Where’s All the Weirdo Actresses? or “Aubrey Plaza as Daria? Really?”

by Lane Moore

There are few things I want more than the return of Daria.

The snarky MTV cartoon was so much more than a cultural touchstone for myself and my nerdy misfit friends in high school. We knew every line backward and forward – hell, I even used to hold a tape recorder up to my TV speakers so I could ‘record’ episodes that way. (Why I didn’t use a VCR, I don’t know but that’s not the point).

Now, rumor has it that Aubrey Plaza may be playing ‘Daria’ in a live-action version of the beloved 90’s cartoon and honestly, hearing this news kind of pissed me off. But not for the reasons you might think.

First off, I want to say that I have absolutely nothing against Plaza and I actually find her character on Parks & Recreation to be consistently hilarious. What pissed me off was this MTV poll that provided fans with the ability to choose one of four actresses who they felt could fill Daria’s combat boots based on…uh…something:

The actresses were as follows:

Aubrey Plaza (obviously)
Zooey Deschanel
Janeane Garofalo
Ellen Page

Are you fucking kidding?

Again and again I will say that I have no major issues with any of the women on this list and if anything, all of them have been in movies I’ve really enjoyed.

My issue is that, according to this poll, we have four ‘alternative’ girls in all of Hollywood and any role that calls for someone slightly outside the ‘norm’ will go to one of them because, well, those are the only options.

I felt similarly when they were casting the much buzzed-about role of Janis Joplin and their options were rumored to be people like Renee ZellwegerAmy Adams, and Zooey Deschanel.

I remember thinking, “Have these casting directors seen, heard, or read about Janis Joplin at any time before this?”

It’s not about whether or not these particular actresses can or can’t do something. It’s about the fact that the industry has such a shortage of women who are slightly more ‘offbeat’ (Note: I realize that the notion of ‘offbeat’ or ‘alternative’ women in and of itself is aggravating, but hopefully you know what I mean) -and not simply Cameron Diaz ‘offbeat’- that whenever a role like this comes along, they contact the roughly three girls who have yet to pose for Maxim (at least I think not?), regardless of whether or not those actresses would be right for that particular role.

Apart from the ‘alt-girl’ shortage, it’s very possible that any actress would be utterly useless in this role, as part of the reason why Daria works so well is because the characters are cartoons.

It’s hard to imagine anyone playing football player Kevin or his cheerleader girlfriend Britney without me wanting to gauge my own eyes out, at which point I would also enlist someone to help me remove my ability to hear high-pitched sounds.

The problem is that when you have a character like Daria, who is such a richly and meticulously drawn character, that if all you’re using to make your casting choice is “Well, this actress is not blonde and she’s not excessively perky!” AND you can only think of four actresses in the entire industry who you feel fit this limited criteria, you’re better off just scrapping the whole thing.

*And if we want to nitpick, we’re actually down to only three actress ‘options’, since Janeane Garofalo is in her 40’s and Daria is a teenager (I love Janeane but again, this is based purely on Daria’s age on the show.)

aubrey plaza in scott pilgrim vs the world

As for the question of “who says Plaza or any of these others wouldn’t be brilliant in this role?” Maybe you’re right! Plaza’s characters often have a similar tone to Daria, and her character on Parks & Rec is similarly surly, but in this case it’s not about that.

It just seems to me that when these parts come up, casting directors don’t remotely think of holding an open casting call, which seems strange. If ever there was a good opportunity to let some other actresses in the door, it would be to hold an open call, thus allowing casting directors to opportunity to realize that there may be more actresses out there to choose from when projects like this come around.

Maybe the women who showed up wouldn’t be physically flawless (as that seems to keep out a good number of actresses and not very many actors), but what better time to prove to producers and studio execs that an unknown actress could carry a movie and blow people away with her wit and talent (and not simply her ‘flawless’ appearance), than a movie based on a cartoon girl who is ostracized for not being conventionally attractive?

I’m glad the actresses on that MTV poll list exist. I really am. I just wish we had more alt girls at the party.

Hopefully, one day we will.

Originally published on Jezebel. Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

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  1. OMG!!! I love Daria! I cannot imagine it as a real life movie and I don’t think I want to.
    Who would play Jane? With such a short list for Daria options what would the top pick for Jane be? :/
    It’s heart-breaking and exciting at the same time. I loved everything about the show but would hate to see it ruined with real people!
    I even had a messenger bag in high school; my “Jane-bag.” It was black with Jane on it and a paint palette with only shades of gray. Inside it had “What’s my motivation again?”
    It was priceless and defined me in high school!

  2. i’m not sure about daria as a live-action anything. i have hopes that aubrey plaza will be able to do good work with what she’s given. but who knows what she’ll be given.

    kristen stewart got to play joan jett, which was a pretty ‘outside the norm’ role, especially for the likes of a GD twilight star. ditto dakota fanning for that movie too i guess.

