Based on the 2014 film, Netflix’s Dear White People features the expected witty and thoughtful dialogue on a “post-racial” America underscored by a sweet romance.
Netflix’s Dear White People delivers exactly what you’d expect. It tackles race relations at a predominantly white, fictional Ivy League college. It frankly approaches touchy subjects with humor, thought, and wit. The series also entertains thanks to a razor-sharp script by creator Justin Simien and notable performances from its large cast. Based on the 2014 film, though, none of this particularly surprises. Simien boasts an excellent ear for dialogue and character. He brilliantly creates realistic situations peppered with purposefully artificial and didactic dialogue that delivers the goods. But I did not expect the series to offer such a heartfelt and, yes, sweet romance.
Initially, Dear White People follows the same core plot as the 2014 film. Biracial Samantha White (Logan Browning) hosts a college radio show called “Dear White People.” The show serves as her pulpit to address campus racial issues. At the start of the series, white students hold a “Dear Black People” party at which most attend in blackface. Naturally, this event is not well received. Comically, different campus black groups debate the event at a caucus. Some groups land on the “work inside the system” side and some want to #protest. Through all of this, Sam is outed as having a white boyfriend, Gabe (John Patrick Amedori), which causes resentment within the campus black community.
Because I expected the razor-sharp satire, Dear White People blew me away by exploring the interracial relationship between Sam and Gabe. Their relationship evolves casually over the course of the pilot episode. Raised in a supposedly “post racial” world, Gabe is naive to the impact of their relationship. Sam, however, wants to keep their relationship quiet. She’s politically savvy and understands the social implications. They progress together and navigate the tricky world of interracial dating in an era where it’s not supposed to matter. But it totally does. It may sound overbearing, but it’s not. Quite the opposite, actually. Their relationship is nice surprise, a splash of reality in an otherwise very satirical world.
Dear White People, despite its genesis as a film, feels new and fresh. It does exactly what great television should. It brings new perspectives, new ideas, and new conversations into the living room. Star Logan Browning gives a fantastic, effervescent performance. And thanks to Simien’s thought-provoking dialogue, she has a lot to say. It’s a very good start to what could be a fantastically great series. One that I will be bingeing as fast as humanly possible.
Dear White People drops on Netflix Friday, April 28.