The World According to Daria
They were likely all written by Anne D. Bernstein.
Bubble, Bubble, Oil and Trouble
These days rocketing oil prices have Americans concerned and chagrined. With the high cost of heating oil increasingly forcing families to burn their youngest child for warmth (hey, money is money), Washington is talking about all things crude, and for once they don't mean interns in thong underwear. Will we be forever at the mercy of oil-rich OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia, which has initiated its own energy-saving innovation by forbidding women to drive cars? Will we be forced to return to the ugliness of the gas lines of the 1970s, as we've been forced to return to the ugliness of the fashions of the 1970s?
Naturally, people look for easy answers: cold fusion and perpetual motion machines to the rescue! These are fun ways to defy well-established laws of physics and delude yourself at the same time - just ask my Dad, who is currently tinkering in the basement with a broken microwave and some plastic straws. Personally I think we'd be better off hooking Mom up to a treadmill, but first she'd have to come home from work.
Anyway, in an effort to help lessen our nation's dependence on foreign oil, I pledge to follow these energy-saving tips:
1. During peak hours of electricity use, I will turn off the lights and sit in the dark brooding.
2. Effective immediately, I shall increase my insulation from all other human beings.
3. I plan to encourage others to trade in their gas-guzzling behemoth cars for oversized tricycles adorned with pinwheels. Multimedia campaign to follow.
4. I will increase room temperature at mealtimes by relentlessly pushing family's hot buttons.
5. Four words: Driving without headlights -- fun!
6. I will lessen seasonal heating oil demands by turning the calendar back and insisting it's summer, skipping school to support this illusion.
7. I plan to lobby for a new Lawndale Light Rail system running between my house, Jane's house, and the pizza place.
8. I intend to reduce drafts by learning to walk through walls.
9. I promise to gently refuse the gift of a private jet, should the situation come up.
10. Above all, I will save energy by sleeping as many hours per day as humanely possible.
And next month, maybe I'll lessen my dependence on these silly numbered lists.
Home Sweet Genome
The growing use of DNA analysis in the courtroom signals a powerful new tool in the pursuit of truth. This revolutionary technology has led to unjust convictions being reversed, alibis discounted, seemingly dead-end cases cracked. And what's more, it gives us an excuse to dig up dead presidents. Bring on the entertaining exhumations!
Too bad this exciting methodology is expensive and time consuming, out of reach of the average Joe (if that's his real name) - until now. That's right: in the interest of domestic justice and forensic fun for the whole family, I am proposing universal access to DNA fingerprinting.
Just think of the dinner table misunderstandings which could be cleared up with a simple Southern Blot Analysis. Household crimes would be solved beyond a reasonable doubt (not that there is anything reasonable about most households) since every person's DNA is unique, except for identical twins and my army of Daria clones hidden in the attic.
In addition, genetic testing would answer more fundamental questions of identity. I recently requested that Mom and Dad submit to maternity and paternity tests, hoping to give credence to the theory that I sprang spontaneously from the head of Zeus, but they refused. I decided it was best to drop the whole subject after Mom threatened to show me a home movie of my birth. Ew.
The Morgendorffer clan has a number of unsolved mysteries that DNA evidence is sure to unravel. I am currently collecting samples in anticipation of the day when construction of a high tech forensic lab in the attic is complete. (The clone army has been temporarily relocated to the basement.)
Sources of genetic material are plentiful and within easy reach: Dad's midlife hair loss provides a wealth of samples; Quinn jealously guards her nail clippings (something to do with anti-Sandi voodoo rituals) yet freely disposes of saliva-permeated gum wads; and as long as Mom keeps chewing through pencils, I will have an endless stream of exhibit A's.
As for myself, I will gladly provide DNA-rich material for testing purposes by shedding my outer skin like a snake. Ah, that feels better.
The following case files currently remain open, awaiting lab results and hard-hitting testimony from Barry Scheck:
1. The Mysterious Missing Lasagna Layer: A four-layer lasagna was reduced to three by nefarious mean. Collection of DNA material would have been a cinch, except that someone gobbled up the evidence. Or was it a cover-up? 2. The Case of the Broken Knick Knack: The culprit in question was injured trying to stuff telltale remnants into the trash. In order to solve this one, I volunteer to draw blood from Quinn. (I'm O-positive, by the way. How ironic.) 3. The Enigma of the Encrusted Dish: What twisted soul left this revolting display of moldy, microwave-safe crockery in plain site? Alas, bite marks in the mac and cheese are indistinct. 4. The "Borrowed" Shirt Caper: Quinn claims that a sweat stain was discovered on her raw silk flame notch neck tube tank (can we get an expert witness to explain what that is?) and since she does not sweat, someone must have borrowed it unlawfully. I advise sending her for psychiatric evaluation. 5. The Telltale Toilet Seat: Who left it up? Dad, being the only male, is the likely culprit, yet he pleads his innocence. Since no one is willing to collect the evidence, we've decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
If in any of the cases above the evidence points squarely to yours truly, I will immediately appeal the decision, citing contamination, breaks in the chain of custody, and the stupidity of the whole idea in the first place. If that fails: Release the clone army!
