In his famous speech made on May 9, 1961, Newton N. Minow of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) called the media of television a “vast wasteland”. This media scarcely only a dozen or so years old as of this date of this speech, but it was already stale. The human creativity in this landscape had already evaporated away from the hot, arid winds of endless game shows and westerns. From that time forward, the occasional moistening dew from an Alfred Hitchcock or a Rod Sterling would swiftly be baked out of the ether by the searing excesses of cop shows, sitcoms, docu-dramas and a seemingly endless stream of commercials.
Cable television arrived in the late ‘70’s, and the hopes that many more channels would provide more diverse and interesting entertainment were dashed as cable merely expanded the borders of the wasteland. MTV arrived with the advent of cable, with the fresh new format of music videos, but by the end of the 1980’s these were as dry, stale and commercialized as the 128 channels of crap around them. Beginning in the ‘90’s, the format of MTV slowly changed from music videos to vapid reality programming and empty “pop” news programs. In the ever expanding landscape of the wasteland, MTV was becoming as inimical to intelligent life as Death Valley.
Yet, occasionally in the wasteland, small rivers of creativity would spontaneously form and flow. MTV created an animation division, and the early part of the ‘90’s, Beavis and Butt-head made their debut. Not particularly highbrow entertainment, but by mocking the very wasteland that created them they proved to be humorous and entertaining. Soon other animation followed this success. Then, in 1997, an interesting spin-off from the Beavis and Butt-head series arrived.
During this time, an adjacent landscape appeared, and this new media already in danger of becoming a wasteland in its own right. This was the commercial Internet, and with it came in 1993 the World Wide Web. In less than five years, this new media was already on its way to becoming a desert of commercial websites, endless ads, spam and porn. But from all this, a digital stream emerged, and crossed over into the plain of its much older and more analog neighbor.
But out of this fertile mud arose giants. These sites grew with original content and as they received more and more “hits” from other fans, these fans massed together to provide even more content and grew the core site even more. Hence, the first “megasites” evolved, and soon these gentle giants became the undisputed masters of their digital domain. Between the time the Baevis and Butthead spinoff, “Daria”, first aired on March 3, 1997 and the airing of the second season, three “mega sites” dominated this digital delta. These were Sick, Sad World, alt.lawndale.com, and Planet Daria, whose web mistress name was Rowena Stubbs.
All three sites died in a sudden mass extinction in second half of 1998. Sick, Sad World, hosted by Wraith and alt.lawndale.com, hosted by Katherine Goodman have remained intact, un-updated, and yet preserved, as if in amber, in their 1998 state. But Planet Daria has completely vanished, leaving behind only tiny fragments of long dead links. Other giants rose as these behemoths came crashing down. Lawndale Commons, hosted by Michelle Klein-Hass and Outpost Daria, hosted by Martin J. Pollard absorbed the fan base of these sites, and Outpost Daria recovered most of the art, stories and transcripts of the original Planet Daria and alt.lawndale.com sites.
This alone is all that remains of Planet Daria as of the date of this writing.
In the Beginning
The image at the top of the page is a reproduction of the original Planet Daria logo. This was reproduced using the much smaller link below. This link icon was found on an old, abandoned fan site. The logo was originally created by Rowena from a screen capture from “The Misery Chick”, also reproduced below.
The web mistress was Rowena Stubbs, who was a full time college student at this time.
The author first discovered Daria on MTV in January of 1998, during a blizzard which confined him to his home and the warming glow of his television. An animation marathon was in progress on MTV, and during this marathon the author saw his first full Daria episode, Road Worrier. Fascinated by this unexpected presentation of intelligent content in such an unexpected place (and an uncanny parallel to a van trip the author took to see a band in his callow youth), the author proceeded to tape (using the primitive VHS technology of that era) the reminding shows of the first season, and prepared for “Daria Day” in February, which would unveil Season 2.
It was during this period the author discovered another use for his computer other than the trapping and subsequent disposal of email spam for porn sites and various enlargement devices. Between the screeching and hissing of his modem which occurred each time the phone company saw fit to drop his connection, he discovered first the smaller sites that featured regurgitated MTV content, and then links that took him finally to the fabled Planet Daria.
There he discovered the message board. First, the author used the screen name of Frank Black, but when “Quinn the Brain” aired in March of 1998, he changed is screen name to Milo Minderbinder, after realizing Daria was reading “Catch 22” on her bed in that episode. Hence he joined other fans of the show; Alzaetia, Splendora, SMC, Chris Smith (Kane), the Historian, Ms. Wild, Dr. Belch, and many others.
But the site kept moving, and the bookmarks on each fan's browsers struggled to keep up. Rowena originally used several of the free services, starting with freemall.com, earthlink.net and welcome.to, and then moving to opni.com and finally geocities.com. Planet Daria was a victim of its own success. Free hosting in those bygone days meant you got maybe 5 or 10 megabytes of hard drive on the host server, and paid dearly for any overage. The back-end machines of that time were large, slow beasts with maybe 10 to 20 gigabytes total available storage. If you wanted more than that, you had to pay, or hire Johnny Mnemonic.
