|Last appearance||Is It College Yet?|
|Voiced by|| Wendy Hoopes |
|Episode count|| 63 |
2 TV movies
|Occupation||Corporate lawyer at Vitale, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter, and Schrecter|
|Family|| Jake Morgendorffer (husband) |
Daria Morgendorffer (daughter)
Quinn Morgendorffer (daughter)
Amy Barksdale (sister)
Rita Barksdale (sister)
Erin Chambers (niece)
Grandma Barksdale (mother, name unknown)
Ruth Morgendorffer (mother in law)
"Mad Dog" Morgendorffer (father in law, deceased)
Glenn Eichler has said she was "45-46" in "I Don't", with her saying she's "forty se-three" in "College Bored"; this sets her at 46 at the start of the show. Her wedding vows in "The Daria Diaries" say she's a Cancer, placing her birthday between 22 June to 22 July.
|“||I think it's so important for a family to find the time to eat together and share their day. Did I share with you how many meetings I had to rearrange so that I could be here -- not that I'm complaining...||„|
Helen Barksdale's early years were spent in the shadow of her older sister, Rita, whom her mother spoiled rotten with attention and money. Helen grew up extremely resentful of being ignored but at the same time determined to be the best at everything she did, probably in hopes of one day winning the approval of her parents. Unknown to her, this caused resentment from Rita (and her other sister Amy Barksdale) who felt they were expected to be the equal of Helen when it come to studying. Helen never got on with Amy, but the two of them both felt that their mother never gave them any encouragement or affection. ("I Don't", "Aunt Nauseum") Helen, in adult life, has intended to stay in contact with her mother but rarely has the time ("The Daria Database"), and may not feel that committed to the idea ("Nauseum").
Once in college, Helen became a hippie and joined the late 1960s counterculture. While in Middleton College, she met Jake Morgendorffer and the two began dating. Jake and Helen each had issues with their families and may have connected because of that. As they were both arrested in summer 1969 ("That Was Then, This Is Dumb"), she presumably started college in 1968. After graduating in 1972, the two moved into a commune with friends before getting married in June 26, 1975.
Helen enrolled in law school and, like her husband, rejected the hippie lifestyle and embraced the world of corporate America. She has, on occasion, felt guilty about not retaining her hippie ideals (though she gets over it quickly).
Helen became a corporate lawyer, a career that became the focus of her life. Even after she became the mother of two daughters, she continued to work at the expense of her family. While failing to make partner at the firms she worked for, Helen likely became the family bread-winner due to her long hours put in at work, though the exact amount that she earns in comparison to her husband is never revealed either in actual salary numbers or real work hours put in respectively with either parent.
She currently works for a Lawndale firm called Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter, and Schrecter. Various sources like "Partner's Complaint", "The Daria Diaries", and "Is It College Yet?" indicate that she has to defend some extremely dodgy or frivolous clients, in "Complaint" noting she was being asked to do something illegal and unethical ("alright, I'll do it"), and in IICY? talking about a major oil spill ("accidents do happen").
In "College Bored", when she said Daria shouldn't be making money by helping cheats, Daria asked if that meant she was giving up her job, something that severely pissed Helen off. In "Diaries", a grumpy Helen, after dealing with various work-related crap, wishes she'd gone into maritime law.
Helen Morgendorffer is a classic Type A personality, driven to be the best and succeed no matter what. This results in her often neglecting her husband and children, which she does regret somewhat on a regular basis. Despite her strong drive for corporate life, Helen is equally driven to fulfill her roles as mother and wife to her family, though this task seems far from easy. Helen throughout the duration of the television series tries to show care and love for her family, though her work continually interrupts or overshadows such efforts. Nonetheless she continues to make these attempts without slackening, and occasionally is successful.
In "Daria!", Helen sings a duet (with Quinn) where she admits that "I could do a half-assed job and nobody would care", but she's addicted to work and being seen as the best: "coming in second wouldn't be the worst" as long as nobody else was in first place. As she knows that would sound mad to everyone, she keeps it to herself. In "Psycho Therapy", Daria notes her mother is both resentful about needing to work so hard and guilty that she enjoys working that hard,
Also in "Psycho", the idea that she was seen as only pretending to care about her family drove her to despair: "I've given everything I've got, but it's just not enough. Well, I've got nothing left to give." She thought she'd ruined her family's lives until Daria managed to console her. She was left worried at the end of the episode when her psychiatric report stated she was aggressively selfish and ignoring her family in favour of her career... which made her law firm put her on the partnership fast-track, Eric Schrecter cheerfully telling her that's what they wanted in a partner. Helen was notably worried by this.
