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January 12, 2014

Daria: Cartoon Advice

If I could befriend a television character, it would be Daria Morgendorffer, the witty, sarcastic protagonist of the Beavis and Butthead spinoff series Daria. Though it originally aired between 1997 and 2002, I only discovered Daria, her best friend Jane Lane, and the world of Lawndale, a fictional New England town, last summer. I watched the entire series AND the two movies in about a week, wishing that I had known about the show during high school.


From the pilot episode, I saw hints of myself in Daria: We both wear glasses (wow), dress for comfort rather than fashion, use sarcasm, turn to books for companionship, prefer to stay in or socialize with a very small friend group, write as a hobby, and dislike sports of all kinds. Like me, she tends to conserve her smiles, often giving a mediocre first impression. I am 98.76% sure that if she were real, we would share passions for David Sedaris’ writing, and the TV show Mystery Diagnosis.

Daria's favorite TV show

Daria’s favorite TV show

One stretch of time in Daria’s cartoon life particularly resonated with me: her “college journey.” Season five covers her Senior Year of high school, and the final movie, “Is it College Yet?” details her college search, final few weeks at high school, graduation, and summer. The problems she confronted were similar to ones I had to deal with, leading me to believe that there are others out there who shared them, too.

Daria's high school graduation

Daria’s high school graduation

Daria applied to several universities, the most important ones being Bromwell, a fictional university that can be compared to Yale, and Raft, another excellent school that can be likened to Tufts. Although Daria claims the more prestigious Bromwell to be her first choice university, it is implied that Raft takes precedence. She is preoccupied with the idea that Bromwell is better simply because of its reputation, and though she knows that Raft, a smaller school, is more tailored to her as an individual. It concerns her that she will be perceived as ‘less’ by attending a university not quite as esteemed as Bromwell. After accepting a place on Bromwell’s wait list, Daria is eventually rejected, and ends up attending Raft, which is where she really wanted to go anyway.

Similarly, I applied to several universities ranging in rank and exclusivity. I went through a period of time in which I became obsessed with what people would think of me if I didn’t end up at a prestigious enough institution, even though I knew I might be better off somewhere else. After some thought, I finally arrived at the realization that it doesn’t matter if people think less of you for attending a particular university, and if they do, they shouldn’t matter. After rejecting a place on the wait list from my Bromwell equivalent (NOT Yale), I, like Daria, breathed a sigh of relief because I knew I was going to go to a school that I wanted to go to, not one that I thought other people would want me to go to.

Drawing I did of myself dress as Daria for Halloween. All I'd have to do is get a different pair of glasses.

Drawing I did of myself dressed as Daria for Halloween. All I’d have to do is get a different pair of glasses.

Daria’s friend Jane’s college application experience is worth mentioning as well. Intending to go to university to study art, Jane applied to two state university art programs hoping to get in with her portfolio rather than her standardized test scores. Neither university requested an art sample, and much to her dismay, she was rejected from both schools. The rejections left Jane spiraling into self-doubt, causing her to give up on her application to the more exclusive Boston Fine Arts College (modeled after the Massachusetts College of Art and Design). Daria, convinced that Jane has more than enough talent to get into BFAC, tries to get her to submit her portfolio. Still reeling from her previous rejections, Jane declares that she doesn’t need college to be an artist, and finds herself painting with newfound inspiration.  Eventually, she has a change of heart, decides to submit her portfolio, and is accepted.

Screenshot showcasing Jane's art.

Screenshot showcasing Jane’s art.

Jane’s story is somewhat linked to a post I wrote about dealing with rejection. She took it personally, decided that she was incapable of getting in to any art school, and gave up on herself and her abilities. It didn’t occur to her that the state colleges rejected her as a number, not as an artist, as they didn’t even consider her portfolio. However, after both tough love and support, Jane gets over the rejections and moves on, ultimately finding both happiness and success.

Daria shares nuggets of wisdom concerning school, friendship, and life in general, and as I said before, I wish I could be her friend.

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