Beauty is in the Third Eye of the Beholder
Unlike the majority of teenage girls, I am content with my looks. I long ago accepted the fact that I'll never get to carry a sign around a boxing ring announcing the number of the next round, and tragic though it may be, I'll have to find another dream.
But this self-acceptance is hard won. It's difficult to remain confident in a culture that bombards you with visions of unattainable physical perfection. Super-skinny binge-purge models are causing women to wake in the night drenched in sweat, having dreamt that their hips tried to kill them. Size Zero is insulting enough. How long 'til some smug designer announces, Spinal Taplike, "These dresses go to Negative One?"
I intend to age gracefully, my worth ever growing, like fine wine or petrified dinosaur waste (um, maybe not that last one). Clinging desperately to youth is pathetic. People should accept their age, take pride in it, flaunt it. (Please note that I reserve the right to change my mind about this three seconds after I turn thirty.)
Not that I have a problem with cosmetic surgery - convincing someone to pay you to cut them up, how could I be against that? I object only to the fact that plastic surgeons support a subtly coercive agenda of conformity. Where is the creativity, the passion, the sense of fun? Why are surgeons still cranking out teeny noses and colossal boobs when they could be helping us realize our full potential as individuals? I propose the following unnecessary, yet thoroughly amusing, new surgical procedures:
1. ELBOWPLASTY: Bone grafts are used to reshape mid-arm protruberances, resulting in a sharper, more focused point. Useful in crowds and gym class.
2. BUTT CRACK REDUCTION: I'm afraid this procedure would be mandatory for those found to be exposing others to unwanted glimpses of their posterior cleavage. Sorry, no exceptions.
3. FOREHEAD RIDGE IMPLANTS: Gives all those geeks who actually bother to learn Klingon something to live for. You know who you are.
4. PERMANENT POCKETS: I never have enough of them, I hate carrying a purse, and vests are so last year. With a clever use of skin grafts, say goodbye to kangaroo envy and Gap clearance sales.
5. REVOLVING EYEBROWS: Separated from the facial plane, eyebrows are equipped with tiny nano-motors which allow rotations of up to 360 degrees for optimum expressive capabilities. Look, ma, windmills!
6. PREHENSILE TAILS FOR TEENS: Advanced prosthetic technology combined with a surgically implanted spinal mount would enable us to hang upside down from tree branches and nap. Also great for swatting flies and annoying siblings.
7. BLOWHOLE-OSTOMY: Just because you weren't lucky enough to be born a cetacean doesn't mean you shouldn't have the ability to spout water out the top of your head. Fun at the public pool!
Well, doctors, how about it? Bring your scalpel and your imagination and let's party!
Yours in malpractice suits,
Please Pass the Peace Pact
I am not a diplomatic person. My stubborn and intractable nature doesn't lend itself to the art of subtle negotiation. You won't find me on the international stage clicking glasses with dictators, fiddling with my headphones during United Nations proceedings, or inadvertently giving away Poland after a bad bowl of borscht.
Nevertheless, I think I have something to contribute the Middle East Peace process. I reject the idea that clashing ideologies and territorial disputes must result in a permanent state of war. I know of two parties who are diametrically opposed on every substantial issue of the day, whose mutual mistrust is deep-seated and well-founded, yet who have come to transcend their historic divisions and live semi-peacefully under the same roof. I am speaking, of course, of myself and my sister, Quinn.
The Morgendorffer Accords (also known as the "Kitchen Counter Talks") were signed in the spring of this year, after a decade and a half of constant tension, unrest, rolling eyes and tongue clucks. Negotiations were intense and close to complete collapse on a number of occasions (e.g. every time the phone rang), but ultimately successful. Bloodshed was avoided (with the exception of an unfortunate paper cut) and we currently maintain a state of harmonious disinterest.
The following basic principles of conflict resolution were responsible for the historic breakthroughs of this successful sibling summit:
1.Create clear and mutually recognized borders: The integrity of the bedroom threshold shall not be breached for any reason. Installation of barbed wire was helpful with this issue.
2. Respect territorial integrity: A demilitarized hallway buffer zone was established and a no-fly policy implemented. As Quinn remarked at the treaty banquet, "Flies are so icky."
3. Assure each side access to essential resources: Particularly the refrigerator and the bathroom. No one wants a replay of the bitter Cold Cream War of 1998.
4. Establish economic ties: When tensions reach a boiling point, I simply give Quinn ten bucks to go away.
5. Address the present, not the past: I could make the case that I was born first and therefore am entitled to complete and utter autocratic rule, but then Mom and Dad might offer the same logic and who needs that?
6. Be flexible: Talks can easily break down if both parties take a hard line. Quinn agreed with me on this point; of course she thought we were talking about eyeliner.
7. Agree to independent, outside monitoring: We use our parents because they're a lot like the UN: they think they're more powerful than they are and can't agree on anything.
