Jodie From ‘Daria’ Showed the Burdens of Being a Token
The pressures of school and her parents were those she hated — and also what played to her advantage
It’s been more than 20 years since Daria premiered on MTV, turning modern animation on its head with its snarky unapologetic lead, who was no-holds-barred with her respect (or lack thereof) for those around her in her hometown of Lawndale. Daria Morgendorffer’s dry sense of humor, her wit, her critique of late ’90s/early 2000s culture is still as poignant today as it was back then. Other than her best friend, Jane Lane, the only other person in Lawndale worthy of Daria’s respect was Jodie Landon: ambitious, overachieving, and also one of the only Black people at Lawndale High.
Jodie is introduced in Daria’s second episode, presenting herself to Daria (and the audience) with “I’m president of the French Club, vice president of Student Council, editor of yearbook, and I’m also on the tennis team.” In one sentence, we get it: Jodie is smart, ambitious, and the most dreaded of titles — the model minority. “Model minority” is a myth, a trope originally attributed to Asian Americans in the 1960s claiming that they are smarter, more academic, and more likely to be successful than their other minority counterparts. In Jodie’s case, as well as my own, it’s the pressure felt by young Black people raised in majority-White environments, whose parents pressured us to assimilate. For those of us who were attacked for “talking White,” the “model minority” stereotype can feel like a burden, particularly since our parents are often the ones encouraging the anti-Black sentiment, resulting in internalized racism and self-hatred.
Jodie Landon was everything I wanted to be in high school. She was smart, she was funny, those box braids were on point, and she was both popular and cool, the ideal place to be in high school, in my humble opinion. Being cool and popular, at least in my experience, are not mutually exclusive. Popularity is a social standard; cool is in how you hold yourself and portray yourself to the world. What’s notable about Jodie, particularly in the reflection of portrayals of Black teenagers in the suburbs, is the writers never needed to give her “sass” or “attitude.” She’s just…