A lot of controversy has surrounded the new Netflix show Dear White People. After a widespread campaign asking for users to cancel their accounts because of supposed reverse racism…the TV giant ignored the political right and released the season in full. Being an Australian white male I am definitely not the demographic for this show, however call it mild curiosity I loaded up the first episode and was pulled into this cleverly written, perfectly acted season that has become my favourite Netflix show made so far.
The series follows the after effects of a black face party held at a frat house and the ripple effect it has on the black community in a predominantly white school. The allegory of this is also a reflection of society on a wider scale and each episode shows the events and the after effects from a different student in each episode. Leading the cast is Sam (Logan Browning) who hosts the radio show titled Dear White People, her nemesis Coco (Antoinette Robertson) who grew up in the projects of Chicago but was adopted by a rich white family later in life. The drama starts when in the middle of a caucus Coco tags Sam in a pic on Instagram from her secret white boyfriend Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) revealing all to the group and further fuelling the scandal. Speaking of there is a hilarious Scandal-esque TV titled Defamation that the black residents group together and watch obsessively every week.
If that wasn’t enough Sam’s other allies Reggie (Marque Richardson) harbours a secret crush for her, Black jock/prep student Troy (Brandon Bell) is campaigning to become the student body president, even though his Dad is the dean. Wannabe journalist Lionel (DeRon Horton) explores the struggles of being a black gay man.
What I loved about this show is its unapologetic mess of showcasing how these black characters navigate their lives around a
predominantly white campus while showcasing quite openly the problems that the left have through the black and white racial relationship story as well as hypocrisies on both sides.
A particular plot point that stuck with me was Lionel (of course!) navigating through a Grindr like app constantly facing the “No rice or spice” comments or white men looking for Black men to be dom fetish. The episodes that explore his coming out story are crafted by none other than Moonlight‘s director Barry Jenkins and this shines through in these scenes.
Many may be turned off this series by its name and to be honest so was I at first. After watching the first season I discovered a show that is willing to confront the things we do not talk about, while also showing a race of people who are clamouring to get their voice heard. It struck a chord with me and combined it with fast talking wit, a hugely talented cast as well as some soapy hand over shocked mouth moments that had me binge the entire first season in one weekend.
Dear White People spoke to me unlike any other series has before through its diverse characters (I seriously want a service dog named Sorbet!) while showing events from various perspectives that I have never had to experience or even consider. For a series to do this while still being comedic, fun and at times satirical is no easy feat. Yet show creator Justin Simien delivers so much more than I was expecting of this show. This is the show that I will be telling everyone about and the show that we should all be talking about.
Dear White People season 1 is streaming exclusively on Netflix now
Review by Alaisdair Leith