Reviews: Dear White People
Never Has a Title Caused so Much Needless Butthurt
I tell people - friends and colleagues whom I admire - that I've just watched a show called Dear White People, and those words just seem to have a magic effect on them. These are the exact same people who complain about today's easily offended, the snowflakes, the thin skinned etc, and yet it's these exact same thickskins who visibly bristle at something as innocuous as a passive-aggressive title. If only they'd give the show a try, they might discover Dear White People is just yanking their chain. The title specifically refers to a college radio show that pisses off a lot of the people who listen to it. Dear White People is a satire that, first and foremost, satires its own audience. It isn't vital, but it helps to have watched the movie Dear White People first. The show kicks off approximately where that movie finishes, in the aftermath of a "blackface" dress-up party in an Ivy League College. The show follows some of the black students as the situation goes from bad to worse, with each episode centring around their individual responses to the debacle. Much like the movie, Dear White People is a show that's smart enough to tackle an extremely heavy topic without pretending to know any of the answers. It is broadly sympathetic to the views of its characters, but doesn't necessarily go so far as to agree with them. These are people who are (and I'm trying to be very careful about my use of the word here) tremendously articulate about their views, but are still not able to make themselves understood to one another. This is epitomised early on when Gabe (a white student) is introducing himself to Reggie (a black student); everything Gabe tries to say is well meaning and supportive, but to Reggie it comes off as ignorant and hostile. Both are visibly frustrated that each other can't get the message and look like they are about to come to blows. These misunderstandings recur throughout the series, and escalate to some particularly tense moments. Despite being a comedy, Dear White People comes close to tragedy. Now I'm the whitest person I know, and despite struggling a bit with some of the slang ("What, prey dearest, does 'ratchet' mean?" I asked my wife, whilst adjusting my monocle and sipping my Madeira), I still had a lot of fun with Dear White People. At ten shortish episodes, its not a big commitment and easily watchable in a single marathon.