During the series’ five year run, Daria became more than just a fictional character; she became a philosophy and state of being crafted by many intelligent, mindful writers. People look up to Daria because she is fearless in being wholly and completely herself. Her ethics are tested in every episode, and she sticks to them rigidly — which is why she has so many adoring fans who see her as a heroine and bringer of truth. She’s best known for her sarcasm and dry humor, which makes light of the monotony of the world and reminds people to laugh at themselves.
You’ll never see Daria working for a major corporation; she is the anti-corporate worker, and here are 5 reasons why:
1. She’s not an opportunity whore.
When you have a corporate job, your success is defined by money, promotions and titles. When you seize opportunities, you’re praised for having ambition and being a “go-getter.” When you choose not to take these opportunities, you’re seen as lazy or lacking drive. Daria never takes an opportunity if it goes against her morals.
In the episode “The Lost Girls,” an editor of a popular fashion magazine comes to Lawndale High to spend a day with Daria and write about Daria’s life. The editor is a self-absorbed 30-something who still behaves like a shallow teenager. Even though Daria is tempted to play nice with the editor so she can get an article published, she realizes that she would never want to write for a magazine that’s run by an unenlightened person, and tells the editor to shove it.
In the episode “Malled,” Daria and her class are taken on a field trip to the new super mall of Lawndale. The class meets the mall executives to learn more about the mall’s business practices, only to discover that they’re being used as a marketing focus group without their consent. The class is outraged and insulted, so the business executives offer them all $20 merchandise coupons in exchange for their silence. Most of the students take the money, but Daria doesn’t. And know why? Because she can’t be bought.
2. She is unwilling to develop shallow relationships.
In corporate environments, people often spend more time with their co-workers than they do with their significant others, so relationships inevitably form. Oftentimes employees will spend a lot of time with one person in particular, referring to him or her as their “work spouse.” They probably would never hang out with this “work spouse” in any other setting because they have nothing in common with them aside for their job, and it’s even possible that they find some of each others’ habits detestable. But to keep the peace, and their jobs, they must cast their beliefs and morals aside. If they spend enough time with that particular co-worker, sometimes they’ll even find themselves picking up their bad habits on accident.
Even though Daria is forced to work on projects with shallow teenagers for whom she has no respect, she still only considers her best friend Jane to be an ally. When Daria is assigned a project with Kevin, the school’s idiot quarterback, her family encourages her to get on his good side and be friends with him through the duration of the project. But Daria never pretends to like Kevin, and never encourages his bad behavior. Above all else, she keeps her integrity intact.
3. She doesn’t keep up appearances.
In a corporate job, presentation is everything. Sometimes it can mean the difference between landing and losing a client, or gaining that extra bit of respect from your employers and coworkers.
By contrast, every day, Daria wears her staple green blazer, orange shirt, and black skirt. No matter how much her style is mocked by her sister, her grandmother, and Lawndale High’s fashion club, Daria makes no effort to change what she finds comfortable. Daria also maintains a deadpan expression, and only smiles when she truly means it. In an attempt to get Daria to smile, Daria’s mother says, “People judge you by your expression,” to which Daria replies, “Yeah, and I believe there is something intrinsically wrong with that system. I have dedicated myself to changing it.”
Because Daria is unwilling to adapt her appearance to the status quo, she could never bend to match a company’s established values and aesthetic expectations, and thus could never fit in.
4. She is disobedient.
In corporate settings, everyone answers to someone else, and must obey a set list of rules and social norms. In order for a corporation to function the way an employer wants it to, employees must submit to the established structure, accept a lack of power and trust those who are “higher” than them to make good decisions.
Daria encourages all people to question every rule or norm set by a person or company, and recognizes that status neither indicates better judgment nor implies higher intelligence.
In the episode “Pinch Sitter,” Daria babysits for a night, and ends up teaching the children to think for themselves and to not believe everything their parents tell them. One of the children asks Daria, “How do we know that what you tell us is the truth?” To which Daria replies: “You don’t. And that’s the greatest lesson of all.”
Daria supports democracy, not dictatorship or aristocracy. She only provides her teachers and parents with the illusion of submitting to authority, and instead consistently rebels against those in charge.
In “Cafe Disaffecto,” a cafe is going out of business, and Lawndale High is trying to attract more customers to keep it from closing down. Even though Daria doesn’t wish to participate, her English teacher forces her to “volunteer” to read a short story in front of her classmates in the cafe. Rather than rebelling by simply not doing the assignment, Daria agrees to read a story, making her teacher think he has won. Then, she reads a bawdy tale about a female spy who is brutally murdering communists and subsequently mortifies her teacher. Inspired by her story, the audience breaks out in an anti-communist rally, which ends up getting the cafe closed down.
5. She doesn’t tailor her work to the hive mind.
In a corporate job (and even some non-corporate jobs), everything you create is for the brand. Whether you’re a copywriter, web designer, creative director, whatever — you’re customizing something for an ideology that’s not yours. Even if you generally agree with the company’s ideas, your creativity ends where the company wants it to. And Daria could never work in such an environment.
In the episode “Arts ‘N Crass,” Daria and Jane are forced to participate in an art fair. Jane paints an image of a thin blonde looking at herself in a mirror, and Daria writes a poem that is placed on the bottom of the canvas that reads: “She knows she’s a winner. She couldn’t be thinner. Now she goes to the bathroom and vomits up dinner.”
The principal of Lawndale High knows that without Daria and Jane’s art, Lawndale won’t win the art fair, so she demands that they change the “negative” message in the poem to a more “positive” one that the school can openly emulate. The two girls refuse. Without their consent, the principal changes the poem to: “She knows she’s a winner. She couldn’t be thinner. Because she eats healthy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” She then submits the art into the fair. In an act of rebellion, Daria and Jane go to the fair and vandalize the painting because Daria would rather deface her own artwork than have her morality skewed in order to just win a contest.
If you’re thinking that a business full of Daria’s couldn’t function because there would be anarchy and no common ground, think again. As long as the employees and employer don’t run into moral quandaries with the creative compromises they’re making, then the business will have no problem functioning. If a company were truly democratic, then the employees wouldn’t be designing to fit a brand; they’d be creating things that suit them as a collective people, and the brand would, in turn, reflect their values.
So why does it matter that a cartoon character could never work a corporate job in the real world?
Daria is a beacon of morality and personal truth, and thus there’s no place for her in the corporate workforce. So if there’s no one like her at big corporations, then that means that millions of people who are currently employed at big businesses have sacrificed their humanity and ethics, and that their everyday communication is rooted in disingenuous interactions and lies.
It is impossible to work at a corporation and be wholly yourself.
In theory, if there were more Daria’s in the world, then there would be more desire for small, honest companies and workers, and less room for big corporations. To initiate positive change for business, all people need to do is be their authentic selves, do what they think is right — and find the Daria within.