Last night, a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while asked me to go see “Dear White People”. It shocked me a bit and I was wary about how she’d react to the film since she’s a part of the group that movie was directed to. Before I left the house, I told another friend of mine where I’d be going for the night and he hilariously stated that someone on twitter said that “Dear White People” was a “90 minute long tumblr post” and my assumptions were on the money. Initially, I had no interest in seeing the film even with all the trailers and quotes from people who I’ve never heard of before singing it’s praises, there was a huge red flag flying high in the air and I definitely tried to avoid it like it was another Aaron Hall interview with DJ Vlad.
Why did I go to a movie that I didn’t really want to see? Well mostly to chill with a friend that I hadn’t seen since the beginning of the year AND to satisfy my morbid curiosity. First, I’d REALLY like to thank the people in the theater who acted as if they’ve never been out of their homes before, your “Mmm Hmms” and “No they didn’ts” really gave a lackluster flick much more of an enjoyment factor (SARCASM!). I understood that the film was satire and it’s sole purpose was to address the racism, cultural identity, sexism and any other “ism” that millennials are becoming aware of and I had no problem with people speaking upon issues that deserve attention but I’VE SEEN IT ALL BEFORE.
Yes! Yes! I’ve seen and heard it all before! If you visit tumblr, you will indeed find posts that are “pro this” and “pro that”, finger pointing and stereotyping others all the while becoming extremely butthurt when they are one the ones who become the caricature of someone else. This movie had so many cliche characters dealing with cliche situations. The “token” black guy, the pro-black yet confused mixed race girl trope, the all star brother with a white girlfriend, etc., etc., like these are all things I’ve encountered before and quickly grown tired of. Spike Lee covered all of these bases better with his 1988 film School Daze (Bamboozled gets an honorable mention) and John Singleton’s Higher Learning took a more extreme and grittier approach on the same subject. “Dear White People” had a typical plot had a typical climax that was blah blah blah yada yada yada and ended without really ending. Am I being too hard on the film? Maybe but this kind of criticism isn’t coming from thin air.
I went to Villanova University (often referred to as “Vanillanova” because the majority of the campus’s population is John Snow) and I was a member of the Black Student group on campus but I never really felt like that was necessary for my development of who I was. It did nothing to make or break my cultural identity. I was ME but I could’ve been more ME but that was a time of trying to find myself which Is what I connected to within the film but as far as everything else… I could’ve waited for the film’s release on Netflix or the homie in the barbershop with the bootlegs on the white DVDs with the title written in Sharpie.
Black people have come a long way in Hollywood but there’s still ways for us to go. Our place in this world is constantly being tested and with current abhorrent incidents of racism screaming louder than Little Richard being burned by a hot comb in 1957, the demand for equality increases. Films like “Dear White People” addresses the problem but there wasn’t a solution or even a path toward it. It seemed like confusion. Maybe that’s it, maybe the film in some sly fashion makes the point that everyone’s crazy and all of these so-called activists are full of shit and are down for the cause because of the public perception that brings. Andre 3000 of Outkast said this poignant line on “Aquemini”: “Now question: is every nigga with dreads for the cause? Is every nigga with golds for the fall? Naw So don’t get caught up in appearance” and that’s what I’ve always been about throughout my life as some of these “super black fist raising defenders of all things Africa” contradict every word and action that they aggressively preach to others.
Would I sit through this film again? Probably NOT. If you haven’t seen School Daze, I highly recommend it. What could made the film better in my opinion would be less focus on smoke and more attention on the matches that start the fire.