So there you have it. My ability to achieve a lasting truce with my sister is proof positive that peace in our time is an achievable goal. Of course, things would have been a LOT different if I'd ever been able to get my damn Anti-Quinn Missile Defense System working.
Yours in detente, Daria
Whenever there's a new hit television series, a boatload of copycat programming inevitably follows. Suddenly there's a glut of cookie-cutter sitcoms full of urban singles bantering endlessly in suspiciously large apartments. Or a gaggle of teen soap operas taking place in towns where zits are apparently illegal. Or a slew of blue-set, big-ass game shows with spotlights that swivel, ooh!
The latest inspiration for rubber stamp TV is the voyeuristic love/hate fest "The Real World." (Personal disclosure: the series often airs on my parent network, MTV--and when I say often, I mean for days on end. Unlike, say, "Daria," which is shown without fail every Shrove Tuesday.) The concept: toss a bunch of diverse strangers into a high-stress situation and hope for eye-gouging. It's proven so popular that we now have a veritable smorgasbord of derivative "programming:" people stranded on a desert island and forced to compete for coconuts; wannabe crooners molded into a vacuum-packed teenybopper band before our very eyes; a creepy experiment in 24-hour audio-visual peeping that proudly calls itself "Big Brother." What, was "Animal Farm" taken?
Such copycatism revulses me, especially since no one's thought to knock off my show. Sure, I'm not popular as that castrated little rat Pikachu, but don't I deserve some attention from talentless development execs who every night in their prayers thank their dark lord that you can't copyright a "concept?" You bet your anemic Nielsen overnights I do.
Wake up, television execs, you're drooling on the pillow again! Sardonic teenage girls with glasses could be the next big thing. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your fully Daria-derived schedule:
1. "WHO WANTS TO EMBARRASS THEMSELVES ON NATIONAL TV?:" Contestants fail to win any money from an unenthusiastic teen emcee because the questions are way over their heads.
2. MOPEMON: A world-weary young woman trains 163 different ultra-cute creatures to ignore each other.
3. UP TOO LATE: Celebrities discuss their projects, pets and kids, in that order of importance while the resentful hostess fails to show up, claiming open-heart surgery.
4. THIS COLD HOUSE: Workmen and architects are chased away from a job site by a surly adolescent with a twelve-gauge.
5. SNIDE KINGDOM: An alienated high schooler scampers through the forest seeking a nice quiet burrow. Now that I think about it, scrap the scampering part. And don't even think about woodland mating rituals.
6. JUDGE DARIA: The network buys me an electric chair so that I may act on my impulses.
What do you think, TV professionals (assuming the words "think" and "TV professionals" can ever be used in the same sentence)? Come on, give the all-Daria schedule a shot. All you need is some vision, some guts, and some friends in the business so you'll be able to find a new job when the smoke clears.
Packing my own golden parachute, Daria
Is There a Spin Doctor in the House?
It's ironic, the way we never know how we appear to others. For instance, my market research team tells me I come off as a cranky, know-it-all curmudgeon. Distant, aloof and arrogant. Cynical, negative and smug. And -- as bizarre as this may sound -- some people apparently feel this is a bad thing.
I admit to having some problems with a my public image. Maybe it's because I've modeled myself after Bill Gates, aspiring to become a socially awkward misfit with poor eyesight, weird bangs and hundreds of billions of dollars (it's that last part I'm having trouble with). So I've decided to look to Big Bill's steely yet nerdish example for inspiration.
As the government threatens to break Microsoft into smaller though still inconceivably powerful parts, Gates counters the charges of ruthless, illegal business practices with... a makeover. He has been coached to make eye contact with the camera in inspirational commercials; to contribute large sums of money to non-controversial charities; and to acquire a haircut incrementally less bizarre than his earlier mixing-bowl-and-pruning-shears do. And it's worked. He's become the cuddliest rattlesnake around.
So I take my cue from Bill: it is time for a gentler, kinder Daria. A Daria that the public will come to know and love at a safe distance. The kind of Daria who inspires the young to dream, the old to cling to life, and the middle-aged to increase her allowance.
The best is yet to come. Unless it's all downhill from here.
I hereby pledge to undertake the following image-improving actions:
1. Kiss babies: Eventually. I plan to work up to it by winking at them and giving a thumbs-up.
2. Encourage innovation and opportunity: For example, lying on the couch watching TV encourages innovative programming that looks just as good vertically as horizontally, and creates an opportunity for someone to bring me a grilled cheese sandwich cut into triangles.
3. Consider plastic surgery: Some suggest removing my perpetual scowl, but I fear the possible side-effect of laugh lines. Flip-o-suction (removal of flippant remarks from everyday conversation) is a more likely possibility.
4. Modulate voice: From now on, I will speak with a soothing West Indian accent. Mon.
5. Highlight family togetherness: A photo shoot has been arranged and a puppy has been rented. Shots of harmonious antics will be available to the press. Please disregard obvious retouching.
6. Choose an inspiring slogan: "A Daria Who Dares To Dream" will be emblazoned on stationery, t-shirts, and those rubber things you use to open cans. (By the way, it's true. I sleep a lot.)
