On Race, Feminism, and Jodie Landon

I loved Daria growing up, which really isn’t that big of a surprise because who didn’t love Daria, right? At the time, the show was exactly what I needed to cope with middle school (and life in general). Daria was sarcastic, monotone, and aware of being too smart and self aware to deal with everyone around her: a familiar scenario I empathized with deeply. As I’ve been rewatching the show recently, reminded of how perfectly it captured how I felt as a kid and still feel to this day, I noticed that this time it’s not Daria and Jane who command my attention. Instead, I found myself focusing on a girl just as intelligent and snarky as Daria, but even more fringe and alternative than either could possibly fathom: Jodie Landon.

Look at her. Gaze upon the one person who is even more aware of the irony and hypocrisy of the world than Daria Morgendorffer. This is the one person who has even more right and insight to call everyone out on their shit. Meet Jodie Landon – popular girl, home coming queen, model student, and young woman of color.

I used to bask in the Daria comparisons. To be called “Daria” was considered an acknowledgment of your mental acumen, acerbic wit, and general allure as a disgruntled misanthrope. Now that I’m grown, I can’t help but think that however “Daria” I may be, the person I truly relate to is Jodie. In a sea of white faces, who couldn’t even begin to comprehend the term “privilege,” yet alone unpack it, she was the lone POC girl.

Daria is a feminist show with a feminist main character, with that teen angst telegraphed through sarcastic quips. Jodie isn’t really that different from Daria, except she’s black, more tolerant of her less-than-stellar classmates, and further out in the sidelines. Although it’s Jodie’s standing as one of the “cool kids” that makes her a secondary character, her marginalization is an accurate reminder of the real life standing WOC often have in feminist spaces.

It’s hard for me to know where to begin talking about some of the issues I have in regards to feminism and the limited spaces it offers POC. As of late, I’m more and more disappointed in my supposed allies, when attempts to talk about my individual experience as a feminist of color go nowhere. This isn’t a new complaint, either. One of the repeat offenses of post-modern feminism is the mammoth failure to factor race and privilege into the ongoing dialog. When you’re a person of color, there is no such thing as separating race and gender – it’s a package deal, baby. It shouldn’t be that great of a stretch to acknowledge that race is an enormous factor in how a woman lives and perceives her experience; it’s her race that sets the tone of how others will approach and treat her as a woman. If you get the urge to tell me that I’m wrong, you probably aren’t a person of color and you should just sit back down and pay attention.

I look forward to the few seconds or minutes when Jodie gets screen time. Besides comfortably going toe to toe with Daria, Jodie is point blank about Lawndale’s almost blinding whiteness, and so freaking meta about her status as a token black character that it hurts. Daria may snark endlessly about buying into the patriarchal system and everyone’s general need to get a clue, but Jodie’s cynicism runs on a deeper level because she knows that she can (and most likely will) be collateral damage of the same system Daria may only marginally suffer. Daria can walk away relatively unscathed, or if she chooses to be continually vocal about her complaints, there is always some sort of sympathetic space for her as a white woman. The same doesn’t hold for Jodie.

But the beauty of Jodie is that she copes and works hard on her escape plan. Witness her greatness, as she nips Daria’s whining in the bud (S2E8, Gifted):

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 and do whatever feels right. But at school I’m The Queen of the Negros, the perfect African-American teen, the role-model for all the other African-American teens at Lawndale. Oops! Where’d they go? Believe me, I’d like to be more like you.

Daria, in one of her rare moments of sympathy, gets it, because she’s not a bad person and she is smart. I am not trying to single out all the white feminists out there, but I am calling out all you Darias: can you understand where Jodie is coming from?

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17 Responses to On Race, Feminism, and Jodie Landon

  1. CijiTheGeek says:

    Forget relating to Jodie Landon… I WAS Jodie Landon. There were six of us but I still maintain I was the only one who “got it”, ya know? When you are the lone chocolate chip in the cookie dough, you are automatically the ambassador for your entire race. For better or for worse.

