Dear White People was in my top five movies of 2014! As such I didn't watch the trailers for the new show. I didn't read past headlines talking about people who wanted to delete their Netflix accounts.
Knowing that I was going to get more time with these characters was the only selling point I needed! Why? Because I love moments like this:
An interesting wrinkle in my plan was that my wife Pauline also wanted to watch the show. I wasn't going to be able to just burn through the episodes in one sitting like Daredevil or Chewing Gum. Luckily Pauline was actually down to watch the whole season this weekend and she stayed up during every episode, even asking to stop episodes if she felt tired even if there was only 5 minutes left to go. That should be the first clue as to how engaging this show is.
The strength of this show comes down to it's breadth of representation. No not every ethnicity is given equal screen time. What I mean is that there are a lot of points of view at play throughout the show. I especially enjoyed that about the film as it pertained to not painting all black youth as being just one or two ways. The Netflix show gets to go deeper with that idea and even spends a bit more time dealing with what it's like to be an ally.
Maybe I don't remember the movie as well as I thought I did, but Gabe is altogether way more interesting in this show. Yes he's still in a relationship with Sam but we get to see what it's like for Gabe when he tries to contribute and be an effective ally in addition to dealing with the inevitable issues that come up when you're in an interracial relationship. Something for the whole Grant family to enjoy!
Back to not painting black people with broad strokes. Even if it's not your favourite episode, I feel like episode five becomes the lynch pin of this season. Whereas the movie built up to the blackface party and then went into the aftermath.
The show focused on Reggie Green being held at gunpoint by the authorities after a scuffle at a party when a white person uses the word nigga while rapping along to a song.
Seeing a black man have to deal with cops/security pulling a gun on him and being dehumanized while legitimately not knowing if he'd live to talk about it stuck with me and Pauline. I'm sure everyone reading this or watching the show already knows about the video footage of cops using excessive force and killing people during what should be a routine traffic stop. However, that does not take away the potency of seeing it play out even if it's fictional. Dear White People might not have all the answers but I'm so happy that it's got conversation starters like the Reggie at the party scene.
Even if some people think it should go further, I believe having it on display at all is important. What's even more important is the aftermath of this incident. Watching Reggie take some time to himself and actually deal with that was powerful. So was his discussion with Sam about needing to be a man instead of a movement. Letting Reggie admit that he wasn't going to be able to bounce back and fight the fight right after the event was an effective way of giving Reggie his humanity back and showing that even militant black people need time to decompress and "switch off" by watching Defamed.
The show continued to portray Coco as a complicated, if not, somewhat, well rounded character.
While I didn't agree with all her tactics I appreciated that she had her own way of skinning the cat, so to speak. I certainly appreciated that Coco is an insight into being a token black friend in addition to shedding light on the hierarchy of skin tones that may not have been created by black people but certainly is perpetuated throughout pop-culture. See not just one or two type of black people even within one character! Seeing Coco stick up for herself is always enjoyable to me.
There are a bunch of different characters and moments that I could talk about, but I want people to actually go watch it, maybe even for a second time! So these are just some of my personal highlights. Go find your own! Overall, I'm hopeful that this show will push back against comments like "why does everything have to be about race" and cause people to take a step back and consider the different points of view on display from more than just the leads of this show.