Relationship with her sisters
Things were generally strained at best between Helen and her two sisters, Rita and Amy Barksdale. As is evident in "I Don't" and "Aunt Nauseum," the trio let childhood quarrels and long-ago family issues dominate their adult lives. Helen and Rita tended to start out making nice, then begin arguing intensely, while Amy would wander off after making sarcastic comments about them. In childhood, Amy avoided them as much as possible due to the constant bickering.
Helen never got over Rita being the favoured daughter of the family and is irritated that she still is. She was shocked to discover in "Nauseum" that Rita resented her for being so academically achieving and active that she made the other girls look "lazy" in front of their parents. Despite this, and despite how they keep arguing whenever they talk or meet, Helen and Rita have maintained lines of contact ("The Story of D", "The Daria Diaries", "A Tree Grows in Lawndale"). The same cannot be said for Helen and Amy, who hadn't talked in so long by "I Don't" that Amy is unaware of her niece's ages. In "Through a Lens Darkly" Helen comments that the only reason Amy keeps any contact with her is to get under her skin.
Helen considered Amy to have used the other sister's bickering as an excuse to get out of any family responsibility, while Amy expressed contempt for Helen "nurs[ing] a childhood grudge well into adulthood because Rita was mom's favorite" ("Nauseum"). While Amy asks Rita's boyfriend a normal question in "I Don't", she commends Jake for "remarkable fortitude" in staying married to Helen - a rather nasty barb, though when Helen didn't respond to. When making comments about the two women fighting in "I Don't", it's Helen she targets as the reason for why fighting has broken out, insinuating it's because Rita got the better car from Dad - which turns out be correct...
A change for the better (one hopes) came at the end of "Aunt Nauseum," when Daria and Quinn shamed their mother and aunts into calling a truce to a major argument the older women were having.
Glenn Eichler has implied that Rita spent the late 1960s being "swept up in the social changes of the time" and "losing [her] footing" with some bad experiences, and Helen reacted to that "by going pretty far in the other direction, opting for structure, et cetera". This fits with what we know of Helen as a child (but not as a student).
Relationship with her husband
|“||It isn't easy raising two teenagers all by yourself. With Jake.||„|
—Helen on Jake in "The Daria Hunter",
They celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary around the time of season 2. ("The Daria Database")
Jake often frustrates her with his various personality quirks, neuroticism, cluelessness, and crazy antics; most of the time, this is shrugged off as background noise, though in "Psycho Therapy", "Gifted", "This Year's Model", "One J at a Time", and the Broodbeat website she showed far greater discontent lurks under the surface. She became quite vicious in "Psycho Therapy" when she had to roleplay as him, and in "One J" she expresses anger over the fact Jake won't get over his childhood.
The couple have been involved in many attempts to rekindle their marriage, from taking romantic retreats ("Antisocial Climbers") to using the Xanadu Professional Couples Counseling agency ("The Daria Database") to out-of-town workshops ("Speedtrapped"). In the first series, they were involved in the "Couples Therapy Night" group and knew the Gupty family through it. ("Pinch Sitter") They were still involved three years later, according to Helen's website.
Usually, when it comes to parenting, Helen takes the lead. She has often been irritated when Jake doesn't properly back her up or show initiative himself, and in "Arts 'N Crass" became very angry when Jake took Daria's side instead. She complains on Broodbeat that Jake has forced her to take the majority of the parenting work so he can be "lost in a dream world of his own making".
In "Of Human Bonding", while Jake was away, she sounded out the Fashion Club about how to respond if "this girl's boyfriend" no longer appreciates her and if the relationship has become "sort of a drag". In "Gifted", she made a rather angry 'joke' regarding divorce. "Antisocial Climbers" showed that when they actually tried to talk about their relationship and feelings (after having sex), they were completely unable to do it and ended up in embarrassed silence.
Once, Jake got angry that Helen wasn't supporting his career and managed to guilt her into going along with him on a networking mission ("Just Add Water"); she has since acted as 'supportive wife' during business meetings for his sake, but it clearly bores and irritates her ("My Night at Daria's"). When his career has taken a hit, she's at times been supporting ("Arts 'N Crass") and other times tried to get him to find another job ("Sappy Anniversary").
However, in general they get on as a couple and episodes like "The Teachings of Don Jake" and "Jake of Hearts" show she truly cares for him, with her whole routine and home life changing after Jake's heart attack (and then changing back when it became clear he'd be fine). In "Psycho Therapy", she was also upset at the thought she'd left Jake feeling neglected and resentful, and apologised to him (and vice versa) for things said. "Fire!" showed them in a loving, calm relationship once they were in a relaxed environment, though this ended once stress re-entered the scene.
