FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (24)
March 22, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite animated TV series.
DARIA | GLENN EICHLER & SUSIE LEWIS LYNN | 1997–2002
“What’s MTV?” my fifth grader asked not long ago. Luckily, his dire question had an easy remedy. My children are now 11 and 14 years old, so my kid media curation, once helicopter-like, has fallen by the wayside. They often sit at the dinner table oblivious to parental presence, swapping sound snippets like Poto and Cabengo. I am forced to look up the Internet memes they quote to sustain the illusion that I still understand them. (“Shef” is funny because… wait, why?)
The coronavirus pandemic (2020–ongoing) introduced new paradigms of hygiene paranoia, sourdough engagement, ineffectual education, and family TV viewing. Shunning streaming trends, we’ve gone where we feel the torrent of the times is guiding us. I informed the kids that Daria, which first aired in March 1997, would be added to our media curriculum.
When the show first aired, I was starting my professional life in a new town, minus any social life to speak of. I hadn’t had cable growing up; now my apartment came with it. When nothing was on Sundance or IFC, there was MTV. Daria Morgendorffer, who had started out as a sidekick on Beavis and Butt-Head, had been marinated in a solution of one part Riot Grrl, one part Karl Marx, one part Dorothy Parker, and emerged wearing a green jacket, black skirt, and combat boots to Lawndale High. She embodied every esprit de l’escalier I’d ever had in high school. She possessed no dumbed-down setting. She stiffened and clammed up around, or else offended, boys she liked. I imagined she, too, might meet someone in college who’d endeavor to teach her to “be more shallow.”
Since first encountering Her Snarkiness, I’ve lived a few lives and wound up back where I started — basically, Lawndale. My older kid started attending my high school during the pandemic, so he has yet to set foot in the building. Daria is showing him what high school might be, once it becomes a physical place — the agony and ecstasy of it, a universe where jocks and brains meet in the hallway, forming unlikely alliances against authoritarian administrators as often as they lock horns in culture wars writ small. My fifth grader took to the show immediately, his therapeutic belly laughs coming fast and furious at all the right moments. In homeroom one morning, his teacher asked what cartoons the kids enjoyed. “Daria,” he said, to which she replied, “Isn’t that more of a… cartoon for grownups?” We haven’t found that to be the case, but the pause button is handy when we need to fill the kids in on how phones used to work, the Vietnam War, or Lollapalooza. Before we emerge from our pandemic-induced physical and emotional cocoons, and the full force of adolescent life hits my kids for real, they can safely watch an animated heroine traverse these waters.
Rediscovering Daria today means appreciating her cutting remarks, but I am surprised to find myself also worrying about her flat affect, even as I admire her lack of compromise. Like any parent, I just want her to be OK… eventually.
FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: SERIES INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Miranda Mellis on STEVEN UNIVERSE | Luc Sante on TOP CAT | Peggy Nelson on PINK PANTHER | Charlie Mitchell on COWBOY BEBOP | Mimi Lipson on THE FLINTSTONES | Sam Glenn on BIG MOUTH | Mandy Keifetz on ROAD RUNNER | Ramona Lyons on SHE-RA | Holly Interlandi on DRAGON BALL Z | Max Glenn on ADVENTURE TIME | Joe Alterio on REN & STIMPY | Josh Glenn on SPEED RACER | Adam McGovern on KIMBA THE WHITE LION | Jonathan Pinchera on SAMURAI JACK | Lynn Peril on JONNY QUEST | Stephanie Burt on X-MEN THE ANIMATED SERIES and X-MEN: EVOLUTION | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on THE JETSONS | Adam Netburn on NARUTO | Madeline Ashby on AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER | Tom Nealon on TRANSFORMERS | Sara Ryan on BOJACK HORSEMAN | Michael Grasso on COSMIC CLOCK | Erin M. Routson on BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD | Deborah Wassertzug on DARIA | Lydia Millet on BOB’S BURGERS.
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