“Off-Canon” Canon is any official (i.e., MTV-produced) Daria material that is incompatible with the depiction of the characters and setting of that series as reasonably realistic and consistent from episode to episode. In short, it violates canon. (Fanfic author jtranser has suggested using the term loose canon.)
Daria: Real Character or Cartoon Actress?
The first example of off-canon canon was the Beavis and Butt-head comics, where Daria "answered" the fan mail in two issues: the letters pages were renamed Dear Diarrhea and Dear Diarrhea, Number Two for the occasion. Daria was in character and giving in-universe answers, but was still aware she was a character in a comic.
Daria and Jane as Show Hosts
Were Daria Morgendorffer and company acting out of character when they appeared as hosts of their own show, violating the fourth wall? Were they "actors" or "real people" in the manner in which the show portrayed them? Fans tend to ignore Daria and Jane Lane's appearances as hosts, though important information has been given out during such appearances. While talking between episodes on MTV's "Daria Day" marathon in February 1998 (transcript at link), Daria and Jane revealed their ages during the first season (16), Trent's age (21), and Quinn's age (14.5), and appeared to confirm that the family relationships seen on the show exist even off-screen. Daria is usually portrayed exactly in character during such appearances (e.g., MTV's Cool Crap Auction), though she is also aware that she is an animated character. Daria even introduced the band Garbage (also in animated form, and flying around Times Square in NYC) at the beginning of the TV premiere of Is It College Yet? in January 2002.
As shown here, a variety of alter-ego pictures supplied with the movie Is It Fall Yet? show the characters of the series as movie actors. The actors are shown clowning for the camera in some, or having problems like tripping or being hit by falling scenery. The effect is quite jarring for viewers accustomed to a "realistic" show.
Interviews and Essays
Daria has been "interviewed" several times in the media about her series. One excellent example is the CBS Early Show interview from 2002, with real-life show host, Jane Clayson. Daria has also written a number of short essays that appear on the "World According to Daria" section of the MTV Daria site. The essays offer her opinions on various real-world issues, but with the awareness that she and her own world are animated (yet apparently still part of the "real world").
The internal consistency of the world created within Daria has at times fallen apart in minor ways. What is stated as fact in one place is contradicted in another, probably as the result of editorial or production errors.
Zen vs. Zon
Carter County vs. Lawndale County
Carter County appears in The Daria Database in the form of a map of a Mystik Spiral tour, along with a guide to the venues with travel time from Lawndale. It should be noted that Lawndale is not featured on the map and nowhere is it specified the Lawndale is in Carter County. But on the old MTV Daria website on Lawndale High's page it is stated that Lawndale High School is "a public co-educational high school set amongst the rolling hills and flatter surfaces of Carter County." Other old webpages (2001 and before) make the same reference to Carter County. Lawndale County suddenly appears in the episode, "One J at a Time," in the form of a road sign seen while Jake Morgendorffer, Tom Sloane, and Jeffy take a captured squirrel out to be released.
Sherman vs. Sheridan
Tommy Sherman was the oafish ex-jock and Lawndale High alumnus who was accidentally killed by a special goalpost dedicated to him in "The Misery Chick." However, in The Daria Diaries, the goalpost is named the Tommy Sheridan Memorial Goalpost. Someone obviously is confusing one American Civil War Union general with another. This renaming is generally assumed to be an error and nothing more, though perhaps the company making the new memorial goalpost got the name wrong. There is also some confusion over whether he was killed when the mounted goalpost fell on him or when the still-crated goalpost fell on him.
Cranberry Commons vs. Lawndale Mall
Mountains? Deserts? Within a Day's Drive?
The assumed placement of Lawndale on the east coast, as a suburb of Baltimore or Philadelphia, was challenged by the appearance of mountains in "Antisocial Climbers" and what appears to be a rock-filled desert with occasional trees in "Speedtrapped." The mountains did not seem very high, so they could have been part of the Appalachian chain running through Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania.