    • Avatar photo Lois says:

      Hey Ciji,

      I hear you loud and clear on being the “ambassador for your race.” I can’t say that I WAS Jodie Landon, but damn if I was close to it, “model minority” tropes be damned.

  2. Kristen says:

    I don’t recall ever feeling exactly like Jodie, but I do remember those occasions in my predominately white, conservative high school when I was the only one that knew who Barack Obama was (then first Black senator of Illinois) or Quincy Jones. I distinctly remember being forced to read books about white men and women in Africa that only talked about Black/African people as they affected the lives of the primary white characters (Poisonwood Bible? Heart of Darkness anyone?). The books were fine, the lack of representation in the form of, oh I dunno, black (female) authors was not.

    On the ambassador issues: it definitely makes me cringe when I see people on TV that are supposed to be “experts” on being black, or Latino or gay in this country. Perhaps, if people dedicated more time to offering a multicultural, multigendered education, we wouldn’t have to be, see or feel like race/sex ambassadors. Isn’t it a shame that here we are, 10+ years later, still feeling like and relating to Jodie?

    • Avatar photo Lois says:


      It really is a crying shame that we’re still clinging and relating to Jodie. Someone else mentioned that the beauty of Jodie’s character was that she WASN’T sassy – usually the lone POC gets lines in through “sassy” or “wisdom moments.” I also find it hugely problematic that it is minorities who have to educate the majority.

      tl;dr this whole POC Ambassador is so harmful and leads to so many stereotypes we can’t seem to break, IRL or not.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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  4. kbrown says:

    i ALWAYS use the ‘daria’ comparison when i talk about growing up.
    actually, i say daria+ rudy huxtable. which pretty much equals Jodie Landon.
    this… invisibility/Ambassador issue
    it is an important dialoge that always seems to get side-barred,
    disagreed with or steamrolled away.
    just now. you just told my whole life story. thank you for that.
    so happy to have found your blog! i’m about to fangirl out and read all of it.

    • Avatar photo Lois says:

      Hey Kbrown,

      I’m so glad that this piece resonated with you and others like us. The whole invisibility/ambassador issue really seemed to strike a nerve amongst nerdy, sarcastic women of color, didn’t it? Especially when our efforts to bring it up just seemed to be waved off.

      I hope you enjoy the rest of Geekquality and what we have to offer! Your opinions and voice are always welcome here!

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  6. Alyne says:

    What an incredibly timely piece! I just did a presentation in on feminism, femininity in “Daria” for my television course and Jodie was my example of a “twofer token minority” whom was self-aware of her status and the need to be the “perfect” African-American girl in a community lacking diversity.
    Just as some of the previous posters have said, I was also compared to Daria growing up, and I loved the comparison but as a African-American girl, I found Jodie’s character so valuable and refreshing. Not because I more like Jodie than Daria personality-wise (because I am still more like Daria) but because Jodie was a conflicting trope, but still a likeable character.
    She was popular and goal-oriented, but that didn’t make her a bitchy or overly competitive. And thank goodness, she wasn’t the sassy, knowledge-dropping comic relief either.
    She was a rather serious character who could be cynical at times but was way more well-adjusted than Daria and to some extent, Jane.
    It’s a shame that there haven’t been as many animated (hell, live-action!) characters like Jodie since then.

    • Avatar photo Lois says:

      It’s an outright shame that there haven’t been any sorts of Jodie Landons in our media. Maybe one day, someday? I should like to think we’re getting there (please).

      The thing that I love about Jodie Landon is hearing this resonate with other women who lived it, get it, and reach back out. I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, but now I have proof and affirmation.

  7. LeStrange says:

    You’ve expressed what I have thought about for a long time so eloquently. Jodie has always remained a favorite of mine in the world of Daria, but it wasn’t until I, like you, re-watched the series and was able to appreciate all that her character had to offer.

  8. Bogdan says:

    Great insightful article. Shared with my friends on Facebook. There should definitely be a spinoff show about Jodie and make that spin off show even more fringe and satirical than Daria.

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