She's shown discontent that the "spice" in her marriage is gone, as far back as "Too Cute" where she admitted regaining it was her highest priority. She's attempted to do so with various trips and mechanisms ("Antisocial Climbers", "Camp Fear"), but often these get cancelled due to work commitments ("Camp Fear", "Of Human Bonding"). On several occasions, however, they've regained the "spice" ("Road Worrier", "Antisocial Climbers", "Fire!", "Is It Fall Yet?", "Camp Fear") and Helen has been left very happy.
In "Sappy Anniversary", prolonged absences due to work causes Helen and Jake to spend less time together, and both of them miss the other.
Later on in "Sappy", Jake becomes worried Helen is bothered about being married to a loser - she reassures him she isn't bothered (quickly saying she doesn't think he's a loser), and reveals that she's still kept the badly-made, ugly hobbit candle he made for her back during their first anniversary, as it was something he created especially for her: it's a reminder of why she married him, that he's a "kind, decent, intelligent man I fell in love with all those years ago". (She's a bit put out when he recoils in horror at the candle, having no idea what it is)
Relationship with her daughters (in general)
Concerning her children, she constantly tries very hard to juggle her self-imposed demands for success corporately with the difficulty of raising her two daughters as they grow. In nearly every episode Helen tries to show interest and involvement in her children's lives, even if it makes her seem occasionally intrusive and annoying to them. This involvement is not always displayed as a parent-curiosity or concern, as sometimes she imposes rules and limits on her daughters. Usually these limits are only necessary for Quinn, as Daria rarely acts foolishly or without thought or restraint, but such limits are often set upon both daughters, in what is usually claimed to be an act of fairness to all.
Throughout most of the series, Helen's attempts to chat with her daughters often sound over-friendly, rehearsed, or insincere. This is probably because her daughters are growing up very quickly and due to her fast paced and demanding career, she has not been able to keep up with their lives in a way she feels comfortable with. Furthermore her daughters, while rarely openly hostile or resentful of their mother, almost never invite or seek to converse and discuss teenage issues with her.
On the MTV websites, Helen was so desperate to keep in touch with the kids that she resorted to Broodbeat, a web service that allowed her to keep in contact with them online: "I can parent on the run, without having to eat up a lot of time hanging around my husband and children waiting for them to say something worth paying attention to. Oh, that sounds awful, doesn't it?" She immediately started to fret that she was just shirking responsibility.
Despite her difficulties, Helen unyieldingly and continually attempts to enrich her relationship with her daughters. Her efforts are sporadically fruitful throughout the show (and go horribly wrong at other times), and may be fruitful in the long term.
Her original production bio, seen on the Completed Animated Series DVD, says Helen "took a total of two weeks maternity leave with each of the girls"; this never made it into the show.
Ironically, Helen DOES provide one of the few things her daughters agree about. As early as "The Invitation", it is shown that whenever she actively wants to get involved with her daughters' personal lives or after school activities, Daria and Quinn are united, often shouting a unanimous "NO!" in reply.
Relationship with Quinn
Usually, Helen is supportive of Quinn and often cheerleads Quinn's actions and decisions, viewing her as well-engaged and sociable. Sometimes, she's tried to take action where Quinn is being too shallow or likely to be taken advantage of; she is more concerned about this with Quinn than Daria. As shown in "College Bored", she was more concerned about Quinn's welfare, presumably figuring that Daria was more capable of taking care of herself; in "Quinn the Brain", she was quick to undertake action when Quinn's grades were beginning to drop because of Quinn not putting in any effort.
In an unguarded moment in "Psycho Therapy", when listing failures in her life she revealed she thought of Quinn was one of those: "[as for] Quinn...well, I can't even think about what happened there, not right now". She was horrified when she realised she'd said this out loud.
Relationship with Daria
|“||That's exciting, isn't it Daria?||„|
—Daria ("The Daria Hunter",
Helen's obsession to be the best described with her relationships with her children and in particular, her relationship with her oldest daughter Daria. Helen is constantly pushing her daughter to be more involved with school activities, to make friends (or "network") with the more popular students at Lawndale High, to open up to her and be positive, and generally be more of a conformist. Often Daria finds herself pressured or bribed with money to go along with her mother's demands. In "Is It Fall Yet?", Helen revealed the reason she does this: she believes Daria is hiding behind an antisocial mask and refuses to let her daughter become that mask.
