Daria Morgendorffer: A Character Study
MTV-produced programming in recent times has shown females to be shallow and despicable. Geordie Shore, Jersey Shore, My Super Sweet Sixteen, Snooki & Jwoww and other such programs are part of an unfortunately large list of recent MTV-produced programming where females live simply for superficial and self-serving needs without any evidence of integrity. However MTV also produced Daria, a program with a female centered character whose integrity in her actions and opinions are not accountable for females within recent MTV-produced programming.
Daria is set through the high school years of Daria Morgendorffer, a self-defined outsider whose contempt for shallow cheerleaders and idiotic jocks is equally matched by sometimes questioning her teachers’ and families’ ethics, wherever it be their deceit or hypocrisy. She also diverted herself against moronic aspects of high school, having no interest in physical appearance or appealing towards popularity, showing her stern character. This article will contain analysis of four Daria episodes which contextualised Daria as a sincere female character which is nowhere to be found amongst females in recent MTV-produced programming.
1. Malled (Season One, Episode Five)
Malled showed Daria enduring a visit to a personal hell in a state-of-the-art shopping mall with her economics class. Daria’s thoughts on the subject are made clear when she responses to her sister Quinn’s praises of the “super mall” in her typical sarcastic reply, “if you play that John Lennon song backwards, it says, Imagine all the people, browsing in a mall. Isn’t that weird?” Daria was standing for her ethics by criticising people’s trivial preoccupations with consumerism. Whereas Daria was tackling issues with consumerism, MTV-produced programming from recent years such as My Super Sweet Sixteen where spoilt participants over-indulge in lavish gifts and extravagant foods conveyed as entertainment for MTV viewers. This contrast distinguishes Daria in terms of female representation as a special exception, she conveyed the hazards of consumerist excess. Daria later revealed that a class meeting with mall executives is manipulated into secret market research. The mall executives respond by blackmailing Daria’s economics class with vouchers in which she replies “you don’t get it, there’s a principle involved”. Daria’s perspective makes clear commercialism’s shallowness in turn reflecting her stern integrity. Daria was not influenced by gifts of vanity, continuously fighting against commercialism which engulfed her fellow students. Daria’s representation in Malled regarding commercialism is nowhere to be found in the obsessive consumer culture on MTV in recent years especially My Super Sweet Sixteen‘s spoilt brats getting expensive cars and clothing.
2. Arts N’ Crass (Season Two, Episode One)
Daria and her best friend, fellow outsider Jane tackled assumptions of feminine beauty in Arts N’ Crass. In contrast to recent MTV-produced programming where stereotypes of feminine beauty are normalised, Daria and Jane aimed to break them down because they were infuriated by the same stereotypes at their high school. In contrast to Daria, recent MTV-produced programming like Geordie Shore, Jersey Shore, My Super Sweet Sixteen and Snooki & Jwoww have females parading around with too much make-up and expensive clothing conveying shallowness. This underlines Daria as a MTV-produced program which contained a sincere female character. Daria and Jane’s school art competition entry contained an image of a typical teenage beauty with a profound message, ‘she knows she’s a winner, she couldn’t be thinner, now she goes to the bathroom and vomits up dinner’. This is powerfully sincere in contrast to their fellow classmates’ entries such as Brittney’s clichéd anti-alcohol and drugs, reflecting Daria’s stance on integrity over obsession towards physical appearance which females within recent MTV-produced programming constantly do. Wherever it be the ladies from Geordie Shore and Jersey Shore using their physicality to attract men, there is an ultimate downside within this reality which might not be shown in Geordie Shore and Jersey Shore (rather it is sensationalised) yet Daria exposed it. Their entry soon causes controversy with Principal Lee confiscating and redefining its context, however Daria along with Jane consolidate their integrity by defacing it. Daria defacing the entry was a defying statement within her characterisation affirming sincerity which is sourly missing from recent MTV-produced programming where moral ethics are non-existent. Instead they are replaced by egotistical urges with little depth. Daria’s defiance for her ethics in Arts N’ Class was an admirable characteristic.
3. The Lost Girls (Season Three, Episode Five)
The Lost Girls is similar to Malled in the sense that Daria continuously fought for her ethics against superficiality. She is unwillingly forced to spend a day with Val, owner of a self-titled teen magazine after Mr O’Neill submitted Daria’s essay to Val. Daria thinks the magazine is superficial with articles such as ‘What TV’s hottest hunks thinks of your blackheads’. Val is the polar opposite of Daria, cohering the latter’s sincerity. Val spoke in slang, was superficial and oblivious to her contradictions. Daria was offering a damning critique of Val yet there are striking similarities with Val and recent MTV-produced programming. Val’s obsession with her physical appearance mirrors the ladies from Geordie Shore and Jersey Shore reaffirming their physicality to attract men or focusing on moronic aspects of life. It is tragic that females within recent MTV-produced programming have personalities similar to Val’s values which are upheld towards its audience. Daria stood out as the special exception by continuously breaking down Val’s persona in particular being shocked by Val’s age of 28 feeling she is a fraud, “pushing yourself as a role model when all you care about is how you look”. Daria once more fought for her ethics against a tirade of superficial, shallow ignorance revealing Val’s pathetic nature. Daria having the capability of criticising superficial ethics reflected the sincerity incorporated into Daria’s characterisation.
4. Prize Fighters (Season Five, Episode Eleven)
Prize Fighters placed Daria somewhat unwillingly against fellow students Jodie and Upchuck for a University scholarship. She is hesitant to be involved in the process, feeling it is negatively subverted. This went against Daria’s ethics regarding education that something which is “supposedly based on merit can be bought”. Daria’s unwillingness to break from her ethics continued in her disgust at Jodie and Upchuck’s attempts to coy-fully gain the University scholarship through desperate means. Daria’s perspective made it understandable why she felt the situation was undesirable, education should be a respectable concept and not subverted for sheer greed. Daria engaging in subjects of education for its audience for them to debate Daria’s predicament. It lets audiences engage seriously with their intellect unlike audiences for Geordie Shore, Jersey Shore, My Super Sweet Sixteen and Snooki & Jwoww who only relish sensationalised events for cheap entertainment. Daria’s perspective conveys her as a sincere character who would not deceive her ethics shown in the direct and sarcastic answers she delivers to the University scholarship interviewer, treating it like the charade it was. Daria’s contempt continued to show her sincerity that has not been and never would be duplicated by female participants within recent MTV-produced programming because they never engaged in serious context, it was just mindless entertainment.
So why should Daria’s characterisation be vigorously emphasised? It is important to reflect in the context of MTV-produced programming that females can have a positive representation, not as shallow or despicable but containing virtue and sincerity which Daria had. It raises questions as to if Daria has tragically become a bookend to quality MTV-produced programming which has been missing in recent years. Daria having such characteristics which were respectable still transcends today ultimately showing her significance being far superior than females in Geordie Shore, Jersey Shore, My Super Sweet Sixteen, Snooki & Jwoww, and other such programs combined.
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