Dear White People the series picks up where the movie ended. We go back to the black-face Halloween party and see it from several students’ perspectives. The technique of replaying important events from different characters’ points of view is used to great effect in the TV series.
This is a review of season 1, now available on Netflix. There are a few minor spoilers.
Most of the characters remain the same as in the film. The lead character, Sam, is played by Logan Browning instead of Tessa Thompson, but many other actors returned for the TV series.
Justin Simien is back as writer and director, with other directors including Tina Mabry and Barry Jenkins.
I liked the film and thought the series excellent as well. There have been comments about the series being racist, but it isn’t. It does deal with racial issues. Racial issues do not equal racism. Issues are seen through the eyes of black characters. That isn’t racist.
In significant ways, Dear White People is nothing but a series about college kids, their relationships, their aspirations, and their issues. The series is set in the house where most of the black students are living. One of the issues is the administration, and an especially a large donor, want to break up their house and scatter the students around among other houses. Sort of forced busing, with a modern twist. The students don’t want that.
The students are unified in their interest in a TV show called
Scandal Defamation. The show they watch is a hilarious spoof. That’s one thing that brings them all together. They don’t agree on much else, especially tactics for dealing with their minority status at the university.
Sam, who does the radio show Dear White People, is in a relationship with a white student Gabe (John Patrick Amedori). Since she is biracial and given grief constantly about not being “black,” her relationship is an issue with her friends. Sam delivers pointed remarks on her radio show, sometimes getting herself in trouble, but always on the mark.
Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) hangs around the radio studio and keeps Sam company. These two are close friends. Joelle has a secret crush on Reggie (Marque Richardson).
The students keep trying to put together protests after the disastrous black-face Halloween party. The (white) campus cops pulled a gun on Reggie at that event, and refused to believe he was a student.
Armed campus cops became another issue the students protested.
Reggie wrote a moving poem about that night, which lured Sam into his bed. Since Reggie had a thing for Sam, this was great with him. However Sam regretted it immediately and tried to get Gabe to forgive her. Maybe Joelle will have an in with Reggie after the Sam debacle. We’ll see in season 2.
Coco (Antoinette Robertson) is still ambitiously looking for the man who will help her rise to the top. She sets her sights on Troy (Brandon P Bell), the Dean’s (Obba Babatundé) son and the president of the student government. He’s lucky to have her, she’s smarter and a better politician than he is by about 1000%.
The dean tries to minimize the students protest demands and is dismissive about the gun in Reggie’s face. That is, until a protest in the final episode of 1 season almost gets a gun in son Troy’s face. That’s a different matter.
Shy Lionel (DeRon Horton) writes for the student newspaper. He stays in the background most of the time, except every now and then when he shows great courage. He did that in the film, and he does it again in the series. He’s a secret superhero. He’s gay and has a straight boy crush on his roommate Troy. (Actually, quite a number of people have a crush on Troy.)
Lionel’s boss at the newspaper Silvio (D.J. Blickenstaff) is gay. Maybe these two will hit it off if they ever stop arguing about what Lionel can and cannot say in the newspaper.
Dear White People is funny. Great writing and great direction make this series shine. The actors do a wonderful job. Everyone should watch it, especially the white people of the world who could do with a change of perspective couched in pointed humor and likeable characters.