Thursday, April 30, 2009

Floppy Disks

Once upon a time, before the dawn of our alleged full-fledged digital age, computers were simpler creatures. Sure, they required roughly 247 times the maintenance of current computers, but they had character. They also had disk drives.

Looking closely at my up-to-date if admittedly bulky desktop model, it suddenly occurs to me that disk drives have virtually (yes, that's a computer pun) disappeared from today's computers. While I was once able to hear that satisfying click--POP! noise of floppy disk insertion, it appears that my once-beloved disk drive is no more. The portal that once gave me green-and-black-screen delights like Oregon Trail has gone tragically extinct. The Disk became Disc and eventually Drive, and our children will never know that computer devices once included ridiculously non-technological preceding adjectives like "floppy."

While their value as data storage devices may now be obsolete, back in our elementary school classrooms, they were all the rage. Just think, in a pre-internet age, you could write a book report on your computer at home and print it off at your computer at school. To those of us who now spend at least 8 hours a day parked in front of a computer screen with remarkably expedient internet capabilities, this is generally un-fazing, but as children growing up amongst quick-developing technology we still had our sense of wonder.

Unfortunately with this sense of wonder came a sense of impropriety. We as children may not have had as much technology at our fingertips as today's youngsters, but we certainly shared with them to some degree a sense of childlike greed and entitlement. For any of you who think pirated software, games, music, and movies is a new phenomenon, you must a pretty poor memory. Maybe this little number will do something to refresh it:

(Don't Copy That Floppy)

I recognize some of you (myself included) were fairly young when this PSA came out, so if you're not familiar with the above video from your 1990s childhood here's a little background information. In 1992, the Software Publishers' Association was pretty fed up with freeloading kids like Corey and Jenny here denying them their royalties on their precious floppy disk computer game releases. If these kids (read: all of us) thought they could get away with a crime-of-the-century like this, they were wrong. Or, at least the SPA tried to convince us that they were wrong. In reality, it was about as simple and certainly as tempting to pirate software then as it is now, but advertisers thought they could use guilt-inducing tactics to nip this in the bud early on.

The brilliance of the campaign was not in it's effectiveness, because it was not particularly effective at deterring floppy disk pirating. It did, however, feature the following absolutely brilliant educational PSA-style rap. Allow me to guide you through some of its finer points:

"Don't Copy That Floppy"
Performed by MC Hart
Lyrics by MC Hart and Ilene Rosenthal

Right off the bat, you know this is some hardcore gangsta rap. With a co-writer with a name like Ilene Rosenthal, how could it not be? It just screams bad-ass.

Did I hear you right, did I hear you sayin'
That you're gonna make a copy of a game without payin'?
Come on, guys, I thought you knew better don't copy that floppy!
[Don't don't don't don't...]

Come on, guys! There's your next clue this is a legitimate rap; the childlike whininess. That background "don't don't don't don't" doesn't hurt, either.

(Wait a minute. Who are you, anyway?
Yeah. And what are you doing on my computer?)

Seriously, slow down here. Corey, you've got a point, here. Your acting skills, by the way, are impeccable. You must see this kind of thing all the time, because you don't look particularly surprised.

I'm your MC Double Def DP
That's the Disk Protector for you and the posse

Ah, well that clears thing up nicely. Thank you for that, MC Double Def DP. Mind if I call you DP?

That's your artists, writers, designers and pro-grammers
They pump up the images for games and grammas that lets you learn, but also play
The games you came here for today
Now I know you love the game and that's alright to do
Because the posse who make them, they love them too
But if you start stealing, there's no more they can do

The grammas, huh? Let's try to leave my grandmother out of this, okay, DP?
And you're right, I do love the game. I never really thought of their posse in such a vulnerable way. Go on, DP.

(But I just wanted to make one copy!)

I just wanted to steal one car!

You say 'I'll just make a copy, for me and a friend'
Then he'll make one and she'll make one and where will it end?
One leads to another then ten, then more,
And no one buys anything from the store
So no one gets paid and they can't make more
The posse breaks up and they close the door
Don't copy! Don't copy that floppy!

The posse is going to break up? Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down, DP. That does seem to be a rather disturbing chain of events.

So let me break this down for you

Ah, well, thank you for that. That don't does seem to be fairly broken-down. Good work.

No Carmen Sandiego, no more Oregon Trail
Tetris and the others, they're all gonna fail
Not because we want it but because you're just takin' it
Dis-res-pec-tin' all the folks who are ma-kin' it
The more you take, the less there will be
The disks become fewer, the games fall away
The screen starts to tweak, and then it will fade
Programs fall through a black hole in space
The computer world becomes bleak and stark
Loses its life and the screen goes dark

Wow, I never really considered that whole black hole/space scenario, but it makes perfect sense. If I copy this game, everything will immediately be sucked into a swirling vortex of doom.

[Welcome to the end of the computer age... mwahahahaha..]

Uh-oh, evil laughter. That seems like an ominous cue of some sort, I just can't figure out for what...

But I'm much too strong and you're much too smart
To let that happen to your chances to explore
Parts of the new age just behind the door of your minds
You're the posse of the future and you hold in your brains what's never thought before
And in time, you'll see just so much more
That's why I'm here and that's what I'm fighting for
Don't copy! Don't copy that floppy!

Jenny and Corey are the posse of the future? You're right, DP, things are certainly looking grim.

Now let me introduce you, to some of the teams
That will explain a little more about what I mean!

Ah, the boring spoken-words snippets I was hoping for. Wait, this guy was working on a Dungeons and Dragons game? And I ruined his chances for success? This is worse than I thought. I can't believe people would try to create a computer game for something like that.

[D-D-Do-Do-Don't...Don't copy that floppy!]

You see, on these disks we have frozen in time
The creativity of someone's mind
Do you think, that because, with a flick of a key
You can copy that game, that the work is free
This creativity, we protect it by law
We value so highly, what the mind's eye saw
Don't copy! Don't copy that floppy!

[D-D-Do-Do-Don't...Don't copy.. Don't copy that floppy!]

You have to admit, nice chorus framing on this one.

To do the right thing, it's really simple for you
The copyright law, it will tell you what to do
Buy one, for every computer you use
Anything else is like going to the store
Taking the disk, and walking out the door
It's called thiefin', stealin', taking what's not yours
Is that really where you want your life to go?
Think about it, I don't think so.
Don't copy! Don't copy that floppy!

Thefin'? Stealing? Taking what's not mine? I prefer theifin', I think. It suits me.

Now you see a game you like and you really want to try it
Don't copy that floppy, just go to the store and buy it
Think of it this way, okay?


When you're buy a disk, you're sayin' to the team
You respect what you do and what you're workin' for
We'll keep up our support so you can make up some more
We'll do the right thing and the future will be clear
There will be new programs here at the end
Don't copy! Don't copy that floppy!

Okay, sounds fair, DP. I was planning on saying that to the team, anyway.

