You can’t call it a sequel…
Lionsgate’s episodic translation of the critically acclaimed racially-charged satire film, Dear White People on Netflix takes everything that was left behind; every neglected backstory, scenes left on the cutting room floor, etc., and take the road less traveled by giving the viewer everything they missed in the film the show is based upon. It appears that Justin Simien has finally gotten his chance to unpack the subject matter that the Dear White People movie didn’t have the chance to: intersectionality, colorism, homophobia, and cognitive dissonance….you know… just to name a few.
First, let us discuss this cast…
When a strong movie such as DWP gets transformed into a TV series, naturally there are going to be some changes; a lot can change in 3 years. Only a handful of the original cast members reprise their roles for the series. Brandon P. Bell returns as Troy Fairbanks, son of the Dean of Winchester University (played by Obba Babatundé), that is tired of passive-aggressively raging against the dying of the light that is him being swallowed up into his father’s shadow. Ball and Babatundé provide a much stronger portrayal of this tense father-son dynamic than what the original actor that played Dean Fairbanks (Dennis Haysbert). Marque Richardson reprises his role as Reggie Green and he has come prepared to explicate with raw honesty the African-American man’s worst nightmare in a scene where Green has a campus police officer pull out his weapon on him. These two characters, Reggie and Troy, are hard to play and the actors that played them left shoes that only they could fill. Their presence in the series has allowed the new actors (be they veterans or novices) a chance to absorb themselves into the plot; giving the viewer a chance to get caught up in the new discoveries in the story line and not get hung up on the actors performing within it. The new cast members embody the original performances in look and delivery, but each possesses a fresh tenacity to reveal the impetus of each character’s personality traits/flaws. Viewers can take joy at poking fun of the personalities displayed in this microcosm academic atmosphere, however, it is hoped that as Netflix considers another season(*fingers crossed*) that there be an actual resolution to the plotline, thus possibly providing an applicable solution for the macrocosm that is the real world.
Now, on to the story line…
For anyone that has seen the original film, it begins with a controversial racially insensitive party that was thrown at a predominantly white campus. The series picks up at that same place (with Giancarlo Esposito providing his delightful code-switching narration skills as only a proper School Daze alum could) but with greater insight, twist and turns that were left out of the film. The editing and graphic design work on side conversations helped move things along within the plot. The positioning of text conversations and retelling of stories from different perspectives while noticing the overlap was very similar to the work of Man on Fire and (any) film of Tarantino’s, respectively.
If there was any one weak point with the series, it’s missing any sizable interaction with the students and their professors (Well, aside from Troy’s “admiration” for the faculty). While I loved that the series takes the time to flesh out the characters, it would have been great to see how they interacted with their professors and to see also how some of the professors treated their classes in light of the incident happening on campus. I would have loved to see if there would be any debates playing out in the classrooms and how these professors would handle dealing with them.
I highly recommended that this series be watched. Especially if you want to find and arm yourself with the accurate vocabulary to actively discuss the subject matter that created a movie and a show like this to begin with.
4 Not A Sequels Out Of 5.