Saturday, June 17, 2017

TV Show Review: Dear White People

Expanding on Justin Simien's controversial and hilarious film, Netflix gives this difficult debate more episodes to expand on characters and shows various sides of several issues with race. Samantha White (Logan Browning) begins a radio show that airs her grievances at predominantly white Winchester college. When a humor magazine attempts to throw a blackface party, Samantha pushes out the invitations to show the hidden racism bubbling underneath. Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton) works as a writer for an independent student newspaper and when he witnesses the attire of these white students, calls on his fellow black students to shut it down. Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell) is the golden boy and son of the Dean who brings the police to the party before anything gets out of hand.

Samantha wants to lead the movement but feels conflicted about her position as she has a white boyfriend Gabe Mitchell (John Patrick Amedori). She also has the affection of another man in the movement Reggie Green (Marque Richardson) who she also begins to fall for. Lionel tries to bring publicity to the controversy as the white students try to sweep it under the rug as not a big deal. Troy campaigns for president and sets up an ideal relationship with Colandrea "CoCo" Conners (Antoinette Robertson) while having an affair with a lesbian professor.

The show does a good job giving an episode or two to each character, sometimes even showing the same scene from different perspectives. The controversy comes to a head when Reggie fights with another student about derogatory language and its use in music when the police show up and point a gun at Reggie. Samantha comforts him and it goes too far, splitting her relationship with Gave, who called the cops. Troy proposes a town hall to address the issues but Sam believes a more drastic protest will get her and her friends' voices heard. 

Through Coco, it is revealed the wealthy donor will pull donations if there appears to be any social justice or affirmative action. Troy tries to live up to his father's expectations but feels the burden weighing on him, smoking weed and using friend's pee to pass a drug test. Sam decides that she loves Gabe but Gabe can't deal with the difficulty. The protest is drowned out by other protests over silly issues like binge-drinking. Lionel exposes the poor behavior of the donors and expresses his romantic interest towards his editor. The show looks to continue to explore this issue through the setting of a college campus.

Dear White People was a clever idea and doesn't hurt too much from the expansion from movie to television as there are plenty of interesting characters and college drama to fuel the 30-minute episodes.  The issues of race and discrimination need more shows and films beyond this setting and action beyond just entertainment, but this sadly remains a unique thing with a predominantly black cast, introducing new faces and voices in the industry. The reviews around this show seem primarily immature and ignorant not taking account the nuances, though there are some valid flaws with the execution and acting. I enjoyed the show, finding the characters enjoyable and the plot interesting. 

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