Now you know how the games and the programs are made
And what you do to make sure that they're not gonna fade
The bottom line is it's all up to you
There's nothing more that I can do
The goals in your court, dribble, shoot, or pass
I'm sure you'll make your decision with class
[Don't copy that floppy]

Dribble, shoot, or pass? I'm a computer kid, man. Use words I understand!

See ya, I'm outta here.

Check it out--modern novelty floppies:
Floppy-Disk Coasters
Floppy-Disk Notebooks
Floppy-Disk Pouch
Floppy-Disk T-Shirt
How to Make Floppy-Disk Earrings

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Children of the Nineties' Hump-Day Treat

Because I received so much Pete-and-Pete DVD-related nostalgia feedback, I thought I would do some of the heavy lifting for you and share with you a few 90s Nickelodeon gems currently available on DVD.

Also because it is Wednesday, and perhaps treating yourself to one of these will get you through your work week and/or school week. I give you full permission to slack off or procrastinate at your leisure by perusing the following list.

Feel free to drop a line in the comments about which DVD releases you are still holding out for!

Nicktoon Nostalgia:

The Beets, Quailman, Pork Chop, Patti Mayonaise, and the Honker Burger. Need I say more?

Rocko's Modern Life
What's not to love about an expat Wallabee living the aforementioned modern life?

Hey Arnold!
Your favorite, and hopefully only, football headed friend. Includes the episode featuring the "Stoop Kid's afraid to leave his stoop!" chant which has been forever burned some unmovable area in my cerebral cortex.

Ren and Stimpy
For all of you who grew up knowing coveting a log that's better than bad, it's good! Plus Cher from Clueless watches it, so you know it comes with stellar references.

I can't promise this DVD doesn't contain any late-era episodes, but they do claim to be fan favorites. I can only hope one of these eps includes my favorite lesser-known character, Suzy's cat Chowder.

Live-Action Fare:

The Secret World of Alex Mack
What's not to love about a teenager whose contact with a toxic waste spill leaves her all sorts of telekinetic and CapriSun commercial-style liquefying?

Clarissa Explains It All
Enjoy CNN--The Clarissa News Network, and other amazing talk-directly-into-the-camera novelties. Also, that part in the theme song that goes, "Hey, cool!"

The Adventures of Pete and Pete
The much-anticipated DVD release featuring Artie the strongest man in the world and little Pete's Petunia tatoo. Pure eccentric genius.

Honorable Mentions (AKA selected episodes available on Itunes):

Hey Dude
Hey Arnold
Rocko's Modern Life
The Angry Beavers
Aaah! Real Monsters

So until all of these shows eventually reach maturity as full-blown blog posts, happy shopping, Children of the Nineties. Happy shopping.

Nickelodeon Gak

If there's one thing we know, it's that nothing entices a child like mysterious scientific compounds. If it's been whipped up in a beaker or heated over a Bunsen burner, I assure you, they would like a part of it. In fact, if you could just package any potentially toxic experimental remnants in your lab and ship them to Mattel and TYCO distribution centers nationwide, that would probably be easiest.

Gak was one of those inexplicable phenomenons that only children could understand. It served no direct purpose outside of our general distractability and bemusement. Gak was a perfect blend of slime and silly putty with whoopie-cushion-style talents. Suddenly, you had in your possession a messy, slimy, hyper-colored, fart-producing goo. As a child, what's not to love?

"Playing with" Gak could potentially pose an issue. There was nothing you could really do with Gak. It wouldn't maintain a shape like play-doh or silly putty, and it dried out easily if not tended to properly. Not to mention it made your hands smell terrible. Really, just awful. I don't know what they made that stuff out of, but it was remarkably potent. And God forbid you played with Gak within a 10 mile radius of carpeting. The consistency of Gak was rather drizzly and hence prone to all sorts of droppage. Many of us child Gak enthusiasts were forced to incur the wrath of livid parents upon the realization that we had just smushed a tubful of purple mystery goo into their padded berber.

The Nickelodeon/Mattel team was smart enough to realize that despite the obvious mesmerizing qualities of Gak, it would only hold a child's attention for so long on its own. Sure, the clever transparent plastic star-shaped containers (known as "Gak Splats") made it entertaining to re-squish the Gak back into its packaging, but squishy fart sounds alone can only take a toy so far. Luckily, they had conceived of a few other brilliant Gak-related devices from which to accelerate the franchise:

Observe, a commercial for the original Nickelodeon Gak:

As a service to all of you, I will forgo my limited sense of propriety and just come right out with it: I owned an inordinate number of these Gak splatting devices. They were incredibly simplistic in their design, and despite their giving use to the Gak substance, they still served no practical purpose. Let us explore, if you will, a few of the marvelous Gak tools by which we were endlessly entertained:

The Gak Inflator
This was an incredibly mechanical-looking device for its absolutely unnecessary existence. The major aim behind inflating Gak was to shove air into a thin pocker of Gak to produce a chewing-gum style bubble. You would simply insert the Gak, pump the device, and inflate a Gak bubble until it burst. This product deftly circumvented the question of "Why?" and went directly to the "Why not?" Why not inflate a bubble of flatulent goo? In fact, why not create a colorful plastic device with the specific intention of bubbling Gak? As an adult, you may see through this faulty (read: lack of) logic, but as a child it all made perfect, satifyingly-poppable sense.

The Gak Vac

A sort of inverse to the Gak inflator, this piece of toy equipment served the sole purpose of vacuuming up Gak into a chamber and subsequently spitting it back out with the press of a button. The more sadistic amon us would employ action figures on which to splat the aforementioned Gak. This was sort of an at-home version of Nickelodeon's classic sliming action. As a result, my Barbie's hair has yet to recover from it's green Gak deep-conditioning treatment.

The Gak Copier

Whenever I'm scribbling away on an etch-a-sketch or a Magnadoodle, I often think to myself, "You know what would be really super? If I could imprint this image temporarily onto a sticky rubbery substance." Luckily Mattel's telepathy department was hard at work that day and devised a device, so it seemed, to meet my specific doodling needs. The Gak copier allowed children to draw an image, close the device with a fresh coating of Gak on one side and the drawing on the other, and transfer the image onto the Gak. While the device was more of a glorified heavy-book-to-close-it-in, I would not recommend using a book from your own home by which to complete this copying. I know my parents certainly would not, after I ruined the M volume of our Encyclopedia Britannica. I just wanted to see if I could transfer the image of a manatee onto a wad of Gak. FYI, you can not.

Gak came in all sorts of other varieties; glow-in-the-dark, scented, multi-packs...the possibilities were truly endless. One key thing these Gak products all shared was the ubiquitous Gak-specific warning label:

I don't know if you were aware, but Gak is a trademarked product. I probably shouldn't even be using the word Gak, considering the amount of mini-TMs they have plastered on this thing. I can only imagine I'm infringing on their copyright by thinking about the product at all.

