The very worst thing about this film is its title. The shock value associated with the name Dear White People takes away from the fact that this film has important and very nuanced things to say.
For me, the issue of race, especially in this post-Obama world is fascinating. You have no idea how many times I have heard that ‘racism is over’ from well intentioned but very wrong white-folks. On the other hand, I’ve also been hearing the argument that black people cannot be racist, a view that has been baffling me since university. And, to my mind, everyone is still making mixed-race folks choose a side.
Dear White People is about an angry (but beautiful) black woman (although she’s mixed race) named Sam -played by Selma’s Tessa Thompson. Sam has beef with how her university treats black culture and she vents on a show called, you guessed it, Dear White People. The show and its content fires up the student body and higher-ups at her university and … well, hilarity ensues.
Dear White People is as if representatives from the black and white camp got together in a university hall and had a two hour debate on the state of race relations in America. Although only released in 2014, this film feels like it was released a little bit too early. Its subject matter of racial tensions at University sounds pretty familiar to news watchers in 2015.
As a black man, the thing that grabbed me most about this film is how it deals with the very real issue of black identity. All of my life I have had my blackness questioned because of the friends I keep, the music I listen to, the girls I dated, the wife I married, and so on. I often wonder, are the same barriers of entry applied to whiteness? Can’t a brother love both Oasis and Biggie? Can’t I marry a white woman and still be hopelessly in love with Lauryn Hill?
I really connected with Brandon Bell’s character, Troy, who struggles with trying to be black enough to please his Afro-centric peers, while not being too black as to scare off the white donors of his university. It is a hopeless battle.
As good as the film is, it suffers from a very real problem of over-stylisation. My wife said that this film was made by and is for media students. I completely agree with her but that doesn’t mean that it still isn’t worth your time.