Is Sandi a complete Alpha Bitch who thinks Quinn is just another girl to socially dominate, or does she actually view the members of the fashion club as friends, despite being a domineering Libby? There's proof that comes from both sides; by the Grand Finale, she seems to be the latter, but for a lot of the series she was the former, with this slipping out.
Tom's potentially ending the relationship between Daria and Jane, and effectively sealing the fate of the flirtation between Daria and Trent Lane, caused Tom to be a very controversial character and his portrayals are all over the map. The fact that what Tom represented shifted during the course of the show leads to him coming off as very different in works written before the show ended, and his status as hero, villain, or neither are entirely based on where the author fell during the show's run. And that's just regarding his relationship to Daria, which was largely his only storyline in the entire show.
Daria, herself: Only Sane Woman or a hypocritical snob who's quick to judge everyone? The show itself makes her grapple with this and how her identity as a teenager may be hurting her as much as it helps her. A lot of episodes in seasons 3-5 have Daria being called out for her attitude and Daria realizing her attitude is not going to win her any friends (except for people like Jane and Jodie, and even they don't always agree with her).
Is Quinn's eagerness to be a Chick Magnet yet unwillingness to settle down with one guy simply because she's young and doesn't want to be tied down or because she's closeted in some form or another? Besides how seriously she caters to Sandi despite Sandi obviously seeing here as a threat to her popularity, Quinn becomes notably invested in Lindy's well-being during "Is It College Yet?"
Awesome Music: "Freakin' Friends". It sounds just horrible enough for us to believe it's a Mystic Spiral song, and no more.
Daria herself. Some admire her as the ideal role model due to her intelligence and attitude, while others see her as a clearly flawed but still well rounded character. Then there are those who find her an all around self-righteous hypocrite.
Jake, while not reaching status of The Scrappy, has a fair share of detractors who thought his Bumbling Dad personality didn't mix right with the rest of the show's structure, while others consider him sympathetic if not somewhat entertaining.
Tom gets this due to being Daria's first boyfriend and to a large extent, by putting Daria and Jane's friendship in real danger because of their love triangle. He's amassed quite a bit of haters who consider him a flat character, think of him as a smug guy who talks down to Daria, and generally despise him for almost ending Daria and Jane's relationship. On the other hand, he does also have his fans who feel that Daria wasn't entirely innocent either. In their view, Tom was always the one who tried to communicate with Daria in the relationship but Daria herself made very little effort to communicate back effectively. Also, Tom does get some sympathy for Daria standing him up on dates more than once but every time, Tom tries to remain patient and understanding with her. All in all, very few people feel neutral when it comes to Tom.
Bizarro Episode: There are fans who refuse to consider "Depth Takes A Holiday" as a canon episode due to how "out there" it is.
Designated Villain: Brittany and Kevin get this at times. At worst, the two of them (separately and together) are Innocently Insensitive and Lethally Stupid in making off-hand remarks to Daria and others and their own ditziness driving others to annoyance and anguish, but neither are actively bad or even spiteful. Helping their case is that they both suffer from Depending on the Writer (they can be portrayed as being typical high school teenagers or legitimately friendly or even friends with Daria.)
Ear Worm: The theme song, "You're Standing on My Neck", by Splendora.
Stacy Rowe became another fan favorite for being an adorable Woobie who gains sympathy for the crap she puts up with from the rest of The Fashion Club.
Mystik Spiral as a whole has their fair share of fans. And would've achieved Breakout Character status, had their spinoff gotten off the ground.
Jodie for not only not being a lazy stereotype, but deconstructing the various race tropes associated with her from Token Minority to Positive Discrimination that not even the titular character would be aware of.
While sticking to your personal morals and refusing to take part in a corrupt system is admirable, doing so will also usually make things in life much more difficult. Daria (and once, Jane) would tell several people with questionable ethics off, or quit a project that went against her morals only to have nothing to show for it afterwards (and sometimes, even be punished for it). At least twice they even lampshade this, in Jane's case quitting the track team they point out while Jane refused to take part in a corrupt school athletic system, she also did nothing to try and change said system and both Daria and Jane were punished by the gym teacher for it, and in a later episode after Daria says she had to quit the school yearbook for 'moral reasons' Helen just sighs and says "again?"
