I spent a lot of time watching MTV during the summers of high school. Most of it was garbage (and yeah, they rarely played music videos even in the late 90s), but one show has endeared when the former music network’s other content has dried up and died. I don’t know how I got started, but once I caught Daria playing on some hot, boring summer day, I didn’t stop. When they would play it in day-long marathons, I was in for the ride.
Daria played to everything I knew about high school. Far from being a ‘misery girl’ or, well, a ‘girl’ myself, Daria’s sarcastic, deeply cynical look at the frivolous aspects of the stuff going on around her is prescient twelve years later as an adult. The show, a spin-off wrapped around a recurring character on Beavis and Butthead, was smartly loaded with not only Daria’s apathy toward high school, but through her older friends, the underwhelming advise of underachieving twenty-somethings. Her friend Jane is artsy and Jane’s brother is a grungy wannabe rocker. Daria’s own materialistic sister seems to be several gene pools removed from her until the show reveals their extended families and the pieces fall right in place.
She’s a girl with opinions and willing to stand for them. As a cynical teenager (and who wasn’t! right?!), Daria was a kindred spirit; someone I could personally relate to (not as a girl, mind you) without the show feeling like it was trying too hard. It’s not even that she’s negative, but rather that she’s realistic in a pessimistic environment. The writing is smart and still funny as hell all these years later. Aside from the obvious references to house phones and existing in a world before anyone knew what an MP3 was, the show has aged incredibly well. It’s unfortunate that MTV didn’t spend more time mastering the footage for the release as there’s still plenty of shakiness in the footage and shadowing in shots that required multiple characters/cels to be on screen.
Nitpicks aside, I don’t know why it took me two years to pick up the set on DVD. Maybe its my fear of commitment, but when I pop in a new disc every Friday, it’s like I’m back watching MTV when it meant something.