7. Make eye contact with the public: Preferably by peeking out from behind closed curtains.
8. Allude to baking cookies: My favorite recipe is on its way to the editors of Bitter Homes and Gardens.
9. Give lavishly to charity: I am pleased to announce the endowment of a new trust: the Daria Morgendorffer Foundation for Building Self-Esteem in The Face of Overwhelming Hostility. It contains $6.49.
10. Step aside: I hereby promote Jane Lane to the position of CEO of all my corporate undertakings. She will represent me in all dealings, public and private, as she is far more charismatic and friendly than I am. I will use this opportunity to rededicate myself to ongoing cryptozoological research and development of a thick skin -- while remaining a highly paid consultant, of course.
I just want to give a little back.
What's Old about the New Media
As an internet pundit known to be on the cutting edge of the cutting edge (ouch! that's sharp!), I suppose I can't completely ignore the phenomenon known as New Media (I tried hiding under the covers but I eventually ran out of crackers and flashlight batteries). Not that I object to technological innovation; I like the idea that my words can be read by people all over the world at any time of the day or night (a special hello to my Polynesian friends with insomnia!). Yet I dread the day the printed word is finally rendered completely obsolete by interactive broadband digital communication. It's so much easier to throw a book at your sister.
The big talk these days is of convergence: will television, the internet, DVD, and videogames join together to create a giant, breathtaking Uber-Media, or just a super shovelful of crap? Is the paradigm shifting, or do I just need a new prescription for my glasses? And how will these developments affect copyright law, privacy rights, and lame home pages featuring way too many pictures of someone's cat?
Sure, new media is sexy, flashy, and more lively than a stone tablet, but what the bright-eyed and demon-spawned high-tech cheerleaders leave out is the fact that in many ways the New Media is exactly like the Old Media. So be on the lookout for these perpetual truths:
1. Most of what's out there is crap.
2. While individuals do things for any number of reasons, companies just want to make money. Corporate-sponsored websites are nothing more than used-car lots without the flags. Pop-up ads? Those are the flags.
3. When some google-eyed caffeine freak is trying to convince you that working for his dot-com company will be great because of the eighty-hour weeks, remember the First Law of Glamour Jobs: the president of the company always makes at least a hundred times more than the guy in the mailroom. And goes home early on Fridays.
4. Most of what's out there is crap.
5. The less valuable a job is to society, the more complicated the words used to describe it. Why say "getting people to watch" when "aggregating eyeballs" is so much more jargonlicious?
6. New or Old, remember that you can't spell 'media' without a bunch of the letters from 'mediocre,' plus an 'a.'
7. Most of what's out there is crap.
8. And most important: Whether the media is streaming or static, you can turn it off.
In fact, maybe you should try that right now. And shouldn't I be writing a business plan for a vertically integrated interactive gaming site with cross-platform personalized shopping content? Everyone else is.
How to be a Positively Negative Role Model
Does television encourage violence? If you doubt the fact for a second, just take a look at the bloody aftermath of the average remote control power play at the Morgendorffers.'
Does it also promote rampant promiscuity, excessive drug use, and the breakdown of the American family? Perhaps. Madonna, Jerry Lewis and Tom Cruise respectively have all been known to watch TV. On the other hand, I think it's simplistic to blame the unraveling of our social fabric on two-dimensional images flickering across a screen. Although I do agree that Tinky Winky is up to something.
In any case, I've been following recent debates on the media's effect on children and teenagers, and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am a role model and can no longer shirk my responsibility. It seems young people look up to me. At least the short ones.
Some say that I am a positive role model; I guess that's because I read books, my worst addiction is to "Sick, Sad World," and by opting out of virtually all physical activity I avoid taking part in any dangerous "imitatable behavior." (No, "imitatable" is not in the dictionary, although Standards and Practices insists it's a word.) If anyone attempts to emulate me, the worst that can happen is that they faint from heat exhaustion as the result of wearing a blazer and combat boots in August.
Nor do I indulge in illegal substances (I don't even order pizza with mushrooms) and, in deference to viewers' delicate sensibilities, my sex life has been very limited. (Truth be told, it's more in deference to our animation budget, which only has enough money in it for getting to first base. Meanwhile that lucky Lisa Simpson gets to do it all she wants.) But even taking all this goody-good crap into account, I still prefer to think of myself as a negative role model, in that I am negative about most things, which is just being realistic, which now that I think about it is a positive trait after all. Wait. Now I'm confused.
Anyway I, Role Model Daria, have come to realize that I may have crossed the line with my original plans for our Season Five (premiering on February 19 at 10 P.M. eastern, in case you haven't heard). So in response to the concerns of parents, critics and the nagging little voice in my head (no, not that one, the other little voice), I've decided to voluntarily tone down some upcoming shows and beef up the positivity. To wit:
1. The "surprise" pregnancy plot has been shunted. (Inside Scoop: The "surprise" pregnancy was Upchuck's.)
2. We will tape my father's mouth shut at times of peak frustration. In related news, the episode in which Tiffany develops Tourette's Syndrome will be bleeped.
