Missing In Lawndale: The Daria Spoof Trailer’s Near-Total Whitewashing

By Arturo R. García

So late last week, this fake trailer for a live-action Daria movie started going around online:

The premise, which brings the eponymous anti-heroine back to Lawndale for her high-school reunion, is clever. And the casting of Aubrey Plaza is not only a great comedic fit, but it would be another great spotlight for her as a biracial actress in a lead role; if it were to come to pass, it wouldn’t be a bad follow-up at all to her work in The To-Do List.

But, while the trailer does maximize its time in showing us updated versions of Daria, Jane Lane, Daria’s family and representatives of the student body and town Daria was so glad to leave behind, Tanya at Geekquality noted the first glaring absence: no sign of Jodie Landon.

Longtime readers will recall Lois Payne’s great analysis of Jodie’s importance in the Dariaverse:

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 PoCs. 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 postmodern feminism is the mammoth failure to factor race and privilege into the ongoing dialogue. 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.

Film critic Monika Bartyzel also pointed out that there was no sign of Jodie’s boyfriend, Mack Mackenzie. And Comics Alliance editor Joe Hughes spotted the biggest error of all: the trailer shows Daria presented as the valedictorian, when in fact it’s Jodie.

“That takes this from ‘mildly annoying’ to ‘kind of insulting,’ Hughes wrote on Twitter Sunday.

It also shows a short-sightedness on the part of the creative team, listed on CollegeHumor as Sam Marine and Anu Valia (producers), Paul Briganti (director) and writer Pat Cassels in their determinations of “who fans wanted to see.” Luckily, Tanya did offer up a solution: “Really the only thing to do is for someone to film a response vid, from Jodie’s perspective.”

Anybody know anybody who can get on that? Because we’d watch the hell out of it.

  • eviea

    I am so disappointed in this. For two reasons one Jodie was one of my favorite characters. And two, one of the producers working on this, Anu Valia, is an Indian girl who went to a super diverse high school. We went to the same high school and our school definitely promoted diversity. It’s crazy that they would leave out such an important, or to me, character.

  • Tanya

    Woah, you know, I also was remembering Jodie being valedictorian, and noticed it in the video, but chalked it up to just not having been a very avid watcher and maybe forgetting.

  • Town

    Yes, checked the transcripts: Jodie WAS the valedictorian. Daria got a special award for academic achievement. It’s like Jodie didn’t exist. And she knew that. Which is why she wouldn’t have come to the reunion.

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  • Town

    I’ll have to check my Daria DVD but I don’t think Daria was the valedictorian. I think she got some special award but I don’t think she was the valedictorian. I think Jodie was. Jodie, Daria & UpChuck were the smartest kids in their class.

    As far as Jodie & Mac not being mentioned, realistically the white kids of Lawndale would’ve forgotten about Jodie & Mac three minutes after they all graduated. NONE of the white characters except for Daria would’ve been checking for Jodie at the reunion*. Kevin, Britney, Jane…none of them would’ve been saying “Hey sure hope to see Jodie here.” “Where’s the black girl?” Nope. The only character on “Daria” that I could see even wondering what happened to Jodie is Daria**. Kevin “might” wonder where Mac Daddy was but I doubt it.

    As far as Jodie & Mac are concerned, realistically Jodie wouldn’t have gone to that reunion. None of those white kids except Daria** cared 2 cents about her. I could see Mac going back…maybe. I just don’t think Jodie & Mac would’ve wasted their time & money going back to Lawndale when nobody gave a sh!t about them when they were there. Did Jodie even go to the school dances when they were at Lawndale? I remember one school dance where Quinn & Jane were in charge of it and I don’t remember seeing Jodie OR Mac there. I DO think that Mac attended one of Britney’s parties, though.

    *Why were Quinn and the Fashion Club at Daria’s reunion? They were a year behind (and Kevin failed so he’d be in Quinn’s graduating class too).

    **If Daria & Jodie kept in touch after the reunion, they’d probably meet up somewhere and have dinner. Not go back to Lawndale High.

  • CB

    I’d mentioned the valedictorian thing to my friend, and apparently Daria was the valedictorian in the show. I found that surprising since I was sure Jodie was supposed to be the top student on the show. Guess they couldn’t let her be valedictorian though :-/… http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdt540A7Ia1r3ifxzo1_500.gif

    • nicthommi

      That is a case of art imitating life. At my private school, they gave out awards that were in theory supposed to be for the person in each class that had the highest average.
      I was valedictorian (first and to date I think only black one) at my high school(actually a private K-12 school) and my principal informed and apologized to my parents that basically some folks were getting hives(parents and teachers) over it so they actually started ignoring the grades so some of the poor little rich white kids would not go home empty-handed. I remember pretty much sweeping things(I think they started giving them out around 7th grade) and another mother said “wow, you can barely carry those all home can you?)
      Off topic but interesting that white people can have everything and still begrude you getting yours.

    • Raibean

      No, Jodie was the valedictorian, but Daria won the Dian Fossey award, which is for students who excel academically but don’t contribute to student life.

  • Kraas

    As a huge fan of this show, the fact that they neglected such a major character as Jodie (who is portrayed as one of the few people Daria knows that has her head screwed on straight) is just appalling. The show was already white enough, I mean come on.

  • Karine1976

    I’ve seen many Daria episodes but I didn’t know Jodie was the validectorian. Still, I did notice Jodie’s absence and now knowing that they took away her accompllisment makes even more disappointing.

  • robobt

    Wow. I was so blinded by thinking, Trent got fat! Hilarious!, that I overlooked this. What the eff? Especially considering that Tangi Miller (from Felicity) would be THE PERFECT Jodie. Who would play Mack though? Gaius “Smash Williams” Charles maybe? Donald Glover wouldn’t be a perfect fit, but I’d take him any day too.

    • nicthommi

      Actually, I’d make Gabrielle Union Jodie. At 40 she could pull off 30 or even 20 if she had to.
      Donald Glover would be an awful Mack. You need a real jock or someone who looks like a joke. I think Mehcad Brooks would be a good choice. He’s kind of perfect for it.

      • robobt

        Good points. I thought about Brooks too. I also think Tyrin Turner, looking amazing 20 years after Menace, has the look but I don’t know about his range, if we’re getting serious. Jamie Foxx has that Mack chin, but he’s probably past the point of playing 30.

        • nicthommi

          I agree…I knew there were some other guys whose names were escaping me but had the look of the 10 years post high school jock (so at that point the ones who are going to seed have not necessarily gone there yet and some are still top of their game physically).
          Jamie Foxx would not be convincing as a guy at a 10 year reunion for sure. He’s aged well but doesn’t look youthful, which is sometihng Gabrielle Union has (just her voice and energy makes it believable).
          I was not in high school when Daria as on but was young enough that it resonated and of course totally related to Jodie’s position as the only black girl. There could have been some clever lines related to how she looks back at that time 10 years out.