On Instagram, Lena Dunham suggested that the cartoon icon could have ‘benefitted from therapy’, but she’s the only sane one on the show
Over the weekend, Lena Dunham hit her 1.9 million Instagram followers with some controversial opinions on the cult cartoon icon Daria and speculated that she may have been suffering from mental health issues. “I love Daria just as much as the next child of the 90s,” she said, “but I am also concerned not enough of us realized she was rude and almost definitely had clinical depression/could have benefitted from therapy and maybe some medication.”
So should MTV’s shining exemplar of what it means to be a disaffected truth teller in the obnoxious maze of high school seek mental help? After all, it’s far too easy to misconstrue Daria’s cutting sarcasm as rude, her anti-social inclinations as clinically depressed, and recommend her to a walk-in therapist.
First off, let’s not discount Dunham’s love of the MTV series. Both Daria and Girls have parodied 90s touchstone publication xoJane and pioneered the conveyance of truth so hard it hurts. And Dunham didn’t need Shazam to pick up on this Starbucks Darista (see what I did there?) who hummed the theme tune while going about her day. She’s obviously a huge fan and she could well have been joking.
To the girl who works at Starbucks who just told a customer "we're out of coffee" then started humming the Daria theme song: I salute you.— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) February 8, 2014
But let’s cut to the heart of the matter – is she really “rude”? Daria is deadpan, pithy and sarcastic, yes. But rude? Not so fast; cynicism does not necessarily equate to rudeness. Besides, it’s all part of her appeal, says series creator Glenn Eichler. “I think part of it is she says things everybody else wishes they could say but are too polite to or too socialized.”
Daria’s truth bombs had teens of the 90s doing the 90s equivalent of the fist pump when she dropped them unannounced. She also didn’t reserve them for anyone in particular; everyone was on a level playing field when it came to receiving her sarcastic jabs.
The entire premise of the show rested on Daria being an outsider. “Every person we spoke to, journalists, whatever, said, ‘I was Daria in high school’. They couldn’t all have been Daria. (Daria) just tapped into that feeling of insecurity you have as a teenager – whether you’re as much of a misfit as you think you are,” says Eichler. “The fact that she was okay with being a misfit made people look at her as something of a role model.”
Daria was all of us. Are we all mentally ill? On the contrary, Daria succinctly encapsulated our feelings about high school, simply by being that psychologically stable, one-dimensional anchor in a zoo full of wackjobs. If anyone were crazy on the show, it would most definitely be all the other numpties she had to navigate each day. She didn’t shy away from social interaction because she couldn’t handle it, she just did not give one single fuck about the haters. “She thinks she’s as good as anyone else and should be treated as well as anyone else,” Eichler adds. “She doesn’t think she should be subservient to anyone.”
Daria gave a voice to teens who didn’t have one, mainlined feelings of being a misfit and didn’t make apologies for her concision. A character this unique and subversive shouldn’t cause concern. Fourteen years after its run was cut short, Daria is something, someone, to be celebrated, not a figure to fret about.