Return to “Sick, Sad World”: Watching Daria in 2008

MTV was once amazing! Not to go there or anything, but what I miss most are the cartoons. Aeon Flux, The Maxx, Liquid Television (Nietzsche Pops!), and yes, even Beavis and Butthead had its moments (like when they watch the music video for Bull in the Heather and think that Kathleen Hanna is a 5-year-old who can’t dance). But the show that came back to haunt me this year? Daria. Smart as a whip and cynical as a roomful of reporters, Daria “misery chick” Morgendorfer was my age when the show first aired, and quickly became my hero. Recently, I decided to revisit the show now that 10 years have passed, and happily found that it’s as funny and true now as it was back then.

This time around, my favorite characters aren’t Daria and her artsy sidekick Jane, but the adults. Hands-down, my favorite character is Mr. DeMartino, the Chrisopher Walken-inspired history teacher with some anger-management issues and a serious gambling problem. A classic example of DeMartino’s temperament can be seen in early on in Fizz Ed, an episode in which the school runs out of budget and seeks sponsorship from a cola company. Then there’s Helen – Daria’s workaholic lawyer mom, whose parenting techniques backfire terribly but hit the mark when it matters.

If you’ve never seen the show, it’s logical to begin at the beginning. From there, it gets even better. Adventures in babysitting the kids of over-PC parents, dating retro-obsessed douchebags, and being forced to teach hateful classmates during a teacher’s strike await. Many of my favorite episodes aren’t grounded in reality at all; there’s the urban legends episode, the high school murder mystery, and the most bizarre Daria episode of all time, in which the holidays of Christmas, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day escape the spirit world to start a high school band, with Daria’s help.

Until the music liscencing issues get worked out, the show survives only in bootlegs. In the meantime, the legend lives on; if the obsessiveness/slash quotient of the fan art is any measure of a work’s impact, then Daria rivals Harry Potter. Actually, the show itself presented a myriad of character alter egos at the end of every episode during the credits. Every week, familiar denizens of the Daria-verse transformed into R. Crumb characters, historical figures, athletes, dinosaurs and canned vegetables. Amidst her turns as Mother Goose and Bella Abzug, Daria was sometimes shown in a more realistic context: a journalist, an author, a talk show host. Watching the credits roll, I always wondered: what will happen to Daria when she leaves high school? Is life really better after that? What will she be? What will I be? Now, I kinda know.

28 Responses to “Return to “Sick, Sad World”: Watching Daria in 2008”

  1. Annie Says:

    Oh, I adored Daria. It was completely inappropriate for my age when it was on TV, but I watched it anyway. And the sneaky, sneaky YouTube clips saved me when I was stuck at home post-wisdom teeth removal last year. Unfortunately, they were removed shorty afterwards and I thought I’d never see them again. Thank you for posting links!

  2. Erin Says:

    Wow, I’ve never seen any of these shows, though I’ve heard about them. I had no idea Aeon Flux was cool before it became associated with Charlize Theron. I had no idea I was so deprived as a cable-less child. Now I’ll be up until 5 am, catching up on everything. So. Out of. The Loop.

  3. Nadya Says:

    @ Erin: If it makes you feel any better, didn’t know there was a Tank Girl comic until the movie came out. We all have one of those things! Enjoy the clips.

  4. Valentina Says:


    I absolutely adore Daria. But MTV is being lame and hasn’t put the show on DVD yet, and it’s been frustrating trying to find all the episodes online.

    It also sucks because the first time around I was really young (8-10) when Daria was out so I only saw episodes every now and again on YTV.

  5. Jen Says:

    Ahhh, Daria. I remember it well. I downloaded the entirety of the series in 2006 and my friends know by now that if they ever claim to have not watched an episode, I will make them watch the entire series. I find myself looking deeper into the lives and mannerisms of the adults now that I am one (sort of) too. My So-Called Life is another show where I was never interested in the adults until I became one. Now they’re more fascinating than the kids.

  6. la mome neant Says:

    Now you can’t imagine how happy I am of being remembered I can actually find Daria on Youtube! A Daria evening is on its way…

  7. Vivacious G Says:

    I loved her! *goes to youtube

  8. Tanya Says:

    Yay! Glad to see Mr. DeMartino getting some well deserved appreciation.

  9. Beetleginny Says:

    Daria was honestly one of those shows that honed in on my psyche and left a deep impression. When I was a kid watching Daria it was nice to see someone who I could relate to. While other girls were finding heroes with various sugary pop culture celebs I turned to the animated: Tankgirl, daria, aeon flux (what I was doing watching that at such a young age.. god only knows)

    Not a surprise at all the CH girls love her just as much!

    p.s. major hearts to trent. animated crush 4 life.

  10. Terra Trouvé Says:

    Daria was, and still is, fantastic.
    I too miss the days when MTV was chock full of great, and bizarre, cartoons.

  11. Chesney Says:

    So weird, I’ve been going on a Daria kick for the past couple weeks and observed the very same things! I was reminded of it when one of my friends mentioned the retro-obcessed episode (“I just don’t think you’re ready to mix eras!”) because someone actually did scold me for mixing eras! Ha! After that incident, I felt the need to re-examine if it was just as good as I remembered, or if it was one of those teenage angst things. Nope, its just as enjoyable as I remembered. I did sure love the credits. Back when 2D art was still cool! :/ And yes, Mr. DeMartino FTW! hee!

    Oh le sigh, I do miss the awesome cartoony days of MTV. Anyone remember Clone High too? I sure loved that show too. No, I still love it. …god I’m such a cartoon nerd. haha.