3. Flossing will be required before all slumber party scenes.
4. My mother will not be defending a cannibal after all.
5. We will make even more references to existentialist philosophers and self-destructive painters, thereby qualifying as educational programming.
6. From now on Mr. DeMartino's eye will just be bruised, not bloodshot.
7. Cross-dressing will be limited to the Fashion Club swapping scrunchies.
8. We will continue to live in a strange land where not a single teenager smokes, drinks, or gets chlamydia.
9. I will not become a card-carrying Satanist. That would require filling out an application.
10. We'll keep an eye on Jane.
So look forward to another happy-go-lucky season of "Daria," full of innocent hijinx and merry mayhem, leading up the finale where I ride off into the sunset on a sparkly-maned unicorn. Now that's controversy!
On a role (get it?),
In recent years the American public, disillusioned with politics as usual, has become receptive to new ways of choosing our leaders - such as inaugurating the guy who lost the election. And it's that same can-do spirit of innovation that has voters cheering on the possibility of campaign finance reform. Thanks to the McCain-Feingold bill, the days of soft money appear to be numbered. Be on the lookout for "firm but gentle money," "money lite," and the latest in political patronage products, "I Can't Believe it's Not Bribery!"
What is soft money? Political contributions that, like the contents of my locker, are not subject to disclosure. Torrents of cash from unions, corporations, and advocacy groups are channeled not to candidates directly but to phony baloney organizations involved in "party-building activities," which generally consist of producing ads calling the opposition candidate a big jerk.
I know what you're thinking. "Hey, Daria Morgendorffer, you like calling people big jerks. Why don't you run for office?" Ironically, I stay out of politics because of that very same issue: campaign money. I find the idea of trying to raise millions of dollars from the teeming sea of drooling idiots (that is, America's voters) distasteful, to say the least. On the other hand, the notion of imposing my worldview upon others through legislation, though not as appealing as outright dictatorial control, does have its charm. So just in case our incumbent politicians bang their heads on a low doorway and vote against their own self-interest, I've decided to get in "under the wire" by quickly establishing some new political organizations. The following Very Special Interest Groups will be open for business as soon as I file for tax-exempt status, rent a crappy storefront, and hang up some bunting.
1. National Contrarian Party: A "devil's advocate" group that seeks to stimulate dialogue by disagreeing about everything and never giving in, not even on the smallest and most inconsequential points. Provides entertaining loudmouths for Sunday morning roundtable shows.
2. Hands Across Your Throat: This group works in the area of anti-social policy. Strategy includes door-to-door canvassing when nobody's home, and a meet-and-greet cocktail party every twenty years.
3. Non-Industrious Workers of America: A labor coalition that lobbies for important changes in the workplace, including lunch breaks that are longer than the rest of the work day and snack machines that cough up the corn chips after a single kick.
4. National Disorganization for Lack of Change: Comprised entirely of former Microsoft customer service agents, this groups sponsors unmanned phone banks, voter registration drives for the underage, and incoherent rambling on subway trains. A project of the Futility Foundation.
5. The Council on Boring Relations: Publishes papers on a host of "family values" topics including parental policy analysis, strategic sibling rivalry, and procedures for institutionalizing grandparents who take too long to make their next Scrabble move. Offers seminars on the best way to avoid that uncle who's been telling the same joke since 1956.
6. The Balking Institute: This group encourages productive disbelief among the general public. Sponsors an annual essay contest on the topic of "How to Build a Better World If Such a Thing Were Possible, Which It's Not," and publishes the monthly newsletter, "Really?"
7. The Liberal Allowance Party: A bipartisan effort (Quinn is in on this one) to convince the Morgendorffer Treasury that economic health is directly tied to teenage disposable income. Soon to begin weekly "Get Out the Wallet" drives.
8. Partnership for a Dumb-Free America: Fights anti-intellectualism in all aspects of American life. Encourages critical thinking, informed judgement, and careful analysis of the facts. Very low membership.
9. Lawndale Inertia League: A coalition of citizens from all walks of life dedicated to the long-term observation of objects at rest. Wow. They do tend to stay at rest.
10. Victory 2001: This group promotes parties celebrating the victory of any candidate whatsoever. Keeps people out of my hair on election night.
The Slicing and Dicing of Couch Potatoes
With new developments in communications technology like digital television, satellite dishes, streaming video, and cable/Internet convergence, today's viewers are faced with an ever-expanding choice of "content," all of it equally brain-numbing. (I like to think that "Daria" is an exception to commercial, lowest-common-denominator fare, but then I recall those subliminal advertisements for strawberry-scented makeup remover pads that we keep inserting between arch literary references. Oops, probably shouldn't have mentioned that.)
"Narrowcasting" is the key: Networks aim programs at specific, highly targeted audiences, then offer eyeball access to overeager advertisers. After all, what chance do you have of selling ice to Eskimos, unless you've convinced them that your particular brand of ice will make them feel really sexy?