They certainly made good use of their bold, all-caps lettering capabilities. GAK IS NOT A FOOD PRODUCT. You have to sort of respect the way they put this directly after the phrase "Gak is non-toxic." It's like telling Gak-crazed childen, "Sure, this stuff may not kill you on contact, but please refrain from eating an entire Splat of it."

It's also very kind of them to include directions for how to re-moisturize your disgusting, stringy, dried-up cornhusk-esque Gak. Simply "work in" some water! Perhaps it's just me, but the phrase "work in" seems unnecessarily gross and potentially graphic. Why can't we just add a teaspoon of water? Mix with a teaspoon of water? No, that will not do; it's preferable to massage in that water gently and tenderly.

Oh, and by the way, don't even THINK about playing with Gak on, well, anything. I can understand the carpeting part, but varnished and unvarnished surfaces? Isn't that, um, everything? I may be mistaken here, but I assume that if it's not varnished, it's unvarnished. In what sort of an environment is it safe to play with Gak? An anti-gravity simulator? I suppose the cleanup would be simple. Just use the Gak Vac!

Also, dry cleaning will not remove Gak. Don't even try it, buster. All hope is lost. We warned you about playing with Gak on surfaces, didn't we?

Despite all of these warnings, we still craved Gak splats with a near-religious fervor. Sure, those warnings could be a bit ominous to adults, but hey, we were kids. All we cared about was sliming GI Joes and producing endlessly hilarious Gak flatulence.

But never, ever on the carpet.

Check it out:
How to make your own Gak

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Singled Out

How did people ever find true love before the handy advent of at-home internet dating? Lonely hearts once were forced to brave the cold wide world in desperate search of a potentially suitable mate, singles were relegated to the awkward shame attempting small talk over a cup of coffee, and blind daters eagerly anticipated meeting their mysterious dining partner.

And for the lazy ones, well, there was always Singled Out.

Singled Out proved that adolescents would gladly watch a game show so long as all educational elements had been sufficiently eliminated and the double-entendre reference count was somewhere in the high 20s per episode. It was around this time that market researchers discovered that young people would tune in for game shows if they were generally valueless and smutty--in a lighthearted way, that is. If their parents were mildly to moderately offended by it, that didn't hurt either.

In days of television past, when networks sought to produce cheap TV shows they didn't necessarily go straight to the default reality series angle that floods our current television marketplace. Though MTV was certainly pioneering in the reality show arena (namely through their once-edgy Real World), they also recognized that unscripted game shows were equally cost-effective and quick to produce. To make make production exceedingly expedient, the show's producers formulated mainly 50/50 multiple choice answers from which the majority of contestants could be eliminated. This was certainly not a game of skill we were dealing with here; the show had already conveniently broken down potential contestant responses to bite-size lifeline-esque proportions.

In all honesty, Singled Out was more of hormone-rampant free-for-all of eye candy and sexual innuendos than an actual game. Imagine an entire season of The Bachelor sped up into two 15-minute segments with an old-school 1970s episode of The Dating Game spliced into it intermittently. The show was fluffy and substance-free, but MTV had enough know-how in dealing with 90s teenagers to make this a profitable and attention-worthy enterprise.

The show was originally hosted by then rising-star Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy and otherwise unexceptional television personality Chris Hardwick. I had a fairly serious crush on Chris Hardwick circa 1995 in all his floppy-haired glory, but looking back on 90s video footage of him it seems my taste as a 10-year old was somewhat questionable. While Jenny McCarthy went on to fabulous fame, Jim Carrey, and dispersion of questionable anti-inoculation propaganda, Chris Hardwick certainly took a quieter route in performing near-unknown stand up comedy and maintaining his blog The Nerdist. His current picture is notably more studly and I actually consider his blog fairly entertaining, but I find it difficult to read more than a few sentences without stopping myself and thinking, "Wait, the guy from Singled Out is writing this?" But I digress. Let's get back to the game show at hand (/screen).

The premise of the show involved 50 preselected young men and 50 preselected young women respectively vying for a date with single female and male contestants. Prior to the show, these 100 guys and gals each filled out questionaires, the answers from which would either propel them to last-round fame or banish them to early-elimination obscurity. The initial categorical round was followed up by what I like to call the "humiliate yourself to win the affection of another"/"reply to any questions in a determinedly sexual manner" round (more officially known as the "keep 'em or dump 'em round). The "picker" would force the remnants of his or her dating pool to a) performing an outlandishly ridiculous challenge such as dancing sexily while donning a rubber rooster mask or b)answer a sexually-laced question a la The Dating Game, such as "If I were an ice cream cone, what would you do to me?" Subtle, I know, but somehow we managed to break through these ironclad metaphors.

Unfortunately for the Dumpees, they were then draped in dumpee finery: toilet seats, sandwich boards displaying the word "loser", a "dumped" sash, or some other equally embarrassing article. If that shame was not quite enough, the dumpees were paraded past the Picker in hopes of being redeemed. If an expelled contestant was remarkably attractive or particularly scantily clad, occasionally the Picker would bestow unto him or her the coveted Golden Ticket, redeeming them for further play.

In the third and final round (what I like to think of as Singled Out's answer to Legend of the Hidden Temple's Steps of Knowledge) contestants would again answer 50/50 questions and with each correct answer progress a step closer to their potential dating prize. Whichever contestant was the first to reach their coveted date was the winner, and the two were physically arranged back-to-back to create a needlessly longer suspenseful 3/8th of a second before the big reveal. Once revealed, the show awarded the new couple with some semi-lame but admittedly free prize date package, and the potential young lovebirds were sent on their way.

To illustrate, I was planning to present a clip from the original show but was then struck by a far superior idea. For any of you who grew up as fans of ABC's Friday night TGIF programming block, this one's for you. In a late episode of Boy Meets World, Eric actually appeared as a somewhat dishonest contestant on a college edition MTV's Singled Out. The clip even features the real Chris Hardwick, who makes a few cracks about his and Eric's ubiquitous 90s parted haircuts.

The actual show pulled in some major guest stars as well. Okay, so maybe not so major, but they were certainly guest stars--my favorite of whom was Salute Your Shorts's Michael Bower, a.k.a. Donkey Lips. I've had a soft spot for Bower ever since Dina tried to give D-Lips the major brush-off at Camp Anawanna's big dance. I'm not saying I'd want to be Singled Out by him, but he was certainly a guest star of interest.

As the growing fame of Singled Out's hosts quickly outstripped the growth of the show, Jenny McCarthy expressed her desire to move on to greener pastures. Okay, so the pastures were still located at MTV studios and involved her performing in some form of eponymous sketch comedy series, but they were greener nonetheless. Jenny was swiftly replaced with a new Playmate model, Carmen Electra, for the short remaining duration of the series. While Carmen was undeniably in the same attractiveness realm as her Playmate predecessor, she lacked some of Jenny's flair for shameless respect-compromising comedy.

