Tag Archives: Justin Simien

Dear White People Review: Episode 2

Chapter 2

We start off with some of the Winchester’s past racially insensitive parties including a “Cowboys and Injuns” party, a “Wetback Cinco de Mayo” party, and the current blackface party all thrown by the campus magazine, Pastiche. Before Lionel Higgins and the crew crash the party scene we rewind back to some of Lionel’s less fortunate moments in life. One, is his awkward experience with the barbershop. When he arrives at a white barbershop he’s met with stares and when he visits a black barbershop he’s met with intimidating characters including a guy who states, “ya’ll know I don’t cut fags”, in response to another gay man. The homophobic incidents continue with a high school Halloween party. The boys insult Lionel’s costume with homophobic phrases like the played out “pause” and tell him that his Geordi La Forge outfit is gay. I actually thought this was supposed to be some rival gay group that had it in for Lionel but then I realized they were supposed to be the straight guys bullying him. These type of phrases are still being used in everyday conversations. It says a lot about how ingrained homophobia is in our society and how insecure “straight” boys/men are with their sexuality.


Lionel receives the, “Dear Black People” party invite and proceeds to let Reggie and the group know about the event. They lead an epic crash of the event and soon after Lionel writes his article entitled, “Ebony and Ivory: Total Disharmony”. The next day, the black students in Armstrong Parker seem to dig the article; Lionel is even invited to sit with Reggie’s crew. Instead Lionel sits with Troy and his two passive black friends. In response to Sam’s radio show, one states, “Do we have to listen to this race baiting dribble?” (really nigga?) I guess his short term memory blanked out the actual racist party the night before. Anyway, the two friends argue about their conservative ways including one having a “framed picture of Reagan” and the other having a photo of Stacey Dash which he replies is “Deon; nothing after Clueless matters!” Then, a table with what seems to be a group of gay students exchange glances with Lionel. This was a minor hole in the chapter; the interaction between Lionel and other black gay students would have been interesting. Troy assures Lionel that he will attract a lot of girls from the article and his two friends begin to throw around the same gay slurs Lionel heard when he was younger.


Troy is heard getting it in in the next room. Lionel starts to put his headphones on but takes this opportunity to get it in in his own way. The lights dim, the walls fall and Troy is seen doing his thing; Lionel pictures Troy speaking straight to him but before he can finish his visualization, Troy concludes. Poor Lionel. The Winchester Independent group and the head journalist in charge, Silvio, are introduced. He tells Lionel that even though his story on the blackface party is front news it’s not hard news or well written. He also asks Lionel about his inclusion of intersectionalities with him being black and gay; this throws Lionel off. “Gay?” he says. Silvio advises Lionel to find his label and that he, himself identifies as a Mexican, Italian, gay, verse top, otter, pup. Similar to Lionel’s statement; I know what all of those words mean individually but not together. Silvio invites Lionel to a speakeasy that the theater kids are throwing. At the party, Lionel meets Connor and his friend with benefits, Becca. They invite him back to their place. Childish Gambino’s, “Red Bone”, plays in the background. “Stay Woke!” Lionel listen up! Connor talks about the white students’ inability to know and understand the country’s history with minstrel shows. “White people are the fucking worse”, Becca responds. Then some freaky shit pops off. I could tell by the nod from Connor that something was up. This scene demonstrates how some white people can acknowledge racism but still play a part in it i.e., fetishizing black bodies and touching black hair without permission. So things are getting steamy until Lionel exposes their little game. It’s revealed that Connor is using Becca to not look full on gay and Becca is not really into their freaky experiment that’s been going on for TWO years; she storms out without any underwear on and Connor reassures she’s off her meds.


Lionel leaves to the newspaper office where Silvio reveals the blackface party invite had been sent by someone other than Pastiche. Lionel goes through the secret transcripts of interviews where he figures out Sam was the one behind the hacking. Lionel does not want to break the news but Silvio insists, “We can’t control what people do with the news we can only report it.” Messy. This is basically Lionel’s perspective of the blackface revelation. His conflicted feelings show that his career in journalism might be a little rocky down the road.


Lionel finally asks Troy to cut his rising fro. Troy asks about his hair setting which Lionel knows nothing about. I can relate because my barber never told me my setting, he just fades the back and the sides low so I have no idea what my settings are either. Lionel reveals that he is gay as Troy walks out of the room; Troy doesn’t hear Lionel. It seems Lionel will hush up about the reveal but he repeats himself and Troy exhales a little, says, “cool” and returns to Lionel’s hair. A slow motion scene of Troy cutting Lionel’s hair without a shirt on is a beautiful sight to Lionel and the viewers watching. Lionel now has new, up close, and personal visuals to do his private dirty deed which he does and afterward stares back at the audience. End scene!



