DEAR WHITE PEOPLE
April 30, 2017 7:15 PM   Subscribe

'Dear White People' Is Hilarious, Real, and Necessary [Vice] “It also understands the layers of racism and microaggressions: It isn't just about being called a "nigger" or having a cop pull a gun on you—though these events are in the series, because they're in our lives. It's also about the smaller, shitty moments that pile up: When a professor asks if anyone with a "special connection" to slavery wants to lead the discussion, as the white students all glance toward the one black student in a room, or a coach confusing a black student for the black athlete on his team. Or a white woman touching a black man's Afro, while saying he looks like Wiz Khalifa. These moments within the series are often played, simultaneously, for laughs and devastation: It's funny, because we've been there and know how utterly ridiculous these microaggressions are, and it's devastating because we've been there and know that how hurtful it was.”

• "Dear White People" Has Truly Found Its Moment [Buzzfeed]
“Netflix’s Dear White People picks up directly after the events of the film — when a blackface party, thrown by white students and brought to an end by black students, has divided the campus. In the aftermath of that shocking night, the characters respond in a myriad of ways: Sam hits the airwaves, Reggie begins to mobilize the black student union, Lionel puts metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper, and Troy endeavors to reunify all the students. “In a lot of ways, my characters are going through a catharsis we are all kind of going through because they're all, in some ways, reacting to the resistance,” Simien said. “Caring so deeply and passionately about something and having it not work out and blowing up in your face despite your best intentions, I needed to see a show about that. So I made one.””
• Netflix’s Dear White People digs into everyday racism, and it's sharp — and funny — as hell [Vox]
“Dear White People tackles a lot of real, serious topics — but it’s also funny as hell. And to the show’s infinite credit, the jokes manage to pull the double duty of making you laugh while also making the show’s message that much more impactful. Throughout the series, many of the black students on campus regularly gather at Winchester’s historically black dorm to watch a Scandal-esque show that has everyone throwing popcorn at the screen, or just discuss what the hell’s going on on campus (the latter of which are usually Sam’s doing). These meetings are driven by tension and debate, and though some of Sam’s classmates are fans of her unsparing rhetoric, others call it “entry level blackrage” and “self-serving blacker-than-thou propaganda.” Some are worried that rising up could make them “look angry”; others point out that they “are angry.””
• The Story Behind Dear White People’s Perfect Scandal Parody [Vulture]
“I see the show as a five-hour movie you’re watching in slices. We start with Sam, who is very much a part of black culture at Winchester. Then we move to Lionel, who is very much trying to penetrate black culture at Winchester. There are certainly episodes where what we’re satirizing becomes very clear, but I wanted to get under your skin. I wanted these characters to sink in, and for you to care about them before things get real. I recognized pretty early on is that this wouldn’t be a hard, satirical show. Veep is probably my favorite satire on the air. It’s such hard satire, it’s harder to care about them. For Veep, that’s not a problem because they’re all irredeemable people who are lucking their way into running the country. But with these guys, you have to spend time with them in a way that they’re not just caricatures or archetypes. So, yeah, it was a conscious effort to have a lighter touch episode to episode, but think of it as a whole piece. There is a thing that we’re satirizing, but we’re taking our time getting to it. Otherwise, I just think it might be grating.”
• Inside 'Dear White People's' Pivotal and Emotional Fifth Episode [The Hollywood Reporter]
“The fifth episode of Netflix's new comedy Dear White People, based on the 2014 movie of the same name, is a turning point of sorts for the show. The hour, directed by Oscar winner Barry Jenkins, follows a typical collegiate Saturday in the life of student and activist Reggie (Marque Richardson) — wandering around on campus with his friends and winding up at a party, where he dominates a drinking game with his white classmate (Nolan Funk). But after the two have a nonviolent disagreement about using the n-word while singing along to a song, things escalate rapidly when a campus cop pulls a gun on the unarmed Reggie, demanding he show his student ID. And no, the cop didn't ask his white classmate the same question. While the first five episodes of the series introduce the characters and how they deal with a group of white students throwing a blackface party on campus, the second five deal with the aftermath of a very real, very dangerous incident. ”
• “I Was Taken Aback by the Volume of Vitriol” [The Ringer]
“I think the first time, with the movie, I was really hurt because I knew the title would be a little provocative, but I just wasn’t prepared for it to be the subject of people’s hate like that. I think by the time the teaser trailer launched for the show, I had already kinda gone through that, so I wasn’t hurt by it. I was taken aback by the volume of vitriol and the way it was really well organized, and the proliferation of fake accounts and weird manipulations that people have come up with online. That part was kind of weird. It took me aback. But the truth is that it proves the point of the show in a way that the show alone could never do. I think it’s a meta thing to not only have a show that’s about all these subjects but also in real time is sort of like proving its point. So I actually think it’s cool. And I actually, as an artist and a storyteller who’s constantly trying to wrap my brain around these issues, think it’s really very rich. I have a lot of research at my fingertips because I can immediately look and try to get in the heads of these people and try to figure out which profiles are real and get into all this weird alt-right culture that they’ve developed.”
posted by Fizz (43 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
As usual, Fizz, I find you reading my mind. Just started watching it two hours ago an am on full on binge.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:18 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