Irrespective of the host switcheroo, this show was boastfully successful thorughout the duration of its three year run. Though the games live on for a brief few days annually at seedy Spring Break destinations, it's a bit sad to consider that today's generation of young people will grow up never once having had their mind contaminated by this entertaining garbage. Sure, they've got The Hills and Real World season 21, but it's just not the same. Never will they know the thrilling rush of waiting for two people to suspensefully whip around and face one another, meeting their dating fate.

Then again, this is a generation that un-ironically watches MTV's current dating debacle Next, so it may not be worth putting up a fight for reinstatement.

Check it out:
MTV Singled Out's Guide to Dating Book
Singled Out: The Dirt on the Dates on VHS
A creative professor's Singled Out math problem

Monday, April 27, 2009

Children of the Nineties' Favorite Things

We don't usually do this sort of thing over here, but out of love for Miss Gidget's blog, I'm willing to make an exception. With a 90s twist, that is.

Fidgeting Gidget tagged me in this meme today, with the following rules:

1. Mention the person who nominated you (above).
2. List six unimportant things that make you happy (I've chosen to supplement the "you" in this piece of the instructions with "children of the 90s,' but you get the general idea).

So without further ado, I present to you 6 things that make children of the 90s happy today:
Sure, it's a bit troubling that the network block that aired black-and-white sitcoms in our youth is now showing Home Improvement and The Fresh Prince, but obviously they've adjusted their retro-meter a bit.

Perfect for listening at work, Pandora is a free online radio service. 90s children can plug in their favorite old groups and Pandora will do the work in recovering similar songs and artists. Just be warned that you may end up with a station embarrassingly entitled something like "Backstreet Boys radio."
I dare you to take one look at this image and not immediately picture yourself sporting a shirt with the above while watching the Full House episode where DJ mistakenly is caught with a beer. Tempting, I know.

4. Oregon Trail iPhone App
What better way to be notified you've died of dysentery than on a 2'' x 3'' screen?

Your favorite childhood shows, now available at a retailer/website near you. If your favorites aren't out there, there are petitions galore on the internet imploring the good people at Nickelodeon and MTV to give us our DVDs.

6. Return of Union Jack Fashion

Okay, so maybe Paris Hilton doesn't specifically embody the fashion sense many of us would like to emulate, but she is wearing that hat. For all of us who saw Spice World multiple times in theaters, this is certainly a promising development.


3. Tag six blogs, state the rules & notify them with a teeny comment on their blog.

A Daily Dose of Dani
Trying to Make it all Work
Buried the Lead
My Life in a Blog

Blue M&Ms

In the 90s, democracy was a dying enterprise. Voter turnout had sunk to new lows, and Americans seemed generally apathetic and disinterested in the political arena. Citizens began questioning what effect could their single vote possibly have on the larger problems facing America. Disillusioned with the perceived ineffectiveness of their role as an individual in a vast democracy, many began boycotting elections altogether.

Unless, of course, we were voting for key M&M colors. That was a completely different story.

In 1995, the world changed forever. Okay, so maybe it was just the candy world, and it was really just a color switch, but to some this symbolized a reignition of the democratic spirit. With the surrounding years' non-presidential national elections pulling in numbers in the 35-38% range of all voter-age citizens, the people had spoken. Or rather, had not spoken; US voter rates were in a slump. Those running for office should perhaps have employed the higher-ups at the Mars Corporation on their campaign staffs, as these employees had devised a brilliant solution to rising anti-voting sentiment.


Yes, that's right, children. As American Idol would find nearly a decade later, eliminating age restrictions and allowing multiple votes conveniently available over a toll-free phone line seems a surefire way to encourage voting.

What real difference can children make? Can a candy vote really arouse interest to the point that people will take to their phones to make their voices heard?

A lot. And yes.

In 1995, a decision was made. The Mars company was to cease production of tan M&Ms. Scary but true, tan M&Ms were once allowed to cohabit our bags with the more delicious-looking colors. Luckily, the people at Mars/M&Ms saw the errors of the 50+ years of tan-producing ways. Reasons for the switch were vague and unclear; were people speaking up against tan M&Ms? Were they upset that tan was essentially a knock-off of the coexisting brown M&M? Were they concerned about their melanoma risk? No one knows for sure.

Whatever the reason, a decision was made and a massive marketing campaign launched. In a second's time, tan M&Ms were a thing of the past. Suddenly, according to a multitude of M&M-related election propaganda, it was up to us to pick a new color. Really, us! We could be a part of history. Well, candy history. If such a an area of study exists. Well, either way, it seemed like a pretty legitimate endeavor in which to partake.

Suddenly, the playground was in an uproar; which color were you going to vote for? The options were finite (pink, purple, and blue) and the constituency fiercely divided. Unfortunately, M&Ms major gaffe was picking a majority of gender-biased hues for their new color options. It became the cool thing to pick blue, because we were all fairly certain it was going to win. None of the boys in the four-square court were up to being outed for placing a vote for purple or pink, and so it went.

All it took was a call to the toll-free 1-800-FUN-COLOR hotline. You're not mistaken, that's too many numeric letter equivalents, and some of us had a quiet moment of shame in realizing the line was already ringing as our dialing went on and on. It seemed like a relatively straightforward enough procedure, but the controversy over your vote was deep-seated. Editorial pages were flooded with comments on the color controversy; no forum or open space was safe from color-specific propaganda. Many elementary school classes in a half-hearted attempt to educate our nation's youth on the value of democracy conducted their own in-school votes. This probably did not play a major role in spurning interest in democracy, but in candy instead. Though politicians may not have been overly grateful for these diluted civic lesson, many dentists certainly felt it's sweet impact.

There was also the inexplicably hardcore "no change" movement, for which people sent impassioned emails and letters to friends, begging them to call in and select the "no change" option. Staunch in their conservative traditional M&M values stance, this small but vocal contingency sought to spread the word that it was possible to retain the tan M&Ms if you would just listen to them and do everything in your power to halt all progress at any cost. While there is no conclusive evidence to this end, many prominent scholars theorize that these people are now the ones writing the voiceover scripts for "The Gathering Storm" commercials.

Over 10 million votes were cast. I'm sorry, I don't know if you caught that one. 10 million. Really. We can't pull together a decent crowd to decide who will hold the fate of our country in his hands, but dammit if we're going to be stuck with pink M&Ms. I mean, that's just priorities.

Blue won by a landslide, with over 50% of votes cast in its favor. Eager to ride the crest of this marketing wave to its final washup, the Mars corporation quickly released a series of self-congratulatory ads highlighting the inherent desirability of Blue as a character. Already utilizing Red and Yellow as official "spokescandies", advertisers hastily inserted the enviable Blue character into the ad campaigns.