The desert is harder to explain without bringing in wormholes and tesseracts, but no cacti are visible, and the inhabitants look like a mix of country rednecks and cowboy wannabes. An isolated place in Virginia might fit the bill. Fremont (a town said to be deader than Lawndale) was supposed to be 100 miles from Lawndale, across state lines.
Where Is Camp Grizzly?
If Daria and Quinn attended this summer camp (shown in "Camp Fear") five years before Daria's senior year, then they would have had to live in Highland, Texas. However, the camp is shown to be fairly close to Lawndale as well, a few hours' drive away. How is this possible? Not to mention that Quinn thinks nothing of asking several people whom she hasn't seen in years for a ride home - never asking if they happen to live anywhere near Lawndale.
"The Daria Diaries" also show Daria attending a Camp Dragonfly, looking around the same age as in the "Camp Fear" flashbacks; which camp came first and why was Daria sent to a different one afterwards?
The episodes of Daria were not necessarily shown in chronological order. It is commonly assumed that the episodes from seasons one and two show Daria's first year in Lawndale, seasons three and four (and Is It Fall Yet?) show her second year, and season five and Is It College Yet? show her final year. However, the episodes within each season are not always in sequence. Most famously, "Road Worrier" from the first season shows Daria and company attempting to go to Alternapalooza, a rock concert that takes place in mid-August (per The Daria Diaries) but is sandwiched between episodes showing portions of Daria's sophomore year at Lawndale High - and episodes set in the sophomore year show Daria knowing about Trent's band and Jesse Moreno, who she only meets this time. The same problem is seen with the episodes of Season Five and events in Is It College Yet?, which would have to overlap in order to be realistic for a typical school year.
“Oops!” Animation Errata
The Episode Guide page at Outpost Daria lists every episode and movie done for the Daria series, and also provides links to animation goofs noted in every production. Follow the link given and look at the column on the far right, "Oops." Jodie Landon's hair turns gray, Jane Lane's leggings vanish, the nose piece on Daria's glasses disappear, clock hands go away, discarded items reappear, etc. The Morgendorffers' home was particularly susceptible to startling transformations from episode to episode and even from scene to scene, making attempts to draw its layout problematic. In certain fanfics, animation errors are assumed to have actually happened, though under extreme circumstances (e.g., Lawndale Stalker's "The House on Space-Time Lane" or The Angst Guy's "Deus Jane").
Fantasy Episodes and Scenes
Though Daria was a fairly realistic animated show, certain episodes raised the ire of fans because their treatment of reality was regarded as cavalier. Six episodes in particular, from the third and fourth seasons, are often assumed by sticklers for "realistic canon" to be events that never actually occurred. Some fanfic writers assume they were dreams, hallucinations brought on by a variety of ailments, or fictional works created by one of the show's characters, usually Daria Morgendorffer. (One of the episodes below actually was a dream.) A few stories, nearly always fantasies like "Deus Jane," assume most of these events occurred exactly as shown. The fact all these episodes were shown after Write Where It Hurts supports the "Daria's wrightings" explanation.
While a Beavis and Butt-head episode and not a Daria one, the former show is usually seen as canon for Daria's past. In this episode, the explicit existence of God, angels, and alternate universes are involved in the plot. As this is not a Daria episode and a number of Daria fans will not have seen it, it is rarely used as an example of God's existence in canon.
This is the most notorious of the fantasy episodes, in which various popular holidays appear as Holiday Island teenagers, wandering around Lawndale and interacting with Daria, Jane, and others. In the Last Summer tale, "Comforting a Confused Soul," Richard Lobinske has Daria write a short story called "Depth Takes a Holiday," which follows the episode as given. (In the succeeding Falling Into College series, Daria even dresses up as the character Halloween for a party.) Kara Wild's second fanfic, "A Desperately Needed Ending (to "Depth Takes a Holiday")," speculated that Daria ate a tainted piece of fruitcake at school, which led to a drug trip that produced the fantasy episode. However, some fantasy and science-fiction fanfics assume the dimensional wormhole in the back of the Good Time Chinese restaurant was real, leading to fairly wild universe-crossing tales (e.g., "Illusions," "Three," "Luuuv Story," "Scarlett," and "A Hard Days' Night"). In this episode, Daria never reveals any knowledge about things she can't know. This makes the "Daria's writings" explanation perfect.
