August 1, 2019
Hello, everybody! It has been just about a year since we started Morgendorks! It is positively crazy that we've been at this for one full trip around the sun. It has been a tremendous amount of fun, though, and we plan to keep going—but not this week! Life and such got in the way, as it will do now and then, and so we've gotta miss a week for the very first time.
To make up for it, though, we figured we'd put together a small retrospective Q&A kind of thing—so you can check out where we stand with some aspects of the show, maybe learn a little more about us, and see just how deeply ruinous the episode-ranking process has been for our collective psyche and friendship! Or something.
We'll be back on our grind and posting our regularly scheduled episode on August 15th, then resuming the every-other-week release schedule you've come to know and love (or tolerate). In the meantime: Thank you so, so much for listening, for making this podcast an absolute blast, and for sharing this nostalgia trip with us! We really do appreciate every bit of it.
We know what the super-official Daria episode rankings say, but what has been your personal favorite episode of the show thus far?
Nissa: “I’m tempted to choose from any of the episodes that highlight Quinn’s intelligence and complexity—’Quinn the Brain,’ ‘Monster,’ etc.—but in all truth, my favorite is ‘Pinch Sitter.’ It’s just so frigging irreverent and delightful.”
Rob: “Maybe it’s that I’m a sucker for morbidity in my storylines, or a sucker for stories that drive at the heart of Daria as a character, or an extra-huge sucker for episodes that hit upon both of those things, but ‘The Misery Chick’ is definitely up there for me. I feel like more than any other episode in season one, ‘The Misery Chick’ built the foundation for season two episodes like ‘Gifted,’ ‘I Don’t,’ and ‘Arts ‘N Crass,’ where we got to learn more about Daria and the people around her.
What's an episode you think was ranked too high?
Nissa: “‘Arts ‘N Crass.’ I’m still hung up on just how “meh” Daria and Jane’s art contest submission is. This is probably completely unfeasible, but it would have been more effective if we had no idea what the poster looked like or what the poster said. Monsters in horror films are more terrifying when hidden in the shadows. Show them head-to-toe in the full light of day, and it’s a silly slapdash of poorly painted modeling putty and fur rugs from Ikea.”
Rob: “As it turns out, Nissa and I have rather different opinions on ‘Pinch Sitter’ and ‘Arts ‘N Crass.’ If I were rearranging these things to look like my own personal rankings rather than a collaborative set, I think I’d have ‘Pinch Sitter’ down around ‘Malled,’ toward the middle of the list—but I’d probably send it there as a package deal with ‘Cafe Disaffecto.’ I still love that episode … but now that we’ve gone through so many episodes of this show with an analytical eye, I don’t know if it holds up to some of the others it’s currently sitting above. Like ‘Arts ‘N Crass’!”
What's an episode you think we were too harsh on?
Nissa: “I’m still heartbroken that the pilot ‘Sealed with a Kick’ sits so low in the rankings. But that is for logistical reasons: It’s a five-minute pilot. Very hard to compare with 20-minute episodes where the animation is fully inked and the characters fully developed.
“Other than the pilot, I’d have to say we were too harsh on ‘The Daria Hunter.’ Sure, it doesn’t have the Daria audience in mind … at all ... but it was clever and so, so bizarre. I even remember Daria and Jane’s weird journey to see The Great White Shark (tooth) with fondness.”
Rob: “There are a lot of episodes above ‘I Don’t,’ and when I hold a number of those episodes up directly against ‘I Don’t,’ it beats ‘em pretty handily. I understand why we reached the conclusion we reached, but it’s hard to look at that spot in the rankings and not think we did that episode a little dirty. Aunt Amy, drunk Helen, Barksdale family dynamics, motherflippin’ Luhrman! Episode had everything.
“Nissa is spot-on about ‘Sealed with a Kick,’ by the way. It’s a bizarre, wonderful five minutes spent in an alternate universe, and I love it dearly.”
Nissa: “Jane Lane: bucking creative person stereotypes since 1997. She’s offbeat and artsy AND a highly functional human being. More of this character type in everything, please.”
Rob: “I mean, yeah. If you aren’t expecting me to say Jane here, you haven’t been listening. It has been awesome discovering through an in-depth rewatch that the crush I had on her character was mega-justified.