Daria tends to speak with her mother more often than her sister Quinn Morgendorffer does, and usually the conversations are of an adult level of maturity. At times Helen will succeed in getting Daria to talk about whatever current trouble she is dealing with. On occasion Helen demonstrates a deeper understanding of her daughter's habits than most of the family gives her credit for, such as in the episode "Write Where It Hurts," where she succinctly explains Daria's cynical habits and offers some help and sage parental advice. In "Dye! Dye! My Darling", Helen was who Daria turned to in one of her darkest hours and Helen immediately dropped work to help.
In "Psycho Therapy", Helen admitted to thinking she'd emotionally shut Daria out to the point where the girl rarely talked to her; Daria reassured her that she doesn't talk because she knows Helen would hang on her every word and she'd find that embarrassing.
Despite this understanding and her personal history, Helen also develops a profound fear of Daria becoming sexually active. Why she would have this concern when she knows her eldest daughter is not given to impulsive acts is not explained.
Helen's perception of Daria is made clear in the final regular episode, "Boxing Daria." In this story, Helen and Jake learn that their daughter is concerned they considered her a burden. At this fear, they firmly explain that while her cynical and sardonic loner personality has been a concern, they consider it worth the price for having a gifted and perceptive daughter of deep principles.
Feminism and women's issues
One of the main aspects of Helen Morgendorffer's character is her feminist beliefs, which are rooted in her involvement in the 1960s counter-culture. A firm believer in gender equality, she has tried to instill the same sort of beliefs in her daughters. This often puts her in conflict with her youngest daughter Quinn, over her daughter's belief that her looks are the most important aspect of her life. ("See Jane Run") However, Helen is not a misandrist, as she loves her husband and while she may not approve of all of Quinn's boyfriends, she is nonetheless kind and polite to young, middle-aged, and older men that she comes into contact with.
Helen has taken stances in past episodes against beauty standards for women, whilst simultaneously trying to get Daria to look less off-putting. In "This Year's Model" she expressed negative views about the modelling industry and about plastic surgery for girls & young women in "Too Cute"; however, right after stating plastic surgery was bad, she then started to talk about how it was understandable if a middle-aged women did it to get ahead in work. In "Of Human Bonding", after lecturing the Fashion Club about how a few lines and spots aren't sins and how women shouldn't be pushed aside just for age, she abruptly asks Sandi if her mother knows "a good collagen man". She keeps trying to hide her exact age. Glenn Eichler has stated this isn't a comment on Helen "so much as a comment on the pressures the working world exerts on women and on middle-aged adults in general".
One MTV tie-site was Helen's Online, Off-The-Record Homepage, made by Jake Morgendorffer Cyber-Consulting:
- Helen Morgendorffer here. I'm so busy these days I hardly have time to hyperventilate, let alone deal with this internet jazz, but let me tell you I'm just as "with it" as some little snot-nose-fresh-out-of-law-school-with-a-pathetically -Freudian-cigar-fetish -and-a-fancy-Sub-Zero-refrigerator-he-uses-to- store-a-half-a-jar-of-mustard. And who cares if Eric invited him to go windsurfing?
- According to LITIGATION LIFESTYLES, web sites are an efficient way to communicate with a large number of people without having to deal with them one on one. And God knows I need to cut down on the number of phone messages on my desk: I'm drowning here! So read my disclaimer and enjoy!
- DIGITAL DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed on this page are for entertainment purposes only. Although Helen Morgendorffer is employed by Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter, and Schrecter, the aforementioned firm is not responsible for the views presented here, especially those of a personal and/or resentful nature.
She has pages about all her various organisations: her firm, the Lawndale Library Board, Carter County Road Walkers Club, the Lawndale Businesswomen's Forum, and the Couples Therapy Night organisation ("husbands must turn up").
She also has a "Morgendorffer Family Update":
- My greatest source of pride is my family (though my abstract writing and meringue dancing skills are quite impressive as well). Daria continues to excel at school and recently became a member of the Lawndale Daughters of the American Revolution (but if anyone asks me about Colonel Phineas T. Morgendorffer I'm going to have to tell them the truth). Quinn recently announced her engagement and then took it back, saying she just wanted to hear how it would sound. Jake has really improved his whisking technique. The entire family plans to spend a Saturday afternoon together picnicking, as soon as our schedules can be coordinated.
She also has an account on Broodbeat.
