On March 3rd 1997, MTV broadcast for the first time the animated sitcom Daria. Created by Susie Lewis Lynn and Glen Eichler, it's been on TV until 2002.
Daria is an eponymous spin-off, in which we follow the life of an unconventional 90's teenager. In fact, this character was at the beginning created for the series Beavis and Butt-Head, but this new series became one of the major success of the channel.
In love with cynicism and sarcasm : through 5 seasons and 2 movies, Daria gives us a realistic way to deal in a world, in which she feels like a prisoner.
« The world is my oister…but I can’t seem to get it open »
This teenager, thirsty for knowledge, spends her time reading and analyzing things around her. Her passive attitude, that no one in her circle seems to understand, creates a kind of self-sufficiency strengthened by an intentional aloneness. Moreover, her pessimism influences the gap between her and the others characters. A misanthropist representative of the "post- Kurt Cobain" grunge era, in conflict with pop culture. Indeed, the series appears as an alternative by offering a different content to the youth. MTV imposed a female figure, everything but sexy or silly (the usual stereotypes) who's a more representative vision of the teenage world. A vision more relevant and disturbing. It's without any hypocrisy that Daria comments her peer's behavior, by acting as their first viewer. She doesn't censor herself and talks with an huge liberty about topics such as genders, ethnicities or society. By the way, she also has a point of view about medias, which according to her would make money off teenagers. This last statement was summed up in the episode 5 of the 3rd season : "The Lost Girls". In this one, Daria's teacher decided to send one of her novel to a trendy magazine intended to teens : Val magazine. Thanks to her talent, the young girl was selected and her work has been published, but she also had the chance to spend a day with the editor in chief Val. This self-centered woman is obsessed with the youth : she wants to be the reference when it comes to be trendy and a kind of role model for girls. Everything she does requires using the slang and a lot of shallowness. Therefore when Val wants to describe herself and by extension all her readers, she uses the term "edgy". This caricatural character is in total opposition with Daria, who has her own definition of what "edgy" means : « As far as I can make out, "edgy" occurs when middlebrow, middle-aged profiteers are looking to suck the energy - not to mention the spending money - out of the "youth culture." So they come up with this fake concept of seeming to be dangerous when every move they make is the result of market research and a corporate master plan. »
Daria put in an nutshell the consumer society and media operations, for which kids are the main target. This audience distincts itself by its culture, which represents a lifestyle. Its habits are studied in order to answer to its needs. After understanding all its codes, firms will absorb them and then appropriate them in order to make profits. Then in a way something will disappear, because of all the market plans which perverted the youth culture. The ironical point of this situation, is that the denunciation is made by MTV itself, even though the channel is known to do exactly the same, by being an interface between mainstream and underground. Val by proclaiming herself as the face of a new generation starving for news and trends, takes advantage of the situation to boost her ego. Maybe consciously or not, she tries to describe a world she doesn't belong to, but thinks she knows every details of it. Throughout the episode, we observe Val trying to be "edgy", indeed she doesn't hesitate to pander to the youth movement requirements. This idea developed in 1999, is still actual. In a more and more intense mass-market society, kids have an important impact and it's a necessity to satisfy them. But do we have to blame someone for it ? If we look closer, most of teenagers don't complain about it, and are a part of it. Indeed, we can easily take example on characters' behavior when Val arrives. We can notice the enthusiasm of Quinn, Daria's sister or the "typical quarterback x pom-pom girl couple"'s, everybody worships Val.
In general, it's difficult to escape from this vicious circle, which promotes a standardization of individuals, behind one figure. This person will try to anticipate every trends in order to keep an influence on a movement. If we think that it's a noxious situation, Daria will find a way to get out of it, by analyzing and questioning every the informations she receives.
This philosophy of a girl from the 90's can fit into our generation's. Time goes by, trends and idols change, but the structure of society stays the same.