It's hard to overstate how fantastic the MTV series Daria was or to exaggerate the influence its (anti) heroine had on pop culture's current crop of droll leading ladies. Some see Napoleon Dynamite, American Pie, or Juno (one of our beloved misanthrope's many progenies) as definitive millennial fare. Others tie millennials to the consumption of vampire lit and wizardry. None of that is untrue, but for those on the generational cusp, who are post-Gen X but feel closer to Fight Club than to The Social Network, Daria hit all the deadpan notes about the failed idealism of our baby boomer parents and the consumerist culture we didn't ask to grow up in (but for which we are constantly blamed).
The show's music -- most of which does not appear on the 2010 DVD box set due to licensing issues -- represented that sort of generational no-man's land too. Daria, the character, might have walked the halls at Highland High School with Gen X's pubescent male music critics Beavis and Butthead, but Daria the show highlighted Beck, Cake, and referenced Jane's Addiction, the Misfits, and Nirvana alongside Korn posters and Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy With It" -- sometimes ironically, sometimes not so much so.
Daria hasn't aired in ten years, not counting some badly edited episodes on the N. Thus it's easy to understand the social media frenzy and enthusiasm exhibited by certain news outlets over a faux/"real life" movie trailer that stars Aubrey Plaza and imagines Daria's high school reunion. Daria epitomizes the substance that older, smugger generations deny millennials. Damn the fact that a human cast would probably result in an abysmally shallow representation of the show and play right into stereotypes about millennials.
Either way, here are five musical moments or facts from Daria that demonstrate the show's place in the pop culture canon. This is in no way an exhaustive or even a "best" list. There are too many Trentisms and too few embeddable YouTube clips for that. (Though you can catch all episodes on Hulu.)
5. "You're Standing on My Neck"
La la laaa la la. The show's theme song, this 30-second grunge-pop number by New York band Splendora is as much a part of our adolescent memory as gym-class apathy. It's almost too obvious/easy a choice for this list, but it's ultimately worth mentioning as fans' go-to anthem of disenchantment. Plus, Daria's detached athletic gesture really needs to be a secret salute of alienated (i.e., all) millennials.
4. Dave Grohl as Daniel Dotson
Nirvana drummer, Foo Fighters frontman, and generational straddler Dave Grohl lends his voice in Is It Fall Yet? -- one of two Daria movies -- as Daniel Dotson, Jane Lane's creepy, pompous summer art-camp director. An icky philanderer who takes advantage of his starstruck and ambitious female students, Dotson is best-known for a questionable sculpture called "Paper Plate Genocide." Fast-forward to minute 42 in the video linked above to hear how he's "young at heart."
3. Nobody wants your Boston records.
There are loads of hilarious exchanges about Mystik Spiral ("Should we spell it with two Y's?"), the Tank, and music in general on the show. So it would be impossible to pick one, or five. Episode "That Was Then, This Is Dumb" is one rich example, though. Chock-full of funny dialogue, it includes an exchange about "the warmth of vinyl" and some scathing one-liners about the Velvet Underground ("Should I file this under self-indulgent posers or underrated geniuses?" Daria asks of The Velvet Underground & Nico.)
Spoiler alert: All the records get stolen at a flea market, except for three by Boston. Watch the entire episode here.
2. Gah Gah Dammit!
There was a lot of debate among fans when season three opener Daria!, a musical, aired. Why would a show that trades in cynical detachment take a risk with a musical? I don't know. I never really liked this episode. But like la la laaa la la, I catch myself repeating road-rager Jake Morgendorffer's "Gah Gah Dammit" whenever I'm stuck in a traffic jam or any other annoying situation, for that matter. Watch the video, courtesy of A.V. Club, here.
1. Daria and Jane's Top Ten Animated Videos Countdown
Although there isn't a clip of this online (that this writer could find), the transcript from this '98 countdown is available and does not disappoint. It's all typical Jane-Daria repartee with the added bonus of music-video commentary. Take Daria's evisceration of Tool's video for "Sober":
Daria: It's about a tiny, tormented man, trapped in a nightmarish world of decay. I wonder if they know my father.
Jane: Dark, creepy, foreboding... not a cartoon for the kiddies.
Daria: A cartoon for moody, self-absorbed teenagers.
Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" took first place. See the video above.
Runner up: Mystik Spiral's band bio, which includes side projects Bats With Guns, Cats With Gats, and Bats With Bats.
Follow Erica K. Landau on Twitter at @ericakland.
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