1. Dear Daria: Revisiting the Misery Chick


    As the voice behind the title character in MTV’s animated classic, Daria, Tracy Grandstaff spoke volumes, albeit monotone, for brainy, sarcastic, misfits on the cusp of a sick, sad world ahead. After 8 years off-air, the cult hero was recently resurrected on DVD, proving the dry-humored teen of the late 90s was far from one note. Despite a surplus of oversexed mean girls on the Upper East Side or fist-pumping guidettes GTL-ing on the Jersey Shore, Daria’s personal brand of misanthropy is still alive and kicking. Today we’re going back to cool in a special edition of 15 Questions with the voice of the Misery Chick.

    Who is your favorite couple, living or dead, real or fictional?

    Sonny and Cher. Cher invented sarcasm for prime time. Fictitious? Roseanne and Dan Conner. They lived sarcasm for TV.

    A recent news story worthy of Sick, Sad World?

    Mother of 12 says, ‘What was I thinking? Eight really IS enough’—Octomom devours her young, next on Sick, Sad World.

    After watching Daria: The Complete Animated Series on DVD for the first time since high school, we hate to admit that we felt sorry for our teen idol. Sure she was wise beyond her years and wittier-than-thou, but she seemed a lot more miserable and self-loathing the second time around. What is your impression of Daria eight years later?

    She’s the same girl she ever was—a cynical, annoyed, awkward, self-conscious non-joiner, making the most of her prison term in high school—relying on her lifeline Jane Lane to keep her sane. She is, was, and always will be the Misery Chick who loathes attention more than she loathes herself. Eight years later, there are new things that would totally annoy her—primarily words like totally and bestie. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t follow anyone on Twitter either. I don’t see her as a sad character. I see her as tolerant of her unavoidable reality—eager to put the whole miserable experience behind her, so she could get out into the world and surround herself with people she actually admired and respected…,  or not.  Her call.  At least she’d have the choice.

    Today’s teen protagonists are more obsessed with being “attractive and popular” than Daria’s sister, er, cousin-or-something, Quinn, and The Fashion Club could ever be. Where do the Darias of the world fit in now?

    Yeah, well, there’s no “fitting in” with the new Gossip Girl version of the Fashion Club unless you’re a size 0. As consolation—at least there are 5,000 TV channels to choose from and an infinite number of options offered on the Internet. Today’s Darias have more outlets to choose their protagonists. Why settle for Snooki or Sookie when you can have the ultra cool Brie Larson as Kate in United States of Tara? Let’s face it, if they remade Daria today, she’d be a vampire.

    (Also, I have to admit that I am shocked, yet encouraged, to hear there are still Darias out there—especially since Gen-Yers are eternally optimistic and super-psyched about the future, way into having American Apparel good times, hopped up on energy drinks, and sexting all over their iPads.… I can’t believe that’s not true. My mind is so blown right now.)

    imageI’mma let you finish, but “The Lost Girls” is our favorite Daria episode of all time. We reached out to legendary editor  Jane Pratt about the vicious Val parody and she asked: “Would you parody someone now in order to make a social statement? I’m curious, as I used to make fun of people like New Kids On The Block back in the Sassy days.”

    Hmmm, lemme think. Who wouldn’t Daria parody in order to make a social statement today? Didn’t one blogger (Jamie Keiles) follow the advice of Seventeen for a whole month, nearly ruining her life?  Genius. She had the right idea.  Any magazine or show or form of media claiming to be gospel to a generation of girls trying to figure themselves out is fair target for parody. The media gives a lot of simple sage advice that isn’t all that simple or helpful—it just contributes to the complex. The Darias of the world perceive most of the media targeted at them as source material for unwritten jokes of the future…. Smart magazines and advertisers get that. They appeal to the Darias with commercials that focus on truth over hype (see: new Kotex tampon commercials or Domino’s Pizza ads.)

    More from Juno writer Diablo Cody, fashion prodigy Tavi Gevinson and MTV reality star Liz Lee after the jump.

    Why did Daria jeopardize the most consistent relationship of her adolescence—with Jane Lane, the quintessential soda to her pizza—by stealing her boyfriend Tom?