Ah, yes. There's nothing quite like self-induced asphyixiation to make you feel like one of the gang. Despite Blue's undeniable coolness, his manners with our old standards was a bit questionable. Stil, their desire to be like him reaffirmed our feeling that we indeed had made the right color choice and set the framework for susceptibility to future peer pressure.

Red and Yellow were persistent at their attempts to illustrate to us just how cool our Chosen One really was in this follow-up ad:

Really, BB King? I didn't realize M&Ms could pull such prime guest stars. It's still up in the air as to whether or not Red and Yellow's self-described "blues" were on par with anything King ever recorded, but I suppose it's all in the context.

The novelty of blue has waned slightly since the more recent 2002 global color vote (winner: purple, though they have mysteriously disappeared from our bags) and the hordes of customizable colors available at M&M World and online. Now that you can superimpose a photograph of yourself onto any color M&M you can imagine, the excitement over blue M&Ms may pale somewhat in comparison.

Regardless of current M&M progress, we can look back to our own unexplained passion for selecting a new shade of candy-coated chocolate. Though we may mourn for the defeated colors, our concerns are largely unwarranted; after all, these customizable colored candies have gone on to lead rich, chocolatey lives of coordinating colors for wedding parties, baby showers, and bar mitzvahs.

And if there's still a shred of insecurity about their loss, well, that's where the hard candy shell comes in.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thank You for Being a Friend, Bea

Today is a sad day for any of you 90s kids who grew up watching the Golden Girls. Bea Arthur died today at the age of 86.

Though she did a great deal of noteworthy theatrical work and was also renowned for her role of Maude in the sitcom of the same name, to us she will always be the sharp-witted Dorothy Zbornak on Golden Girls.

Whoever put together the following Dorothy Zbornak tribute was obviously very taken by their own ability to use all the different transitions available in Microsoft Office, but their heart is in the right place and they certainly chose some gems so I'm willing to overlook their technical shortcomings. Bea Arthur's distinct humor will certainly be missed.

Bea Arthur 1922-2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ace of Base

Ah, 90s Swedish pop. Nothing says grunge backlash like rave-soundtrack European techno. Turn on one of their many hits and you can actually see the glowsticks waving. If the word Eurotrash had yet to enjoy significant circulation, Ace of Base certainly played a major role in inserting it into mainstream vocabularies. It was bad news for any of you out there aching to don a cropped turtleneck and a leather vest, play synthesizers, and produce dramatic slow-motion sepia-toned music videos. Ace of Base had already cornered that market.

There's something to be said for a band that can achieve international fame while filed under the Eurodance category at record stores. Ace of Base's upbeat, club-friendly songs created a new link between the Swedish and American pop music in the early 90s. Determined to prove they were more than just an ABBA knockoff, Ace of Base churned out English-language single after single to the international music market.

Ace of Base songs were incomparably catchy. God forbid you ever heard one on the radio, because your brain would probably never rebound from the strain of constant and continuous internal play. Their heavy use of synthesizers in lieu of what some may refer to as legitimate instruments pounded residual reggae-inspired technobeats into our ears for hours after the cassette tape had clicked off. If any of you out there were at any point exposed to Ace of Base (you can test yourself for potential airborne exposure using the videos below,) there is no doubt that the opening techno bars will bring back floods of un-expellable lyrics.

The group didn't only have extremely captivating, beat-heavy songs; they also produced what can only be appraised as the quintessential 90s pop music videos. Their videos frequently utilized exceedingly dramatic cutaway shots, black and white photography, and the most advanced special effects the 90s had to offer us. In many cases, it seemed as if their video producers had sat down at the editing booth and applied every available piece of special effect technology to the videos. Hazy smoke over every shot? Why not? People floating in bubbles? You got it! Rotating ankh computer graphics? Sign me up!

In case you have not been sitting around watching old Ace of Base music videos for the last 15 years, I'd be happy to point out some of the finer points of their more popular videos. I invite you to come with me on a chronological whirlwind tour of cheesy 1990s Swedish pop music sights and sounds:

All That She Wants (1993)

Is it just me, or is she playing with some Star of David jewelry in the first shot? Well, never mind the potential religious jewelry implications. The real focus is on the wonderfully literal storytelling technique the band employs to illustrate the major plot points of their song toward the beginning. She literally opens up her eyes and it's safe to say that she's thinking, "Oh, what a morning!" Thankfully they were able to leave some segments en metaphor, or else we may have had our lead characters dressed as hunters and foxes, talking gently to one another.

There are a few shots that don't quite add up, however. Despite their compelling descriptions of this woman as a maneater, in most of the shots she appears vaguely bored. It's possible that she's just concentrating on trying to hear the whispered, "All that she wants...", but this woman doesn't seem particularly vicious. Are we to assume that her application of Cleopatra-esque undereye-liner is emblematic of her desire to use 'em and lose 'em? And the way she blows out that candle. What a trollop! I'll concede to the video's credit and/or legitimacy that in the end she does pick up that guy at the bar, but I'm not yet convinced of her deviance by candle symbolism alone.

The Sign (1994)

Oh my God, it's the Sopranos! I knew they had to have ripped off their signature poster design from a 90s Swedish pop group, I just knew it!

Here's where the aforementioned random special effects montage comes into play. "Oh, so you can make a fire background, show a silhouetted person swirling around, superimpose the band members over images of themselves, and twirl ancient Eqyptian style ankhs? Management team, what do you guys think? Throw 'em all in? Alright, great! And if we could just remix them continuously throughout the run of the video, that would be super." If you had yet to notice from the first video, it's clear that the lead female vocalists were major contenders for the Overgroomed Eyebrow award. They don't give you much time to speculate on that, though, as they're always quick to cut away to interspersed shots of random people making out with no reasonable explanation to back up these visuals. If you gain nothing else from this video, I hope that you can take with you Jenny and Linn's increasingly comical calculated hand-gesture-dances for your next trip to the club.

Regardless of its social relevance on any other level, I've yet to hear this once-immensely popular song (now relegated to muzak in grocery stores and elevators) without thinking of the following Full House episode:

Don't Turn Around (1994)

If you've yet to catch on, there's sort of been a general theme tying together these videos. While the special effects employed may vary, they all cut back and forth continually between the female lead singers and the actors portraying the song. At least in this one, we get a glimpse at why the men in the band are at most marginally necessary, as this is probably the most we've heard from them in any of the singles to date. Their little rap interlude proves that Buddha and Joker (those are their actual stage names, I did not just make that up) are not the mute eye candy we may have assumed them to be in the two former music videos. This video is also fairly high into literalism, though to their credit Eurodance music is not renowned for its subtlety. See how the girl enters the same beach as her former flame, but sits several yards away? That's her not letting you know. No, she won't let you know.

The whole situation is pretty awkward, really. I mean, these two are obviously trying to avoid each other, and where do they find themselves but on the same secluded beach? Well, she really told him off by walking into the water like that at the end. I'm not sure if that's some sort of purity symbolism or if maybe he's just allergic to moisture, but he seemed to get the message.

