At 14, the only thing I enjoyed more than staying in and reading was staying in and watching Daria. As I’ve revealed, I wasn’t the most cool, outgoing adolescent. I loved Daria’s bookworm loner personality, arsenal of pessimistic quips and scathing social commentaries. I recently bought entire series on DVD, and enjoy it as much now as I did as a teen. However, watching Daria from an adult perspective, I’ve realized that sarcastic insults weren’t the only things I learned from the show. Here’s a list of five lessons that Daria taught me:
1. Sometimes crushes don’t work out, and that can be for the best. Daria’s first romantic interest is her best friend Jane’s brother, Trent. He’s a dreamy rocker with tattoos, facial hair and a band, which is the basic description of my first enormous crush. No wonder I rooted so hard for them to work out. But after some time of blushing and pining after Trent, Daria sees that his slacker persona just isn’t her thing. They do, however, become close friends, and Trent ends up regularly dishing great advice to her.
2. Moms are more awesome than we give them credit for. At first, Daria’s mother, Helen, seems like your stereotypical workaholic. And she is. We see her constantly running to the office, making phone calls in the middle of dinner and obsessing over “big cases.” Helen often seems like a distant, oblivious mother, and it’s clear Daria initially thinks that’s the case. But as the series progresses, we see that she is in fact willing to drop everything to give Daria advice or help, and that she may have more insight to her daughter’s personality than Daria herself.
3. Have confidence, play to your strengths and you’ll get what you want. Daria’s sister Quinn isn’t exactly a great role model. Vapid and appearance-obsessed, her main goal in life is to have a date (or five) every weekend. But darn if she doesn’t know how to play her cards right. With a wink and a smile she melts boys’ hearts and empties their wallets. Quinn knows her assets, has confidence in them and utilizes them well. Now, I’m not saying that Daria taught me to go around using men as free meal tickets, but it definitely showed me that confidence is key in the world of dating.
4. Friendships are complicated, and sometimes everyone just has to apologize. (If you plan on watching Daria you may want to skip this section.) Near the end of the series, there’s a love triangle involving Jane, her boyfriend Tom and Daria. The situation is messy and complicated, resulting in Jane and Daria getting angry at each other and both looking like jerks. The redeeming moment comes when the girls step up, apologize to each other and admit that the argument was caused by both sides. No one is entirely wrong or entirely right, but they both take steps and work together to fix the problem.
5. Antisocial bookworms can have it all, too. Daria really only has one good friend for most of the show: Jane. Yet she never tries to put herself out there or slide into a social group, because having one great friend is all Daria (or anyone) really needs. She also finds romance, has adventures and develops her own identity throughout the series, all without being cool or popular. This was an important message to me as a teenager, since for a long time I assumed you had to have at least five best friends in order to become anyone in life.
While a bit nihilistic for my more social, adult self, I still find Daria to be as entertaining as ever. And I’m glad that it gave 14-year-old me an alternative role model for my alternative (read: nerdy) lifestyle.
Do you like Daria? Did you learn any lessons from it?