Saturday, December 27, 2008

You're Going to Love This One

You have to sit down and wonder just who in the world came up with the whole alter-ego idea for Daria. If anyone gets to talk with Glenn Eichler or any other major hitter on the MTV animation team, that question should be asked first. The artists used enormous creativity in recasting familiar characters in startling roles pulled from every aspect of popular culture, from the instantly familiar to the obscure. Today's featured alter ego is one of the more "out there" examples.

Today happens to be the 107th anniversary of the birth of the German-born film star Marlene Dietrich (at right), who eventually came to the U.S. and became one of Hollywood's greatest screen icons. Her breakout role came in the movie Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) in 1930, in which she portrayed a cabaret singer for whom an esteemed schoolteacher destroys his career and loses his life. Ms. Dietrich's signature costume for this role involved a silk top hat and a man's tuxedo.

And that is what Ms. Barch is wearing in an early-series alter ego (at left), her brunette hair styled in the manner of Ms. Dietrich's, not necessarily from The Blue Angel. Even has the cigarette. I guess the artist picked Barch for the role because Lola-Lola (the cabaret singer) caused a respected man's downfall. Kinda fits with the misanthropy, you see. (Maybe Barch was cast as Monica Lewinsky in another alter ego for the same reason.)

This cultural reference is not exactly obscure, but only a nutbar film buff is going to look at that alter ego and instantly shout, "Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel!" Did any of you do that when you saw Ms. Barch like that? Many Daria alter egos are drawn from the mass media of the 1990s, but not from the German cinema of 1930. Perhaps the interest that Daria and Jane shared in "the cinema" was also shared by some of the Daria design team. This alter ego says more about the people who thought it up than anything else.

By the way, if you saw the movie Blazing Saddles (which I have, over 20 times), the role that Lili von Schtupp (Madeline Kahn) plays is basically Marlene Dietrich.

Amazing what you can learn from a cartoon, isn't it?


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Anonymous said...

I knew a woman in high school named Marlene Dietrich. (No, I'm not a centenarian, either).

The Angst Guy said...

I feel bad for her. I won't say why, but I feel bad for her.

Anonymous said...

I caught the Marlene Dietrich reference, but I've also seen the Blue Angel on a movie screen rather than a TV screen. (I've also seen Plan 9 From Outer Space on a movie screen as well. No, I'm not pushing 70, I really paid money to see it an another really horrible Ed Wood film whose title I can't remember.)