Beautiful Life (1996)

When I yawn, sometimes I randomly emit enbubbled people, too. That special effect is completely necessary, and not only because it conveys the general whimsy associated with life's beauty (not to be confused with the movie It's a Beautiful Life, which is something else entirely. I never saw it, but I imagine it doesn't too heavily feature people floating carefreely in soap bubbles.) The nonsensical montages in this particular video are certainly inspired, though by what we may never know. It has sort of that "Look, we're flying near but not directly over mountains! Now we're wearing sunglasses and cruising through a tunnel! Now we're hovering over violent car crashes!" feel to it. That pool table sequence toward the end ain't bad either.

Again, we get to hear a few snippets from the guys in this one, though they are rather brief. Would you believe me if I told you that it was actually the men who started this group and eventually solicited the help of a band member's sisters to get things off the ground? Further examination into a live performance indicates that they possibly rock the keytar and guitar respectively, but their presence in these music videos is generally fairly unnecessary.

Ace of Base also did a spectacularly 90-fied cover of Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" and some other follow-up work, but they were pretty MIA in the US in recent years. Don't fret about the fate of our Europoppers, however, they're still all the rage in places like Denmark, Estonia, and Lithuania. Who says fame is fleeting? Perhaps it's just nomadic.

Despite their more recent and undoubtably admirable achievements, the Ace of Base of our collective memory is 90s through and through. Though other Swedish acts such as Robyn and The Cardigans gained 90s fame in the US, they never quite reached an Ace of Base level of Hype. So to any of you who still own your early-90s-era Ace of Base cassettes and can find somewhere on your premises the means necessary to play them, I say enjoy them. Despite their earlier warnings against it, I'd say it's pretty safe to turn around at this point and look back on your favorite artists of seasons past. If all else fails, it's also available on Itunes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Got Milk?

Without the helpful input of highly compensated celebrity endorses, how would we ever know what to like? Certainly we as consumers can't be trusted to make these sort of decisions for ourselves. Just imagine all the crazy things we would get into without the ever-sage guidance of paid spokespeople. No, we need to be told what to do from people we know from movies, sports, music, and television. They're pretty much our only reliable sources.

In 1994, the dairy industry had fallen upon hard times. Kids had tasted the forbidden sugariness of soda and it seemed that they had reached the beverage point-of-no-return. The once-ubiquitous cafeteria milk cartons had been replaced by Coca-Cola sponsored vending machines sure to fund our schools and cavitate our teeth. Our bones were brittle, our blood sugar was high, and we knew little of the beloved milk of our forebearers. Milk producers knew it was time to take action.

Milk producers knew they needed something a bit punchier than "Milk: it's Cool" Cafeteria Milk Machines

The bottom line was that kids were not convinced that milk was cool. I know what you're thinking, kids weren't won over by the glamorous lives of those in the dairy industry? Next thing you're going to tell me is that they were careless about maintaining their calcium levels. Hard to believe, yes, but milk's image was on a downswing. It was as if milk was some washed-up celebrity past her prime; once cast in great roles, she was now generally relegated to grandmother and old-version-of-young-starlet type parts. Milk producers knew they had to act fast if they were going to bring their former key player into the spotlight again after 30 years of poor management and competition from sexier thirst-quenchers.

Milk was down, but it was not out. Advertisers knew that if they could just convince the youth market that milk was hip and happening, kids would drink it up. Ripped straight from the dark imaginations of focus groups, the initial campaign focused on the horrifying consequences of finding oneself in a situation that demanded milk but where none was available. Frightening, I know. Just imagine, a mouthful of cookie with nothing to chase it down. A dire crisis, indeed. Marketers even referred to this as the "Milk Deprivation Strategy," to give you an idea of the seriousness with which they approached their dalliance with dairy.

Milk knew it needed to get by on more than association alone. Sure, cookies had reasonable child street cred, but they could only take milk so far. Advertisers knew they needed to up the ante a bit and inject some humor to hold people's interest and draw attention to their campaign. Continuing on their general milk deprivation theme, they released this television spot:

We can all relate to this situation. How many times do you find yourself, a devoted Aaron Burr historian and enthusiast, faced with the most simple question in your major area of study yet unable to answer due to unfortunate peanut butter stickiness side effects? Too many to count.

Soon, the phrase "Got Milk?" was everywhere, and as you can imagine, it did not dwindle in its humor or become even minutely annoying the 467th time you saw a t-shirt emblazoned with a "Got _________?" slogan. Endlessly hilarious.

The true heart of the campaign was in the print ads we all so know and love. Originally christened with such creative and demanding slogans such as "Where's your mustache?", these teen-attracting ads were soon absorbed under the larger Got Milk? ad campaign umbrella. Celebrity models sported somewhat unfortunate-looking milk mustaches as marketing teams superimposed witty first-person copy clearly not to be attributed to the person pictured in the ad. Regardless of the falsified text, preteens adored these ads. Young girls plastered the walls of their rooms with them, as if these omnipresent magazine advertisements were rare and collectible. There was even a book published full of these ads featuring behind-the-scenes information about the mustachioed celebs. I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I owned this book and possibly read it cover to cover, seeking the goodness of milk in light literary form.

These ads were well-targeted and smart. Marketers knew that 90s children pledged essentially undying and unwavering devotion to their celebrity role models. Despite the fact that these celebrity teen role models were generally unqualified to preach anything and would go on to make all sorts of unfortunate life choices, in the 90s their innocence was still intact:

Aren't you glad we listened to these wise, learned teen stars and drank all the milk we could get our hands on? At the time, we wanted to grow up to be just like them. Unfortunately, at the time these ads ran, these adolescent celebrities had yet to grow up themselves. The versions of them that we looked up to had yet to reach their milk-inducing potential. Nowadays, these all-grown-up former teen sensations may not be the picture of wholesomeness and stable health, but at the time we saw them as pure milk success stories.

Sure, the ads also featured real role models like triumphant Olympic athletes, but if you weren't into sports it seemed the best you could wish from milk was to end up like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. Now aren't you glad you listened to these good mustachioed people and drank your milk?

Check it out:
Official Got Milk? Website
MooMilk: A Dynamic Adventure into the Dairy Industry
Got Milk? Ads Photostream

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Drug PSAs

Drug Public Service Announcements: love 'em or hate 'em, they're here to stay. Drug-centric PSAs skyrocketed to popularity in the late 80s and early 90s based on research that kids, well, enjoy drugs. Luckily, adults were here to put a stop to all that to-be-expected teenage experimentation by use of scare tactics and what can only be characterized as unfair equivocations. For instance, a logical human being may not immediately associate a single puff of a joint with a future of relentless crackheadery, but alas, there was a reason they hired the "creative" types for these ad campaigns.

