Oct 16, 2021

The Decline and Fall of "Dear White People"


Dear White People
 (2017) highlighted the microaggressions (and some macro-aggressions) faced by black students at a "liberal" Ivy-League college.  The title comes from a radio program run by undergrad Samantha White, in which she chastises white people for their often-unconscious objectifying behavior, like teachers asking one black student for "the black point of view."

In 2017, Dear White People spun off into a Netflix series, with the same characters and the same seriocomic tone.  As the seasons progressed, the tone became less seriocomic and more comic, then less comic than bizarre. The plot arc of Volume 2 involved a ridiculous Illuminati-type secret society.  Well, actually closer to the Stonecutters on The Simpsons: "Who keeps Atlantis off the maps?  Who keeps the Martians under wraps?  We do."  

And in Volume 4?  Three complicated plotlines, lots of who's-dating-who drama -- they think we're much more interested in these characters than we really are.  And people breaking into song at odd moments. 

The frame story is set about ten years in the future, when they've all become successful writers, filmmakers, and so on by selling out to the white power structure.  Lionel (DeRon Horton) has published a novel, Dear White People, based on... you guessed it.  He and Sam decide to work together on a sequel, about the events of their senior year, before they sold out.  They interview their friends, most of whom they haven't seen in ten years, and tease things like "Are you going to include that terrible thing that happened?" or "Surely you're not going to include that dramatic, life-changing event!"  Then we see what happened senior year:

Reggie (Marque Richardson, left) rejects a $100,000 app-development job because that would be selling out.  He develops his own "New Green Book," a sort of Yelp reviewing safe and unsafe places for black people, but rejects a $27 million development deal because that would be selling out.

You'd think that an actor playing a major character who takes his clothes off every second would have some beefcake photos online, but there's noting usable for Marque Richardson except for a tiny jfif.

Joelle gets involved in a ridiculous experiment to determine if praying for random strangers in a hospital helps them get better.  She discovers that the whole thing is fake, but continues anyway, thus selling out.

Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) has an uncle who is head of a movie studio, and offers him $30,000 to make a religious movie.  He refuses, then capitulates, which causes breakup-rebounds with his girlfriend Sam.

Troy (Brandon P. Bell, left) gets his famous actress-mother to direct the Varsity Show, but having her around causes him to be impotent in the bedroom. I'm not sure why.

Lionel and his boyfriend are in charge of the big annual Varsity Show, which is being held in a building named after a slave owner.  They break up over creative differences.

Sam gets a guest on her radio program who accuses her of selling out because she's not protesting the slave-owner-building adequately.  They get into a fight, and Sam's show is cancelled.

There's a queer song-and-dance in the Varsity Show -- lots of pansexual hijinks -- which the white power structure wants removed.  They remove it, thus selling out.

I don't remember anything else.  It's all very obtuse.  And annoying when in the frame story, they keep saying "Let's include this extremely important, dramatic, earth-shaking event in our book," and the event is a couple having a fight because one of them has sold out.

In the last episode, Reggie thwarts a gunman who plans a mass shooting at the Varsity Show, but it comes and goes instantly, and has no impact on the characters, so it's not at all dramatic.  

In the third plot arc, everyone in their senior year is obsessed with a Real World type reality series, Big House, with its challenges, collaborations, back-stabbing, and selling out for us to watch and keep track of.  But at least there's a competitor who doesn't own a shirt.

You'd think that a guy hired to hang around with his shirt off would have lots of beefcake photos online, but all I could find was a series of stock photos with watermarks.  Why does Thomas Kasp even have stock photos?  

In the final scene, during the frame story, the various couples have gotten back together after breaking up during senior year.  They sing about how tight they are, even though they haven't interacted at all during the last ten years.  The ridiculousness continues.  

At least there was some gay representation: not only Lionel and his boyfriend (whose name I don't recall) arguing over selling out, but a song about male sex workers and their clients.

My grade: Season 1: A.  Season 2: C.  Season 3: C.  Season 4. D-.

See also: The Top 10 Hunks of Dear White People, Season 3; Dear White People

1 comment:

  1. You can tell they didn't plan on being renewed after season 3.


No comments that use abusive or vulgar language or point out that a character is Not Wearing a Sign. DO NOT use the term "homosexual." Don't worry if a photo does not depict the person mentioned; beefcake is beefcake.

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