Sarcasm and sardonic detachment
I took a break from writing one night and went into the other room to see what my husband was doing. He was watching an animated show I’d never seen before, and I wound up watching the rest of the episode with him. Since the show was more than half over, I didn’t completely follow all the ins and outs of the plot, but it made me laugh a couple of times.
Another night I was channel surfing on my own, and happened across the same show. The episode was more than half over, again, but I enjoyed it. This happened several times; I never saw a complete episode, always catching it midway through. Also, as often happens, though I saw the show seven or eight times, I had only seen parts of maybe three episodes, because I kept happening across re-runs of episodes I’d already seen parts of.
This obviously happened back before I owned a TiVo, because what I would do now when I happen across a show like that is set the TiVo to record some episodes for me so I can watch more and see if I really like the show.
But back then I would have had to remember when the show was broadcast and make an effort to be free when it was one, or manually set a VCR to record it. Which I never did.
For several years after it went off the air, there were no re-runs…
The original series had run on MTV and had always incorporated snippets of popular songs at the time of broadcast. The music was added after the animation was finished, often only a week or two before the actual broadcast, so the particular music wasn’t integral to the plot, but licensing for reruns was complicated and expensive.
A few years ago the complete series was released in a single boxed set, with substitute music. None of which I would have known if my husband hadn’t been listening to a podcast about old shows of the 90s last week. He had the sound on his computer turned up louder than usual because his head was stuffed up because of the cold. Listening to the podcast from the other room, I looked up the DVD set, intending to maybe add it to my wishlist for later. Five seasons and two TV-movies worth of animation wouldn’t be a cheap, impulse buy, right?
Normally, not. Regular price is about 60 bucks, for the whole she-bang was on-sale for 14. So guess who clicked “Add to cart?”
The show’s about a cynical high school student, Daria Morgendorffer, her best friend (and fellow misanthrope) Jane Lane, and their families, classmates, and more than somewhat dysfunctional teachers.
Normally, I don’t identify with cynical protagonists. A cynical supporting character or antagonist is great, but usually writers who intentionally make their protagonists cynical are themselves so pessimistic that the story lines are seldom my cup of tea. What I like about what I’ve seen of Daria so far is, that while Daria is sarcastic, unenthusiastic, and detached, it’s not a mean-spirited kind of cynicism. It’s not all the characters with bad exteriors are revealed to have hearts of gold, but rather that all of the characters are portrayed as a mix of good and bad traits.
And there’s something that feels very genuine about it. I went to high school with people just like some of Daria’s classmates. Sometimes I was one of those people. And while the protagonist is a nerdy loser, she’s the kind of witty nerdy loser I would have liked to be.
It’s also extremely refreshing to have a show with that many female main characters (both good guys and bad guys) who are all fully developed characters.
As I watch more of the show, my opinion my change a bit, but for now, I’m glad to be a Daria fan, even if I came to the party a bit late.