The themes and approaches of 90s drug PSAs were all over the place; this was certainly not a well-thought out, focused approach. No, that kind of reasoning would be too effective. Instead of banding together to fight a common cause, anti-drug groups felt it better to create a free and unfettered marketplace of anti-substance ideals in which any organization could put out any ad as they saw fit. Never ones to be outdone, all sorts of people in the entertainment industry came out of the woodwork eager to put forth their own PSAs, such as in the following Ninja Turtles' sponsored Anti-Drug Ad. We can only assume that Leonardo really pushed for this as a positive career move for our half-shelled friends, as the notion that any actual human writer with limited functional brain capacity would ever conceive of the following ad is too much to take:

Oh no! Joey's in a jam! Joey's in a jam, indeed. You have to love the way that every anti-drug ad explicitly depicts drug users as overly eager to share their expensive and limited supply of drugs with uninterested others. The way the agressor states, "I've got some stuff you've just gotta try!" you'd think he was begging someone to take these joints off his hands. This kid looks all of 12 years old, so I'm not exactly sure what his major source of income is, but I think it's pretty safe to say that he wouldn't be overly eager to share the fruits of many weeks of allowance-saving with a casual acquaintance who clearly wants no part of it.

I also love the way that they cut to the Ninja Turtles doing a Q&A postmortem on the peer-pressure scenario video segment with a random elementary school class. Usually, when I'm in jam not unsimilar to Joey's, I use my Zack Morris "Freeze!" power to assemble a bunch of random children to talk out my problem with the TMNT themselves. At least the turtles keep it light with their pizza jokes. Get real, Michaelangelo. You also have to love the eagerness with which that kid in front shrieks, "Get out of there!" With enthusiasm like this, it's fairly certain that there are no marijuana users in this classroom.

So way to go, Joey. Call him a turkey! Take that, bully five times Joey's size! And as the turtles say, drug users are dorks! Who better to trust than martial-arts trained sewer-dwelling half-masked pizza-loving mutant turtles? Who, I ask you?

If that one didn't quite jive with you as a child, there was always this more, er, subtle approach:

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Backtrack a second. I see what you're getting at here with your extended metaphor and all, but...really? I have quite of few points of contention with this ad, the foremost of which being that it's obviously and blatantly insensitive. Of course, though, it doesn't end there! Why does the narrator insist on referring to native Africans of 400 years ago as "African Americans"? They weren't African-Americans when they came here, they were Africans. What a total shot in the dark attempt to be PC in an utterly un-PC commercial.

Oh, voiceover, what gem of wisdom will you share with us next? Oh wait, if I am of African American descent and use drugs, I'm directly dishonoring my ancestors and reenslaving my people? You were always one for subtlety, disembodied voice.

If you still weren't off drugs forever after watching that sobering ad, you could always wait a couple of years to be influenced by this one:

N*Sync, your light and playful tone will surely deter heavy drug use, especially among alternative kids. I don't know if it ever occurred to somebody that N*Sync fans may not be the population most heavily correlated with drug use, but here they are telling us what they're into. And boy, do they have some hilarious fake hobbies! Oh, scriptwriters, have you got these boys pegged. As a former synchronized swimmer, I may have to take some offense to JC's jab, especially because the other lines they give him ("baroque minimalism!") implies that synchronized swimming is in some way wacky and insane (if you are unaware, it's not). You have to enjoy the pre-outed Lance Bance shrieking effeminately, though. At least they had the wisdom to throw some foreshadowing in there for good measure. Oh, and to have him say he's into acting. Touche, scriptwriters. I guess those girls are in the ad to illustrate how desirable N*Sync is. I can't really fathom any alternate explanation for their presence. If anyone was yet to question N*Sync's crediibility and/or masculinity as musical artists, I think this ad probably sealed the deal.

Of course, there was also the more serious (some may say, depressing) approach:

Cue up the maudlin music and watch an adorable inner-city black kid with the hi-top fade haircut dodge the drug pushers. As in the first ad we saw here, it's fair to assume that all drug users are out to force their expensive fare on us. They will not rest until every pocket-moneyless child is forced to try their limited supply of drugs free of charge.

Unfortunately, my favorite-ever anti-drug commercial from 1998 has been forever exiled into the black hole of internet obscurity. Despite an inordinate amount of time spent searching for my once-beloved animated anti-drug PSA, it seems to be completely absent from an otherwise well-stocked video cyberspace. Lucky for all of you, I took a memorization class in gifted summer school in 2nd grade* and have the words forever branded into my once-impressionable childhood brain. It goes a little something like this:

I'd rather eat a big old bug! Than ever take a stupid drug!
Drugs aren't cool, they can mess you up at school,
Drugs are a pain, they can hurt your body and your brain!

A big ol' bug with an ugly mug, is better than any stupid drug!

They make you sad, they make your parents mad,
Drugs are dumb, they make you clumsy, slow, and numb!

I'd rather eat a big old bug...

(Bug interjects:) Don't do drugs!

Than ever take a stupid drug!

There are a lot of confusing elements of this anti-drug jingle, so I'll try my best to break it down for you. First off, are we to believe that the size and age of a given bug are inversely proportional to its desirability relative to drugs? In which case, a young, small bug may not hold the same anti-drug message. Very interesting. And what a kind, selfless bug he is. Even though he knows his life to be at stake with such an anti-drug proclamation, he can tell right from wrong. You just don't see that sort of self-sacrificing sprirt in animated insects these days.

And another thing! Drugs can mess me up at school? My parents will be mad? Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down, anti-drug commercial. I'd never considered any of these outcomes before, I was only thinking of the joys of ingesting plump, juicy insects as a healthy alternative to drug use. Now that you've shown me the light (or darkness, of it may be) of drug use, I will dutifully chomp down on this animated bug sandwich to do my part to deter childhood drug abuse. Thanks, Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

For any of you out there (and I assume you are!) thinking to yourselves, "But what of all my favorite non-drug related PSAs from the 90s? Are they doomed to never see the light of Children of the 90s?" Well, I'm sorry to cause you that brief moment of anguish and withdrawal, but fear not; as God as my witness, those PSAs will be here for your enjoyment in a multi-part series I like to call, "Educational Advertising in the 90s is Completely F-ing Insane." Stay tuned!

And if you don't, the drug dealers from that last videos will most likely hunt you down and force it upon you unprovoked. True story.

*This fact is embarrassingly and unjustifiably true

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Hearken back, if you will, to a time when MTV's original programming budget could afford more than the middle school dropout scriptwriters they currently employ to pen Date My Mom and A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila. A time when intelligent sardonic cartoons could still capture the imagination of a preteen audience not yet contaminated by the likes of High School Musical. A time when a contemptuous misanthrope could hold spotlight rather than be banished to the supporting character category.

And if you didn't quite see yourself as a Daria, well, there was always Quinn.

