“Dear White People”: A Search for Identity

On Tuesday Feb. 3, the campus cinema showed “Dear White People,” a film starring Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson and Kyle Gallner. “Dear White People” is directed by Justin Simien as his directorial debut in feature films.

Even though the film was marketed as a comedy when it was released in theaters back in January of this year, it actually proved to be more drama-filled than anything. Shot in a way that gives the film an older feel that is at times self-aware, Simien gives his characters and storyline a quirkiness that would be expected of a comedy while still holding onto a controversial and conflicting plot. Without poking fun at a very serious subject matter, Simien is able to keep a light mood throughout while still getting a moral across. Random character placements, however, seem to drag this film down despite the best efforts of the main actors. Supporting characters do less supporting than hindering, and I strongly believe that this film would have been better without them having a strong enough casting for major players of the storyline.

The story begins as a film “educating” white people on the appropriate behaviors that they should demonstrate when in the company of members of different races. The film focuses on African Americans specifically (although according to the film that is now considered as a racist term), as told through a podcast run by Thompson’s character. She stands as an outgoing activist for the black population of an Ivy League school that is being forced into randomized room assignment, bringing about an end to the primarily black dorm on campus. With a very long build-up (almost too long), the viewer is given the initial idea that this is going to be the main conflict throughout the film. Little would they know that there is another hour left in the movie in which the action suddenly escalates. The film takes a turn from slightly goofy to extremely serious almost at the drop of a hat, changing the entire point and bringing about the moral that the director seems to be trying to display, which is to find out who you are and be accepting and proud of it, regardless of race.

The film uses actual events that have happened (sadly, I might add) on college campuses across the nation to prove that even though the writer or director can make a dramedy about such serious issues even in today’s society years after the Civil Rights Movement, that they are still a major problem in our world. Simien uses this to show his work as not just a movie, but as a lesson that everyone should take away from the film. Simien’s lesson is that we all, no matter who we are, need to accept ourselves and others in order to put a stop to all the hate in the world.

Article by Krista Skweres

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