DISCLAIMER: This post may contain some spoilers
Based on the 2014 film of the same name, Dear White People focuses on the experiences of a group of students of colour at the fictitious Winchester University, a historically predominantly white Ivy League college. Each 30-minute episode of the Netflix original show, besides the finale, focuses on the perspective of a particular character.
A satirical comedy on the current climate of the social injustices facing the American society, the show has a unique opportunity to showcase issues and views of race relations but unfortunately, the writers drop the ball here. They fail to really delve into these issues – what they are, why they matter to a person of colour and the process of thought uniquely felt. They make the mistake of assuming it is clear to everyone what the issue is. An illustration would be the N-word incident; this would have been a perfect time to explain the rationale behind black people’s right to use the word and why a white person should not.
Going off this point, is it just me or is all they did portray the cliché angry black person that sees no other viewpoint? Like, why are they angry? And is it just me or was there no other perspective? I mean, there were a couple of white characters, why did none of them have a productive dialogue?
The show also lacks in character development and continuity – was there a point to the student-teacher affair? There was ample material in the plot to expand on but it’s almost like it was forgotten or glazed over to move onto the next story. They need to ask themselves, “What is the rush?” For example, what happened with the initial issue raised – the “misguided” party?
Another thing I struggled with, were the characters. I failed to relate with some of them and their motivations cough Sam cough Troy. These are such strong characters that could show some real depth and hopefully, season 2 would see some much-needed justice done. And while were speaking of characters, what was the point of the Thane character? Or did I miss something? And are we seriously supposed to believe the characters are under 21? Who are you fooling?
Yet another pitfall, the show falls into that trap of liberal inclusion a lot of current day films and TV fall into. What is the point of a “minority” character? For example, was there a point to the lesbian character? Before you jump down my throat and put words in my mouth, labelling a character should be more than just filling a quota, it should be an identity that furthers the story in some way.
Another pivotal point, but did I miss the “actual” race issue they were fighting? I mean I know they referenced general issues but I feel like they failed to truly exploit specific issues to the characters. I say truly cause an attempt was made but then again, the ball was dropped. The “misguided” party would have been a great first issue, but again that was easily rushed off and lost its punch. Then there was the N-word party, but again, rush. Ugh. Seems like that was the theme of the first season.
It’s not all negative; DWP does a good job distinguishing African-American blacks from African blacks. This distinction is very important cause there really is a difference in the way these blacks approach the same situation. As an African black, as much as I empathise with the issues, I do not have the same connections to them as an African-American would and so do not really feel the same pain they feel.
More on the positives, DeRon Horton (Lionel Higgins) gave the breakthrough performance of the entire show. It was so pure and honest that it was not so hard to see Lionel through him.
The show really has a chance here to be amazing, if only the writers reflect on their motivations. All that said, if this was a show on social commentary and wit, DWP would definitely have a 5 star in my book, but as it’s not, I’d give it a strong 3 star; it was really an easy watch and I can’t wait for season 2.
What did you think of it?
Tip: You probably don’t want to watch this with your parents next to you. I learnt this the hard way.