    Because life is messy? and complicated? and layered? Maybe Daria never expected a guy to be interested in her—until Tom came along? Maybe she sat in the shadows crushing over the unattainable Trent for so long, she was blindsided by Tom’s attention…? Maybe she admired Jane so much—because Jane was socially at ease, better looking, made out with guys, and didn’t have the same hang ups?  Maybe Daria figured that Jane could land another guy easier than her? Maybe she thought Jane really wasn’t that into Tom?  Maybe the writers wanted to make the storyline more interesting by creating a romantic conflict between Daria and Jane?

    It took five years, but when Daria awkwardly referred to a condom as a “neon birth control device” in the second-to-last episode of the series, angsty teens everywhere knew, finally, that even ‘brains’ think about sex. What took so long for the writers to acknowledge Daria’s sexuality?

    They say “write what you know”—It took the writers five years to acknowledge their own sexuality. Daria is a late bloomer. After watching her struggle for five years, it was time to push her boundaries and have her come face-to-reservoir-tip with a neon birth control device.

    Speaking of sex, we have a burning question: Why was everyone in Lawndale so obsessed with soda?

    Because Red Bull wasn’t marketing to teens yet. Also, drinking soda leads to having sex.

    Tommy Sherman got a memorial tree, how would the students and faculty of Lawndale High (said in our best Principal Li voice) memorialize the Misery Chick?

    Daria? Daria who?  You mean that girl who thinks she’s Quinn’s sister?  I doubt a memorial would be in the school budget for that weird chick with the glasses. Maybe something completely ironic like a volleyball court… or a pep rally named after her.

    We gathered questions from die-hard Daria fans, some you may recognize. Tracy is going to tell us, ‘What Would Daria Say?’

    My Life as Liz star Liz LeeDear Daria,

    You kept me sane.Why did your show get canceled?

    —Liz Lee, MTV’s My Life as Liz

    Dear Liz,

    MTV needed to make room on-air for Jackass and Cribs. Now it’s your turn to keep me sane.

    Fashion Blogger Tavi Gevinson

    Dear Daria,

    What are your thoughts on Comme des Garcons?

    Tavi, Teen Fashion Blogger

    Dear Tavi,

    No one wears it better than you. Unfortunately, I still get an allowance and can’t afford the look. Do they make a decent army jacket?

    imageDear Daria,

    Trent Lane is the hottest animated character (er, “real guy”) of all time. Do you think the Trents of the world are ever suited to long-term relationships, or is a girl better off finding her Tom Sloane?

    —Diablo Cody,
    Oscar-winning screenwriter, Juno

    Dear Diablo,

    I always  thought of Trent as being the Dave Navarro of high school (or NIN’s Trent Reznor, but less gothy).  Can a guy like that commit? Considering a girl like Carmen Electra couldn’t maintain true love with Dave Navarro; and Sandra Bullock couldn’t whip Jesse James into commitment; and Pam Anderson couldn’t land Tommy Lee or Kid Rock or Tommy Lee. All epic fails. It seems hard to keep a good rocker down. I guess you have to go case by case, right?  Try not to mistake infatuation for chemistry and look for a Tom Sloane with a streak of Slash. Girls shouldn’t underestimate the Tom Sloanes of the world—they have their “edge” too.… I bet Tom would shred on Rock Band.

    Dear Daria, What did you admire most about your parents’ dysfunctional relationship? —Bum Bum Jones

    Dear Bum Bum Jones, It was dysfunctional? I admire that it has become the new normal.

    Dear Daria, Your hair is so big. What secrets does it contain? —Charlene W.

    Dear Charlene, I have nothing to hide… except my feelings. Maybe that’s where I store all of my emotions.

    Dear Daria, How did your misanthropic views carry on at Raft College and what did you study? —Kashanie L.

    Dear Kashanie, I wish I knew. That sequel has yet to be written.  I hope she’s a journalist and contributes to The Huffington Post… or The Colbert Report…. But that’s just me.

    We’re giving one lucky reader Daria: The Complete Animated Series on DVD, plus the original illustration of Daria and Tracy included in this Q&A.  To enter to win, write us a message on our fan page, telling us why you love the Misery Chick by 11:59 P.M. (EST) on Wednesday, September 15, 2010.

    Special thanks to Tracy Grandstaff, Jane Pratt, Diablo Cody, Tavi Gevinson and Liz Lee for participating in 15 Questions. The views expressed in this article are those of the respective authors and do not represent the views of, and should not be attributed to MTV. Original illustrations by Jenyffer Maria.

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