A musical set during a hurricane? Daria and Jane dancing and singing? Again, most fanfic writers assume this did not actually occur. In Richard Lobinske's story "Freshman Spread," Daria mentions that it was a dream of Trent's and, from the snippet of lyrics, had written down at least part of it. "A Hard Days' Night" suggests the episode happened as shown, but was caused by alien invaders spraying Lawndale with psychoactive chemicals before a hurricane swooped by.
In some ways this episode may be considered even more in violation of reality than "Depth Takes a Holiday" because the characters violate the fourth wall and speak, sing, and dance directly for the audience, as if on a stage. They make eye contact with the audience in acknowledgment of their true status as animated characters. This does not occur in "Depth Takes a Holiday," which is a point in the latter's favor. However, this episode can be explained by "Daria's writings" version, too: it explains everything from "singing Jane" to fourth wall violation.
The bulk of this episode is a dream Daria has, in which many parts are based upon popular television detective shows. (The title, for instance, is based on the mystery series, Murder, She Wrote.) At the end of the episode, while Daria is awake, Anthony DeMartino attempts to strangle Kevin, possibly the springboard for that teacher's involuntary commitment at a psychiatric hospital as shown in The Daria Database. The fact that nothing of substance otherwise occurs, since the episode wasn't "real" to begin with, is a sore point.
The pink flower that sprouts from Kevin Thompson's "planted" crutch is a reality violation of the first order, though it does respond to the general theme in the episode about miracles occurring. One horror story that assumes this actually occurred is TAG's "Sudden Death Overtime." In this episode, we can see:
- An attempt to wipe every last memory about Thompson from the face of the planet.
- A sarcasm about people who pays too much attention to school football team.
- A sarcasm about teenagers of B&B's age who thinks about nothing but girls.
It's a safe bet this episode is a Daria's fictional work.
The strange presence of the (obviously X-Files-based) government agents and some of the sillier consequences (such as Mr. DeMartino being arrested) struck many as unrealistic, though the reality violations here are less damaging than those elsewhere. Artie's appearance on Sick, Sad World and the transformation of Daria and Jane into "Alien Love Goddesses" was also an issue, but mainly it was another episode in which everyone acted stupidly and nothing of consequence took place.
The steel teeth of Metalmouth hanging on the door handle of Helen's SUV at the show's end were a problem for many viewers. Interestingly, Helen's SUV was, up until this time in the series, probably a Chevrolet Blazer, but hereafter turns into a Ford Explorer (another information conflict). Was she so upset at finding the teeth on her car that she bought a new vehicle? (For details, see "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" by D. T. Dey, at Outpost Daria.)
This is the only unrealistic part of the episode. It could be assumed that while Helen was talking, a funny thing comes to Daria's mind: "Was it the Metalmouth?" - and this is her imaginary scene being shown. Alternatively, Metalmouth really does exist.
A brief moment in this fifth-season episode toed the OCC line but recovered well. When Ms. Li attempts to get Daria to teach Quinn's English class, a tiny "devil Daria" and "angel Daria" appear to tempt Our Heroine into different courses of action. As Ms. Li apparently does not see either fantasy character, they are assumed to be fragments of Daria's conscience that appear only in her imagination as she considers what course of action to take. Amusingly, the two opposing figures turn out to be perfectly in sync as to what Daria should do. Characters similar to these two figures appear in TAG's "A Midsummer Nightmare's Daria."