  12. Shay Says:

    Funny you should mention it, my flatmate has been going through Daria clips all yesterday. What a wonderful journey down amnesia lane, thanks!

    p.s. Speaking of the times MTV was cool and cutting edge and worth watching, anyone remember THE STATE?

  13. Geoff Says:

    Dammit, I’d give anything for a proper Daria boxset. And a Duckman one too, come to think of it.

  14. David Forbes Says:

    Daria “misery chick” Morgendorfer was my age when the show first aired, and quickly became my hero.

    Same here. I really hope that not only is a box set in the future, but that Cartoon Network or somebody else starts running this series again. It’s needed for many reasons, not the least because it’s a message to every weird kid going through that point in their lives that “See, you can laugh at it. Not just that, but it gets better. You won’t believe how much better it gets.”

    I was significantly younger when Aeon Flux came along, but it still made a big impression, especially the pilot.

  15. Brock McCoy Says:

    Yay for Daria.

    Don’t feel too bad for the children channel surfing for weirdness and landing on MTV these Dark Days…Wonder Showzen probably set the course for a couple mental institution patients. I’m guessing the rest would be horribly confused and at least a little scared, but that’s life.

  16. fortheloveofthestars Says:

    I miss those golden days. My friends and I, we adored Aeon, The Maxx and especially Daria. (The Maxx led to epic weirdness in our lives, but that’s a tale for another day.) Daria nailed teenagers for the first time, following relatively normal kids instead of troubled ones, or perfect ones. I know more people like Daria and Jane then most TV characters.

    MTV is worthless now, and so is most animation these days. Thank god for the likes of the Venture Brothers!

  17. Tequila Says:

    The N…that Canadian network focused on the Teen set…aired a full run of Daria a while back. It was quite the trip down memory lane. I was amazed how well it holds up, from the writing to the music. This time around I found myself liking the character of Lane’s brother Trent. He’s a 90’s slacker at its best but with a much more daydreamer vibe. Definitely the kinda early 20’s some of us from that era ended up having.

    What’s really smart about the series is that it doesn’t talk down to teens or adults…it pretty much plays them on a somewhat even level. None are perfect and even the “perfect” kids are pretty likable. Every character was fully written as opposed to being a stereotype. If anything the quality of the show shines more NOW than then.

    The Maxx was another classic. Really coupled with the comic and was probably the earliest example of what we’re seeing now with motion comics. I pass the studio that was behind the production on my way to lunch regularly…while they are now more well known for their work on Futurama…you see stuff from The Maxx in their reception area prominently.

    It’s a shame stuff like this was canned in favor of utter crap like The Hills.

    @Shay…The State…oh man how I loved and still love that series. The first season was only recently released. Not perfectly but it was released and hopefully the rest follows. A few members were on indie 103.1 one night hosting and talked about the series pretty extensively. A lot of fans are still around even if the Reno 911 fame overshadows that era.

  18. Ruairi Says:

    I remember my mind boggling when I came across Daria (on Saturday afternoons on Channel 5 in the UK) “Hey, isn’t that the contemptuous chick from Beavis and Butthead?” It still turns up occasionally here in Dublin, on Channel 6, oddly enough. I always liked her clunky boots and “Impress Me” body language. Wouldn’t have liked to date her though.

    Aeon Flux… now that was a show. I’d come across it in the middle of the night and have to ask myself if it was real or just some sexy waking dream I had between the Metallica and Weezer videos.

    Why IS animation so poor these days?

  19. Thews Says:

    I find it amazing that a show as good as Daria is a spin off of beavis and butt head.

  20. Jon Munger Says:

    If at any point in my life I doubted that Coilhouse was a haven for people who would share my likes and foibles, it has been dashed against the rocks like so many babies by this post.

    I had the biggest imaginary girl crush on Jane Lane. Indeed, that crush, sublimated, explains most of my relationships since high school. And now you’re reunited us.

    Come to me, my snarky art-thing.

  21. Red Scharlach Says:

    I don’t suppose anyone here would know what the status currently is on the new season of Aeon Flux or Peter Chung’s new series, Luvula?

    Aeon Flux most definitely deserves an entry of its own too.

  22. Jerem Morrow Says:

    *fist in the air*


  23. tyhiliet (eric) Says:

    i believe this is the first time i seen such awesome toon-age in a long time.
    serious before the posting of this artical . i have not seen even a complete episode of Daria. as for the lapse of time i spent sence your post. i’ve gorged on the first two seasons .

    the only thing i have to say . “I needed this in high school, damn it”

    love you nadya. as in i sort of want to stalk you now… but for now coilhouse is all i plan to have time for.
    THANK YOU!!!!!

  24. [?] Says:

    daria has to be my fave show of all time, the movies are great too!
    Brittany and Kev are still hilarious
    i think what got me so attached to the show is the very fact that i could relate to the characters, not to sound all cliche, but it was a show that made you feel that everything will be ok, so long as you have good friends that stick by you.

  25. Ed Autumn Says:

    Daria is one of my all time favorites!! I really wish they would put out a box set; and YES, someone should start airing the episodes again! It’s not like it would make television, or animated series, any worse than they are now :)

  26. Senseless Babble Says:

    I loved Daria so much, I married her. My wife Kate looks, sounds and has the Daria attitude, but she had it before the show was on the air. I’m a lucky guy!

  27. Sam Ramirez Says:

    I loved Daria, same with Annie, it was highly inappropriate for me. However my cousin sneaked the episodes into my eyes when she babysat. Daria is probably most responsible for my dry humor now.

  28. MissSpite Says:

    Oh wow. I had exactly the same wonderment. I’d LOVE to have Daria on DVD, who do we spam with macros to get that?