Latoya Peterson pens a love-letter to Daria on the day the series was released on DVD, noting that today’s MTV couldn’t produce such sharp fare:
The series’ complex web of teen life is almost impossible to imagine in the demographic-obsessed media market that has emerged since, when so many personalities gracing MTV direct all their contemplative energy toward the nearest tanning bed.
Latoya’s piece includes some reminiscing over what Daria meant to her, and I found myself nodding along to much of what she wrote. I, too, went to high school concurrently with the Daria crew. Plus, LP mentions in her piece that my Twitter avatar is Jodie, Daria’s over-achieving black friend, and explains why so many of us can relate to Jodie:
While Jodie didn’t rack up as much screen time as other members of the “Daria” universe, her predicament was powerful: being a minority in a majority white school, her longing to just be herself rather than a representative of her entire race. A lot of us — particularly brown viewers — could relate to many different characters, but it is Jodie’s need to be everything to everyone that speaks to us most. As we entered the workforce, we found that the story didn’t end in high school, and that those of us who were black would spend our lives proving we were good enough again and again. In the TV movie that served as the series finale, “Is It College Yet,” we see Jodie engaged in a battle for her future — tired of wearing the mask of perfection, she lobbies her rigid father for the right to attend the predominantly black Turner College, where she feels she can finally just be Jodie, and not have to worry about what white people will think. Her father disagrees, believing that a more prestigious (and white) university would be a better choice. Jodie wins the battle — to spend four years just being herself — but many of us who had our first taste of the real world understood that for Jodie, this would only be a brief reprieve.
The following exchange between Jodie and Daria during season two episode “Gifted” pretty much sums up why I loved this show. The teenagers had self-awareness that never reached annoying Dawson’s Creek levels; two female characters could have a conversation that had nothing to do with boys; and Jodie could cop to her frustrations about being The Smart Friendly Black Girl and have those frustrations acknowledged by a peer:
Daria: Look, Jodie, I’m too smart and too sensitive to live in a world like ours at a time like this with a sister like mine. Maybe I do miss out on stuff, but this attitude is what works for me now.
Jodie: Then you’ll understand what works for me now. At home, I’m Jodie. I can say or do whatever feels right. But at school, I’m the Queen of the Negroes. The perfect African-American teen. The role model for all of the other African-American teens at Lawndale. Oops! Where’d they go? Believe me, I’d like to be more like you.
Daria: Well, I have to admit there are times when I’d like to be more like you.
Daria: I’m not saying all the time.