As for the lack of artifacts from these earlier sites, it should be remembered that in these pioneering days, due to the lack of space overall, leaving a site meant all files were deleted. Or, where the service didn’t bother removing the old files, an inevitable disk crash on the site would.
In March of 1998, the home page of the site featured the logo shown on the top of the page, and a very simple but eloquent HTML layout. The links to recent changes, fan fiction, fan art and the message board where very clear and straightforward. The color scheme played on the green color worn by Daria in the series. The site itself was a model of simplicity, something the author complemented the web mistress on many times (this simplicity is very much like the HTML layout of Outpost Daria) and Rowena’s (and later, Martin’s) resistance to making change for the sake of change, while resisting the urge to pollute the environment with “java junk” and animated icons (which didn’t animate so well on a Windows 95 machine with 128 meg of memory, riding on a Pentium II processor). The fan fiction section was a bit hard to navigate, but this was due in large part with Rowena’s commitment to constantly add new fiction and art in a timely manner. The message board was hosted the “free” message board site, insidethenet.com, and ran largely un-moderated. For a while.
All and all, the author remembers the site fondly during this period of time. It was digital Garden of Eden, well tended and maintained. But like Planet Daria, there are no artifacts of the original Garden of Eden left today. And for some of the same reasons.
On March 29, 1998 The New Kid premiered on MTV. Featuring Daria’s first “date”, instead of the dream hookup with Trent the fans were all waiting for, it showed instead a clumsy, awkward Daria thrust into a social situation that she didn’t handle well at all. Instead of Daria, triumphant, the fans met, well, themselves. Ted was too much like most prom dates for comfort, or, to male fans, too much like their reflection in the mirror (The author falls into the latter category). There was stunned silence, and then during the ensuing Mini-drought, much reflection on if the show had already “jumped the shark”. It would be late June when the next half of the season would be shown, and reveal to all if any such shark jumping had indeed taken place. There was plenty of time for the fans to get on each other's nerves.
And they did.
All Eden’s have their snakes, and Planet Daria had one it could call its very own. The screen name was Boner, and this serpent found its way to the message board and started flaming away at many of its inhabitants. Most tried to ignore Boner, but others let him get under their skin. (Boner claimed he was a female lesbian of Manchurian ancestry, but his IP address put in a suburb of Bakersfield, CA, and his behavior put him as male, at age 30, still living in his mother's basement).
Boner had an affinity for Chris Smith, who gave him the attention he craved, and Rowena had to now take time out her already hectic schedule to moderate, and delete entire threads from the message board. Sometimes, due to the flimsy nature of anything labeled “free”, the entire board would be lost, causing much tearing of virtual hair and gnashing of virtual teeth when the board came back up. Updates of the site started falling off, giving Boner a reason to foully attack Rowena, causing more board deletions and more site delays. It was obvious by June of that year something was going to change.
Sometime during this period the denizens of the site learned that Rowena had taken a boyfriend, and soon on the message board, Diezel Monkey made his appearance. It was announced that Planet Daria was moving finally to a paid web hosting service. After shutting down for several days, Planet Daria reemerged anew, on the-wall.net. With greater bandwidth and storage than a free service could provide, Planet Daria began to expand, and started getting the attention of an audience outside of the immediate Daria fan base.
The Message Board
The message board was still on the free site, and now in total chaos. Towards the end of summer, in 1998, Diezel Monkey announced that the free service was going to be discontinued, and a new message board was being constructed by him. This would require a login, and would have strict rules, strictly applied.
Shortly thereafter, the denizens of the site meekly logged into the new and “improved” site. It was clumsy interface, and hard to use, and certainly different from the board everyone was used to. It only took the author a few minutes to realize that by using the address bar of the browser, he could view the entire source code of the message board. And the unencrypted password file.
It took Boner and other trolls even less time to discover this. Taking the passwords, he applied these to the (then new service) Hotmail accounts of the denizens of the site, and soon everyone was receiving email from each other telling them exactly what they could do to themselves, with what, and how, with the from line signed by someone they considered a friend. This bubbled up into battles between folks who would normally be non combatants. When cooler heads finally prevailed, many of the original fans were already moving to on greener pastures.
Diezel Monkey fixed the broken site, and enforced his new, more rigid policies. But Boner and other trolls simply took up the new challenge, changed their screen names and reentered and trashed the place again. Diezel set up password confirmation via email, but the new miracle of Hotmail and other free email sites thwarted this effort. In short, the message board was in a continual state of moderation, and things were no better than they were before.