Kind of like splitting the atom (except for the intelligence required), slicing a television audience into ultra-thin demographic slivers results in an explosive unleashing of energy. Duck! Here comes a canapé cooking show for Wheaten Terrier owners! Ouch! That neo-conservative hockey lover's roundtable hit me right between the eyes!
Television used to bring people together, as families coast-to-coast gathered around to watch Uncle Miltie's comedic cross-dressing, or to gaze awestruck at bouncy astronauts playing golf on the moon. Now we sit in front of our individual screens, watching programs meant for people who think just like we do, shutting out the rest of the world, rarely deigning to talk to members of our own family. If this is the future, then I'm all for it.
In fact, I've come up with a plan for splitting "Daria" into multiple channels of specialized programming, so that our little show might dominate popular culture for decades to come. Yes, it's an ambitious project, but since it's at the conceptual stage, there's virtually no work required on my part.
So watch for the following precisely focused networks that just might become available in your neighborhood, depending on your local cable provider and my ability to convince MTV to invest millions of dollars in this scheme when they won't even shell out the money for desk fans so our colorists can stop passing out from the fumes emitted by Brittany Yellow #8:
1. COMB BOX OFFICE: The Fashion Club's Superficial Superstation concentrates on the competitive world of professional grooming. Home of the popular game show Ready, Set, Take Three Hours to Dress for a Date.
2. ARTS AND INFOTAINMENT: Jane combines two of her favorite things: art and tabloid TV. Top- rated shows include the tell-all painters' biography series Tinctures and Scandals and the racy travelogue Vegas Nudes Descending a Staircase.
3. C-PLUS SPAN: Quinn hosts a slate of semi-educational programming that's not too taxing on the mind. Nature documentaries about cute animals dominate the schedule.
4. THE HOME FLOPPING NETWORK: Trent's favorite. The only network with a snooze alarm feature. Someday he hopes to win a lot of money on their game show Napping for Dollars. That would be a cool idea. Yeah.
5. NOTIME: Mom is behind this premium channel for the harried, which specializes in mini-mini-mini series and made-for-TV moments. Keep up-to-date with the 6:00:32 news. Closed captioning in shorthand available.
6. BARZ: Ms. Li's pet project has an international flavor, offering a constant feed of security camera footage from around the world. Note: Station often scrambled for no apparent reason.
7. EEP!: Brittany offers succinct commentary in reaction to serious, hard-hitting news coverage of wars, disasters, famines, and other icky things.
8. GAL-AVISION: Upchuck's idea of broad-casting offers up hour after hour of Komely Kollege Koeds who refuse to take off their shirts, despite pleading and whining from behind the camera. Now that's sin-dicated programming!
9. THE "IT'S OLD HISTORY" CHANNEL: My father draws upon a vast library of classic footage depicting his painful childhood experiences in grainy black and white. If you didn't catch it the first time, don't worry. There are constant repeats.
10. HELL-IS-OTHER-PEOPLE-AMUNDO: This one's for me, Daria, and the rest of the Sartre-loving niche audience (or is that Nietzche audience?): It's a station entirely devoted to philosophy. Never mind "Reality TV" -- it's time for "What is Reality?" TV.
It's All So Taxing
They said it couldn't be done, but Congress has finally passed a bill to reform the tax code. This development encourages me to believe that one day we might bring logic to other overly complicated, confusing things, like Quinn's makeup drawer and the MTV programming grid.
Certainly, questions remain in the wake of the new tax structure. Such as, how does it help the poor to give enormous tax breaks to the super-rich? And if life's only two inevitabilities are death and taxes, how is it possible to eliminate the death tax? But, in the true American spirit, my main question is, What's my cut? How will the bill affect a typical American family like the Morgendorffers (typical in the sense of extremely dysfunctional in our own unique way)?
Well, Mom and Dad are already arguing over what to do with the $600 refund check that's coming this summer (a minor spat compared to annual arguments about who is really the "Head of Household.") I guess you could call them a "Married Couple Fuming Separately." Quinn is busy reminding every guy at school who will listen that you can give $10,000 annually without incurring a tax liability. And I've been hard at work developing an innovative school voucher program whereby I swear I was in class, and I get Jane to vouch for me.
But let's not stop there! There's still more re-jiggering to be done. Here are some additional tax code changes I'm pushing for, specifically designed to reduce the tax burden at Chez Morgendorffer:
1. From now on, a two-faced sibling counts as two dependents instead of one.
2. Redefine personal use of business property to include dreaming up wild schemes in the shower that you forget by the time your hair dries. Then dad can claim his fancy dandruff shampoo as a home office expense.
3. Establish an "Unearned Income Tax Credit" that recognizes the importance of those who accept an allowance while avoiding chores. We're essential to the proper cash flow of the family unit.
4. Now that the "death tax" is on its way to being repealed, make up the revenue by instituting a "Fascination with Death Tax" so all those folks who are champing to see televised executions have to pay for their fun.