    (i am not saying i think kristen should have been considered for daria. just thought it was mildly relevant.)

    • Kstew has done loads of non-blockbuster films, though. I know she’s most well-known for Twilight, but *other* than Twilight (and even before she had all those squillions of dollars) she’s generally chosen some relatively off-beat roles, although admittedly more on the grimdark spectrum than on the weirdo spectrum.

      I honestly feel a bit bad for her (except not that much b/c I’d imagine she’s rather wealthy) because she’s SO known and despised for Twilight that she could probably never act in a blockbuster again and it’d still be all anyone remembered.


    i agree with all those points, but i read that actual blog post on mtv, and from what i understood, it was all hypothetical. “if we WERE to make a daria movie, who WOULD we choose?” not that the variety of actresses isn’t a real problem. i mean, REALLY.

  4. Aubrey Plaza makes sense. No one else on that list does. Zooey is a whimsical offbeat and there is nothing mystical about Daria. I love Ellen Page and I fear my reason for not wanting her is purely vain and is just because I find Aubrey hotter. This is why I’m not a casting director.

    Jeneane is like 50.

    Rashida Jones!!!!!!!! JK.

    Daria has to be White I guess.

  5. she does seem like a good fit for Daria, ill give them that. now, we wait, and hopefully dont get disappointed.

  6. Yah, why is this?? It seems like we had a lot of really cool actresses in the 80s. Even in the 90s. But now they all seem like they’re perky and blonde and couldn’t act their way out of an invisible bubble.

    I just googled “actresses who could play daria morgandorfer” and pretty much came up with the same actresses you did, except also Christina Ricci. I love her but is she Daria? Dunno.

    As far as Jane? Can’t think of anyone. 20 years ago I had a couple of ideas. Just slim pickin’s these days. :|

    Oh, but Michaela Conlin (Angela from “Bones”) has her voice. :)

  7. what, no christina ricci on the “brunette quirky actresses” short list?

  8. Wow. When I was a young stupid kid I always thought it would be cool if Daria was live action, but now as an adult and a film maker I think this is the worst idea since…well ever. There are some things film makers need to let be, Daria is defiantly one of them. AND….85% of the people who know about Daria are no longer teenagers and will probably not even be interested in watching a terribly made movie even for nostalgia sake.

    • buuut, today’s teenagers might love the shit out of it. they love the shit out of a lot of shitty stuff. then, it might inspire them to buy the original daria series on dvd. and see how awesome it is, and learn how to be awesome.

  9. I thought this was going to be a post about e, but instead it was about Daria. I like Daria, but I was really excited to see what was going on with e that warranted a post on Autostraddle.

      • thanks guys. but a post about e would be like “oh today i hid in my room and ate rice krispies while reading the bell jar.” RIVETING STUFF.

        • That’s what I write in my livejournal every day. Are you saying that/I am not relevant nor riveting? Oh e. you break my heart. And not just because you are maybe named after a drug that my lexapro will render useless and ineffective.

  10. Maybe my love of Ann (who, her?) is too great but i would like to officially add Mae Whitman to this list. k, thx!

  11. I hate Ellen Page and Zooey Deschanel. There. I said it.
    However, I think Aubrey Plaza would make a great Daria. JS.

    • I love Ellen Page but I have always hated Zooey Deschanel’s face. (Especially after she botched Trillian so badly in HHGG. UNACCEPTABLE)

  12. IF I were to make a live action Daria movie, yeah, Plaza would be on my shortlist of actresses to play her. Still, it’s kinda like saying IF I were to stab myself in the eye, I’d do it with the sharpest, pointiest, most talented and appropriate stick I could find.

  13. I’m surprised that Lizzy Caplan (Janis from Mean Girls) hasn’t been mentioned yet. For either Daria or Jane I suppose. But I think I’d rather see a film in cartoon than a live-action one..

  14. Lizzy Caplan would make a great Jane.

    But I don’t WANT to see Daria live action. Don’t they remember the fuckup that was Aeon Flux? I LOVED Aeon Flux and the crap that was Charlize Theron made me want to cry.

  15. Didn’t they do an open casting call for precious and that’s how they found the lovely amazing gabourey sidibe?

    Directors and producers: see what can happen????? For the love of god, hold one.

    • I can see Ellen Page too. Though Aubrey Plaza makes sense also. Whoever it is has to look like a HS student, and it’s bizarre that the MTV poll had women old enough to be Daria’s mom on the list.

      I’m still not on board with live action Daria though. I just don’t see how they aren’t going to completely ruin it.

  16. I agree they should have open casting calls instead of limiting there choices to the actresses they have now.

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