On June 1998, Gifted aired, and it was once again revealed to the waiting fan base that Daria was not the smartest, most savvy inhabitant of the planet. She was not the intellectual equal of first Ted, and now she was shown to be intellectually equal or behind the students of the gifted school. In the next episode, Ill a skin rash reduces her to hiding in a bathroom stall. At this stage both Katherine and Wrath officially stopped updating their sites, with Katherine publicly lamenting the lost of quality in the show. Planet Daria remained as the one and only remaining “mega site”. Some fans starts drifting away to other fandoms, but those that remain begin to converge on the only game left in town.
On many of the smaller sites, there were two images of Daria taken from “the Invitation”, one wearing glasses, and one without. These were always followed by the words:
Browsers that support Frames, click here.
Browsers that do not support Frames, click here.
Since the day Netscape (remember them) unleashed the horror of frames on the World Wide Web, many of the smaller sites incorporated them, in effect creating two sites, one with frames that would remain updated, and one without, that would from that point on, would not.
As the fall of 1998 was ending and the cold winter of Planet Daria began, the site, which had never followed the chrome and glitz trends of the past was in full lockstep with them now. The “frames/noframes” page met you at the door, and after upgrading to a browser that supported them (a painful exercise in those days), I went to the newly updated side of the house. It was full of moving panels, java clocks that displayed exactly the same time as the tiny clock on the right lower half of the authors computer, and icons that did annoying things as you moused over them. The author had already started his search for another place to go. But he didn’t leave until the final act.
It was, of course, at this time that Planet Daria was receiving the most attention from the outside world. An animation magazine pronounced it number 5 on its “Best Of” list, beating out John K.’s Spumco web site (at number 8), which was filled with original content continuously. Other “Best Of” awards arrived at the door, and Rowena announced that there would be complete updates of content every Wednesday from that point on.
Like the sound of summer cicada in the trees, there was a continuous, endless whine from the fans. God help Rowena if the update was so large that part of it had to be done the next day. Fans would show up Wednesday afternoon with their 6 megabyte’s scanned artwork, drawn on lined legal pads and colored in crayon, demanding these appear by the next day. There was much complaining if the art was made too small, or cropped to fit in any way. Half a story would arrive at noon Wednesday, and the rest at 11:59, and if the whole thing wasn’t up the next day, the poor, long suffering arteest would make sure Rowena and whole ‘net knew about her shortcomings as web mistress. This was the tone of the final months of Planet Daria. Planet Daria fans demanded that things change!
And it did.
Planet Daria closed down on the last week of November, 1998. All content was removed, and Rowena offered to email any stories they had put up back to them. Her reason for leaving was for financial and time constraints.
Diezel Monkey did not mince words. On alt.tv.daria, the usenet service that predated all of the message boards, he let people know in profanity laced words exactly how he felt about the matter.
Diezel would a few months later break up with Rowena. He left on the-wall.net some photos of his ex, and a cryptic Aleister Crowley quote dedicated to her.
In the months preceding and immediately following the dissolution of Planet Daria, Outpost Daria and Lawndale Commons moved to the forefront as the new goto “mega sites”. Outpost Daria collected the fan fiction and art from the now defunct Planet Daria and alt.lawndale.com, and this work can still be found there.
Diezel Monkey would return briefly to Daria fandom, and moved his new message board to Lawndale Commons. There, the author signed in, questioned some of the rules, and was immediately censored and removed from the board. The author then moved to the Helpful Corn message board, long abandoned by one of the smaller sites, and completely un-moderated and uncensored (the password had been lost). Hilarity would soon ensue, but that is another tale of another site.
The author does not know what became of Rowena Stubbs. She is long out of school, and no effort was made by the author to locate her on the web. If she were to, by chance, read this entry, then let it be known that the author appreciated her work and long suffering devotion to her site and her craft. She is missed, and the author wishes her well.
The author himself eventually began to write fan fiction and create fan art, and posted these on Outpost Daria, Glitter Berries and the Contrarian's Corner. He was a frequent poster on the Paperpusher's Message Board. Eventually, the author got a life.
The author has briefly exited that life long enough to fill in this stub.
The author still blames Ted. For everything.
Outpost Daria inherited a lot of Planet Daria's content. The archives of Outpost Daria in late 1998 reveal that Planet Daria contained (at least):
- A transcript of MTV's Daria Day Marathon (1998)
- A transcript of MTV's "Top 10 Animated Videos Countdown"
- Song lists for Seasons One and Two
- Oops! Lists (through 1998)
- Quinn's "Academic Imprisonment" essay and other information related to the "Quinn the Brain" episode.
It is also known that Outpost Daria has the Planet Daria transcripts from all of the Seasons One and Two episodes. However, the transcripts were done without the aid of closed-captioning and contain some glaring errors. For instance, dialogue is left out of "The Daria Hunter" transcript that reveals that Anthony DeMartino went to military school.
- A Question of Gratitude, an essay by Michelle Klein-Hass