I just binge-watched the entire series and I felt the need to share the goodness and beauty that is this series. So many thoughts, so much reckoning with my own biases, assumptions, and ideas of race and living in this world.

Take heed friends. This is your homework assignment. Now get to work.
posted by Fizz at 7:21 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I vote that people watch it because it looks like it's really good, not because they consider it homework. It's kind of fucked up to assume that media by and about black people can only be consumed as some sort of painful duty.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:00 PM on April 30, 2017 [49 favorites]


Do I need to watch the movie before I start the series?
posted by AFABulous at 8:12 PM on April 30, 2017


It's NOT a good analogy (for obvious reasons) but it's kinda like the intro to the Fat Albert cartoon in which Live Action Bill Cosby said "...and if you're not careful, you may learn something before it's done."
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:13 PM on April 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


I have not watched the movie first and am doing just fine.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:25 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


You may not need to watch the movie first, but you should watch it because 1) it's a really good movie and 2) the events of the series pick up where the movie left off. Last I checked, the movie was streaming through Amazon Prime.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:37 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I started watching this last night and found it excellent. That squirming uncomfortable familiarity that biting humour about racism can bring. It's also about campus, which is a particular sort of space, where things can sometimes be more vocal and raw.
posted by chapps at 8:38 PM on April 30, 2017


"Get Out" but it starts with her white family saying how much they like "Dear White People".

Like, it opened their eyes, man!
posted by mysticreferee at 8:52 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


[excised homework derail, it is not literally homework]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:54 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


The movie is excellent so I'd watch it just because it's so funny and smart.
posted by fshgrl at 10:10 PM on April 30, 2017


It is somewhat confounding that Netflix bought the series but not the rights to the film. Another important Netflix watch (and you can rightly call it homework because it's painful and hard, but informative and really crucial) is 13th, a documentary by the director of Selma about a little known exception to the 13th Amendment that has legalized involuntary servitude.
posted by rikschell at 4:51 AM on May 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


This is on my watch list this week - ahead of Guardians Vol 2. Ask my wife - that's huge... also she won't believe you because I haven't mentioned this to her. Mostly because she detests how much I code and watch Netflix at the same time, not understanding how I can do that but not hold a conversation and code...
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:34 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


It is somewhat confounding that Netflix bought the series but not the rights to the film.

Streaming media rights are so complicated and convoluted that the simplest answer might be that the streaming rights might have already been sold to someone else.
posted by mmascolino at 5:56 AM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Streaming media rights are so complicated and convoluted that the simplest answer might be that the streaming rights might have already been sold to someone else.

It's not available, so far as I can tell, for streaming anywhere without purchase. However, you can purchase it on the major platforms, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.

I was happy to see Tyler James Williams (who played Chris in Everybody Hates Chris) in the movie, but sad to see he isn't in the show--he's a regular on another one, so I can see why that's difficult.
posted by anem0ne at 6:17 AM on May 1, 2017


I think I remember that the movie did stream on Netflix a few months ago, unless I'm hallucinating that.
posted by emjaybee at 6:54 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I caught up with the movie (on Hulu) a couple of months ago, and found myself in the confounding situation of being a white guy who felt like I totally grokked what the movie had to say about race and black identity and white privilege and microaggressions and cultural appropriation, but felt a bit shut out by the Ivy League-ness of the whole thing.

