, but, you know what? He’s right. I should stop thinking about a two decade old cartoon and just contribute to society.
Because anything else would just make me an asshole.