Cultural Appropriation and Daria

I really love the show, Daria, that ran on MTV back in the 1990’s. Lately, I’ve been watching it on DVD through Netflix. I’m a few seasons in now and during the end credits of each show they have illustrations of characters from the show dressed differently. Usually they have them wearing the clothing of a specific occupation or dressed to look like a particular celebrity. Occasionally they may be in a cultural costume or stereotype. The last show on the disc tonight had not one, but two Native American references. The totem pole one was an interesting choice, although the “Indian Princess/Maiden” is pretty unoriginal as a concept.

While I don’t find it overtly offensive, I do still think that it is interesting that a show with a character like Daria, who is highly intelligent and extremely moral–if also antisocial–stooped to appropriating cultural stereotypes for entertainment value. This is especially true because the show is so self-aware about the characters of Jodi and Mack being the only regular African American classmates at Lawndale High.

With most racial discussions focused on black versus white, it does often seem as though there is less sensitivity to cultural missteps when portraying stereotypes of Asian, Hispanic, or Native American cultures. I don’t think there is any ill will meant by it in most cases, but it does show how the dominant white society is ignorant about cultural differences as a person’s skin tone gets paler.

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