The official MTV Daria site once had a webpage devoted to Lawndale High's history, which was finally recovered by WayBack Machine and can be viewed here. Indeed, the page says: "LHS has a diverse student body of 1400, with an ethnic balance reflecting Lawndale's proud tradition of multiculturalism (we'd rather not give hard numbers)." Touchy on the issue, perhaps? It is worth noting that Ms. Li has a Buddha statue in her office, but I don't think anyone seriously believes she has any connection to Buddhism beyond dusting the figurine.
Other "official" information on the condition of minority students at LHS can be found in the episodes "Gifted," "I Loathe a Parade," "Prize Fighters," and Is It College Yet? Most of this comes either from Jodie Landon's grousing about having to live up to her father's impossible demands on her as a black student, or from her arguments with her father (Andrew) over school choice. Some relevant remarks follow. (All hail Outpost Daria as the source!)
- Helen: "Well, there's not a lot of... diversity at Lawndale. A few people can be narrow-minded and not always accept—right away—people from different backgrounds."
- Jodie: "At home, I'm Jodie. I can say or do whatever feels right. But at school, I'm the Queen of the Negroes. The perfect African-American teen. The role model for all of the other African-American teens at Lawndale. Oops! Where'd they go? Believe me, I'd like to be more like you [Daria]."
"I Loathe a Parade"
- Jodie: "Isn't it great how they keep electing us Homecoming King and Queen every year?" Mack: "Yes, it's such a generous and enlightened gesture. It completely makes up for the town's utter lack of diversity, in my mind." Jodie: "And we're playing into it." Mack: "Damn college applications." Jodie: "This is so humiliating."
- [Later] Jodie: "Oh, what the hell. We may be tokens, but we're damn good-looking ones."
- Daria: "They [Wizard Foundation] haven't promoted a woman or a minority in three years." Andrew: "So? Who better to win the prize than a brilliant young woman? Especially, if it turns out to be a brilliant young black woman." Jodie: "That is a good point." Daria: "I thought you wouldn't want anything to do with Wizard, once you found out." Jodie: "Trying to reduce the competition by getting me to drop out, huh?" Daria: "No. I thought we'd both drop out." Andrew: "And who will win the scholarship then?" Daria: "Huh?" Andrew: "Wizard's policies have been prehistoric, yeah. But someone, somewhere in the organization, is trying to address that. Or, they wouldn't have created this prize. Now, do you walk away because the guy at the top is an idiot, or do you join the people trying to change the way he does business?" Daria: "How do I know they're not just trying to make him look good, without changing anything at all?" Andrew: "They won't change anything at all, if kids like you two don't push your way onto their radar and show them the error of their ways. If you don't go up to the gate and ring the big bell, they've kept you out without having to do a thing. Ring the big bell, Daria! Ring the big bell!"
Is It College Yet?
- Jodie: "You know, my grandmother was in the first Turner graduating class to admit women. I'd be carrying on a tradition. Plus, I'd finally get a break from having to be the perfect Jodie doll at a mostly white school." Mack: "I hear that."
- Andrew: "You want to go to college to relax? That doesn't sound like my Honor Society daughter." Jodie: "Relax socially. Stop being the black kid, and just being a kid. I'm tired of being in the extreme minority, and I don't want to go to a place where people might think I got in just because I'm African-American."
The impression is that minority students are worn out with the issue of being minorities and have become cynical about it. They just want to be able to forget about it and be who they are, be a part of the whole crowd. What is interesting is that the only kind of minority at LHS that has any voice is that of the black students. What about the other minorities? Nothing. Not many Native Americans, I guess.
There is another problem with this thinking, however. It is a reasonable assumption that Jodie, Mack, and other minority students have met bigoted persons in the school before and might meet them still on a daily basis, but no trace of such hatred can be found in the series. In fact, given the vast array of awards and achievements Jodie has gathered at LHS, one wonders if racial prejudice has had any impact on her life at all. Her father's pressure on her to succeed is the major source of her daily stress. Why did the writers shy away from this topic? Too difficult to find humor about it? That would be a first.
The most outrageous display of mass hatred expressed by Lawndale residents, in fact, is against penguins ("I Loathe a Parade"). However, I have already addressed the penguin snuff-porn issue and will move on with this topic.
Few Daria fanfics have dealt with diversity and prejudice. The better and more interesting ones I've read that have struggled with these issues include (with apologies to those I missed):
- "It's All About Repect," by Brother Grimace (note Kyle Armalin's musings in particular on racial issues)
- "Primarily Color," by Kara Wild (Driven Wild Universe, has some startling moments as racial and religious issues are brought to the surface at school)
- "Life's Meandering," by Yui Daoren (the Morgendorffers move to New Mexico, and Daria becomes a target of prejudice from a few Hispanic students)
- "Ngiynah Mihalev," by The Eighth Guardian (the Morgendorffers' Jewish heritage becomes known and antisemitism rears its head)
- "Anywhere but Here," by MMan (AU tale touching briefly on minority issues that came out differently in another world and time)
What is more often seen than conflicts with prejudice in Daria fanfiction is instead the kind of all-accepting attitude that the minority students in the canon series say they want. Jodie, Mack, and Kyle Armalin are little hampered by racism, if at all. The Morgendorffers, who are sometimes assumed to be Jewish despite the Christmas tree in their garage, do not have crosses burned on their lawn. (Same for Tiffany Blum-Deckler, also assumed to be Jewish because of her name.) The extreme seems to have been reached in The Sidhe's The Other Side of Time series, in which an AU Confederacy (in touch with Lawndale) achieves independence and emancipates its slaves, offering them full civil liberties. The major Southern figures in the Civil War who interact with Daria and Jane (and Kyle) display no iota of racial prejudice. I confess I balk at that, being from a border state that had mixed sympathies and being well aware of hidden biases, but weirder stuff has been written. Who am I to throw pebbles?
The fact is, none of us like prejudice. I would go so far as to say that there's an unspoken conspiracy among fanfic writers to keep some of the really ugly parts of human existence away from our beloved Lawndale. (Not all the time, mind you, but most of the time.) Nonetheless, stories that handle prejudice, whether they end happily or not, are keying into a topic that was integral to Daria from the beginning. People are different, and some people are kind of funny about that. It is an intriguing source of writing material. It would, however, be interesting to hear from someone other than Jodie, Andrew, and Mack on the topic. Maybe one or more of the Backgrounders or other original characters will one day tell their tales.
- Legion of Lawndale Heroes Special: Tokusatsu Team Up! by Lorenzo Sauchelli (Part 1): Facing a fellow Planeswalker was indeed a difficult task. Especially considering they couldn’t be killed by the regular methods, such as decapitation or even disintegration. Even so, they had both been severely weakened by one another in their latest encounter. “Okay, Daria, you need to focus. Where is she going next?”
- Turnabout Confusion Part II: All The King's Horses, by Dennis (continued): Daria decided that she didn't like covert operations about the same time her boot started to chafe. She was normally a pretty good walker, but she didn't appreciate the need to walk almost all the way back to 1111, only to duck quickly down a side street and head back to the other side of town. She had no one to blame but herself, so she gritted her teeth and soldiered on.