A surprisingly fertile ground for Daria fanfiction, Dariacentric romances (a.k.a. Daria 'shippers) are a special subset of the shipper genre. They differ in several prominent ways from the shippers one typically sees in this fandom.
First, they focus exclusively upon the romantic trials of Daria Morgendorffer herself, who is introduced to an original character (or a rarely considered pairing from within the canon series) who does not immediately sweep her off her feet a la Meet Cute (as the TVTropes.org web site defines the trope). Daria is not swept off her feet by anyone. Her defenses are too solid and have been in place for too long.
Second, the romantic partner cannot be Trent Lane or Tom Sloane, whose appearance in Daria 'shippers often causes the resulting relationship to be Strangled by the Red String (forced and predictable).
Third, Daria's canon characteristics, both positive and negative, are well-grounded in the subtle, realistic blossoming and maturing of romance. Daria's flaws that can (and often do) bring unnecessary frustration, misunderstandings, and heartbreak to the relationship. A textbook example of this is seen in Richard Lobinske's Falling Into College series, when Daria's refusal to accept Michael Fulton's initial offer of marriage nearly results in the destruction of their relationship, as well as Michael's near-withdrawal from Raft University.
Various pitfalls litter the terrain here for the prospective writer. One, the writer has to be objective about Daria's personality and keep her in character. The danger lies in romanticizing her and turning her into someone else. Two, especially with original characters or modified canon ones, the writer has to avoid the Marty Stu trap, turning Daria's partner into a thinly veiled depiction of himself or herself. TAG has remarked that in writing "Darius" he often felt that Darius Morgendorffer was turning into a Marty Stu, and is to this day unsure how much like Daria his Darius turned out to be.
Daria on the Inside
The exploration of Daria's inner romantic nature - intensely passionate and possessed of a classical styling, but savagely repressed for fear of giving herself over to someone and being hurt - is a primary point in Dariacentric romance. The journey that Daria takes with this other character allows her to slowly find her way and discover a mutual sense of affection, companionship, and security, which in turn allows her fear of physical intimacy to lessen. (Even so much as a kiss may be seen by her as too much of a step.) The other person in this romance often shares many of Daria's own characteristics and is equally reticent about lowering their own defenses and growing closer to another person. However, that person must be more determined than Daria is to pursue the relationship. Daria repeatedly broke up with Tom Sloane in Is It Fall Yet? and various fifth-season episodes.
That Daria has a secret romantic streak is obvious from viewing episodes like "Lane Miserables" and "Sappy Anniversary." One would never guess from her prickly personality that she has anything at all romantic about her. Worse, she is a thinker and does not tend toward emotional expression. Kara Wild has pointed out that Daria does not tell anyone in the original TV series that she loves them. Worse still, she is introverted to a significant degree, dislikes most people as a matter of principle, and actively avoids the company of others, except for Jane Lane. Her verbal barbs are deliberately designed to drive people away. She is, to put it kindly, an acquired taste. Some have described her as high maintenance, but money is not the currency that wins her heart. What she apparently wants is far rarer and far more difficult to attain, and the emotional cost to her partner is correspondingly high.
Anyone daring to date Ms. Morgendorffer would have to be persistent to make even a dent in her defenses. Being very self-confident is a plus, but not entirely necessary. Though sharing some of her interests, the prospective partner would need a life largely independent of her, as she demands time and space for herself and her own internal world. A thick skin and a strong sense of humor would be very helpful. Note that Daria was attracted to Tom Sloane ("Fire!") and to the Ruttheimer cousins, Brett and Brad ("Daria Dance Party"), by their jokes and wit. That person would also have to be, in Daria's estimation, neither stupid, dishonest, duplicitous, or hypocritical. Honesty and openness are paramount. On the other hand, having seen how her mother gets along with her father, she may understand that a partner is likely to have quirks that must be accepted to complete the deal, just as her own quirks and personality issues will have to be accepted and dealt with in turn.
Examples of Dariacentric Romances
Some of the more prominent significant others in past Dariacentric romances include:
- Jane Lane, from Pause in the Air (a popular slash pairing)
- Richard Rawlings, from The Other Side of Time
- Michael Fulton from Falling Into College
- Martin Peters, from Apocalyptic Daria
- Duncan Macleod, from Unseen Phenomenon
- Franklin Richards, from the Daria Von Doom Series (a crossover character with the Marvel Universe)