Whenever you watch a trailer on Youtube, it actually suggests loads of other movies. Some are older, but based on similar plots or with the same cast, others are upcoming movies, set to hit the screen at roughly the same time as what you just watched. Every now and then, you also get a trailer for a movie you’d otherwise never get to see. Dear White People is one of those for sure. The movie won 3 awards, unfortunately they were at festivals that no one really cares about (Sundance, Palm Springs, Gotham Independent).
I’m always open to broadening my horizon, and this little gem seemed like something you had to watch, if only for the chance to be able to boast at fancy dinner parties.
At first, Dear White People appears to be fairly straightforward: the trailer suggests it’ll be a movie about Black students at an Ivy League University, fighting for their right to be there just as much as everybody else, while simultaneously exploring themselves.
As it turns out, the movie is a lot more than that. It’s about identity in a place where you’re supposed to find yourself for the first time. It’s about race, yes, but also about acceptance of your own differences and individuality within that race. It’s about whether we are more than what the world sees in us, or whether we fall right into the trap and become what they make us out to be.
Welcome to Winchester University. An Ivy League school, it caters most to White rich kids. At Armstrong/Parker, the (previously) all Black house on campus, a group of dissatisfied students decides to fight the administration’s decision to “mix things up” within accommodation and chooses Sam White (Tessa Thompson), a film major and the host of heavily politically incorrect radio show Dear White People, to be the new house president. Sam is going against her ex-boyfriend and son of the University’s Dean, Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P Bell).
When she unexpectedly wins, Sam finds herself the new poster woman for Black rights. With her self-published book Ebony and Ivy, as well as her radio show and Youtube channel, she hopes to change the face of Winchester. But everyone doesn’t agree with her, like for example fellow Youtuber Coco (Teyonah Parris), who wants nothing more than to be popular and famous.
On the outskirts of all the hustle and bustle, Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) is struggling with his homosexuality, his race and his lack of popularity. Moved from house to house because he doesn’t really fit in anywhere, desperate to make friends, he accepts to write an exposé on Sam White for the most popular newspaper on campus.
But there’s more to every character: Sam is torn between her attraction to film TA Gabe (Justin Dobies) and her friend Reggie (Marque Richardson), as well as her mixed-race background. Troy actually hates everything about his degree and the future mapped out for him by his father and wants nothing more than to break free. Lionel is just lost but will unexpectedly find himself and Coco just needs to be appreciated.
Pictures from: negronews.fr, huffpost.com, slate.com, yalealumnimagazine.com, blackfilm.com