Thursday, June 24, 2010

Daria - one of the great underappreciated cartoons

Daria is like the Frazier of the animated world. It's the show that was spun off from a super popular show but ended up far outshining it's originator. Sadly, Frazier outstripped Cheers in both quality and popularity (arguable in the latter case, I suppose), while Daria was much better than its predecessor but was not (and honestly couldn't have been) the cultural milestone that Beavis and Butthead was. Daria is smarter, funnier, and infinitely more interesting than most shows on TV. The animation itself is nothing special, but I'm not sure it could work any other way. Our monotonous heroine might not be as effective if we had to watch some actress playing for the cameras. The chemistry between Daria and her best friend Jane couldn't be recreated, the ridiculous side characters simply would not be believable in any way except animation. So yet again animation has proven itself to be a versatile medium not meant for just kiddie movies, but I digress.

I have been watching and re-watching the entire series with my wife, and I haven't yet gotten tired of it. The episodes are funny, of course, it's a comedy show, but they also reveal depths to the writing and the characters the closer you look. There's an episode I particularly love where an old high school football star dies, leaving everyone to think he was a great guy, even though he was a major asshole to both Daria and Jane. Everyone starts coming up to Daria wanting to talk to her because she's the "depressing girl" or "the girl who must think about death a lot" and it starts angering Daria that people see her that way. In a sense it's her getting angry about her image, which just makes her even angrier that she now cares what people think of her. I also like the dynamic event of the coming of Jane's boyfriend Tom, who begins to have a thing for Daria, challenging the relationship between the two best friends.
One of the best things about the show is the abundance of great side characters. Daria and Jane are great and infinitely watchable, but I think Daria's dad Jake may be my favorite character, with his low self esteem and anger outbursts. I think he may say "dammit" in every single episode. Daria's self-involved sister Quinn and their mother Helen offer up their fair share of laughs, as do the abundance of students and teachers at the school. Whether it's the double airheaded duo of head cheerleader Britney and her quarterbacking boyfriend Kevin, or Mr. DeMartino, who must be perpetually seconds away from a blood-pressure induced heart attack. All add a lot to the comedic fabric of the show, even if the occasional character building kinda moments get saved for Daria or Jane.

So it's a terrifically underrated show, and like I said in the opening paragraph, it's further proof that animation isn't just for kids. So if any of you get a chance to catch up with Daria on DVD as I have, I would highly recommend doing so.


Alec & Emma Davis said...

Yeah, I remember many a night watching Daria with Aaron back in the day. We really liked that show. Thanks for reminding me!

Jump_Raven said...

And then of course there was musical episode. I didn't watch the show a lot, but I agree that it is a very smart underrated show.

Iza Larize said...

I miss Daria!!! :D