In the episode with the scholarship, the aesop of "Be yourself" is thoroughly deconstructed. Daria is in the running for a $10,000 scholarship alongside Mack and Jodie. The interviewer considers Daria to be the only worthy candidate, since Chuck behaves like absolute sycophant, and Jodie just gives canned answers to the interviewer's questions. Daria, however, does not alter her behaviour and acts as sullen as she normally is, coming off as outright hostile to the interviewer - sure enough none of them get it, showing that just being yourself won't always get you what you want, especially if "Yourself" is hostile. None of them can understand why they didn't get it.
The episode with Ultra Cola ultimately ends with what can at best be a Pyrrhic Victory or at worst a The Bad Guy Wins scenario. Because Lawndale High's school is so starved of money (Thanks in part to a mixture of the citizens not wanting to actually pay for the school and Ms. Li squandering the budget on frivolous purchases) that they accept an advertising deal with Ultra Cola. Daria is morally objected to this because she doesn't feel advertisements have any place in school. While she is proven right that Ultra Cola is pushing a little too hard to sell their product in school, the advertisements are still there. The aesop is ultimately "You can't fight advertisements" and "Advertisements will find a way".
Fan-Preferred Couple: Daria/Jane seems to be vastly preferred over any other pairing featuring one of the two, likely due to the show's focus on the intimacy of their friendship.
A strong second place runner-up would be the pairing of Trent with Daria. While popular with fans, the pairing never officially happened in the show and not only that, the producers of the show were openly disparaging towards the idea, with Glenn Eichler and Susan Lewis coming out and saying that the pairing would have never worked out and that anyone thinking Daria/Trent would have worked was just not watching the show they were making.
Growing the Beard: In the first season the colors were more muted and the voice actors hadn't quite settled into their performances, especially those voicing multiple characters like Wendy Hoops or Marc Thompson. Daria's snarkiness towards those around her was fine, but one can see that getting old really fast. The show arguably grew the beard with "The Misery Chick", which had the characters tackling a difficult subject (death of an unlikable person), even leading to a brief schism between Daria and Jane. All the characters would slowly gain dimension and depth after that, and the "classic" era of the show would begin with Season 2.
In episode 4 or Season 4, Kevin and the football team (except Mack) are suspected of cheating, because they all got 100% on their test and teacher, Mr. DeMartino, noticed his file cabinet was broken into the night before. When he asked Kevin to name the people responsible for the Teapot Dome Scandal - which was a question on the test - he first named the New Orleans Saints. When DeMartino didn't buy it, he named the New England Patriots. Both teams were found guilty of illegally surveilling their opponents in 2012 and 2007 respectively.
In "This Year's Model", Daria invites a recruiter of Private Military Contractors to the school, whose pitch is "Sad to say, America no longer engages in the kind of ground wars that made this country great!".
Way back in the first episode "Esteemsters" there's a throwaway gag about Daria's parents acting upset that their daughter apparently had low self-esteem, because they 'always tell her how wonderful she is, dammit!' This becomes much harsher when the final regular episode "Boxing Daria" aired, and showed the reason Daria's parents were so initially upset was because Daria used to have quite a problem with her attitude in school, so much so Jake and Helen actually had a rather heated argument over it, and were probably afraid it was happening again.
During the final episode of Season 1, we find out that Mack's full name is Michael Jordan Mackenzie. He explains that his original name was Michael James, but after his father saw Michael Jordan in a playoff game, he changed James to Jordan. Of course, the episode was created over a decade before a Lebron James became a professional basketball player with the same super-stardom as Michael Jordan.
In "The Invitation", Britanny asks if Daria's quote, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger", is from a song. The phrase, or a loose translation thereof, has appeared in not one, buttwo hit songs since the episode aired.
