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Daria was a cartoon that aired on MTV between 1997 and 2001, running for five 13-episode seasons. Two made-for-TV movies, Is It Fall Yet? and Is It College Yet?, were also produced. The show, a spin-off of Beavis and Butt-head, centers on Daria Morgendorffer, a teenaged cynic trying to get through high school and deal with her flighty parents and shallow younger sister without completely losing her mind.
Daria had a very active online community during the time it aired, with a number of web sites and a few message boards serving as gathering places and fanfic repositories. Fic topics ranged from stories in keeping with the show's tone and plot points to Crossovers and fusions with just about any fictional universe the author felt like tossing into the mix. AUs were less common, but also written on occasion.
Daria fandom wasn't a megafandom like some, but it was big enough to warrant an entire wiki page on the cliches usually associated with the fanfiction.
So far as romantic plotlines in fanfic went, most early fannish activity fell into two camps, simply known as Shippers and Anti-shippers. The Shippers believed that there was something to Daria's raging crush on Trent, her best friend Jane's older brother; the Anti-Shippers, meanwhile, thought that Daria was best off not in a relationship with anyone at all. Those who didn't lean toward either side of the debate were sometimes called Fence-Sitters.
The show introduced Tom Sloane at the end of season 3 as a romantic interest for Jane. Though Daria took this badly at first, she gradually warmed up to Tom over the course of season 4; the season ended with a love-triangle cliffhanger. Some fans embraced Daria/Tom with open arms, as they seemed well suited to each other intellectually; others actively disliked his intrusion into Daria and Jane's lives, and maintained their pairing preferences. Still others felt that the show's approach doomed whatever relationship Daria and Tom may have been able to build, but enjoyed the ride regardless.
Daria/Jane was a minor pairing in the show's heyday, though it has gained popularity in more recent times, and is the prevailing 'ship in Yuletide contributions. Quinn/Sandi and Quinn/Stacy were also fairly popular back in the day.
Canon vs Transformative
There was a divide between fans who stuck staunchly to canon and those who sought to explore alternate avenues and what-if scenarios. The group who adhered to canon and insisted all fan works do the same were known as the Prescriptivists, who would only consider a Daria fanfic legitimate if it contained certain elements, no matter how well an alternate universe or reality portrayed its deviations from the source material. Such fans did not enjoy the best reputation, others criticizing them for their opinionated views and perceived scoldings of fans who didn't follow their rules.
On the flipside, some "off-canon" writers tended to take things too far the other way, by painting a picture that barely resembled the series or the characters within. Kara Wild, who wrote an essay criticizing the behavior of some prescriptivists, came to realize this when she discovered that many authors insisted upon the darkest and most depressing outcomes despite the show's sardonic cynicism never reaching that level.
"Quinn gets raped" fics
Though this trend never reached intense heights, two authors' stories featuring Quinn suffering rape as a means of redeeming her were enough to bother a good number of fans, who felt the stories "Sins of the Past" and "So Turns the Wheel" implied that Quinn "deserved" to be raped for being shallow and using her cute looks to charm boys into falling at her feet. Kara Wild eventually wrote an essay detailing why this implied mindset was problematic and that it was possible for Quinn to learn a lesson without being sexually assaulted.
MTV and the Fandom
MTV traditionally had very good relations with Daria fans. A few of them, most notably Michelle Klein-Hass and Kara Wild, were in contact with Glenn Eichler during the show's production, and afterward during the long struggle to secure a DVD release of the show.
Outpost Daria's Non-Foxing
On July 11, 2000, Daria fan site and central hub of activity Outpost Daria suddenly vanished from the Internet. Martin Pollard, the site's maintainer, went to other fan forums and the Usenet channel, and reported that Yahoo! Website Services, his server host at the time, had shut down the site due to some sort of Terms of Service violation. Other fans dubbed it a Foxing, after similar sudden shutdowns of fan sites carried out by 20th Century Fox; however, there was no official Cease and Desist from MTV itself.
A few days later, Martin was contacted by someone from the Daria production staff, who told him that the production staff saw Outpost Daria, and other sites like it, as the best kind of free advertising for their work out there. Someone at MTV, in the mistaken belief that Outpost Daria was hosting video clips of the show, had fired off shutdown instructions to Yahoo!, and by the time the people at MTV had things straightened out, the damage had been done.
Yahoo! never responded to Martin's attempts to restore his space on their server, so he went about purchasing server space and the site's current domain name, in order to set up shop once again. The site returned July 21, 2000, without its BBS message board but otherwise intact.
In 2002, Noggin (later The N, now TeenNick) acquired the rights to run Daria in syndication; the show aired on that channel until 2006, at which time it quietly dropped off of The N's online programming grid. Fans were excited about the syndicated run at first, but quickly grew upset when they discovered what came to be called Nogginization; Noggin had edited a number of episodes for content, some to the point of incomprehensibility. Perhaps the most egregious example of this was the season 4 episode "The F Word" being renamed "Failed."
Daria on DVD
The fan base began clamoring for a DVD release of the show virtually as soon as the technology was available, resulting in the founding of DVDaria. The two movies were made available in relatively short order, but getting the complete series proved a much more complicated endeavor, in part because the show used a great deal of current music to set the scenes, and had to work out re-licensing (or, failing that, what to do instead). Some of the fans driving DVDaria were in contact with MTV regarding which songs the fans felt were crucial to the episodes' contexts; unfortunately, MTV was not able to secure fresh licenses for most of the music they had used.
Despite that, all the hard work finally paid off; the complete series and both movies, along with a number of special features, were released on Region 1 DVDs May 11, 2010. Where MTV couldn't get the rights to use the original music, they've substituted with covers of the original songs or generic pieces that fit the mood of the original song.
Outpost Daria, still a central hub for fanfic, as well as an excellent resource for episode summaries and transcripts
The Paperpusher's Message Board, now run by Kara Wild; became the primary Daria BBS forum after Outpost Daria was non-Foxed
- Outpost Daria FAQ, accessed March 14, 2010.
- Daria fic in Yuletide 2009, accessed March 14, 2010.
- Tired Daria Fandom Tropes, accessed February 18th, 2017.
- Outpost Daria episode guide, accessed March 14, 2010.
- Prescriptivism in Daria Fanfiction
- Kara Wild, "The Off-Canon Approach
- Kara Wild, "On The Subject of Quinn and Rape"
- Outpost Daria news page, accessed March 14, 2010.
- The (Non-)Foxing of Outpost Daria, accessed March 14, 2010.
- The Daria Wiki, accessed March 14, 2010.
- Daria on DVD, accessed March 14, 2010.