I love how the topic of homophobia is explored within the black community and how it occurs at different levels. You had the black adult men in the barbershop, the black high school students, and the conservative black students who all used gay slurs like it was second nature. This, added with physical assault and neglect affect the LGBT community immensely. I’m wondering how Lionel’s journalism career will play out in the future. He has a level of integrity and ethics that seem to conflict with the position. His intersectionality does not only include his sexuality but his race as well. He’s showing that the lives of the black students are more important than a campus article. Like I stated earlier, the scene with Connor and Becca symbolizes the sexualization of the black body; later on we see the couple target another black victim. That scene also highlights another issue with men denying their sexuality as a whole. Troy’s acceptance of Lionel’s sexuality was great; I feel like there are many Troy’s out there. In the past decade or so there’s been a shift in acceptance of the LGBT community so Troy’s reaction is not so farfetched. That’s not to say that there aren’t still many instances of rejection and abuse towards the community in this day and age.


Dear White People Review: Episode 1

Film Synopsis

Dear White People was first released in 2014 as a film directed by Justin Simien. The story followed four black students as they attended a predominately white institute named Winchester University. Each character represented a different perspective on what it meant to be black in a majority white space and each handled racism differently in a post-Obama country. The protagonist, Sam White, was a bi-racial, pro-black, film major with a provocative campus radio show entitled, Dear White People. The films main plot was Sam’s pursuit to become president of the black student occupied dorm, Armstrong Parker, and her fight against the integration of the dorm. Troy was the son of the Dean and the golden boy of the campus. Coco, short for Colandrea, was a bougie student from the Southside of Chicago who aspired to be the next reality TV star and Lionel was the gay, nerdy, black journalist who was too black for the white students and too white for the black students. Between Sam’s task to save the dorm house and Lionel being caught in the middle of the drama, a blackface party ensues and shit hits the fan on the campus. It is revealed that the party invite was not sent out from the racist magazine group, Pastiche, but in actuality was set up by Sam.


The Netflix series returns where the party left off. Sam, Lionel and some of their friends crash the party, while Troy arrives with the cops, and Coco shamely defends the students for being able to be black for one night.

Chapter 1

The episode opens with the blackface party and the crash that follows. The camera pans around the chaotic scene to land on our protagonist, Sam and her handy dandy vintage camera. Sam is a junior studying film and the host of the controversial radio show, Dear White People. Many students listen to the show including the group behind the racist satirical campus magazine, Pastiche. In response to the party, Sam opens up with what the student body is allowed to wear to a Halloween party and what not to wear which is simply, “me” as in black face. This was the scene that was used in the date announcement trailer along with photos of white students dressed in black face and stereotypical “black” attire. This simple request in a fictional series enraged people so much that the YouTube video currently has 57,361 up votes and 420,728 down votes! Unsurprising comments of, “What if there were a, Dear Black People?”, and “I’m unsubscribing from Netflix”, fill the page which is odd because I thought most of these sensitive white people unsubscribed when Luke Cage was released. There is more outrage from the title of the series and not the fact that college students AND adults are still doing black face every year, crazy right?


Sam’s best friend Joelle is introduced. She is played by the lovely Ashley Blaine Featherson who I was introduced to on the web-series, Hello Cupid. In the film, she was more of a side character but in the series she gets a deserving boost; I guess. It would be nice to see more of her story in season 2. Joelle comes off as the contradicting comic relief. She’s “woke” but watching, “some white bitch from Texas”, on how to be waist thin and ass phat. Sam reassures her that she is fine and states “is white bitch her name?” She also describes the guilt of re-watching the Cosby Show sitcom following the accusations which Sam deems a conspiracy because “Cosby was in route to purchasing NBC”. Right. It’s clear they have a fun relationship even though their focus does not always align.

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Then we see Reggie (heart eye emoji). I liked his character from the movie. He was serious in his fight against racism but let Sam lead the efforts which can be seen as admirable or a tad bit immature. Soon after, Sam is seen having sex with who we assume is Reggie but it is actually Sam’s secret white bae, Gabe.  Gabe is a T.A. in one of Sam’s classes; he’s is a little more scraggly/hippie looking compared to the clean cut Gabe from the film. He doesn’t seem as much of a condescending asshole as the films character instead he comes off as a carefree kind of guy. After their session, Sam gets ready to leave for a Black Caucus meeting. Gabe wants to come with but we know how this goes; Sam cannot be seen with Gabe or it will diminish her pro-black persona.


When Sam arrives to Armstrong Parker for the meeting she is greeted by Lionel Higgins, a writer for the student newspaper, Winchester Independent. She begins to describe the four different black student unions at Winchester University. This is similar to the scene in the film where Sam describes the different type of black students at the university, the oofta, nose job, and “keeping it 100”, black student. Out of the four groups, there’s Sam’s group, the Black Student Union; they’re a good medium between aggressive action and organization. The African American Student Union (AASU) who is said to not contribute anything and consists of Kelsea, a super bubbly and naïve student, and Cordell, the resident pastor. There’s the Black American Forum (BAF) consisting of mediocre slam poets who throw great parties; picture dashikis, ankh necklaces, and fist in the air; hashtag stay woke! The last group lead by Troy Fairbanks (who interrupts Sam’s introduction) is the Coalition of Racial Equality (CORE). Think future black leaders of America. This group also includes Coco which is short for Colandrea. Coco was her way of sounding less “urban” than Colandrea. I wonder what her middle name is.


