Rad Gal Inspiration: Daria Morgendorffer

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When I was six-seven-eight, there were a select set of TV show theme songs that I really enjoyed: Married…with Children, The Simpsons, Sailor Moon. But while those themes were catchy–singable, hummable–it was the theme to Daria that remains an all-time favorite of mine twenty years later. With its instantly recognizable opening riff of, “La-la la la laaa…,” the song has stuck with me over time, and it’s more than once served as my cell phone ringtone, because obviously.

Daria was one of a number of sardonic teen girls I looked up to throughout my adolescence. Although the other most notable, Darlene Conner, made more frequent appearances on my TV over the years, Daria was always the one I related to a bit more. She was the one I really saw myself in. My parents would call me Darlene, but I think that’s because they watched Roseanne regularly; it was in syndication far more and more frequently accessible. If I had to pick a fictional counterpart, though, it would be Daria Morgendorffer.

On the surface level, we’ve always looked fairly similar, considering she’s a cartoon character: glasses, medium-length brown hair, pretty basic outfits. We’re sarcastic and cynical, but not outright rebellious. We can be smart asses–but we can also be wrong. We’re both writers. We both harbored crushes on musical hottie Trent Lane–and we both realized maybe we’re better off without him.

I am Daria.
Daria is me.

I always wanted to grow up to be her. Then I got to high school, and it turned out my wish came true. An average kid/teen but a good student–though she was ultimately better in that than I was, which is fine. I never had valedictorian in my future. And of course, as much as I’ve always admired her, I know she’s not perfect, but Daria is a show that did an amazing job at creating character development. Her friends and family call her on her bullshit, because even she has some at times (and, yeah, so do I) and she’ll admit defeat.

To some degree, I’ve softened over the years, although my tongue hasn’t dulled, I assure you. And in some looks into the future of the series, it seemed like maybe she would too. I’m 26, and even rewatching the show now, I relate so strongly to her, and sometimes to Jane, too. To be honest, I still see her as a role model and a reflection of myself in certain moments: when her patience wears thing for those around her, when she refuses to compromise on her art and beliefs, when she rolls her eyes and sighs.

I didn’t at the time, but I realize now more than ever that Daria is and was one of the truest representations of my life as a teenager that I could hope to find. She was borderline boring, and so was I, dammit.

This piece will also appear in my upcoming Daria fanzine, The Lawndale File.

March 27, 2017
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  • Bex

    Same same same. We are so similar, you and I. Two of my high school classmates used to call me Daria and my mom used to roll her eyes and say, “Whatever, DARLENE,” whenever my sarcasm or dry humor was too much for her bubbly personality to handle. (And man-oh-man, Trent was a cutie. Thank goodness we’ve all grown out of that phase.)

    • I love how we’re the same person! It makes me so happy. And I actually have a piece alllllllllll about crushing on Trent in my zine too because it is an important part of my development that needs to be memorialized.

  • Kay

    Couldn’t agree more. I want to rewatch this whole show now, and I can’t wait to get my hands on The Lawndale File!

    • It’s so great! And it’s kind of weird how well it still holds up too, given the lack of internet/cell phones. There was one episode in which Daria wants website building software and it had me laughing because now there’s just Squarespace and stuff, but that’s one of the only things that really stands out like that.

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