Yesterday, my friend, Cezanne (hey C!) mentioned that she’d started watching Dear White People on Netflix and how great the first episode was. I had a bunch of shit I needed to get done, but wasn’t particularly motivated to do any of it, so I pressed ‘Play.’ Cut to a day later, 10 (+ 2 rewatched) episodes of Dear White People, 3 eps of Once Upon A Time, and 2 eps of Skins UK (because DWP reminded me of it) later, and I decided to do a collabo review with Cezanne and my girl, Kennedy Ryan to urge you all to jump down the rabbit hole with us.
C: How many episodes of Dear White People did you guys watch? Were you able to just walk away from Netflix?
Cz: The show completely consumed my day. I watched the first 7 episodes back to back and then I had to take a break. Episode 5, gutted me. I legit shed tears. I watched the last 3 episodes that same evening. I need season 2, like yesterday.
K: DWP had been on my radar for a few weeks. I had been slammed and unable to get to it. I knew I had a deadline on Monday, but said…I’ll just watch one episode of DWP, and see what it is all about. Um…I watched all 10 episodes between Friday and Sunday. I definitely could not walk away. In our current context where issues of race are kind of pussy footed around and discussed in platitudes, it was like a breath of fresh air to hear it discussed with such candor and intelligence. And humor! I couldn’t stop once I started.
C: Let’s talk about the show? How fucking awesome is it?! Because I thought it was fucking fantastic, from the first episode to the last. What are your overall impressions?
Cz: I need people to watch this show. I implore them. I thought the show was a fantastic. It is the perfect conversation starter. Each character was so diverse and I truly think that it was a great story and characters.
K: It’s fantastic. I LOVE it, especially in the broader context of what is, to me a little bit of a black/brown renaissance in entertainment. Quality writing, directing, acting, producing where you KNOW people of color are originating, or at the very least, highly influential and invested in these projects because of their cultural honesty and authenticity. Shows like Insecure, Atlanta, Queen Sugar. I put it in that class of art because the creators are obviously intentional about generating dialogue, and aren’t afraid to pull the covers back. Show what’s under the rug, to mix metaphors. LOL! And that is brave! And when you are fearless with your art AND excellent, I tune in.
C: What did you think of the title? I admit that it made my eyes bug out a bit, and I thought, “What the fuck?” It shocked me, but I thought it was explained well in the first episode. Did you?
Cz: I’ll be honest, the title initially gave me pause, but I knew it couldn’t be as bad as people assumed. I saw in an Rolling Stone article, that Justin Simien, joked about renaming it Dear Woke People. LOL, Maybe that would be make everyone feel better.
K: The title intrigued me, but it definitely requires some explanation. LOL! I found myself hesitant to post on social media that I was doing a Dear White People binge because I know people will assume it is divisive and that it is a show that only black people would enjoy! LOL! That’s unfortunate, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to non-POC, with the assurance that they will laugh and have eyes opened. And that I did, too. That there were things I was challenged on and was forced to think about…while I laughed out loud. 😉
C: Which episode was your favorite? I can’t say that I loved any episode as much as I LOVED the first episode. I’ll admit that I luuurved Gabe. Poor boo. I loved his ep as well. I did think there were more powerful episodes like episode 5, but the Samantha and Gabe arc had me like ❤️.
Cz: I loved episode one, but episode 5 is by far one of my favorites. The episode cut me deep. Ps. The Gabe and Samantha arc, is like whoa! I love those two.
K: There is no doubt my fave episode was Chapter V, when View Spoiler »when the security officers pulls the gun on Reggie at the party « Hide Spoiler I enjoyed, as I did with all the chapters and characters, getting to see the dimensionality behind Reggie’s character. View Spoiler »We found out that he is highly intelligent from the trivia at the party, and got to see a lighter side with him dancing and having fun at the party. « Hide Spoiler This episode was so well directed and powerful. View Spoiler »Seeing Reggie’s bravado contrasted with the incredible vulnerability when he trembles looking down the barrel of that gun and then weeps when he’s alone in his room was just…gah. I also loved CoCo’s episode, though. I like it when characters are dimensional. There are things to love and hate about them, like real people. And you get to see the WHY behind her. The episode where her wig comes off during sex and then she starts wearing her natural hair, I loved that! « Hide Spoiler
C: Speaking of episode 5, did you cry? I cried. I also cried in the following episode, for other reasons. Grrr.
Cz: I cried. I have a son, who’s just about to turn 7. All I could think was in the next 10 years or so, that could be him. Something like that could happen to HIM. Emotionally it took me to a sad place. I hate that fact that one day, I will have to explain to him, shit like that could happen.
K: I did tear up. I felt indignant, and the thing I hate is that someone could watch that and think…well, that’s just TV. Or that is just for the sake of the story. But that IS how things often escalate in real life for men of color in this country. Like…we just saw that in Texas. View Spoiler »One minute it’s a party. The next, assumptions are made and someone fires and someone is dead. It can happen just that quickly, and it happens disproportionately for black and brown people. « Hide Spoiler I just want people to know it’s not…hyperbole for entertainment. That it does happen that way and that quickly because it’s so often based on preconceived notions so deep-seeded in people, they don’t have time to sort through them in moments of pressure and high stress. They respond because they feel threatened. We as a culture have to work on WHY people feel so threatened by black men View Spoiler »that they keep shooting them unprovoked. Not in all cases, but in many cases. Too many cases to be isolated. It’s systemic. It’s not about “bad” cops. It’s about something broader than that, reinforced for generations. And it may take us that long to change it. « Hide Spoiler
C: The characters are my favorite aspect of the show—I thought they were all immensely dynamic. Who is your favorite character? Mine is Lionell. I LOVE Lionel, and wish he could be my best friend.