Speaking as a middle-class kid who got a degree from a state school, I never quite felt like the movie was talking to me, but to somebody at least a couple of rungs up on the socioeconomic ladder. All of the stuff about getting into prestigious residence halls and eating with the right people and getting onto the satirical magazine might as well have been about winning the big Quidditch match for Ravenclaw House, as far as my experience of collegiate life was concerned.

I really liked the characters though, so I'm looking forward to checking out the show, to see if any of the unacknowledged class stuff from the movie gets addressed.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:07 AM on May 1, 2017 [11 favorites]


I stumbled across the movie version on Amazon Prime a little while ago and enjoyed it.

I don't watch enough TV to pay for a Netflix subscription, but maybe I'll take advantage of a free trial period and binge it some day when I find more than an hour to myself every day.
posted by that girl at 7:59 AM on May 1, 2017


Very Smart Brothas on Dear White People: "Everything That The Movie Could Have Been Plus More"
posted by introp at 8:30 AM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


Speaking as a middle-class kid who got a degree from a state school, I never quite felt like the movie was talking to me, but to somebody at least a couple of rungs up on the socioeconomic ladder. All of the stuff about getting into prestigious residence halls and eating with the right people and getting onto the satirical magazine might as well have been about winning the big Quidditch match for Ravenclaw House, as far as my experience of collegiate life was concerned.

Gosh, it's almost as if even family economic success can't shield people of color from the aggressions of this culture!
posted by praemunire at 10:37 AM on May 1, 2017 [9 favorites]


I think I remember that the movie did stream on Netflix a few months ago, unless I'm hallucinating that.

Nope, that's where I saw it last year as well. It must have fallen off Netflix streaming within the last 3-6 months.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:53 AM on May 1, 2017


I think my favorite thing about the series is that a show called Dear White People isn't directed at white people.

And Sam's Dear White People radio show within the Dear White People streaming show isn't either, as illustrated by the flashbacks to earlier exchanges between Sam and her friends that give the backstory with amazing economy. She's certainly saying things that white people need to hear, but the primary motivation seems to be to give black people a chance to share their experience of living among white people; the direct address is only a secondary concern.
posted by layceepee at 11:44 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a middle-class kid who got a degree from a state school, I never quite felt like the movie was talking to me, but to somebody at least a couple of rungs up on the socioeconomic ladder. All of the stuff about getting into prestigious residence halls and eating with the right people and getting onto the satirical magazine might as well have been about winning the big Quidditch match for Ravenclaw House, as far as my experience of collegiate life was concerned.

I feel like upper middle class, elite black life is actually very rarely portrayed in popular culture and it's interesting to see the creators of this show represent their own experience, which is very much touched by racism and oppression, despite the faint shield their socioeconomic or cultural privilege gives them. I think that popular media portrayals of black life and culture tend to be disproportionately stories of poverty and crime and for the creators of this show and of the movie, that is clearly not what their experience of the world has been like. I don't really understand what class issues they need to acknowledge. I personally think it's perfectly valid for them to create this one TV show that is solely by and about them, even if it doesn't necessarily speak to your collegiate experience. This is about their experience.
posted by armadillo1224 at 12:41 PM on May 1, 2017 [14 favorites]


I don't really understand what class issues they need to acknowledge. I personally think it's perfectly valid for them to create this one TV show that is solely by and about them, even if it doesn't necessarily speak to your personal experience.

The experience of elite private schools in this nation is lauded far out of proportion to their goodness or actual relevance. It's reasonable to notice that Dear White People creates a world that is entirely inaccessible to most people, not just black people. So it's not as if you can't tell good stories about it, but the setting is absolutely going to pose a barrier.
posted by TypographicalError at 12:48 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


TV shows like Friends and Sex and the City are all about white people who live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and hardly ever seem to have jobs to go to, and I don't think the millions of people who watch(ed) them perceive the barrier, or were able to hop over it without much trouble.
posted by rtha at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2017 [18 favorites]


I feel like upper middle class, elite black life is actually very rarely portrayed in popular culture and it's interesting to see the creators of this show represent their own experience, which is very much touched by racism and oppression, despite the faint shield their socioeconomic or cultural privilege gives them. I think that popular media portrayals of black life and culture tend to be disproportionately stories of poverty and crime....
posted by armadillo1224 at 3:41 PM on May 1


African-American woman here, and I can't support the above comment enough. Upper-class blacks, and especially upper-class black women, are woefully under represented in mainstream media stories that have upper-class settings.

