Why was I attracted to the show? A lot of people say their love of Daria is based on her high intelligence, the natural appeal of a brainy outcast to everyone who has always imagined being a brainy outcast, and that would certainly be true of me. But there was more, I think. I had burned out completely on any interest in politics, religion, world affairs, current events, MPR, and anything remotely like that in December 2000, after the Supreme Court decided the election. I quit voting (and haven't voted since) and stopped talking about anything but kids or work at family get-togethers. The angst wasn't worth it. But I was still angry and still am, even if being angry is worse than useless. And I don't feel like getting over it.
Then Daria came along. Here's this smart kid who thinks everyone else in the world is a moron or cannot be trusted, usually both, and some part of me said, "She's right! Everything sucks! And she's smart and an outcast, too, like I was!" Except that, to be honest, I was an outcast not because I was too smart to get along with others, but because I was not interested in other people and was a geek, as in a horribly geeky nerdy geek. I would never be a teenager again for all of Bill Gates's money to the zillionth power. Being young and stupid was awful, but I liked Daria anyway.
Somehow, probably because I had spent too long working with fantasy game campaigns built around unique core themes and characters, I began to wonder what lay behind the veil of Lawndale. For a while it was mysterious and fascinating, and I kept asking myself what every little thing meant, what its place was in the Great Scheme of Things. Eventually I found out I was looking for a lot of things that didn't exist, but Lawndale did have its subtle themes: men are ridiculous, screwed up, or untrustworthy; women aren't much better, though in Lawndale they wield considerable power; life is hard if you care, but not if you don't; no one wants to hear the truth; and so on. The themes are there, lurking in the background.
I've theorized before that the name "Lawndale" has some feminine sexual connotations, but we won't go into that here even if it does strike me as relevant (unintentional, maybe, but relevant). Lawndale is the perfect place for someone like Daria to grow up. It is a model of the larger world, a cynical mirror of reality. What Daria and Jane learn here they will take with them into adulthood. Lawndale is childhood's end.
More stupid philosophizing later.