Cz: LIONEL. He is my new best friend. In some ways he reminds me of myself. I love him.
K: I think I most identify with Sam. I’m like that. Always on a soap box. Always passionate about something. Always whipping people up into a lather about a cause that is dear to my heart. And if no one is leading, I’ll step into that void and do whatever needs to be done. So I get that. I liked seeing more of her vulnerability as we went along. They did a good job of showing her fallibility as the season progressed. I also really love Lionel. He’s like…the narrator in The Great Gatsby in many ways. He goes from a voyeur of sorts, where he is documenting and observing and outside, to very much inside and a part of and influencing the action. He becomes one of the most influential characters in the whole thing. I love that the most unassuming actually becomes such a spark plug for the action as it unfolds.
C: What did you guys think of the format? This is the aspect of the show that reminds me of Skins UK, and I think one of the major reasons that I went on such an epic binge. I’ve been waiting for years for another show like Skins. I know MTV tried to recreate it, but they failed (epically), and I’m so happy that Netflix was able to give me what I wanted. I think having each episode focus on a single character keeps it fresh. Plus, it gives all the actors a chance to shine.
Cz: I absolutely adored the format. Each person got their time to shine but I loved that it showcased how each felt and interpreted each event that occurred. I think it really added to the story.
K: The format was brilliant. I loved seeing the same scene, the same dialogue, from various characters’ perspectives. It really reinforced that you never know what is going on behind people’s faces. All the people you kind of assumed you knew – Troy and CoCo and Reggie – they were kind of caricatures in that first episode from Sam’s POV. When you peeled back the layers in their own chapters, it was revelatory. I especially enjoyed getting into Coco’s head. She was, to me, of all of them, the survivor. View Spoiler »She comes from the South side of Chicago and has seen some of the worst the world has to offer for people of color, but she forged her way. Yes, she assimilates and kisses up, but there are moments where you have to really admire how she’s pulled herself up. Not that she isn’t a TRIP. LOL! But she is smart and is not deceived by or, when you get down to it, enamored by the circles she wants to infiltrate. It’s about her agenda, not theirs, ultimately. She knows the deal. She is actually and paradoxically one of the most clear-eyed characters, IMO. « Hide Spoiler
C: I agree about Coco. She’s definitely the most real and reasonable character of them all.
C: Is there anyone you want to see more of next season? Anyone less?
Cz: Troy. With how season 1 ended, I feel like season 2 will be a turning point for him. *fingers crossed*
K: I definitely wanted to see more of Troy, after that ending! Of course. Also, what’s gonna happen with Gabe? #TeamGam. View Spoiler »LOL! I have to say I’m surprised the interracial relationship aspect is STILL such a big deal. I honestly don’t think of it being as much of an issue for millennials, but then it’s one of the centerpieces of this show. I look at the outrage over Jesse Williams possibly dating a white woman now that he is separated from his wife, after his BET Awards manifesto esteeming black women so highly. And I remember just a few months ago Nicki Minaj making a subtle dig at Kanye for penning the line: “And when he get on, he’ll leave yo ass for a white girl” and then marrying Kim Kardashian. For some people, it’s not a big deal at all. I live in San Diego, and lemme tell you. I don’t see that many black men WITH black women here. I do a double take when I see a couple where it’s a black man and a black woman and their not-mixed-race kids! Hahaha! I spent the previous 20 years in Atlanta where that is not the case. But even here, when I’m among just black people, they still talk about it! It still rubs a lot of them the wrong way. They shrug and say “to each his own”, but there is an underlying…disappointment. And I think it was interesting to see that disappointment with Sam in DWP. Not that she couldn’t be with a white man, not that it’s wrong, but they’re disappointed in her choice. And Joelle uses that exact word in the episode when Reggie asks what she thinks about it. That aspect fascinates me. Jesse Williams isn’t any less passionate about championing solutions for problems that the black community faces, but him choosing to be with a white woman (maybe) took some of his shine for a lot of people. And Sam is still the same committed, crusading girl, but she KNOWS dating Gabe will be a problem for her fellow students. I think this dynamic of how those two things are mutually exclusive is fascinating, and I want to see more of how it plays out. « Hide Spoiler
C: Well, of course you do since you’re working on a book that features those themes at the moment. 😉 I am most definitely looking forward to seeing how Sam and Gabe’s storyline plays out considering where we left things. I hope Sam’s friend, Joelle, gets a few episodes as I’d love to see her back story as well as where things lead romantically (hint, hint). I also want to see more politics, I want the writers to dredge up everything.
And that’s all folks! As you can see, Kennedy totally stole the show with her brilliant insights. This show is fantastic! It’s important, fun, sexy, gripping, emotional, edgy, and inspirational. Hell, it’s everything. Don’t be afraid to watch it–whatever your background or creed, because it really is a show everyone can and should watch. I can’t wait for season 2!