5. Reward increase withholding: End-of-year rebates if you manage to keep those long, boring stories about failed relationships to yourself. Especially in public bathrooms.
6. Set up a "Social Insecurity System" to compensate those of us who choose to retire early from all social functions.
7. Expand the Depreciation Schedule to include Ridicule and General Mockery.
8. Allow unlimited rollovers for all IRAs, Keoghs, and oversleeping high school students.
9. Give agricultural tax breaks to anyone who owns an ant farm.
10. Reduce the top income tax rate from 39.6 to 36.689304923802398493840239484. It'll give all those fancy government computers something to do.
Playing with Blockbusters
Recently there's been a notable twist in action movies: a string of much-hyped, booty-whupping female heroines in high-budget, high-concept, lowest-common-denominator fare such as Charlie's Angels and Tomb Raider. These hot martial-arts mamas provide Hollywood a way to get points for creating "strong female characters" whose main qualifications are the same ones they share with the weak, stupid bimbos of old--their looks. After all, is a skintight leather jumpsuit with thigh-high, spiked-heel boots really the most practical outfit for kickboxing a five-headed demon? Not the five-headed demons I know.
Not to say that Angelina Jolie doesn't make a great Lara Croft. And the makers of Tomb Raider have performed a valuable public service: By forcing one of the most beautiful women in the world to pad her chest, they've succeeded in making a gorgeous movie star feel as inadequate as the rest of us.
Although I admit that I'm as far away in appearance from Ms. Jolie as one can get (and I'm not complaining, mind you, since this way I don't have to worry that when I'm asleep my giant lips will eat my face), I still find myself with the unexpected longing to be the subject of a Big Hollywood Blockbuster that burns through the international multiplex circuit, rather than the star of another cheesy made-for-TV movie with credits that keep getting viciously squished to the side of the screen.
Yet I realize that I need a top-to-bottom retooling of my image if I wish to inspire the creation of 90 minutes of flashy, brainless, quick-cutting dreck--excuse, me, I mean a nonstop roller-coaster ride of thrills and eye-popping excitement--that would comprise a big budget, live-action-with-expensive-SFX version of Daria. Not to worry. I've come up with a few ways I plan to change my life in order to attract the Hollywood mega-hit machine:
1. Slip a cursed Egyptian artifact into my sister's jewelry box.
2. Decide that my next science project will be the creation of a deadly, flesh-eating virus. Then save the world from certain doom by procrastinating so much that I end up sprouting lima beans on a wet napkin.
3. Take the school bus on a kinetic, death-defying chase from one end of the parking lot to the other.
4. Hang precariously by my fingertips from the first-floor living room window.
5. Climb the ropes in gym class while scantily clad in shiny black outfit that looks like it's gone through Ms. Li's paper shredder. Better yet, pose pouting in outfit while others climb the ropes.
6. Confront my evil doppelg�nger in the girls' room mirror. Oh wait, that's just Quinn.
7. Discover that Tom is actually a nuclear-powered cyborg, disguised as a superhuman replica, bent on collapsing time and knocking the earth out of its orbit. Finally, the guy does something interesting.
8. Convince Mom and Dad to let us redecorate the house so that it resembles a crumbling mansion with a forgotten crypt in the basement. Rescue Dad when he locks himself in crypt.
9. Confront a secret coven of evil, soul-sucking vampires. Oops, Quinn again. Stupid Fashion Club meeting.
10. In Matrix-like fashion, ponder whether life is actually an illusion and imagine the true reality for a whopping three seconds before abandoning the question for a game of hopscotch between skyscrapers.
Now all that remains is the creation of a catchy marketing slogan. Hmm� how's this? "I don't have low self-esteem. I'm gonna kick your ass!"
I'm a genius. See you at the movies�
Scowling for Dollars
Ever since the Friday the Thirteenth series ended, I have been unable to find a celebrity who could fill Jason's shoes as my pop culture role model. But that was before Anne Robinson burst onto the game show scene, proving that the American public can embrace a cold, dismissive and sarcastic woman who sparks insecurity in those around her. It gives one hope. Especially me.
I find myself wishing that life were more like The Weakest Link. If only we could have a political system where the dumb people get voted out, instead of the other way around. And how convenient it would be if snappy putdowns caused those who annoy us to exit our lives immediately, sheepishly and permanently.
As my future in the entertainment industry is currently in question (I have completed work on the second Daria movie and my guest spot on Undressed was cut due to "lack of woodenness"), I need to think about the future direction of my career. The possibility of becoming a game show host seems more and more attractive. Why can't I turn a whiff of superiority and the fashion sense of a middle-aged frump into a lucrative gig? Don't I exude the saucy sang-froid of a dominatrix schoolmarm? Inspired by the caustic crabbiness of Ms. Robinson, I've decided it's time to enter the realm of buzzers, bonus rounds and brittle bravura.
So here are some shows ideas that I plan on pitching to the powers that be, the pathetic idiots:
1. The Berating Game: Host scolds contestants. Contestants harangue each other. The camerawoman gets into a fistfight with the sound guy. Then my mother shows up, tells us to stop acting like immature little children, and wins the bonus round.
