Drawn That Way:
Daria: Is It College Yet?
By Daniel Pellegrino
March 22, 2010
This coming May, Daria will be released on DVD in its entirety. The hit MTV show ran from 1997 to 2002 and culminated in the made-for-television film, Is It College Yet? This sharply written film was a perfect way to wrap up a series that flew under the radar during a time when Music Television still aired music.
The Daria character started as a foil to the popular Beavis and Butthead characters. Studio executives saw potential and decided to spin the character off before the last season of Beavis and Butthead. The gamble worked. The MTV generation identified with the anti-hero and her sarcastic ways. Is It College Yet? follows the main characters of the Daria TV show as they prepare to move from the dreary halls of Lawndale High to college.
Is It College Yet? has a plot, but it's all over the place. The fun of the film is in the characters. We don't laugh because of the shenanigans that Daria gets herself into, we laugh at her reactions to the shenanigans around her. The other characters fill the respective stereotypes of high school- you have the popular girls who run the fashion club, the jocks, etc. The stereotypes work because of Daria. She is there to call each person out on his or her ridiculousness. Anyone who has ever been to high school can relate. Regardless of your social circle, there were certainly times that you sat back and watched the ridiculousness of a pep rally or a valedictorian speech. Daria is that cynical voice inside all of our heads.
Speaking of voices, Daria is voiced by Tracy Grandstaff. It's worth noting that Janeane Garofalo has nothing to do with the Daria phenomenon. Garofalo became the poster child for female sarcasm in the 1990s, so many thought the character was based on her. Garofalo was busy making gems like The Truth About Cats and Dogs, but did find time to host a behind-the-scenes look at the show to please fans during the fourth season. A young Sarah Drew, known for her roles on Mad Men, Glee and Grey's Anatomy, voiced the Stacey character, while the rest of the cast is made up of various voice-actors.
Animation is clean. There is nothing special about the look of the Daria world. In fact, the film employs a technique often seen in the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. If you take a look at the background, you will notice characters walking through the halls of the school are just walking by the same backdrop over and over again. The budget for the cartoon was likely pretty small, so it's understandable that creators made concessions like this.
Is It College Yet? is the perfect movie for the cynical high school senior who would rather get high than go to a football game. The film holds up surprisingly well, a testament to the strong writing and vivid characterizations. MTV isn't airing much that isn't reality-based these days. It's a shame because they once were considered the leader in pop-culture "cool." Water cooler animation like Beavis and Butthead, Daria and Celebrity Deathmatch are no longer. Fortunately, Cartoon Network has given us Adult Swim. Imagine how perfectly Daria would fit in with the Adult Swim block. Or even Fox's animation domination on Sunday nights. Even better, could you imagine an animated Daria walking through the halls on Glee? I'm sure she would have plenty of clever quips to offer the singing high schoolers.
I'd like to offer one more item of note. Daria is one of the few animated female heroines to grace the screen. For every ten Peter Griffin's, Homer Simpson's and Robot Chicken's, we get one Daria. I think women would embrace adult animation more if they had more characters on screen to root for and identify with. In The same way that The Cleveland Show has brought African American viewers to the Fox animation block, a strong female-driven show could bring women. Until then, pick up your copy of Daria's Is It College Yet? in stores now, or wait for the complete animated series to arrive on disc.