The Real King of the Nerds: Daria vs. Lisa


by Angela Dahl (@AngelaDahling)

TBS’s recent effort to court  the nerds through a reality show features two teams of supernerds competing  to sit atop the Throne of Games and be crowned King of the Nerds.   This got me wondering about nerd icons of the present: if there was  a battle for the title of king of all nerds, who would play in this  game of thrones?  Each week we’ll compare two rivals in a particular  realm of nerdom.  TO THE DEATH!!


When it comes to nerdy cartoon chicks, two icons immediately come  to mind.  One is Daria Morgandorffer.  Other than Ben Stein,  Daria’s monotone is the most famous, albeit more sarcastic.  She  wore thick black glasses before it was cool to wear thick black glasses  and reassured outcasts and nerds worldwide on the animated TV show Daria that they weren’t always social misfits.   In a nutshell, she doesn’t have low self-esteem, she just has “low  esteem for everybody else” (speaking of nuts, do you guys remember  when she had to get a job at the peanut stand in the mall? That squirrel  hat was comedy perfection).  Daria deals with getting contacts,  a bellybutton ring, and her driver’s license in a way that all teenage  girls could relate to: awkwardly and rebelliously.  She is smart,  incisive, and even has pretty good taste in men (I still got the hots  for Trent Lane).  She wears butt-kicking boots, and even though  she’s a cartoon character, she can definitely stomp out the competition  in them.


Lisa Simpson is an enduring role model for young girl nerds: an intelligent  feminist, Buddhist, saxophonist who manages to find time for some crushes  here and there (Colin from Ireland was especially swoon-worthy).    Some girls have literally grown up with Lisa, myself included; though  she remains eight years old, the show has been on for twenty-four seasons!   One of the few permanent character changes made in the show’s long run  is Lisa’s vegetarianism.  Her knowledge and social consciousness  for an eight-year old is pretty outstanding.  She’s shown to be  a tree-hugger and a supporter of gay rights and the Free Tibet movement.   Her environmentalism has even won her an award from PETA.  Though  as a practicing Buddhist she probably doesn’t condone physical violence,  I’m pretty sure her spiky hair could be used as a weapon in combat.

Because the ratio of Daria episodes to The Simpsons episodes is skewed (to say the least), I’ve decided  to compare two fan-favorite episodes from both series that showcases  the how these two characters fight… for what they believe in.

In Daria’s second season’s premiere, “Arts ‘N Crass,”  Principal Li and Mr. O’ Neill announce in Ms. DeFoe’s art class that  Lawndale is participating in a state-wide art contest with the theme  “Student Life at the Dawn of the Millennium.”  Jane is suckered  into submitting a painting, but doesn’t know what text to put with it  until she and Daria almost get sick after eating too much pizza.    The poem about anorexia paired with the painting of a pretty blond girl  is not appreciated.  Daria and Jane refuse to change it because  they believe it supports people who don’t want to be judged by their  appearance.  Mr. O’Neill changes the poem and Principal Li submits  it to the contest, both against Daria and Jane’s will.  The girls  deface the painting at the judging (“The only way to save our work  was to destroy it”), and when Mrs. Morgandorffer threatens the principal  with a lawsuit over violation civil liberties, we see a rare smile from  Daria.

In The Simpsons’ “Last Exit to Springfield,” Mr. Burns doesn’t  want the power plant workers to have benefits, perks, or green cookies  on St. Patrick’s Day, so he takes away the dental plan.  Marge  takes the kids to the dentist, and the dentist says Lisa needs braces  (“Oh no!  I’ll be socially unpopular… more so.”).  When  Homer finally puts two and two together (“Dental Plan!” “Lisa  needs braces.”), the workers at the power plant go on strike.   Lisa has to get a hideous metal contraption around her mouth because  they can’t afford braces without the dental plan, so in her angst and  support for the strike, she sings a protest song.  This song is  really what wins the struggle between the workers and Burns. They keep  singing even after Burns turns off Springfield’s power because “they  have the plant, but we have the power.”

So, in this match of protesters, of boots vs.  spiky hair, who is the real king of the nerds?

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