Daria Promo

The characters in Daria ran the social gamut in a manner of sharp satire rarely found in teen-directed television. This was no Saved by the Bell. No, Daria told it like it was; humorously and critically chronicling the vast teenage wasteland of suburbia. It's rare that such an abrasive character can be so likable, but the writers seemed to strike that perfect balance between edgy and observant. Sure, Daria wasn't all rainbows and sunshine, but she was complex and interesting. Not to mention that relating to her made us feel smart.

Yes, Daria Morgendorffer was of a rare breed. It's odd to think that such a profound and well-conceived character was spun off of such an utterly idiotic show as Beavis and Butthead, but so it was. The Daria sense of humor was fully distinct from the crude, if sometimes admittedly funny juvenile style of Beavis and Butthead.

Daria...from humble beginnings

Daria and her peers were developed in an intelligent way that had eluded their show of origin. The show mainly utilized Daria's derisive eye and provided us with endless satirical jabs at our own high school experience. Her distinct outsider status gave us all an opportunity to pretend for a brief moment that we did not occasionally shamefully see ourselves in the mainstream peers that she so disparaged.

Let's explore our quirky Lawndale cast:

Our Hero

Daria Morgendorffer, sarcastic extraordinaire and our eponymous hero. Her deadpan monotone packed a lot of punch into her exceedingly judgmental and smart-alecky comments. She met her best friend Jane in self-esteem enhancement class, if that provides any clue as to how she was perceived by others. She was cynical, opinionated, judgmental, and somewhat of a misfit, but there was something in her that was distinctly relatable nonetheless. The beauty of Daria was that even the most teenyboppery among us had some vague experience with teenage angst, though likely not on a Daria-level. As if by magic, the Daria creators were able to draw out (excuse the cartooning pun) that collective part of our adolescent selves who felt ill-at-ease in our orderly surroundings and make light of it.

The Trusty Sidekick

Jane Lane, Daria's rhyming-monikered partner in crime. Jane was a burgeoning artiste, favoring the odd and unusual in sync with her favorite TV show, "Sick Sad World." Her parents are frighteningly free-spirited, frequently leaving her and her older brother home alone for indeterminate periods of time to raise themselves as they saw fit. Jane had a comparable worldview to Daria, but was somewhat more relenting with her judgment of others and occasionally exhibited a weakness for the mainstream.

The Unrequited Crush

Trent Lane, Jane's brother and equally monotone misguided punk rocker in the band Mystik Spiral. Convinces Daria to pierce her belly button. Obviously bad news.

...Later Replaced by Requited Crush

Tom Sloane, Jane's former boyfriend and all-around likable wealthy snob. Unlike most other teen programs, Daria admirably did not eclipse this boyfriend switcharoo plot line in a single or two-part Blossom-style "Very Special Episode." Rather, the story arc of the tension between Jane and Daria over this clear case of boyfriend stealage was built over an entire season. In the end, Daria was likely just too awkward to maintain a steady relationship, though there was a hilarious after-school-special-esque "should-I-or-shouldn't-I" episode about Daria contemplating the loss of her virginity.

The Well-Meaning Parents

Helen and Jake Morgendorffer, hilariously overdrawn caricatures but well-intentioned parents nonetheless. Helen was a former-hippie-cum-high-powered attorney and was generally clueless about the lives of her daughters. Jake was a repressed stressball marketing consultant known for his ridiculous rants about the light childhood trauma of imposed military school. Helen and Jake would often spit out one another's names as if they were insults in a relatable if somewhat tragic way. These two were also known for occasionally getting freaky. It was relatively disturbing, if admittedly a tad sweet.

The Bubble-Headed Sister

Quinn Morgandorffer, Daria's ray of sunshine and spectacularly vain and materialistic lil' sis. You were never supposed to admit that Quinn was your favorite character in the face of Daria's more subtle humor and charm, but I must admit I was quite taken by Quinn. You wanted to despise her brazen superficiality, but there was something deep within her self-delusion and self-importance that was oddly appealing. If you could bizzaro-ize Daria exactly, Quinn would be the result. But in her own way, she was sort of cute, and not just because she constantly proclaimed herself to be so.

The Fashion Club

Quinn's ultra-superficial clique; Sandi, Stacey, and Tiffany, who possessed as a group probably my favorite voicework on any animated characters, ever. Sandi, the slowed-down-Romy-from-Romy-and-Michelle voice whose tyrannical leadership of the Fashion Club and constant rivalry with Quinn was a never-ceasing divisive issue. Born-follower Stacey, who probably should have been the one sent to self-esteem class for her unceasing agreement with everything ever said by anyone. Tiffany, who spoke so slowly you could knit a scarf in the time it took her to construct a sentence. Priceless. If you could have put a price on it, though, it's fairly certain these girls would have bought it.

The Interchangeable Quinn-Worshippers

Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie. All willing to drop anything to attend to Quinn's every whim. Their devotion and attention to detail was certainly admirable, though possibly a bit creepy.

The Requisite Dumb "Jocks"

Brittany and Kevin, dumb as rocks and constantly making out in the hallway. Need I say more?

Our Taste of Suburban Diversity

Jodi Landon and Michael "Don't Call Me Mack-Daddy" Mackenzie; the sole two black students at Lawndale High. Overachieving and sometimes a tad bitter about their ignorant classmates, but generally amiable.

The Generally Insane School Faculty

Lawndale High had a distinct knack for attracting faculty of the sanitarium-escapee variety. This ragtag gang of educators included an overly flirtatious bitter divorcee science teacher, the prone-to-shouting perpetually eye-poppingly angry history teacher, Stuart-Smalley-esque English teacher, and budget-hungry principal. Sure, there were a few normal ones in the bunch, but overall these teachers had a certain quality that made us wonder who let them work with children in the first place. We can only image it was part of some sort of work-release program.

As a burgeoning adolescent sarcastic, I too fancied myself some variety of Daria. The fact that I bought a ring bearing her sacred image at the Viacom store in New York City is a clear testament to my Quinn-rivaling lack of irony. This, however, reflected the beauty of Daria. It could be both a biting social commentary and successful commercial enterprise. They even shamelessly exercised some cute if somewhat tired gimmicks like musical episodes and full-length TV movies. The show differentiated itself from others, however, with its own unique brand of humor and distinctly un-MTV-esque quality. If you've ever sat through an episode of Parental Control, you know that's a good thing.

It also helped that the show didn't take itself too seriously, as many teen shows of the time were wont to do. Daria maintained a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek tone that created a cartoon world in which nothing was sacred, or at least nothing was safe from the show's critical lens. The wit was dry and sharp and utterly unapologetic. Better yet, the show's credits ended with "alter-ego" drawings of the main characters dressed as famous figures. What's not to like?

If you never got into it or simply can't seem to conjure up the memories, I've included a handy full episode (Season 3, episode 6, "It Happened One Nut") to revive what I can only hope will be your undying and forever devoted love to a once-great MTV show. If this doesn't convince you to join the fight for DVD release, I'm not sure what will:

Check it out:
Secret Stash of multi-part full eps on YouTube
Outpost Daria

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