Let me start by saying that Justin Simien’s TV adaptation of ‘Dear White People’ is powerful, with an important message and an all-star cast. However, that being said, the episodes themselves aren’t that well-rounded. Is it worth watching? Sure. Will you love it? Probably not.
Dear White People starts off strong. Logan Browning takes on the role of Samantha White, who hosts a college radio show she has titled “Dear White People.” Naturally, her show isn’t liked by all — in the first episode we see students lashing out by throwing an off-campus “blackface” party, panting their face and dressing the way they stereotype the black community.
We see the events leading up to the party, then the actual party, from Samantha’s point of view. We see the backlash from the party but also from her show, both proving separate points for separate groups on campus. Those who claim the show features “reverse racism” clearly haven’t watched. No one — not Sam’s friends, not the Black Student Union, not the white students — is really okay with the title, “Dear White People.” So, how will the story be covered in the school newspaper? How will it affect others? How will it change Samantha?
These are all questions that are explored on Dear White People, but due to the format in the show following the pilot, get pushed aside. Episode two shifts focus from Samantha’s point of view to DeRon Horton‘s Lionel, the college’s newspaper reporter struggling with his identity. While retelling the pilot from his point of view showed another angle, and mixed in his personal struggles, it didn’t move forward.
The following episodes continue with that format, jumping to another point of view, leaving Lionel’s issues in the past and for the most part, never returning to them. Episode three is focused on Brandon P. Bell‘s Troy, the class president, while four is told by Antoinette Robertson‘s Coco, Samantha’s former BFF. While it gives us the opportunity to see every angle of the story, it’s repetitive and doesn’t completely follow through. Storylines and relationships that form in one episode aren’t followed up on in the next, causing us to be stuck at a stand still. While this works for some shows, like The Affair, the momentum doesn’t keep up in Dear White People.
The important message of the series is still there, and we all know that now more than ever, it’s relevant But since we’re seeing the same week over and over again, it plays out more like Groundhog’s Day than anything else. Dear White People‘s ten episodes debut on Netflix on April 28.