I binged Dear White People this weekend, and its POV put me in mind of a rom-com that I very much enjoy (on its own terms, that is; it's a rom-com, not Citizen Kane): the movie Something New, starring Sanaa Lathan.

Roger Ebert pointed out in his review:

The movie is, astonishingly, told from a point of view hardly ever visible in movies: African-American professionals....The movie has frank dialogue about race -- not platitudes about how we're all really the same, but realistic observations about race in modern America. There's talk of the "black tax" that requires someone like Kenya to work harder than her white colleagues, in order to overcome doubts about her competence. At work, she advises an important client to stay away from a merger; this is not news the client wants to hear, and he is unhappy hearing it from a black woman who seems better-informed than he is.

The thing about Dear White People and Something New is, the experiences presented aren't limited to the upper-class black person. There was much about Dear White People that reflected my experiences as a black woman at a majority-white state school, and Something New represented some of my experiences at my middle-class job in a majority-white workplace and as someone who's dated the occasional white-guy-wanting-to-be-supportive.

I agree that some folks won't be able to get past the elite-school setting. But shenanigans-at-an-elite-school setting is perennially popular in American media culture (I'm specifically thinking of the success of the book and TV series Gossip Girl). I don't think the Ivy League-esque setting will be as much of a problem for white viewers as engaging with a story told that's not centered on the POV of a white character in that setting.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:21 PM on May 1, 2017 [21 favorites]


The experience of elite private schools in this nation is lauded far out of proportion to their goodness or actual relevance. It's reasonable to notice that Dear White People creates a world that is entirely inaccessible to most people, not just black people. So it's not as if you can't tell good stories about it, but the setting is absolutely going to pose a barrier.

I don't really get what this means. I don't think this TV show is lauding anything. It's just portraying the particular experience of a group of black college students at an elite school. That's not something we see a lot or really, ever. There have been a kajillion shows about white kids at wealthy prep schools or just wealthy white people generally and I rarely see anyone complain that their world is too inaccessible to be interesting to a broad audience.

If anything, the setting being an old bastion of wealth and white privilege sets up some really interesting and fertile ground for explorations of race and class.

I don't think the Ivy League-esque setting will be as much of a problem for white viewers as engaging with a story told that's not centered on the POV of a white character in that setting.

Yes, this, absolutely. I feel like I hear a lot more about how minority-centered narratives are inaccessible or difficult for 'mainstream' audiences to relate to than I hear the same about TV shows and movies that portray the lives of very wealthy characters.
posted by armadillo1224 at 6:14 PM on May 1, 2017 [12 favorites]


magstheaxe, I was about to mention Something New myself! I am really glad to encounter someone else who's seen it who's not Roger Ebert. I wish it was better known because it's got so much going for it--and I'm not usually a romcom person. I could spin off into everything I like about it, but I don't want to turn this discussion into My White Person Feelings.

I don't think the Ivy League-esque setting will be as much of a problem for white viewers as engaging with a story told that's not centered on the POV of a white character in that setting.

Yes, this, absolutely. I feel like I hear a lot more about how minority-centered narratives are inaccessible or difficult for 'mainstream' audiences to relate to than I hear the same about TV shows and movies that portray the lives of very wealthy characters.


It seems like nearly every school-based movie or TV show involving white young adults often use high school or college settings that are treated as normal but you'd only see in the toniest, richest locales in real life. I mean, at least DWP acknowledges that this is a wealthy school, as opposed to all the others. I strongly suggest anyone who thinks they won't relate to give it a chance. The dominance of white casts in our movies and TV means that a lot of us white people do not grow up learning to implicitly relate with the POC we see on screens. It is something we need to be actively aware of when we decide whether a movie/show is "relatable" or not.
posted by schroedinger at 10:14 PM on May 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


The show does look into these issues a bit with the character of Coco, the scholarship kid from a poor neighborhood who has tried so hard to escape her circumstances and protect herself from her own identity. It takes that in a really interesting direction, and there are a couple of excellent scenes that explore the difference between Coco's perspective/motivations and those of her friends. (Compare Coco's scholarship-kid story to Troy, for example, who grew up in the middle of all this cloistered privilege and whose father made a similar attempt to protect him from the dangers of his identity as a black man in America.)