“I’ll also throw a word out here for Jodie. Talk about a character ahead of their time! She’s speaking truth to power, she’s acting as a voice for the underrepresented, she’s out there Doing The Damn Thing—20 years ago! This rewatch has given me a whole new appreciation for her, and I’m stoked to see what happens with her upcoming series.”
Least favorite character?
Nissa: “I feel like I’m supposed to say Upchuck here. He’s an awful human being, but he’s a fantastic character, particularly because of the way Daria writers use him. In other shows, he would be the typical creep, the potential rapist downplayed as an everyday nuisance. In Daria, he’s become an object of ridicule (at the least) and a tool for building larger arguments about everything from hypersexualized consumer culture to toxic masculinity and rape culture.
“On the other hand, I’m getting a bit tired of Ms. Barch as the angry feminist. I wholly recognize that part of the reason I don’t like it is because it’s dated. But as it stands, it’s a one-note joke. Part of the charm of Daria is that the women are complex characters and the men are objectified, one-dimensional stereotyped characters. Barch doesn’t fit.”
Rob: “Hard to add a whole lot to this when Nissa went and answered it perfectly. There’s room for an objectively grotesque character in an otherwise progressive show, if they’re used right—and Upchuck is absolutely used right. When taken in context of the shows and characters that were milling around in the late ‘90s, it’s a hell of a thing.
“Ms. Barch does stand out among the female characters of the show as being oddly shallow and more frequently brought in for the joke than to actually say anything. She’s up there among my least favorites, for sure. For the sake of adding something to the conversation, though, I’ll go ahead and drop in: Jake! Can’t stand him. Get annoyed every time he’s on the screen. I absolutely love that the men of this show are largely one-note stereotypes, as Nissa said, but something about Jake’s note in particular drives me nuts.”
What are you looking forward to as the podcast goes on?
Nissa: “Unearthing Rob’s fanfiction. Despite his protestations, I’m pretty sure it exists.”
Rob: “I can say this with complete honesty: I have never, in my life, written Daria fanfiction. I have, however, read way too much of it.
Way, way, way too much of it."
Favorite song used thus far?
Nissa: “The soundtrack to Daria is such a trip down memory lane. So many of the songs (even if I don’t recognize the titles or artist names) are earworms of that era. However, one song that escaped me at the time was David Bowie and Trent Reznor’s ‘I’m Afraid of Americans.’ Now, it’s a staple on my playlist. I especially recommend watching the music video, which features Bowie (in a magnificent red paisley suit and yellow turtleneck sweater) running from people with imaginary guns. Now that I’m a mother, gun violence in the US—especially in our schools—is a very real and palpable fear humming in the background. For all its hokeyness, I can appreciate how this music video articulates that fear. “
Rob: “This really, really heavily depends on when you ask. If you asked a few weeks ago, I’d have told you it was Jamiroquai’s ‘Virtual Insanity.’ Today, I’d tell you it’s Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android.’ Over time, though, there is only one song that I remember very specifically first hearing on Daria—one song that is inextricably linked to the show for me, is in a ton of my playlists, and is to this day stuck in my head more than it should be. That’s Cake’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle,’ from ‘The Road Worrier.’ Cake was featured a *lot* in Daria, especially early on, and something about the sheer … crunchiness … of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle’ just works perfectly to evoke the feeling of tuning in to watch the show on MTV when I was in high school.”
Has your opinion of the show changed at all since you started doing this podcast?
Nissa: “At the beginning of Morgendorks we established that I am a relative newcomer to the show. I remember some of the episodes, and I remember loving Daria, Jane, and Trent. Their aesthetic and their attitude toward a dysfunctional adult world very much appealed to me and gave me strength. I still feel that way. But now when I watch the show, I’m surprised at how often the titular character’s actions do not drive the plot. It drove me crazy at the start. But it must be difficult for writers to handle a TV protagonist who is quiet and often paralyzed by social anxiety. I think the issue improves in the second season. I’m looking forward to seeing how Daria develops as both a person and a protagonist.“
Rob: “Obviously I’m the other side of the coin, the co-host who’d seen Daria tons of times and knew lots of the episodes by heart. Even so, there is *so much* of this show that I’d never noticed or given any thought to before, and it has been tremendous fun going through every episode with a fine-toothed comb to see what we can pluck out of it. Nissa has made me appreciate Quinn in a way I never thought possible! And as I noted earlier, I now have an incredible amount of respect for Jodie as a character. It has been *awesome* coming back to a show I thought I knew and realizing I was only scratching the surface. Nissa’s good that way.”