Misery Chick: Irony, alienation, and animation in MTV's Daria

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Misery Chick: Irony, alienation, and animation in MTV's Daria is a 2003 essay by academic Kathy M. Newman, included in that year's Prime Time Animation book.

Daria offers both consolation (for outcasts) and vengeance(for virtually everyone else).

— ,


It examines the series, how animation become part of MTV's identity, the lack of animation in much of Daria, and opinions on the show. This last included a nod to the contemporary fandom:

"Daria made it clear that irony is about community, not sociopathic behavior. Moreover, Daria has helped to bring “actual” teenagers together under the rubric of the fan world created by the show. As one fan put it: “If (Daria) represents anything, it’s the upbeat, fun, pro-active side of teen nihilism” (Pal 1997:T4).

"Daria fans themselves are definitely more pro-active than nihilistic. On more than 100 Daria fan sites devoted viewers have posted their own “fan-fiction”... Fans also use these sites to talk about their health, their families, their own depressing childhoods, and their meaningless jobs. Daria, for these fans, is what Kenneth Burke has called “equipment for living” – a story through which fans have been able to make sense of the world (Burke 1941:293–304). ... Fans used Daria, ironically perhaps, to deal with their own feelings of alienation. In the process they have created a genuine Internet community."

Later, she quotes from an essay by Peter Guerin that argued against critics who linked Daria to the Columbine shootings; and the bibliography includes an essay by Michelle Klein-Hass and an old Paperpusher's Message Board post called "Why Bother".

Newman identifies the "the themes and rhythm of a typical Daria episode" as being that first there's a "crisis" (ranging from Tommy Sherman's death to a field trip), and the "heart... involved Daria and Jane doing something they did not want to do, or getting punished for something they should not have done", usually finding a way to end up on top. Daria is "a negative person who often helped make life better for her friends". Daria and Jane are cited as being a feminist alternative to their "body-conscious" peers and to many other women in animation, who were either 'little girls' or sex appeal.

She also examines how the "static, life-defying animation technique, seemed to violate one of the fundamental principles of animation", and argues the show's creators made "a self-conscious critique of the principles at stake in animation as a form", fitting the show's use of "irony as a mode of address" and presenting a "cold and alienating world".

Political subversion comes up, with Daria argued as feminist and often anti-consumerism, though "Lucky Strike" is cited as an argument against subversuion per se, having "treated the idea of collective action with some ironic distance"; as Daria's decision to be a scab or not ends with her conscience taking a snack break, "at the very moment at which the serious issues were being addressed (low wages and weak workers), they were simultaneously being dismissed." However, Newman argues it's "rare to see strikes referenced in any way within televisual culture" and Daria knowing what a 'scab' was is significant.

(Newman also finds Jane forgiving Daria and Tom to be "unlikely".)

Errors[edit]

  • Newman attributes Daria's creation to Glenn Eichler. The history of the character's genesis would only be properly detailed after the 2006 Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection DVDs came out.
  • Jane is said to have gone on a double-date with Daria and Tom in "the fourth season", which actually happened in the fifth season.
  • Gone unmentioned is the primary reason for Daria's animation style: the show's creators didn't have any money.

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