(honestly, the only thing that bugged me about the show was the same thing that bugs me about most movies and shows set in high school/college: the cast of gorgeous actors who maybe look a little old for their roles, and the gorgeous dialog that's sometimes hard to imagine coming from real 19-year-olds. that's part of why Lionel was my favorite character.)
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 9:11 AM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am excited to find the time to watch this, and your collection of review excerpts has only strengthened the feeling!
posted by sazerac at 11:52 AM on May 2, 2017


I don't really get what this means. I don't think this TV show is lauding anything. It's just portraying the particular experience of a group of black college students at an elite school. That's not something we see a lot or really, ever. There have been a kajillion shows about white kids at wealthy prep schools or just wealthy white people generally and I rarely see anyone complain that their world is too inaccessible to be interesting to a broad audience.

I mean, that is what I and others are doing in this very thread, so it's a little odd to dismiss that critique with "no one ever says that!"
posted by TypographicalError at 12:30 PM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I started this last night and am really enjoying it so far! I watched up to part-way through Reggie's episode.

honestly, the only thing that bugged me about the show was the same thing that bugs me about most movies and shows set in high school/college: the cast of gorgeous actors who maybe look a little old for their roles, and the gorgeous dialog that's sometimes hard to imagine coming from real 19-year-olds. that's part of why Lionel was my favorite character.

Well, as a someone who went to a state school, I was pretty jelly over all the single rooms with ensuite bathrooms since I had three roommates my freshman year in a room smaller than any of these kids', and then two roommates sophomore and junior year in what I think used to be a closet, and then finally earned the luxury of a double in senior year. And the bathroom was for everyone on the floor and had group showers.

BUT, what kinda got to me for real me was the very normative beauty standards so far - everyone is incredibly slender and beautiful and tall and then there's poor Lionel who has to embody all sorts of "non-standard" factors like being short, being gay, being a sci-fi nerd, being shy, wearing glasses. But so far there aren't any other characters, or any women especially, who don't look like they just walked out of a glossy magazine photo shoot.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:24 PM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


So, I just binged this and it was great. I liked it a lot. I'm surprised that no one has posted it to FanFare yet.

The fifth episode...

...well, we shouldn't spoil anything. But I went to an exceedingly white, very small liberal arts college, my freshman class had 112 students in it. Two of them were black. One of them became my friend, as we were in a group of five students who (by design, they did this back then) all had the same classes together.

So, that year was 1991-1992. I was an older student at 26 -- in fact, the oldest in my freshman class, I think the third oldest that year among the entire undergraduate population. I was also married. So I was unusual in many respects (for which I later became thankful, but that's another topic). But there's two incidents that came to mind when I was watching this show.

The first was when that friend, one evening while walking among a group of our friends in a parking lot, having just returned to campus, was stopped by campus security and asked if she was a student and required to show ID as proof. None of the other students with her, who were white, were asked this. So there's that.

But I wasn't present when this happened; rather, I heard about it a few minutes later when the group came to the library, where I was. G was very upset and wouldn't talk about it. Her close friend, also a member of our group, and of course white, was infuriated by this, was befuddled by G's reluctance to complain to the administration about this, and was discussing her plans to "do something about it". G, IIRC, had gone to her dorm room and I listened as this other friend fumed and planned and then I sort of took her aside and said, hey, it's not really your place to jump in and unilaterally report and/or protest about this -- you need to wait and see what G wants to do because, the thing is, as a white person, you're just hurting G worse if you make this all about how outraged you are and disempower her by just assuming that you know best.

Wow, did she get very, very angry with me. In fact, although we weren't close before that, I think that pretty much created an animosity between us that never faded. It was a lesson to me, both in her reaction to G's response and to her reaction to my advice. I didn't know the term "white privilege" then, it may not have been coined yet (though the concept, of course, was understood), but in my personal case I'd been dealing with my spouse working through disclosing her being an incest survivor and how dealing with her family (including the rapist) affected both of us -- and I had learned, early on, that making it about me, even when well-intended, just compounds the hurt when the whole thing is that someone has actively disempowered you. I think that's the only reason I understood this dynamic in that particular situation, as I wasn't particular woke with regard to racism at that time.

