When yet another TV spinoff is announced, it usually feels like more proof that Hollywood is as creatively bankrupt as we all feared. But then came the news of a Daria spinoff focusing on the titular animated heroine’s friend and equally complicated kindred spirit, Jodie Landon, and just like that, my confidence was restored.
My enthusiasm for Jodie isn’t fueled by nostalgia over returning to the hilariously doomed student body of Lawndale High, who are as vapid and homogenous as the houses in which they live. It’s fueled by excitement for something new: Instead of focusing on Daria’s deadpan (and spot-on) reflections on society around her, the typically tongue-biting Jodie (now voiced by Tracee Ellis Ross)—one of the few black people in the whole school—gets to have her turn at the mic. And this time, she’s a young professional navigating the lily-white tech world who has reportedly kicked her filter to the curb.
Back in 1997, when Daria debuted on MTV during its heyday (when series like this, the uber popular Beavis & Butt-Head, and actual music videos were a constant), the Black Girl Magic movement hadn’t been born yet and black respectability was far more the rage. So when Jodie (then voiced by Jessica Cydnee Jackson) was introduced in the second episode of the series as the overachieving token black girl at Lawndale High, cultural norms dictated that, in order to not come off smug or bitchy, she would politely refrain from giving her annoyingly self-involved classmates the epic eye roll they so deserved. But behind their backs—and this helped make her such a resonant character—she was reading them for filth. (And maybe sometimes to their faces, since, similar to Daria, Jodie knew how to deliver an insult too subtle for the oblivious to understand.)
But between feeling like she had to represent all black culture as “Queen of the Negroes,” navigating her parents’ sky-high expectations of her, and fulfilling the tedious task of code switching when she was with her white counterparts versus when she was alone with her boyfriend Mack, ole girl was perpetually exhausted. Correction: She was sick and tired. It’s that dichotomy that connected with so many black female viewers at the time, myself included, who felt an arduous responsibility to get perfect grades and comprehend whitespeak for their peers, while being expected to become the next Surya Bonaly or someone equally phenomenal.
It’s this quagmire that makes the idea of a spinoff focusing on her so intriguing. It has the potential to present a more confident Jodie at a time in her life when she now feels less inclined to conform to society’s image of who she and other young black women are supposed to be. In today’s political climate—punctuated by a new feminist wave, Black Lives Matter, and call-out culture (which Ross told Vanity Fair the series will explore)—black women like Jodie have become some of the most outspoken and influential voices both on and off social media. So the idea of seeing her confront the racial pay gap issue in a place like Silicon Valley, or perhaps have an open dialogue with her friend Daria (who’s confirmed to make a cameo) about white feminism and solidarity, is fascinating to consider and, more importantly, necessary.
All this to say, we might finally get to see Jodie go off (of course, in the most eloquent, Clair Huxtable way possible—but I’ll take it). After years of society, her family, and peers standing on her neck, she now has her own platform to clap back. And I am ready for every moment of it.
Image via MTV.