Justin Simien‘s critically acclaimed film Dear White People rustled some feathers when it first came out, many people finding controversy where there was none based solely on the title. It was a fantastic film however, but that didn’t stop many from complaining about the Netflix original series based on the very same thing. I get it; the title is meant to elicit a response much like a clickbait headline, and it worked. Once you look past the title though you come upon a smartly written, poignant series that deals with serious subject matter in an even-handed often hilarious way.
Set at the predominantly white Ivy League Winchester University, Dear White People uses biting satire to shine a light on issues of social injustice, diversity, cultural bias, political correctness, cultural appropriation, activism, identity politics, and systemic racism in “post-racial” America. Its brutally honest, absurdist writing shows how far we’ve come as a nation, and how much farther we have yet to go, skewering white people AND people of color in often equal measure to prove its valid views on American society.
As entertaining as it is there are some truly shocking, thought-provoking moments as well, such as the much talked about Chapter V. An episode that proved a challenge to the cast and crew due to its horrifying yet all to true subject matter. This episode is powerful in every way, and a masterclass in television writing with repercussions that last all season long with some shockingly unforseen consequences.
Simien and showrunner Yvette Lee Bowser (Living Single) have spearheaded an important series that holds a delicate balance between uproariously funny and horrifyingly moving that everyone should see. Its strength lies in its character moments though. Dear White People‘s expansive cast shines as they are all given story arcs that move them forward, leaving them plenty of moments of growth as they learn from their mistakes and the actions of others. These are characters you can’t not care about and each one gets their moment in the spotlight. This is riveting television with heart and a timely, positive message. We need more shows like this.
The DVD contains two brilliant bonus features; Art as Activism and Filming Chapter V, mini documentaries giving a look behind the scenes of the characters and events that make this series so powerful and worth discussion.
Dear White People lands on DVD on May 8th.