The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly: Dear White People

Hello loyal readers and welcome back. If you remember a few years ago, I saw and lauded Justin Simien’s film Dear White People, even going so far as to call it one of the top 10 films of the year. Now in 2017 Justin teamed up with Netflix to release a show based on the film and I am here, after binge watching the show in a single night, to tell you my thoughts on the series.

 

The Good

The ensemble. While the film was brief and memorable, having three more hours with these characters was a rewarding experience. I think the new additions to the show were brilliant and Simien was able to flesh out the characters more. Lionel and Reggie specifically get life injected into their stories, and their singularities really brighten the show. The supporting characters getting a boost really allowed the bigger parts: Sam, Troy, and Coco, to have more sparring partners and enhanced their conflict. Loved getting their backstories as well.

Episode 5. I’m not gonna say anything else cause it’s something you need to experience for yourself.

The love square. Now, you all know that I am generally not a fan of love triangles, let alone love squares. However, I loved the tensions between Sam, Gabe, Reggie, and Joelle, it felt so real and from a place of honesty. Those characters being in each other’s orbits and how Simien and co. used them was brilliant.

The zingers. There are some lines and some line readings that literally had me on the floor cackling. When this show is funny, it’s all out guffaw worthy. My favorite: “I really wanna get at you but I don’t know how to do it in a respectful way so…”

Defamation. The Scandal parody was hilarious and one of the best examples of how we use TV as self care.

The subtlety. This is not a subtle show by any means, however when it tries to be, it’s top tier Netflix. I’ve thought all day about Reggie’s first meeting with Sam post ep 5, Coco’s resolution, Lionel’s dancing, and other moments that just transpire that give the show some gravitas.

The Bad

Most of the dialogue. I know I mentioned that the show was funny, but sometimes that was in spite of itself. There are just long stretches of references that don’t move anything forward and don’t add to the flavor of these kids. I was so tired of the word woke by the end of the series. Much in the same way Riverdale suffers from trying to capture the voice of young people, this one does. And it might be that this was so apparent because the situations and zingers can be so on point, that you really can react when things fall flat.

Kurt and Reggie’s friend. I almost would have preferred they be removed altogether tbh, the drama in Armstrong Parker was worthy enough. This might just be my memory of the film and Kyle Galner’s fun performance as Kurt, but the white characters in the show are flat. Not in a villainous sense, just flat as in not given much to play with. Particularly given that the series kicks off with and moves swiftly past the infamous part, I expected the white antagonist whose actions have riled up the community to play maybe a more integral role. Instead it was like a revolving door of whites used to drive the message of an ep. I will admit that Thane was GREAT as were Coco’s friends.

The Ugly

The finale. After finishing the season, I felt very let down. Much in the same way the Marvel Netflix shows love to throw in a big conspiracy just after mid-season, Dear White People brings in suspicious donors who may or may not be racist as a catalyst and a protest that got All Lives Mattered. Not to mention Troy’s arrest after a Do The Right Thing style moment. There are all the dangling threads of these characters lives and nothing felt truly resolved or moved forward with the exception of Sam and Gabe. Also, it felt really awkward to have this series take place in the aftermath of that party and yet also feel like it was set in it’s own universe. The first season of Dear White People felt like a 10 episode prologue to the show we should have gotten. In the second season, I hope they can keep the characters lives as messy while building to some sort of conclusion.