The second thing happened that year, that I vividly recall, was that it was April of 1992 and the riots were going on in LA. Among the many traditions at this school, as many of these schools have, there was a one-night campuswide party sponsored by the senior class -- its timing was a surprise, its theme also varying from year-to-year. And that year the theme was ... well, it seemed to be Downtown or South Central LA. I walked out to the quad and looked at the decorations and I just stopped in my tracks. I stood there with my mouth hanging open for several minutes, and then fumed at anyone who happened to be nearby for the next fifteen. And ... no one, not even my close friends, took my concerns seriously. One senior insisted to me, adamantly, that the theme just was accidentally Los Angeles and not about the riots. I just ... I don't know. Writing about this makes me angry all over again, twenty-five years later.

Later, I kind of drifted away from G and, it should be noted, she transferred away after sophomore year. Some of the things I watched her struggle with (and she changed over time) I only dimly understood at the time, but which this show illustrates very clearly. Over the time I knew G, she moved from the "Coco" to the "Sam" position.

I think I agree with the others above who argue that the privileged Ivy setting strengthens the narrative in many respects, not weakens it. It's not as if I don't feel excluded from all that wealth, from that economic and cultural capital, depicted in the show, because I felt this (to a much lesser degree than one would presumably feel at any Ivy) where I attended school. Too many of my classmates came from very well-off backgrounds, it was disconcerting. And at the time and in the years later, to this day, watching how these networks reinforce privilege has been instructive.

The year before, I had actually worked as a payphone repairperson and had come onto the campus to repair one of the phones. When these accursed, small-company payphones -- which were, at that time, the only phones available in the dorms, came up in conversation I would sometimes mention that I had worked for that company and been their sole repairperson and had, indeed, taken apart and repaired that phone right over there, you see that one? And basically no one really knew what to think of this. It didn't really compute. People who repair the payphones are non-people, right, they're not someone. Uh-huh.

But, see, that's the thing. As a straight, white, cisgendered, middle-class man, it took me all those years to find myself in a context where I felt like I didn't quite belong, that I wasn't "one of them". And I don't mean in a "not one of the popular kids" way, but in a structural sense, that, okay, I am beginning to see some social structures that make many things in life much easier for the people born into them. And, so, likewise, if your big complaint about this show is that you feel alienated from the Ivy-type privilege, wealth and cultural capital, depicted in the show, and this makes the show difficult to watch ... that's not a bug, that's a feature. Because this is what PoC feel all the time, everywhere, in a white supremacist society.

There's some ways in which I feel that this show doesn't deal with intersectionality well, but, speaking only for myself as a person with quite a bit of privilege on numerous axes, I do think it does a good job at what it intends -- to not, thank god, be about white people, white people's feelings about racism, and, more to the point, the show isn't aimed at white people insofar as its focus is how the structural racism divides and conquers, how racism creates horrible, unsolvable dilemmas in personal and social identity. While it's doing the more direct things like blackface parties or bigoted cops, it's also burrowing under and attacking from within, creating no-win choices.

Gabriel seems a fairly decent sort, but he's undeveloped as a character and he serves more of a plot function than lives and breathes as a person. This is good, I think, the show is telling us something there, too.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:26 PM on May 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't really get what this means. I don't think this TV show is lauding anything. It's just portraying the particular experience of a group of black college students at an elite school. That's not something we see a lot or really, ever. There have been a kajillion shows about white kids at wealthy prep schools or just wealthy white people generally and I rarely see anyone complain that their world is too inaccessible to be interesting to a broad audience.
I mean, that is what I and others are doing in this very thread, so it's a little odd to dismiss that critique with "no one ever says that!"


I would like to point out that "no one ever says that", in this context, is not a literal "no one"? The point remains that there are a kajillion shows about white kids at wealthy prep schools or even in circumstances alien to many (obscene wealth, outright fantasy) and the "too inaccessible" critique is rarely leveled at them.

Sure, for some people the class barrier might be the insurmountable limit that makes it incomprehensible to them. For others, it might just be that stories told from the POV of anyone not white and not male is so staggeringly different that the experience may be too inaccessible.

/shrug Though I'd also assume those people would also have trouble with shows like Walking Dead, Star Trek, X-Files, NCIS, CSI, and Vanderpump Rules, given that in each of those cases the lives are so different and fantastical that there's just nothing to connect with.
posted by anem0ne at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


BUT, what kinda got to me for real me was the very normative beauty standards so far.

hello have you heard of a thing called "television"?

To be less snarky about it, consider anem0ne's point:

The point remains that there are a kajillion shows about white kids at wealthy prep schools or even in circumstances alien to many (obscene wealth, outright fantasy) and the "too inaccessible" critique is rarely leveled at them.

