SPOILERS, IT’S NOT!! INVOKING TOUCHES OF SPIKE LEE, WES ANDERSON, JEAN-LUC-GODDARD AND OTHER FILMMAKERS, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE IS A ENTERTAINING, FUNNY AND EMTIONAL SHOW TACKLING ALL VIEWS OVER THE WIDE SPECTRUM OF SOCIAL ISSUES, WHILE DISCUSSION THE TOPIC OF RACE IN AMERICA.
I wasn’t really a fan of “Dear White People” creators’ Justin Simien directorial debut. I thought it was a really awesome idea that got muddled in it’s stylish execution.
However, The show is able to dive deep into the ideas and arguments that the film only had time to gloss over. Thanks to the 10 episode season, Simien and his writers are able to craft a narrative that us highly effective in it’s execution.
The first season picks up after the events of the movie, and through a series of character vignettes about the returning ensemble characters: Samantha Whice (Logan Browning), Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), Lionoel Higgins (DeRon Horton), Reggie Green (Marque Richardson), Coco Conners (Antoinette Robertson) and Gabe Mitchell (John Patrick Amedori), each episode is able to highlight an issue (or many isues) that are present when discussion of the topic of race in America. Whether it’s: interracial relationships, being black and gay, or a prominent theme in this show, Black Idenity. Where do you fit on the spectrum of dealing with race in America?
What makes this show so great is that there is no definitive answer on how to tackle the disussion, each character is coming at it from the way they think will best help “The Movement”. Sam and Reggie feel as though protesting and even radical efforts are the best way to get peoples attention, while Troy and Coco believe in the diplomatic approach, by changing within and then progessing outward.
Both of these approaches are neither objectively right, or objectively wrong, but when the characters only see black and white there’s no room for overlap.
Yet as the show points out there are flaws to both approach. Sam wants everything in her group efforts to be fuel for “The Movement”, per example of this, there’s a wonderful and powerful moment in Chapter V, directed by Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) where someone (I want spoil who) calls the police when a house party gets rowdy, and the confrontation between the campus security and the party goers, ends with Reggie starring down the barrell of a gun.
While Reggie just wants to process what has happened, Sam wants to captiolize on his tragedy, not allowing for Reggie to greive, but instead turning him into a symbol for her movement.
Meanwhile Troy and Coco suffer similar problems when face with the realization that they themselves have become merely mascots for Troy’s father, the dean of this historical black college.
Then there’s Lionel, a black gay sohpmore who doesn’t know where he fits in and is scared to speak up, fearing his opinion will be a descenting one, and cause him to “Not be down”.
All of these characters are each peices of the larger puzzel, and all of the actors give great performances. With Browning, Richardson and Roberston being the standouts amognst their Peers.
Browning protrays Sam with a vuneralbility and confusion that is easy for us an audience member to empthathize with her plight, and it’s through the great performances and multi dimensional characters that the show is able to dive into some serious and heavy subject matter.
Such as : Is there a problem with Sam, a outspoken and righteous supporter of Black Pride, dating Gabe a white liberal with conservative parents?
Does Gabe have to put up with jokes about his race and having to tiptope around Sam’s black friends in fear of saying something that might come off as offensive?
Is a white person racist for saying the word “Nigga” when reciting a lyric for a song that has the word in the title? No, but should they be allowed to say it?
If there are any negatives or downsides to be had in the show is that some of the comentary isn’t as sharp or clever as the show thinks it is.
Some of the humor doesn’t land, and there are some cliches that are present in standard sit com writing that I had wish were avioded, but honestly those are minor complaints.
For anyone curious or put off by the show,
Please do youself a favor, put away your baised and watch a show that is doing it’s damndest to represent all sides of the debate on a taboo and cringe inducing topic in this country.