How Daria Expressed Help for Marriage Equality within the ’90s
Despite widespread opposition to marriage equality in the ’90s, Daria subtly advocated LGBTQ people in one episode of the first season.
MTV’s Daria was often ahead of her time. The first season episode “Pinch Sitter” showed her support for marriage equality 16 years before it was legalized in the US. Let’s take a look back at how this episode made reference to marriage equality and why that mention was so important when it aired in 1997.
In “Pinch Sitter” Daria Quinn takes on babysitting for the Gupty family so that the younger siblings can go on a date. Daria quickly gets bored with the extremely good and obedient children and eventually calls her best friend Jane to help her. In the end, the duo tells the kids some revised fairy tales, with Cinderella asking the fairy godmother to make her first president and old mother Hubbard tracking down her child’s father to pay child support. During the last story, Jane says, “And the court ran away with a spoon. But Hawaii was the only state that made marriage legal.”
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This piece on marriage equality references Baehr’s 1990 lawsuit against Miike in which three same-sex couples argued that Hawaii’s prohibition on same-sex marriage was against the state constitution. The case eventually made its way to the Hawaiian Supreme Court, but was tossed around the judicial system following pre-trial detention in 1993. Unfortunately, the case was dropped after a 1998 amendment to the state constitution that allowed Hawaii’s lawmakers to prevent it. sexual marriage led by execution or recognition. To make matters worse, the case inspired Congress to pass the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed in 1996. This law restricted marriage to one man and one woman and opposed recognition of same-sex unions. With that in mind, it’s amazing to imagine Daria openly supporting marriage equality just a year after DOMA, especially when only 27 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage.
Unlike many other animated series that received backlash from networks due to the inclusion of LGBT themes, this reference was not received with significant censorship by MTV. According to one of the episode’s writers, Anne D. Bernstein, Daria had very little influence on the network, which allowed its writers a lot of freedom in the early seasons.
“I feel like I was lucky because the things I was working on didn’t have many bureaucratic levels,” Bernstein explained in a 2002 interview. “When I write a Daria script, I have the feeling “Most of it comes from me. In LA, people work on projects that get hugely rewritten, or the person whose name is on it doesn’t reflect who really wrote it.”
This freedom enabled the show to push for LGBTQ + rights at a time when marriage equality seemed unlikely. While the mention is brief, it remains a prime example of how animated programs have tackled discrimination in the past.
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About the author
(15 articles published)
Aaron Grech is a writer, cinephile, Nintendo gamer, music addict, and television nerd from Southern California. A graduate of the University of California at Riverside, Aaron has written for a variety of pop culture websites, reporting on entertainment news, providing food for thought and event reviews. When he’s not writing, reading, filming or twittering, Aaron enjoys playing Pokémon, Unter Uns, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Classic Metroid, Animal Crossing and Civilization 6. His favorite directors are Denis Villeneuve Alejandro Jodorowsky , John Singleton, the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, David Cronenberg, Ridley Scott, and Guillermo Del Toro.
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