As they are discussing the blackface party and how to take action, Coco’s phone chimes. A sinister look appears across her face as she begins to tag others in the post. While Sam is talking about the incident, everyone starts to look at their phones in shock. Sam stops and looks at her phone to see a photo of her sitting on Gabe’s bed, clothed with the caption, “hate it when bae leaves”. Scandalous! My mouth dropped. This was so disrespectful and violating. After the meeting, Sam finds her friends and Coco chatting about the photo. She and Joelle have a discussion about her secret bae. Joelle is frustrated that her best friend didn’t tell her and that he is white. She reminds her of how they met in the comment section of her article entitled, “Don’t fall in love with your oppressor”. Through all of this, Joelle gives Sam a reassuring hug of forgiveness and acceptance.


Joelle’s honesty about her feelings with Gabe’s race was realistic. Everyday black women who are in interracial relationships get side-eyes but black women who are super pro-black get the ultimate side eye (and so do men). It doesn’t make one unauthentic when they date interracially but it can be a tad disappointing especially when there’s men like Reggie who are ready to give someone like Sam the world. The heart wants what it wants; we shouldn’t force someone to be with someone they don’t want to be with.

Later, Sam talks to Gabe about the photo in which he apologizes for but also replies with, “I’m only a millennial on paper”, which is hilarious. Anyone in their late 20’s to mid-30’s can relate to this. Sam invites Gabe to a viewing party at Armstrong Parker. This is their first time being seen in public and specifically being seen at the black student occupied dorm. She questions his laid back attire, suggesting he wear some “jays”, in which he replies, “Are you trying to My Fair Lady me for your black friends?” I haven’t seen this movie but I understood the joke. In general the series has a ton of film and TV references that if you’re not up on you’ll miss the joke entirely. Gabe’s question is fair. Does Sam want him to be something’s he’s not? So, they go to the dorm where they’re met with some side-eyes and a little shade from Joelle. They watch a parody of the hit show Scandal which is entitled, Defamation. It is hilarious and even though I’ve never been to a public screening of a show, I feel this was a realistic depiction of how black students come together to watch what some consider quality TV and some consider garbage.


After the show ends, the black face incident is brought up. Gabe puts his foot in his mouth with the classic white liberal response of, “I can’t believe this is happening in 2017” and “I’m just as pissed as you”. Reggie’s not having it; he responds with, “It’s like you and I attend two completely different schools”. Which is very true. Gabe can try to relate but he will never know what it feels like to be black in America even if he attended an HBCU it still wouldn’t be the same. Gabe questions whether Reggie will hit him which is entirely absurd. He and Sam leave the screening where Gabe argues that he was uncomfortable, Sam replies with “Welcome to my world”. Gabe acknowledges this but states that he would never make Sam feel uncomfortable with his friends. Meh, I can see how he could be disappointed but at the same time, he needed to hear what Reggie was saying. There is a problem at the school let alone the entire world when it comes to racism so instead of responding with tired phrases, he should have asked how he could help or support groups fighting against these issues.

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After the convo, Lionel pulls Sam aside to tell her that the newspaper has evidence that someone else other than the group behind Pastiche sent out the invite; basically giving her a chance to confess instead of allowing the paper to break the news. The next day Sam arrives at her radio station to find her slot replaced with a show entitled, “Dear Abigail”. She rushes in to bump Abigail off the air and give the white students a piece of her mind. She eloquently states why her radio show is not racist compared to the actual racism that is plaguing black American schools, neighborhoods, and well being. She also reveals that she was the one who sent the invite for the blackface party and that she “considered it a sociological experiment” that the students passed with flying colors. She ends it with an apology to her bae, Gabe.


The first episode was a great recap of where the film ended plus the aftermath of the party. Logan Browning, as Sam is ok to me. She doesn’t play as commanding as Tessa Thompson did in the film; she’s somewhat laid back. This could be because the film was shorter, the personalities had to play bigger so since Sam’s story is stretched out in the series, she’ll have to tone it down a bit. Lionel and Coco’s characters were also re-casted but I’ll talk about them in their individual chapters. The cinematography and dark neutral colors were great. The introduction of each chapter for the students was creative as well. I love the set design of Sam’s room and the clothing worked perfectly for each character especially the different BSU groups. The writing for the different BSU groups and the screening of Defamation represents the type of specifics that can only come from black writers. It’s so realistic and detailed; it adds an extra layer of believability to the show. All of the haters who have or had something to say about the title should watch the show and pay attention to the last scene. This scene perfectly sums up why Sam has her radio show and why we need a series entitled, Dear White People!