Pushing Back

Every now and then an animated series will push against the stereotypes of the mainstream mediaverse. The question is, will highlighting these stereotypes, in order to debunk them, actually better the situation, or will it just perpetuate them?

Introducing: DARIA

Daria is a no-nonsense high schooler, who doesn’t follow the crowd, in fact, she tries to walk in the complete opposite direction. Within the series, which ran on MTV from 1997-2002 (later syndicated), there are characters that exemplify the motifs made popular in most mainstream television programming. There is the hyper-feminine sister, a dumb jock, an airhead cheerleader, the dopey musician, the hip artist, and token minority students. Each of these characters are amplified to the highest form of mockery so that the viewer can realize the absurdity of stereotypes. By doing this, “Daria” risks belittling the group in question. Is hyper-feminitity a  negative that we should laugh at? Should artists really not care about the society around them? At large, “Daria” combated stereotypes in a time that animated television was at it’s peak so for that it receives accolades.

Although Daria ended production over 10 years ago, the stereotypes it critiqued are still featured in modern media, in live and cartoon fashion. For relevance’s sake, the following is an examination of a few present day three-dimensional stereotypes in the Fox show, Glee, that Daria would have had “low esteem” for.

Daria Day Kevin Thompson                    =             Present Day Finn Hudson


Both of these characters are the star of their high school football team and because of this they receive preferential treatment. The High School All-Star is something that many teen dramas touch on and perpetuate. The harm comes from the fact that these images are of brainless individuals who expect to make it through life on charm and pigskin. Academically excelling football stars all sigh and shake their heads at these motifs.

         Daria Day Brittany Taylor                         =               Present Day Brittany Pierce


Both characters are named Brittany. Even if this was a coincidence, it’s one that makes a statement. Why are these airhead cheerleaders all named Brittany?? When names are tagged to stereotypes it makes them even more concrete and harmful! The Blonde Ditzy Cheerleader is nothing new and apparently it’s nothing old because it keeps coming up. Name, hair color, and sport choice are not linked to IQ but the mediaverse would have you think differently!

               Daria Day Mr. O’Neill            =                  Present Day Mr. Shuester


That old phrase “those who can’t do– teach!” is the mantra of the stereotypical sitcom teacher. The Over-Involved Teacher is seen again and again in television. In Daria, Mr. O’Neill was purposefully a mockery of the sensitive friend-teacher. In Glee, Mr. Shuester is, unfortunately, no joke. He constantly tries to take the limelight from the students and become one of them. But neither one do much for their cause. Either way, by making fun of involved teachers, or showcasing them, the stereotype only makes young viewers wary of teachers. Both example characters show young to middle aged men teaching in fields they wish they would have gone on to pursue… instead of just teaching others how to go about pursuing it. It’s almost as if to say, teaching is a backup to a “dream job” you didn’t achieve. The fact that this stereotype is more frequent with male teachers makes it seem like women are the only ones who choose to teach willingly. Perpetuating this stereotype is harmful from any angle.





Outpost Daria



2 thoughts on “Pushing Back

  1. As a serious fan of both of these shows, I cannot stop laughing at these spot-on comparisons, especially that of the two stereotypical male teachers! In truth, I could also never stop laughing at either of these characters themselves because as you pointed out- they were both a joke. The labels “Over-Involved Teacher” and “sensitive friend-teacher” hit the nail on the head. They both took such sentimental, sappy approaches to reaching their students that they always seemed completely out of touch, ensuring that the students would never be truly reachable. And yes- to ensure that the shows’ viewers became wary of their own middle aged, male teachers. The kicker is definitely that to date, I can’t think of a female “over-involved teacher” character being shown on TV either. That was something I’d never put together until reading this blog but upon thinking back, it is so true! If anything the female teacher characters were always stern and cold…. Stereotypes are definitely alive and well on TV!

    • Lauren,
      I am glad you got a laugh out of this post! Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from crying. 🙂 But seriously, it is amazing how these archetypes persist! No matter how often they are satirized as ridiculous by one show, another sitcom will produce the same ol’ stereotypes again and again. I am happy to read that you were a Daria fan. Don’t you miss it? Long live Daria Morgendorffer.

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