Minorities in cartoons: “Daria”

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the TV series “Daria.”

A spinoff of “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “Daria” aired on MTV from 1997 to 2002.

Background

The series starred Daria Morgendorffer, an acerbic, cynical teenager. The spin-off’s premise saw her family move from the fictional blue-collar town of Highland (the setting of “Beavis and Butt-Head”) to the also-fictional town of Lawndale, an upper-class community. Besides Daria, the Morgendorffer family (with who she had little in common) included: her vapid-but-more-popular younger sister Quinn; her workaholic mother Helen; and panicky flaky father Jake.

Much of the series revolved around Daria and Quinn’s life at Lawndale High School. Among the students there included Daria’s best friend, Jane Lane, who shared Daria’s outlook on life, though was less cynical.

Other students included Jodie Landon, an African-American student. Jodie’s one of the few classmates that was friendly toward Daria. As one of the school’s top students, Jjodie was involved in numerous clubs and after-school activities. Jodie’s parents aggressively pushed her to succeed in education (and life in general). She wanted to go to a historically Black college, despite her parents’ wishes.

Besides Daria and Jane, Jodie’s main other peer in their class with any intelligence was”Mack,” her boyfriend. Mack (real name: Michael) was a player for the school’s football team, but unlike his teammate Kevin, didn’t behave like the stereotypical dumb jock. Mack also resented the nickname Kevin gave him, “Mack Daddy.” (Yes, this show was made in the 90s.)

Among Quinn’s peers included her fellow fashion club members: Sandi, Stacy, and Tiffany (an Asian-American girl). Like Quinn, the fashion club members tended toward superficial behavior and personalities. They were obsessed with setting the school’s fashion trends, etc.

The school faculty also were recurring characters. Some of the faculty members consisted of analogues to that of Highland High’s faculty from “Beavis and Butt-Head,” albeit with somewhat more realism (per the series’ tone). Among the faculty included the high-strung, aggressive Mr. DeMartino (see: Mr. Buzzcut on “Beavis and Butt-Head”). The principal was Ms. Angela Li, who was obsessed with her school’s (and her own) image. This sometimes came at the cost of making ethically questionable judgments.

The series was successful for MTV during its run, making much use of the popular music of the era for its soundtrack. Like the 70s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” this has caused havoc for home video and syndication releases of “Daria.”

“Daria” also got a few made-for-TV movies, “Is It Fall Yet?” and the series finale “Is It College Yet?”

Voice actors

Jessica Cydnee Jackson voiced Jodie.

Ashley Albert voiced Tiffany.

Nora Laudani voiced Ms. Li.

Oddly, Mack ran through no fewer than four voice artists during the show’s five-season run: Delon Ferdinand; Paul Williams; Kevin Daniels; and Amir Williams.

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