Dear White People – Pilot Review

Dear White People is not only Netflix’s most controversial original programming since its first foray into film and television production in 2013. It’s the most controversial TV show of the year. The debut trailer of Dear White People garnered a significant amount of downvotes on Youtube. On Twitter, right-wing activists decried that the show was racist towards whites, and called for a boycott on Netflix. When asked to address the boycott, show creator Justin Simien astutely said that the trailer’s backlash reiterated the point of the series and brought more attention to the show. And although it gained the ire of the alt-right and white supremacists, the series debuted to critical acclaim and a second season is already being discussed.  

Dear White People the series is an adaptation of the critically acclaimed 2014 film of the same name. Director/Writer of the film Justin Simien returned to write and direct episodes in the season. Like the hit horror/comedy film Get Out, Dear White People is a harsh rebuke of the notion that we are currently living in a post-racial society originated by the Obama presidency. With the current political climate post-election, the growing issue of police brutality, and race relations at their lowest point in years, Dear White People is an extremely relevant and essential work of art that causes us to look inside ourselves in order to fix the problems of society.

Like Get Out, Dear White People doesn’t attack the standard form of racism seen in the bible belt, but the casual form of microaggressions found in white moderate liberals. As the antagonists of Get Out were a white moderate liberal family, Dear White People explores the casual racism found in a fictional predominately white Ivy League college named Winchester College. The primary focus of the series is Armstrong/Parker the single all-black house in the entire campus.  The series continues directly after the film ends, a blackface party that ends in a brawl. While the series is a direct sequel to the film, the series begins with an fast-paced prologue that keeps the audience knowledgeable about all the main players on campus.

The pilot of Dear White People spends most of its time keeping the viewers informed on the show’s universe. Because the show has a large ensemble cast, this is a challenging task, but Dear White People pulls it off deftly. Already by the first episode the characters come across as multidimensional and interesting. The dialogue is snappy and the writing is pitch-perfect. Needless to say, this is one of the most confident pilots that i’ve seen in years. The pilot ends with a shocking twist that will without a doubt have major repercussions. The twist is not only surprising, but completely logical, and reiterates the major point of the series.

Logan Browning from the VH1 series Hit the Floor leads the ensemble cast as radio host and chief provocateur Samantha White. Though the role was originated by rising star Tessa Thompson in the 2014 film, Browning is outstanding. Brandon P. Bell, Marque Richardson, and Ashley Blaine Featherson reprise their roles in the 2014 film. Newcomer DeRon Horton plays the closeted journalist Lionel, a role originated by Jesse Tyler Williams. While Browning is perhaps the breakout star of the show, Lionel is undisputedly the heart and soul of Dear White People. The second episode of the series, which deals with his struggle to understand his own sexuality, is one of the best episodes of the season.

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