“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.
Beavis and Butt-head Do Thanksgiving with Kurt Loder
When asked by MTV's Kurt Loder about their upcoming final episode, the two buttmunches revealed:
- Beavis: We had this cast party afterwards, and I got so drunk even Daria looked good.
Butt-head claims Beavis didn't get drunk, which is probably a good thing for Daria.
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.
Is It Fall Yet?
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.
The cover for the original DVD/VHS releases of the movie features Daria on a movie/TV set, sitting in a "Star" chair, backed by several setting boards and multiple copies of her signature outfit. In the run-up to the film, Daria wrote about the production.
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, as well as Movie Review 2001, and several of them show she's aware of being a cartoon character (yet apparently still part of the "real world"). In the final essay, she discusses her plans to escape cancellation and appear in other MTV shows.
After the airing of Is It Fall Yet?, MTV had Daria, Jane, Quinn, Trent, and Tom answer fans' questions in a live online chat.
In 2011, the website Racked interviewed Daria about her "Greatest Retail Regret". In 2012, Daria wrote an essay for The Huffington Post, "What I Think About Valentine's Day", which identifies her as a "Philosopher and former TV star".
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.
Daria generally went out of its way to avoid giving a hard date for episodes. The S1-set "The Daria Diaries", however, gave a specific date in October as a time for a Family Court session, something first invented in the tenth episode "The Big House": this would require everything before that to have taken place in just over one month.
More confusing to work out, if we assume Daria spans three years then Beavis and Butt-head can only be Daria's ninth grade - trying to cram all the episodes and comics with Daria in (and ones without a speaking part that a fanfic author might like) into one year is very difficult, especially as the comics liked to tie in to the month they were in (you'd have to assume the stories set on specific holidays are not in chronological order) and "Scientific Stuff" mentions Daria as being at Highland High "last year".
Carter County vs. Lawndale County
Carter County first 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 and various places of interest (murder sites, the State Prison for the Criminally Insane...). While it was not stated there that Lawndale was in Carter County, the old MTV website had several in-universe webpages (1999 to 2001) that retconned Lawndale to be part part of Carter.
However, the name Lawndale County suddenly appeared 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. This clash is an oddity, as the book and website material were by Peggy Nicoll and Anne D. Bernstein (respectively), regular writers for the show and the story editor in 2001 in Nicoll's case.
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. However, some fans like to combine the two names and say that the company making the new memorial goalpost got the name wrong.
Cranberry Commons vs. Lawndale Mall
Much of this issue is discussed at Lawndale Mall. Canon sources offer two different names for the indoor shopping mall in Lawndale.
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 a rock-filled desert with occasional trees in "Speedtrapped" - just under 100 miles away from Lawndale. Explaining this 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.
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. "Fizz Ed" and "Sappy Anniversary" are also in the wrong order, with the episodes claiming the first takes place in January and the second in the previous November.
The same problem is seen with the episodes of Season Five and events in Is It College Yet?, which show the characters applying for & visiting colleges before their eventual graduation. They 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.
"It's a Miserable Life"
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, guardian 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.
“Depth Takes a Holiday”
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.
A very small faction of the fandom holds that there is a "middle ground" for this episode, in that the events as shown (The hurricane, Daria, Jane, Kevin, and Brittany in the water tank shed, Jake and Trent heading out into the hurricane to look for the girls, etc.) can be considered to have happened. However, the actual singing, dancing, and fourth-wall breaking can be ignored as part of "musical theater logic," wherein the audience notices the singing and so on, but the characters don't.
“Murder, She Snored”
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.
“A Tree Grows in Lawndale”
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 Daria's fictional work.
Alternatively, the bit with the crutch could be a pointless throwaway joke that ultimately means nothing in the larger scheme of things, can be easily ignored, and is not an actual reason to assume this episode didn't happen.
“The Lawndale File”
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.
“Legends of the Mall”
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, archived by the Wayback Machine.)
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.
On a more mundane note, the "Girl in the House of Bad Grades" story features the only depiction of Upchuck's mother in the series. Given the situation, however, it is difficult to say if her appearance and personality in the scene should be considered canon or just a product of Daria or Jane's imagination.
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."