2. Let's Make a Deal: The contestant is my sister and the deal is, "Here's five bucks if you go away." We both win.
3. Celebrity Solitaire: Washed-up comedians who aren't and never were funny sit quietly flipping cards while the host locks herself in a soundproof booth and naps through the gameplay.
4. Irony Chef: It's a trial of competitive cooking and battling bon mots when rival kitchenmasters whip up gourmet meals while tossing off sarcastic comments about each other's toques. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the bitchin.'
5. You Bet Your Lichen: A childhood favorite adapted for television. Contestants lie prostrate on the floor in complete silence and make believe they are clinging to a rotting tree trunk. First one to move loses. E-Z closed captioning.
6. Win Ben Stein's Career: Contestants with no apparent charisma attempt to topple Mr. Stein from his perch as the world's luckiest one-note son-of-a-gun.
7. The Host is Right: Players don't get a word in edgewise as I answer all the questions in record time, collect my winnings, and, for good measure, make off with doors number one, two and three. Conflict of interest? You betcha!
8. Beat the Clique: Every week I whale the crap out of the Fashion Club. Hey, it's my show.
9. Mean For a Day: In a twist on classic 1950s game show scandals, I give the contestants all of their answers in advance and then change the questions on them.
10. Say "What Karaoke?": Self-explanatory.
Hmm. I just read the above once more and all I've got to say is�You ARE the weakest World According to Daria entry. GOODBYE!
If Totally Requested, I Will Serve
In times of crisis, people look to their leaders for reassurance, finding comfort in familiar faces. That's why New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani could not resist a brief attempt to finagle around term limits, concerned as he was that in the midst of tragedy, the public wanted him to continue on as the city's leader. As a fellow public figure and role model, I feel a kinship with Mr. Guiliani (except for the part about courageous resolve and the emergence of an unexpected "warm side"). All of a sudden, I am reconsidering my imminent departure from the airwaves of MTV. Can I shirk my duties while Carson Daly remains in the trenches, comforting the youth of America with soothingly repetitive countdown shows?
In the face of endless editorials decreeing "the death of irony" (oh yeah, I believe that), I feel an obligation to carry on. It has been said many times over that if we change our way of life, the terrorists have won. So I ask you: Can we really have true democracy without the free flow of sly observant phrases that can fit neatly on the face of novelty coffee cups? I think not.
But what to do about the "term limits" of television: cancellation, no matter how self-imposed? My solution to this dilemma is to weasel my way onto other MTV shows. I've set up a meeting with management to propose the following ways of undermining banishment by sneakily overstaying my welcome:
1. "Real Life: I Read Too Much": An honest, no-holds-barred examination of the pathetic life of an obsessive page-turner. Explicit paper cut footage not for the faint of heart. See how unsupervised access to the stacks of the public library led me straight to "the hard stuff": speed-reading.
2. "Fear": I am locked in a haunted house with my special guest, "The Amazing Randi." Underpaid production assistants bang on the walls while we debunk the entire notion of the paranormal, thereby ruining everyone's fun and the ratings.
3. "Dismissed": I go on a date with two hot guys. Somehow, they dismiss me.
4. "Video Music Awards 2002": I co-host with Chris Rock or Will Ferrell or someone they got at the last minute because Chris Rock or Will Ferrell dropped out. Throughout the pre-show, show, and post-show I keep using words like "Brechtian" and "allegro," which immediately alienate tens of millions of viewers around the world. Also, my outfit's non-shiny nature means I disappear into a black void.
5. "Diary": I speak directly into the camera about my feelings and thoughts as I experience my life. The camera doesn't listen to a word I say and keeps looking over my shoulder hoping someone cuter will walk in.
6. "Real World Antarctica": Seems ideal at first: I have a luxurious igloo all to myself amidst a vast and desolate landscape. I end up constantly bickering with penguins who chatter incessantly and hog the hot tub.
7. "Undressed": Oversexed, super-beautiful, skimpily-dressed teens mate and re-mate in this round robin of underage hijinks. Skip this one; there is no possible role for me here.
8. "WWF Not Tough At All": Quinn and I sit on opposite sides of the ring and trade glares. Rowdy hordes chant "cat fight, cat fight" for a while, then ask for their money back.
9. "Becoming": A team of makeup artists and hairstylists make my dream come true as I am transformed into Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic.
10. "Daria Unplugged": Oh, I guess we're back to cancellation. They'll surely go for this one.
- Must Ape is not happy that MTV kept rerunning its reality shows and bumping Daria over it.
- Spin Doctor is discussing the 1998-2000 legal case United States v. Microsoft.
- Ms. Softie, written after the 2000 presidential election, is referring to the proposed Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which became law in 2002.
- "Taxing" refers to the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001.
- "Blockbusters" discusses the films of 2001.
- "Serve" refers to then-New York Mayor Guiliani asking for a temporary extension of his last term because of the September 11 attacks, as well as MTV's then-current TV shows like Becoming.