Dear White People on Netflix episode 1 review: A smart, considered show with great promise

Christopher Hooton

It must have come to the joy of Netflix and creator Justin Simien when broflakes the world over were provoked into outrage over the commission of new series Dear White People, as the title was designed to do exactly that - provoke - just as it does with the radio show depicted in the show itself.

All 10 episodes of the first season, adapted from the Sundance film of the same name, dropped this morning and the pilot is strong and, crucially, balanced.

Seeing 'students of colour navigate the daily slights and slippery politics of life at an Ivy League college that's not nearly as "post-racial" as it thinks,' Dear White People centres on Sam (Logan Browning), the leader of the college's black student union who, outside of her activism and studies, happens to be fucking a white guy. The pilot centres on the fallout when this information becomes public among her peers, the morning after a blackface party happens on campus no less.

This show could have been a self-righteous, shallow "yay for liberalism, boo to conservatism" affair but it's smarter than that, and mostly focuses on and unpacks the Left's hypocrisies and slacktivism.

"I just thought this kind of thing only happened in the 50s or in BuzzFeed articles," a student says of the blackface party, and when Sam cringes at her love interest Gabe's dorky, white clothing, he scolds her in a playful way about her now wanting him to appropriate black culture.

The show really gets into its stride when Gabe joins the members of the black caucus to just chill and watch TV and is verbally attacked and belittled by a black student he was just trying to show support for. The guy goes too far and Sam knows it, presenting a dilemma set to be central to the show: how do you stick to a 'resist, resist, resist' mantra without not giving people the benefit of the doubt and generally not being a dick to those trying to show you love?

There's a little too much shoehorning of millennial stuff in there ("I read your Medium article" made me wince a little), but the first episode is shot beautifully and a solid start, with direction from Moonlight's Barry Jenkins to come later in the series.

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