Guys, I have some news that you're going to want to be sat down for: Daria premiered on MTV 20 years ago. How did we all get so old, so fast? What's makes that fact all the more devastating is that Daria, as a show and a character, feels just as significant and necessary today as it was back then. In fact, look at any one of Daria's best quotes and you'll instantly see just how relevant the character is for contemporary culture and society. So, in order to test the character's significance in 2017, I talked like Daria for a week, to see what would happen. And the results, frankly, were thrilling.
Because, the character was smart, resilient, outspoken, and politically aware, and she delivered some of the sharpest, wittiest comebacks in all of pop culture. In short: Daria was a nasty woman, and she's exactly the kind of character that we could all benefit from summoning the power of, right now. It's worth noting, for the sake of transparency, that I'm hardly the polar opposite of Daria's character. In fact, while I was growing up, parents, teachers, friends and enemies, alike, all thought they were being clever by calling me Daria due to my unbridled cynicism and bleak World view (they weren't. I relished the comparison).
However, I'm a grown woman now and have since learned to (mostly) reign in my ranting and cynicism and be (again, mostly) positive about life. But for the sake of this experiment, I decided to unchain my brooding, teenage mindset and invoke my inner Daria, inviting the character to speak for me during the most mundane occurrences of my everyday life. And here's how that went...
I figure that since today is one of my days off that I may as well begin this experiment with an event sure to bring my inner Daria to the forefront: A lunch date with my parents. Thankfully, my parents are way more low-key and laid back than Helen and Jake Morgendorffer ever were. And yet, like many Millennials, I still find myself instantly morphing back into a version of my difficult, teenage self whenever I spend more than five minutes in their presence.
We enjoy a catch-up over a couple of beers, and the conversation is pretty chilled. Until, that is, we start to inexplicably discuss how my particular generation needs to "start planning for the future," and shouldn't I be starting to build up some respectable savings so that I can live comfortably when I'm older?
"Oh sure," I tell them, "Maybe if I live in Grandma's car and subsist on a diet of canned beans now, I can live out my final years in one of those Kiss branded coffins I've always admired so much".
My Dad laughs. My Mom rolls her eyes. Nailed it.
After a long working day, I decide to treat myself and my partner to a romantic date night consisting of a home cooked meal and a movie. Except, my date for the night has misplaced some important work documents and spends the majority of the evening loudly complaining while he tears through our apartment trying to find them. I sort of attempt to help, but my lackluster involvement provokes a predictable argument. This is the reality of love, guys.
Feeling like a realist, I decide to abandon my meal plan and instead order a pizza — a food that even Daria knew was the true flavor of love. When it arrives I carry it in like a doughy, cheese-dripping dove of Peace, remove a slice and pile it straight into his mouth.
He smiles, and as he's eating, I deadpan retort with, "...because nothing says 'I love you, please shut up and kiss me' like having the woman of your dreams cram hot cheese into your mouth." We stop arguing. We share a kiss. Pizza is victory.
By the third day, I'm totally feeling my inner Daria and decide to unleash her on the mild mannered public. I do some writing in a coffee shop which, after a while, becomes overrun with loud, excitable children. Children who all appear to be aggressively tweaking off their respective sugar rushes and inexplicable zest for life.
Like Daria, I'm pretty sure that I didn't even like children when I myself was a child, so this scenario is less than favorable. However, it does provide a delicious opportunity for a Daria-ism, when I (regrettably) decide to order myself another drink. I stare incredulously at the preppy waitress, who also shares an enviable zest for life, and decide to test out my skills:
"You definitely need to stop serving so much caffeine to these kids," I tell the waitress, keeping my face as straight and inexpressive as possible, "one more shot of coffee in them and we're gonna have a Children Of The Corn style problem on our hands."
The waitress furrows her brow in confusion. I attempt to explain to her the relevancy of the reference, and of the children of the story killing the town's adults but I've clearly massively missed the mark on this one. I apologize, order another coffee and quietly sit my ass back down.
Feeling emboldened by Daria's protective armor of sharp cynicism, I head to a local bar wearing the low-key outfit I've been working in all day, to meet up with some friends. Without a shred of makeup on, and wearing a pair of dungarees that have definitely seen better days, I approach the bar and join the queue of people waiting to make their order.
After waiting several minutes, my "look" attracts the attention of a young guy in a suit who saunters over to me with rapt enthusiasm. He's grinning ear to ear as he looks me up and down and says, "You know, you wouldn't look half bad if you'd just make a bit of an effort for yourself."
Without even having to think about it, I respond, "Oh gee, thanks. If you want to wait here for me, I can head home, shower, shave, smear myself in makeup, and throw on a pair of heels and we can make this delightful dream a reality."
He grimaces at me, nods and walks away in defeat. I no longer know where Daria starts and I end.
Now feeling nothing but disdain for the outside world, I stay home. I'm supposed to be working, but in all truth, I've wasted three solid hours listening to true crime podcasts while aimlessly browsing the internet. A co-worker messages me to ask how the project we're both working on together is going for me. Daria's voice is the one that responds:
"Well, if procrastination counts as prep work then I've had a successful, busy morning. At the startling rate with which I'm failing to work, I may even need to reward myself with pizza and take a nap soon."
She doesn't give me a response. I fire her another message that simply says, "Sorry. I'll be on it this afternoon." Which is the only message she chooses to take seriously, replying "Great! You had me worried for a second there."
Unexpectedly, today the experiment has inspired me to get out there and endure social situations I usually dread. Specifically, I decide to attend an exhibition opening at a local gallery. An experience which usually infuses me with a rattled sense of anxiety. But it's fine, because this time I can just be Daria, instead of the walking panic attack that I usually am.
Naturally, it's only a matter of minutes before I'm unwittingly hobnobbing with press and artist types and someone dares to ask me, "What do you do?"
"Well," I respond, holding my free glass of wine close to my chest, "Mostly I procrastinate and panic over small, mostly insignificant details while worrying that my entire life is passing me by at a rapid, unforgiving speed. But in my spare time from that, I also write."
This is a statement that the good, artistic community of my city appreciates. Nobody cracks a smile, though one woman does grab my hand in sympathy. I look down at it in awkward confusion and can hear the Daria theme tune start up in my head.
Maintaining this level of cynicism is exhausting, so I spend the majority of the day huddled up under a blanket on my couch. I have a slight hangover (damn that free wine) and feel like absolute crap because of it. After a few hours of inertia, my partner concernedly tells me that I might feel better if I just get up and actually start doing things.
"You're right. Why would I want to feel like crap here on the couch when I could feel like crap in the shower, in the kitchen, or down at the grocery store?"
He glares at me with an understandable, worn down frustration, "Isn't this experiment over yet? Are you done?"
"Yeah," I tell him, "Sorry. I'm done." And then I get up and actually start doing things. I don't feel any better for it.
To conclude, I found it worryingly easy to talk like Daria for a week. It also felt liberating to simply say exactly what was on my mind, be as dry and cynical as I wanted and just not give a damn about what anyone thought. Her personality and irreverent conversation style might not suit every scenario, but when it does it's so good that it would even make Daria herself crack a smile. Clearly, 2017 needs her more than ever, and I think I speak for everyone when I say: A Daria revival needs to happen, like, yesterday. Make it happen, world.