With only ten episodes and approximately half-an-hour per episode, Dear White People has no other choice but to pack a punch in each, but it’s far from painful. It is more akin to opening an eyelid and shining a bright light into the vestiges of your mind; perhaps a slow coming to as you regain your sense — a reality in the microcosm of a Netflix series.
The series is a spin-off the 2014 movie of the same name, which received widespread acclaim and appreciation. It’s satirical tone and fearlessness in tackling the underbelly of America’s racism made the movie an instant hit and the same is true for this series.
The series begins with Samantha White who is played by Logan Browning. Samantha — Sam — is the host of the fake Ivy League school’s radio show who hopes to shine some light on race and oppression, specifically a recent blackface party on campus. Browning is immediately likeable and a suitable heroine for the cause, even as she finds herself sliding between the cracks from time to time.
The following episodes then follow the perspectives of other students on campus and their take on the events, while also squeezing in a semi-forbidden romance amidst getting “white-girl wasted” at a pivotal party on campus later in the season.
The show’s takeaway and tagline “Bet you think this show is about you” is an immediate homage to the privileged and perhaps completely sums up the nature of the show. What the series does wonderfully is fully entertaining and encouraging the notion of self-education amidst understanding various perspectives. While no one perspective is intended to be put above the other, they are designed in a way to influence the person who is watching at the time, meaning that it is important to understand that viewers will identify with different characters.
Embedded in ten episodes is a slow wake-up call; that distinct feeling that something doesn’t feel right and perhaps the surreal feeling that this show captures reality all too well. The conversations come easily, but the acceptance that this is a reality for many people comes at a stunted speed in this well-paced show — a direct representation of real life.
Racism, discrimination, oppression and privilege are all notoriously volatile subjects especially when situated in the current period, but the show’s satirical and humourous take on the various levels of systemic oppression at play paves an easy way for conversation and understanding. Set in an American university, the series smartly highlights all levels of systemic racism and oppression and how it works against African-Americans, ranging from living accommodations, financial power in the school, and stereotypes in academics.
Stylistically, Dear White People is a show that was clearly designed with a younger generation in mind, filled with one-liners ranging from self-aware quips about fashion to a parody on ABC’s Scandal. The references to other pop culture staples and more sombre real-world events are hard to miss and help to further ground the show in reality.
The show’s more emotional scenes, particularly the chapter that examines fear of the police as well as the various ways which the show examines the intersectionality of racism, bring out stellar performances from the cast.
Ultimately, Dear White People is another staple in the catalogue of binge-worthy shows. The series stars Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell, DeRon Horton, John Patrick Amedori, and Marque Richardson.
Better than: Riverdale
Not as good as: Get Out
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