Similarly, nearly every television show and movie on the planet employs staggeringly beautiful actors. It begs the question why these criticisms are being levelled at this particular show.

This parallels the way the Obamas have been torn up for accepting large speaking fees. Their speaking fees are in proportion to other accomplished, extremely popular political figures, and taking such fees is extraordinarily common. Now, it is fine for people to take issue with this practice--nobody is questioning the critique itself. But why is it the only people we've seen specifically singled out happen to be the first female presidential candidate of a major party, and the first Black POTUS and FLOTUS?

I hope some of the people criticizing it ask themselves why this show in particular draw opprobrium for the tropes and unrealistic standards of beauty seen everywhere else. I hope they look inside themselves and ask themselves honestly whether these critiques are unique to this show, or whether there are other shows they watch and enjoy that have the same issues. And ask themselves why this show in particular is held to higher expectations.
posted by schroedinger at 1:53 AM on May 7, 2017 [5 favorites]


Though I'd also assume those people would also have trouble with shows like Walking Dead, Star Trek, X-Files, NCIS, CSI, and Vanderpump Rules, given that in each of those cases the lives are so different and fantastical that there's just nothing to connect with.

Or The Sopranos, or Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones, because I imagine there aren't many people with this issues who are involved in the Mafia, building a drug empire, or engaged in political intrigue while riding dragons.
posted by schroedinger at 1:57 AM on May 7, 2017 [3 favorites]


TV shows like Friends and Sex and the City are all about white people who live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and hardly ever seem to have jobs to go to, and I don't think the millions of people who watch(ed) them perceive the barrier, or were able to hop over it without much trouble.

Ditto The Big Bang Theory which is about a bunch of genius physicists who work at CalTech and which millions of people continue to watch and enjoy without much trouble.
posted by shotgunbooty at 5:32 AM on May 7, 2017


I binged-watched this and enjoyed it and thought it was really good, but also agreed with this writer, that a lot of details of the show's portrayal of young black people have a distinctly Tumblr circa 2012 vibe to it and many palpable "How do you do, fellow kids" moments (the completely unironic Woke or Not app idea being the best example).
posted by AceRock at 5:41 AM on May 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


Except that article's first example is already outdated itself: "Cyrus is off on a beach somewhere with Thor’s little brother now. She hasn’t been in the news for egregious cultural appropriation since 2015. " This week Cyrus is once again back in the news for cultural appropriation.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:59 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Life comes at you pretty fast
posted by AceRock at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2017


I hope some of the people criticizing it ask themselves why this show in particular draw opprobrium for the tropes and unrealistic standards of beauty seen everywhere else.

I analyze every show I watch on this criteria, and it is one of the things I find most irksome about American TV in particular (nobody looks like people), but I didn't need to say it here, I guess.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:32 PM on May 8, 2017


it is one of the things I find most irksome about American TV in particular (nobody looks like people)

I think this is why I've fallen so in love with Canadian TV. A much wider range of actors with more diverse faces and bodies! The people coded as "heartthrobs" are at the level of your gorgeous next-door-neighbor who you get a crush on, not the Hollywood-everybody-looks-similar level (paging Chris Pine… or was it Chris Pratt? Chris Evans? Chris Hemsworth?).

(One of the things that makes me feel Old is how often I can't tell the young starlets apart. "Oh, it's another buff, young, conventionally-attractive white person. Who is this one?")

In counterpoint, there's Cas Anvar. Andrew Rotilio. Kevin Hanchard. Cara Gee. Florence Faivre. Chad Coleman. Athena Karkanis. Greg Bryk. Nick Tarabay. Jay Hernandez. Carlos Gonzalez-Vio. Etc. (Yes, these are all drawn from The Expanse cast list. That's just one Canadian-made show...)
posted by Lexica at 5:07 PM on May 8, 2017


"I think this is why I've fallen so in love with Canadian TV."

And so much more so with British TV. A fair amount of ethnic diversity, but especially that the actors look like actual people, not idealizations. When I go back and forth between American and British television, I feel an immediate increased verisimilitude and comfort with British TV and an immediate alienation from American TV. Hey, look: a middle-aged office worker who looks like a middle-aged office worker, not someone in the photo that comes with the frame.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:11 AM on May 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


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