'Daria Returns, And It's Pure Poetry
By David Bianculli
The teacher has called for volunteers to create
an art poster reflecting modern teenage life. One classmate
draws a picture of a lovely blond girl gazing at her own reflection
in a vanity mirror, and her collaborator offers a poem as a
It sounds like a sweet scene from "The Brady Bunch,"
but this isn't Marcia Brady doing the drawing, and the poem
is much more sour than sweet. It's a scene from tonight's second
season premiere of the MTV cartoon series "Daria," and the poet
and artist are respectively, maudlin high schooler Daria, and
her friend Jane.
Hence, Daria's poem for Jane's drawing goes something
"She's knows she's a winner,
She couldn't be thinner,
Now she goes in the bathroom
And vomits up dinner."
Daria Morgendorffer, a former classmate of Beavis
and Butthead's, is just as out of place in Lawndale as she would
be in "Dawson's Creek." Her vocabulary is a match for the attractive
teen of that new WB series, but her self-image isn't. In spirit,
she's closer to the outcast teens of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"-
except she has no demons to hunt.
Daria's demons, instead, are her popular but vacuous
younger sister, her usually distracted parents, and her largely
unsympathetic and disapproving teachers and fellow students.
When asked to justify her poem, Daria says dryly:
"All the emphasis on appearance today can be dangerous.
The girl's very pretty, and your first reaction is, 'Oh, what
a happy teenager.' But maybe that's not the whole story.
"Maybe that prettiness comes at a price....The
choice of words was deliberate, to contrast with the beauty
of the image and shock the viewer into paying attention."
After that, the issue becomes one of freedom of
expression: Should the poster by Daria and Jane be allowed to
run in the school competition? And if not, how should Daria
respond to the censorship?
Daria, a master of irony, would relish the irony,
that her series and its noncomformist messages run on the same
network as "House of Style," where fashion is both the ruler
and the rule. Daria is not unaware of peer pressure; she just
doesn't buy into it.
To celebrate the launch of new episodes of "Daria,"
MTV not only is presenting tonight's new episode in the regular
Monday 10:30 p.m. slot, but is filling two additional hours
of prime time (8-10) with reruns from the show's first season.
If you missed "Daria" the first time around, or weren't taping
the episodes, it's the perfect preamble to a new batch of episodes.
Though Daria is a cartoon, her attitudes are a
lot more real than many of her flesh-and-blood counterparts
around the TV dial. And while her former buddies, Beavis and
Butt-head spent most of their time watching MTV, you get the
sense Daria, for the most part, wouldn't be bothered.
But watching "Daria," on the other hand, would
suit her just fine.