Straddling the line between harsher and hilarious, in one episode, a desperate Jake begins to work for a supremely stereotypical dot-com that produces absolutely nothing. Its much younger employees are all initial public offering-based millionaires, some of whom spend company time ordering things for themselves out of high-end catalogs. It looks like Jake didn't last there too long, which for once is good. Come the dot-com bubble burst just a few years later, people like these were pursued by the law, and when liquidation firms came in to recoup what they could, they found... unneeded items from high-end catalogs. "Is 6000 too much for a coffee table?" "Not if you love it!"
Jerkass Woobie: Mr. DeMartino, Mr. O'Neill, and Ms. Barch (emphasis on the "Jerkass" part for Barch and DeMartino), but these three do have their moments where the viewer can't help but feel sorry for them.
Mr. DeMartino grew up with a mother who sent him to live with his strange, twisted neighbors because she didn't want her dates to know she was a single mother (and later, his best friend married said mom and his best friend [Mr O'Neill] married another woman he hates: Ms. Barch). He lost his love of teaching because of idiot students like Brittany and Kevin, and has a crippling gambling addiction that cost him his car.
Ms. Barch: Abandoned by her husband after 22 years of a bad marriage and now blames all males for being just as bad as her husband (until Mr. O'Neill comes along). Watch that scene in "The Daria Hunter" when she finds out that Mr. O'Neill actually cares about her plight. When she says, "You're sensitive, yet you're a male," she sounds like she's about to cry.
Mr. O'Neill isn't as much of an overt Jerkass as the other two, but Daria's mom does consider him creepy and he does push his pie-eyed beliefs on others without thinking that others will disagree with what he believes. The Woobie parts are obvious: Mr. DeMartino is his friend, Ms. Barch roped him into a Pitbull Dates Puppy relationship which scared O'Neill (at first), and, much like DeMartino, he has to deal with students who aren't as bright as Daria.
Link from the episode "Is It Fall Yet?", especially as he's been passed along by his mother to counselors and was just wanting to engage in typical camping activities so he wouldn't have to think about his dysfunctional family.
Sandi, of all people, manages to be this in "Fat Like Me", given her despair at being bed-ridden and gaining weight.
Quinn dressed in black from "Quinn the Brain" is frequently posted on tumblr.
Misaimed Fandom: A lot of fans view Daria as an appropriate role model because she thinks she's Surrounded by Idiots and views herself and Jane as being the only level-headed people in school, even though her anti-social tendencies get called out all the time. These same fans throw a fit whenever Daria dares to show insecurity about her appearance or have a dating life.
Ms. Angela Li probably crossed this when she forced Daria to sell chocolate to a woman who had blood sugar issues, implying that she was more interested in making money than someone's physical well-being.
Jake's father would be enough to qualify, despite never appearing on screen, if we consider the cruel treatment he gave to his son until he became the somewhat neurotic man he is as of today. Hell, he was apparently such an Abusive Parent that Jake not only still has Catapult Nightmares years after his death, but so frequently that Hellen doesn't even flinch at them, merely giving a dry assurance that he's here and his father's dead without taking her eyes off her book.
Suspiciously Similar Song: The long-awaited DVD set occasionally opts for these in place of the more generic cues that comprise the majority of the music.
The Problem with Licensed Games: "Daria's Inferno" was not well received (although the storyline is generally regarded as up to the series' standards), and "Daria's Sick Sad Life Planner" was criticized by the Moral Guardians for molding journal entries to Daria's viewpoint.
Uncanny Valley: Daria's◊ smile in the original pilot, it explains why most of the time we see her smile is without showing her teeth and rare.
