Dear White People
Director: Justin Simien
Writer: Justin Simien
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Kyle Gallner
“Dear white people, the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count.” D
Dear White People, the debut film from Justin Simien, is a smart, fearless, campy look at race, class, sex, privilege and power at the collegiate level. The black comedy, pun definitely intended, does a great job at balancing the multiple issues and squeezing it into a narrative that works. This is a movie that you will want to see. This is a movie that is going to make you uncomfortable, and if it doesn’t then pull yourself out of your iPhone and pay attention to the screen.
The film focuses on a number of students at a fictional Ivy League campus, where the students look as if they walked out of a collegiate catalogue and have zero amount of chill, that becomes a sort of elite microcosm of present-day race relations.
Sam White, played by the beautifully talented Tessa Thompson, hosts a campus radio show and viral YouTube series titles “Dear White People” that to call out the hypocrisies, blind spots and micro-aggressions that African-Americans experience in their daily encounters with well-meaning caucasians. Ironically, it’s the same people that make up a large part of her fan base. They aren’t glutton for punishment or ridicule, rather they think that they understand and don’t fall into the category of “Dear White People.” It’s what makes the film so real and uncomfortable.
During the past couple of years, the depressing number of college parties, filled with a majority of white people, that mock race have popped up on everyone’s social media feeds. From rocking sombreros and margaritas to black face and oversized clothes, these parties have sparked outrage. Simien uses this absurd trend to start his film, where the main antagonist hosts a “Black Party.”
This is what White is fighting against, even when everyone around her thinks that she is overreacting. Her ex-boyfriend, her current boyfriend, her professors and even the dean of students all try and discourage her from continuing the radio show and step down from her pedestal.
“I think you long for days when blacks were hanging from trees and denied actual rights that way you’d have something to actually fight against.”
Harsh, right? Extreme, definitely. But it’s lines like this that make this film so jarring, and so important. These people exist, and Simien is not only drawing attention to it in his film, but also advancing the conversation.
The film is littered with a number of subplots and characters, that add a new level of racism to the film, but on a few occasions mud up the narrative. Regardless, the film touches on a number of social issues plaguing the good ‘ole red, white and blue, and does it brilliantly so. Just don’t expect to feel comfort.