There are a lot of “most 90s” things that occurred during the decade of Clinton and dial-up internet, but among the annals of distinctive 90s pairings is Daria and Garbage. The irony is, of course, that this pairing took place in 2002, during the premiere of the final Daria episode/movie, Is It College Yet?. The seamless combination (Mystik Spiral is very much the sort of band that would open for Garbage) of the two alt pinnacles occurred at a time when the promise of the 90s was fading away completely.
Maybe that’s why the two entities felt the need to join forces and preserve what was left of the decade’s pop culture integrity. Just as MTV did with the first Daria movie, Is It Fall Yet?, so, too, did they make the intermission between the first and second half of the feature an epic video premiere event (in Is It Fall Yet?‘s case, the video was Mystik Spiral’s “Freakin’ Friends”). This time, the break in between the first and final acts of the Daria movie played up Garbage’s second single from their third album, Beautiful Garbage (they would only release two more subsequently). The Daria animation team even went the extra mile by creating cartoon versions of Garbage to stand next to the beloved curmudgeon and introduce the video.
While there are two versions of the song’s visual accompaniment–one features live footage of the band performing intermixed with Is It College Yet? clips–the real one still hangs on to the favored fish eye camera lens that 90s offerings like “Da Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” consistently used as a go-to in music video artistry. Thus, “Breaking Up The Girl” is blatantly caught in between decades. Like some strange melding of Beauty and the Beast, Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” and Blur’s “The Universal,” the video features scenes of a rose in a glass encasement in the center of a white room that pixellates out as the song begins and cuts to Shirley Manson standing in front of an invasive, Big Brother-esque camera.
Shirley Manson combines the grunge look of jeans with the presumed elegance that the twenty-first century was supposed to bring (though it ultimately only brought assless chaps and Ed Hardy) as she croons, “In a modern culture, my friend, you must be careful/They’ve a million ways to kill you/There’s an art to growing old.”
It’s almost as though Manson is deliberately speaking to the nostalgia of the 90s before it was co-opted by BuzzFeed. She is prophesying the advent of things the 90s never could have anticipated, yet cherishing the best elements of a twentieth century golden age by preserving its sonic and visual aesthetic–and collaborating with Daria, the spokesperson of Gen X apathy–to boot.