Unintentionally Sympathetic: Generally, there are a lot of characters who deserve Daria's snark. However, during "Life in the Past Lane," Daria really goes overboard on harping on Jane's new date, Nathan, a retro guy who's really into the 1940s. Even though Nathan is only showing an interest in the culture, music, and style of the 40s, Daria decided to rain on his parade repeatedly by telling him just how racist and conformist the 40s were. And even after Nathan acknowledges Daria's criticisms and admits that his favorite era had its flaws and social inequalities, what does Daria do? She continues to snark at him and annoy him to the point where Nathan, quite justifiably, decides that he would really rather have as little to do with Daria as possible. Granted Nathan was eventually revealed to be a bit of an obsessive jerk towards the end of the episode but Daria's Jerkass behavior towards him before then was still completely uncalled for.
Timothy O'Neill tends to enter into this territory more than a few times. He's generally a nice guy and his motives are never portrayed as anything less than well-meaning. And he's clearly not an antagonist to Daria like Ms. Li is. However, he does cross the line a lot with Daria whenever he singles her out to try to make her take part in activities she clearly doesn't want to be in and at one point, even submits one of her essays to a contest without asking for her consent. As a side effect, this tends to make Mr. O'Neill come off as more of an inconsiderate asshole with no regard for Daria's feelings or consent on any matter than the writers probably intended him to be. As such, it also makes it harder for one to sympathize with Mr. O'Neill once he gets humiliated and bad things start happening to him.
Daria's aunt Amy could also qualify. While clearly being set up as a sort of adult version of Daria she is shockingly self-centered and inconsiderate when dealing with others. For instance showing up to a wedding after saying you weren't coming would cause some rather difficult logistical issues. She also shows almost no knowledge of her sisters' lives such as the name of Rita's boyfriend or that a previous one had actually died and not knowing her nieces' ages. She is also willing to passively aggressively insult both Jake and Helen in front of their children. So while Daria clearly considers her to be cool there is little to set her apart from the shallow and egocentric adults on the show besides having a similar sense of humor to Daria. The show does acknowledge this later on when Amy (at Daria's request) tries to mediate between her feuding sisters and gets sucked into the feud herself after both Helen and Rita call her out on how she secluded herself from the rest of the family so she could fly under the radar and do what she wanted while avoiding any family responsibilities.
Values Dissonance: A majority of the episodes show teenage girls associating with adult men, staying out late and going to places that serve alcohol.
Values Resonance: "Fizz Ed" happens to say a lot about advertisements and the way they are creeping in.
Jodie's struggles and discussions on race relations were relevant during the Turn of the Millennium, but have obviously become a lot more relevant in The New '10s, so much so in fact that the proposed reboot has her as Daria's new right-hand instead of Jane.
Vanilla Protagonist: Daria has her witty, sarcastic remarks while sustaining her dispassionate expression while lacking the quirks of the other characters on the show.
How exactly did Daria think reading Howl to an old woman would end up?
Mr DeMartino could save himself a lot of stress if he just stopped asking Kevin and Britney questions and focused on Daria or Jodie.
What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Quinn's transition from her smiley face tee to her butterfly shirt seemed to signify her personality transition. She wore the smiley face shirt during the earlier seasons where she was much more frequently shallow and vain, whereas she started wearing the butterfly shirt when she became more aware of her intellect and legitimate depth.
Her first pink shirt also showed off her midsection and was the shade of a Baby Girl's hospital blanket; later the shirt grows longer yet still clings to her slender figure and the pink becomes a deeper shade. Quinn is realizing she has more going on than just her body.
Sometimes, Stacy qualifies as such. Despite being one of the minor characters, she's especially noticeable during the episode "Fat Like Me".
Daria has also managed these moments, special mention deserves in episodes like "Boxing Daria", and some episodes focused on her relationship with Tom.
For some in the fandom, Tom himself can be seen as this, agree to an alternative interpretation. Note that many think that Daria never appreciated him at all, and he seemed to get a genuine kick out in crawl in her, for love.
One of the Js, if you pay attention, drops several hints that he's more familiar with the penal system than a kid his age really should be.
Yoko Oh No: Tom Sloane. He starts dating Jane near the end of season 3, but his growing attraction to Daria causes a serious rift between the two girls, who, up until then, were inseparable for most of the show. This fact is not lost on Daria, and when she and Tom kiss each other it almost ruins their friendship.