Daria is out for the first time ever on DVD this week, and for anyone who came of age before the Laguna Beaching of MTV, it’s a happy occasion. A cartoon featuring a dry, sardonic teen protagonist, Daria was the end of an era for the channel, their last-ditch attempt to reflect some of the teen angst that was a real cultural force in the ’90s. They gave that up for the popular kid’s point of view, trying to sell us just how hard it is to be rich, beautiful and blonde on shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills, but Daria was something else.
Daria wasn’t cool at all. She wasn’t even cool in an Alternative Nation kind of way. She wasn’t punk or goth. She wouldn’t have gone to Lollapalooza or tacked Kurt Cobain posters to her wall. She thought everything sucked. There’s an episode where she’s convinced to get a bellybutton ring because Trent, the alternative kid she has a crush on, thinks its cool. She decides that piercing herself to rebel is just another way of conforming, just another bought-and-sold sign of angst. Okay, we’re not talking metaphysical issues, but that kind of teen thought matters and it’s mostly missing from TV today. I’m not trying to sound like a bore, but can you imagine anyone on The Hills having such a dilemma?
Daria was an important show for people who thought growing up would be an evolution away from popularity contests and drama-filled friendships, for people who hated high school and didn’t think the cool kids were cool at all. And even though that idea was naive—as adults we know that high school is everywhere, on TV, in movies, in songs and definitely on Facebook—it’s okay, because Daria‘s back, a little televised vacation away from all the Event Invites.