- Where did Jon Snow go? Unpacking the ‘Game of Thrones’ ending 2 Years Ago
- So, did anyone actually win ‘Game of Thrones’? 2 Years Ago
- The surprising religious subtext of ‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Today 12:53 PM
- Robin Arryn got hot—and the internet is seriously shook Today 12:40 PM
- Tana Mongeau is going to VidCon a year after TanaCon disaster Today 12:12 PM
- What have 2020 Democrats said about Alabama’s abortion ban? Today 11:36 AM
- People keep throwing milkshakes at the U.K.’s far-right politicians Today 11:10 AM
- James Charles is rebounding from his YouTube scandal—and his mentor is paying the price Today 10:42 AM
- Conservatives accuse Pete Buttigieg of wanting to tear down Jefferson Memorial Today 10:28 AM
- Graduating Moorehouse students thank billionaire for vowing to pay off $40m in student debt Today 10:22 AM
- ‘Westworld’ season 3 trailer gives us a new world, Aaron Paul Today 10:17 AM
- Twitch streamer says she’s receiving backlash for ‘getting men banned’ Today 9:27 AM
- ‘Game of Thrones’ fulfilled a twisted version of its biggest prophecy Today 8:17 AM
- Minions memes are more popular than the far-right on Telegram Today 7:35 AM
- ‘Best of Nextdoor’ reveals the true insanity of modern life Today 7:30 AM
Justin Simien nails a rare movie-to-series reboot that actually benefits from longer exposition and serialization.
Last month during a SXSW screening, Dear White People director Justin Simien discussed the serialization of his 2014 film for Netflix, and how he wanted it to be a “multi-protagonist” production that focused on a different person each episode—a way to sketch out “identity versus self.”
That’s the central thread of Dear White People. In the 10-episode series, we see everyday class, gender, and race relations at fictional Ivy League school Winchester University, where a blackface party has set off a chain of events and a radio show called Dear White People is the call-out arena.
Many of the same archetypes return: In episode 2, shy journalist Lionel (DeRon Horton) explores his sexuality; in episode 3, Troy (Brandon Bell in a returning role) struggles with his stern father and having to endure white guys calling him “Obama” as he tries to be a bridge between black and white. There’s Coco (Antoinette Roberts), who’s from the South Side of Chicago but has aligned herself the white women of Winchester in a quest for power. An episode explores the beginning of her friendship with Sam (Logan Browning), who’s biracial. The relationship between women is given much more screen time here, and we see both their common ground and where they clash. However, Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) is probably the most grounding force in the show, with the best quotes. Where’s her episode?
During the SXSW screening, Simien said episode 5, which was directed by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, was the series’ “turning point.” Indeed the trauma and confusion of a cop pulling a gun on a black student spills out of that episode and into the next. The group comes together to fight for Reggie (Marque Richardson), though the show drops that storyline for a few episodes when it seemed like that would be the closing, dominant narrative.
There’s less satire in the series, and Simien pointed out that satire “often becomes a documentary.” Dear White People 2017 doesn’t have to worry about relevance. When the trailer debuted in February, critics claimed the show was anti-white, and there were even online campaigns to downvote it. But Simien had already experienced outrage and harassment when he started the Dear White People Twitter account as a means to finds Sam’s voice, and when the film debuted.
“Had I made a terrible mis-calculation?” he asks in a recent Medium piece. “Had I doomed my film and career to obscurity because I dared to put the words ‘white’ and ‘people’ next to one another in my title?”
In reality, DWP really just tells stories that aren’t white-focused, and points out all the ways people categorize: the “catchall Asian friend,” or the “Disney Channel Obama.” Joelle tells Sam: “You’re not Rashida Jones biracial, you’re Tracee Ellis Ross biracial.” Coco calls out the absurdity of the “Woke or Not” app everyone’s obsessing over. It even dares to lampoon Scandal.
The multi-protagonist format works for Dear White People, which has more of a shape now. It’s one of those rare movie-to-series reboots that actually benefits from longer exposition and serialization. It’s packed with more pop-culture references and cultural signifiers, but it’s rare that we get so many of these stories on-screen at one time.
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.