Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Daria-Good Clean Fun

So once upon a time, in the days where MTV was more than just a place to showcase reality TV and bimbos on parade, there was an extremely popular show called Bevis and Butthead. The show's crude humor was all the rave with teenage and college boys. Now when someone pitches a spin-off, it's expected that the spin-off will be essentially the same thing, IE Angel, or at least with one of the main characters, IE Frasier. Bevis and Butthead's spin off, though, is about a minor character and has nothing to do or even references it's original work. Daria is so far removed from Bevis and Butthead it actually surprises people that they're related at all, and that's probably the best idea the writing staff had, besides the brilliant storylines, dialogue, characters, story archs, and the overall show.

Daria follows the life of Daria Morgendorffer, a high school student trying to survive her teen years with a level head and a sharp tongue. Described in one episode as the "Anti-Teen", Daria is not interested in looks, clothes, boys or popularity, but is instead interested in viewing the world through sarcasm colored glasses. The show centers around her and her best friend Jane being forced through the ridiculous hoops of high school and life while looking at it through the perspective of the outsider, and as outlandish as most of the other characters are, there's a piece of truth to be found in every episode.
If that description wasn't enough to separate it from Bevis and Butthead, the fact that the show is pretty much clean should seal the deal. For the most part the jokes focus more on observational humor, sarcasm, and play on words. On the rare times when they have a more "dirty" joke it's always done in good taste and without crudeness. The storylines are never about who's sleeping with who or who wants to sleep with who, in fact the only time sex is addressed is in one of the last episodes, tastefully done, and, spoiler alert, they end up not having sex! Imagine a story about teenagers that don't sleep together!
So what are the stories like? Well one example is one of my favorite episodes, "I Don't", Daria and her family attend the wedding of her cousin. Daria, who can never catch a break, has to be in the brides maids line even though her dress doesn't hang properly and can't be tailored to do so. As the festivities continue, Daria's mother get's drunk and picks a fight with her aunt, the pastor gets into a fist fight with Daria's sister's escort, and Daria and her favorite aunt have to flee the carnage. Once they're safely at a local bowling alley, Daria asks if life is just going to be one endless line of stupidity forever, and her aunt tells her that though it can feel that way, it doesn't mean you have to put up with it.
Another classic is the episode "Arts and Crass". Daria and Jane are forced to join a school poster contest, with the theme of student life in the new millennium. Jane paints a beautiful picture of a teenage girl staring into a mirror and Daria couples it with a poem about bulimia. The concept wasn't to offend, but to show that the main stream pretty high school girl shouldn't necessarily be the ideal one should look to or expect. The school administration love the poster but hate the poem, so they steal it, change the poem and display it. Daria and Jane then sneak into the presentation to deface their own work. This actually creates one of my favorite scenes in the series. Jane's brother, Trent, drives the girls to the school for their heist.
Trent: Okay, I'm going to sit here with my gas on the pedal for when you guys come back out.
Jane: Trent, go pull over there and turn the car off in case you fall asleep.
Trent: Plan B. Cool.
So the girls get in trouble and inevitable their parents are called. Daria's mother, who originally opposed the poster almost as much as the administration, is called first and in a very awesome scene of mother bear/attack attourney where she tells the principal exactly how illegal what she did was, and how if she doesn't want legal reprocussions to let the girls go. It's an awesome scene and I highly reccamend it.
Most cartoons made for adults are just that-adult. But they're only adult in the sense that they are stuffed full of sexual references and crude humor. Daria proved that adult comedy could just simply mean a bit more of a high-brow approach to things, as well as taking a realistic look at the stupidity that life is sometimes made up of. This is definitely one to check out if you have the chance.