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?