I watched Dear White People guys!!! As usual I am a million years late to the party (I listened to Forest Hills Drive 2014 in 2015, that’s right 20 freaking 15 BITE ME* indie kids I am the real rebel) and I urge (beg) you to respond to my piece like the movie was screened yesterday (just to make me feel good- put some respeck on my name, that type of thing).
Ok let’s get into it. I’m a borderline super obsessive fan-girl about things (I hide it well) and although I don’t remember how I found Dear White people, I knew about it long before it became a THING (yes, I was an original fan and I’m butthurt, don’t judge me). Dear White People focuses on the stories of a few black students in a predominantly white university and it explores how they struggle with identity, microaggressions, race relations etc. (It’s about everything basically).
I listened to interviews about DWP, watched the trailer, followed it on social media and I was so ready to watch it in cinema. Then I realised my local cinemas were not screening DWP (SHAME). Being a creature from the Dark Ages I really didn’t know how else I could watch it. My only idea was that Justin Simien (the director) would realise how invested I was in the movie and fly me to the US to have a private screening of it. That didn’t happen and I’m still recovering- but I discovered Netflix and willed myself to refrain from watching the movie until my exams were over.
Preamble over- content begins.
The characters in the movie are so wonderfully complex-they are like real people- I could be friends/enemies/people-watchers of any of them. I loved how you were able to simultaneously dislike and really admire elements of each character and the humor and satire was phenomenal (one of my favourite bits is when the camera pans to a poster of students from every race and an overly-smiley girl in crutches saying ‘Winchester University-where you belong!).
When I watched the trailer I was sure that I would love the main character Samantha White. She is an activist (well, after watching the movie that’s debatable) but she’s a very clued-up young woman who is incredibly irritated by social issues and she fluctuates, in my eyes, between being an activist and a pissed off girl who doesn’t care about pissing other people off. I despised her, realised I am her and wanted to be her. In fact I saw myself in all the characters (except Coco, who was not so accepting of her race). From Troy who wanted to make light of race issues to Lionel who was the prime example of ‘too white for the black kids, too black for the white kids’, Simien showed the nuance of the black experience and how, although there are common threads, the black experience is not one standard experience.
Simien has called the movie a movie about identity and I really think it is. The Mean Girls-esque style of having someone from every clique but instead of them being simplistic Simien explores how the characters are all flawed and really complicated, and how they contradict themselves and do stupid things and are so wonderfully human.
Sam’s behaviour reminds me of my internal narrative on a regular basis- the annoyance at how people of colour are often ignored, abused and homogenised and how institutions are organised to retain these destructives behaviours. Sam’s behaviour also reminded me of the kind of girl I have always run away from being. She is so open about being pissed off, she pushes the boat, she says and does things just to be provocative. She is that ‘Angry Black Girl’ that every sitcom thrives off- that annoying girl, whose butthurtedness runs so deep that even the breath of a white man is enough to drive her to spurt out a ‘by any means necessary’ type speech.
Her blackness is such a huge part of her identity that it becomes her. She is not Samantha, she is ‘Black Samantha’. She is ‘Black Samantha’ to the extent that she wears her hair in a certain way, tries to hide her love for a white boy and tries to pretend that she doesn’t like Taylor Swift. She does not want to leave any room for her blackness to be questioned. But as much as she tries to be ‘Black Samantha’ she slowly realises that she can be down and still like and do whatever she pleases- whether it is considered ‘Black’ or not. I really empathised with Sam and feel like her character reflected the behaviour of many young activists.
I remember when I was about to get a weave for the first time a few months ago and one thought that flew to mind was ‘would people think I was sort of selling out’. Now, I don’t think girls with weaves are sell outs hence why I wanted to and proceeded to get a weave but there was slight apprehension at the idea that people would think I was. I walk around with my natural hair, cornrows and braids and I feared that I would be seen as rejecting my core beliefs by getting a weave. Now, although one may say Itunu it’s never that deep, the truth is that hair is politicised- we can thank history and Eurocentric beauty standards for that- and when you are someone who is really interested in the topic of race you are hyper aware of this. It seems like the smallest thing but my decision to get a weave, was a reminder that I could be down for a cause and do whatever I please with my hair.
Equally sized little anecdote
I had the same apprehension when I started writing things online two years ago. I would constantly tell my mum ‘I don’t want to JUST write about race’- a belief I will always hold (and a topic Simien touches on with the character Lionel) but at the time what I was reeeaaaally saying was ‘I don’t want people to think I am the Angry Black Girl’. The Troy like behaviour of sort of tip-toeing around race issues, trying not to upset anyone and making fun of everything was so me.
I take the mick out of race issues on a regular basis (I blame Everybody Hates Chris for this) – but in the past it was a discreet way of saying ARGHHHHHHHHHH now it is a genuine I am telling a joke about racists and racism because it’s funny and if that’s a problem for you, talk to Chris Rock he was my sensei 🙂
Dear White People is a masterpiece. (Notice I didn’t say in my opinion because it is scientific fact). It is a masterpiece because it represents how messy humans are to be honest when you have a white boy quote ‘Coming to America’ in a movie that is worth at least 10 Brownie points.
I was told by a few people that I would like it- ‘it’s a very you kind of film’ they said and it is a very me kind of film. I wish I made it. It starts a conversation and also brings light to issues that we may not really SEE in both media and perhaps more importantly in everyday life. For example when they speak about how Hollywood is so attracted to stories about Black Mami’s like Big Momma- until that point I had never realised or questionned that.
Conclusion part two
So, as per usual this ode is not really an ode, it is an unsolicited think piece on what I think will go down as one of my favourite movies ever. I haven’t seen another film that explores the complexity of the experiences of people in colour as well as DWP. Issues like how people try and assimilate and ignore race problems and how others feel the pressure to be the ‘voice’ of their race are explored so wonderfully. The magic in Simien’s work in undeniable.
I hope we can see more things that show complexity, spark conversation and initiate action about race issues. And because I want to ‘do what I say and be an example’ I, alongside my friends, am launching a campaign called #oneisnotenough to address the lack of representation of BAMEs in the British media and school curriculum (will give more details soon).
I loved Simien before watching his movie and now I love him even more, the man is a genuis and I am soooooooo looking forward to Dear White People series *screams* on Netflix.
Please watch the movie-it’s on Netflix.
*please don’t, that’s gross
Would love to hear your thoughts! What did you think about the movie? Do you have any movie suggestions that are like Dear White People. Say whatever you like, but be nice, I’m fragile x