Helen's workaholism affects her ability to be a good mother, a character defect that was explored in the episode "Psycho Therapy" but is visible as early as "Esteemsters" ([to Daria] "We tell you over and over again that you're wonderful and you just...don't...get it! What's wrong with you?") Though Helen also shows herself at times to be quite perceptive (e.g., "Write Where It Hurts" and Is It Fall Yet?), certain fanfics carry her parental disconnection to the extreme, producing the Evil Helen stereotype. This stereotype was especially strong in early fanfics, as revealed in "To Helen Back," by C.E. Forman, "Connect Four," by Diane Long, and the fanfics by Michelle Klein-Hass. However, it persisted in later ones as well, such as "Darius" by The Angst Guy, an alternate-universe story in which grave marital and family stresses have overwhelmed her motherly instincts and made her quite ruthless. Another AU portrayal in this vein appears in The Angst Guy's "It Slipped Through My Hands, Like a Shadow, Like a Dream" (see "Author's Notes II" at the end of this tale). The gold standard of the 'Evil Helen' stereotype is depicted in Brother Grimace's government conspiracy-based fanfic 'It's All About Respect'. See also Tired Daria Fandom Tropes.
Human, but Fallible
Season Two and Season Three episodes would have a softening effect on fanfiction portrayals of Helen from 1999 onward. Kara Wild's Driven Wild Universe portrays her as not just stressed out and well-meaning, but also in search of missing satisfaction with her life. Admonisher's "A Mother in Spite of Herself" has her reduced to tears because failed efforts to connect with Daria, while in Jon Kilner's "On the Outside," Helen gingerly tries to get closer to Quinn. Mike Xeno's "Committed" has Helen under ever-growing pressure and hardship at work and from Rita, and forgetting about her 25th anniversary plans in the process.
Perhaps the most unusual portrayal of Helen is in those fics that depict her as having, or having had, same-sex inclinations and/or relationships. These stories almost always center around Helen's time in college, where the 'free love' motif of the 1960's and 1970's comes into play.
The most notable works that touch upon this sensitive topic are the Writes of Passage episode Tie Died, My Darling by Deref, where Helen reveals that she had a serious relationship with a woman while in college (which began before she met Jake), and Brother Grimace's sequel to Night of the Storm, The Winters of Those Gone Before, in which Helen's repressed same-sex inclinations are explored with nightmarish repercussions that nearly destroy her family.
Brother Grimace has also mentioned the failed fanfic Moonflower as part of the source material for 'Winters'; that failed work (soon to be posted at Lawndale Leftovers), was a time-travel story with a Helen/Stacy Rowe shipping as the crux of the work. The fic would have involved an older Stacy (nentioned in passing as involved in post-doctoral work in high-energy physics) who meets Helen during the Fourth of July weekend during the summer between her first and second years at Middleton College, and their engaging in a passionate (albeit short-lived) affair that begun with a crush that Stacy had developed on Helen as a teenager. (The fic pre-supposed that Helen was at least a year older than Jake, and started school a little later still (because of her birthday being in late June to late July, as mentioned in The Daria Diaries). He has since used this idea in another fic, 'Movies and Moonflower'. The unrated (and unreleased) version of 'Winters' also depicts the beginning of an intimate relationship between Helen and Stacy, one that occurs after Stacy begins college (and could be seen as the beginning/a continuation of the events depicted in 'Movies and Moonflower'.
An internal character bio for the production crew was produced, and can be seen briefly in the "Cast Interview" feature on the DVD. It mentions several thoughts about the character that were dialed down in the show or not used at all, such as Helen getting a prestigious "big firm" job right out of law school, taking a bare minimum maternity leave, and doing a lot of work in the local community & believing that "should exempt her neighbourhood from having to put up with the half-way house".
While Eichler has said she didn't grow up wealthy, episodes involving Rita and the off-screen Grandma Barksdale make it clear that her family was (an expensive wedding is single-handedly funded by Grandma Barksdale, she can afford to send Erin and her husband to resorts in Switzerland at short notice).
Helen's family come from a southern state, most likely (according to Eichler) Virginia.
Eichler has confirmed Helen will become partner: "she'll have to threaten to sue them for gender discrimination to get it. Eric won't speak to her for a year afterward. It will be the best year of her career."
- In the Latin American dubbing, she was voiced by Rocío Garcel and Araceli de León.
- Collection of "Helen-Centric" fanfics on Contrarian's Corner
- First March 2005 interview with Glenn Eichler on DVDaria, in which background information is given on the Barksdale family, including Helen's sisters Rita and Amy.
- Second March 2005 interview with Glenn Eichler on DVDaria, with a bit more Barksdale family background
- June 2005 interview with Glenn Eichler on DVDaria, with comments on Helen as a parent, and why women in the series seem stronger than the men (e.g., Helen and Jake)