I FINALLY got a chance to see the new film Dear White People (DWP) with LM Friday night. I’ve been waiting on this movie for months & months, since it did the film festival circuit and got rave reviews (btw, I would love to be able to just to film festivals all the time & that be my job). I was a little worried that this film wasn’t playing in Minneapolis, but I was assured via the producer that the film would open nationwide on October 24, and it did!
From the minute the film began, I had so many thoughts and observations, which I will share with you here, in no particular order:
- DWP was filmed at my undergrad alma mater, the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!). The first scene was shot on Northrup Mall, where I took many classes and recently had my engagement photos done. I recognized every building on campus, from Northrup Auditorium to Pioneer Hall in the Superblock. Because I knew the real buildings, I found it slightly hard to get into the Ivy League thing, but I recognize that’s my issue.
- I didn’t attend an Ivy, but I attended 2 PWIs, both of which traditionally have low Black enrollment. Especially Minnesota. So I related to this movie a lot, in terms of the Black experience at a place where most people don’t look like you, have never met a person who looks like you, and is either naive or outright offensive towards you. I get the experience feeling a duty to stick together with the other Black students. I lived the life of the Black person who struggles with being Black enough to be down with the Black folks, and yet stay true to who you are, even when who are plays outside the Black people box. I’ve let microaggressions pile up and let them go, because sometimes in the grand scheme of things, you need to let them go to survive at a place where you’re surrounded by a sea of folks who are so different from you.
- I saw a little bit of myself in three characters, and I think that’s true for a lot of Black folks who attend PWIs. Like Lionel, I was a bit out of the Black people box, being a chemistry major and a nerd. But I also had a lot of Sam White in me, from my pro-Black upbringing and my militant father. At the same time, I had people pleasing tendencies like Troy and I struggled with balancing my own desires with the desires of my family and mentors.
- I didn’t really relate to Coco personally, but I’ve dealt with her type all my life. I felt some sympathy for Coco and Teyonah Parris (who played Coco in DWP) played the character so well to illicit empathy from the audience.
- A lot of the opinions that I hold were spoken to in the film – a perfect example is the comments about Tyler Perry and how Blacks are overall portrayed in the media.
- I absolutely loved how the film ended with the statement that the racist party portrayed in the movie is NOT a made-up situation, but culled from actual events. It seems like every year, some group or fraternal organization on at least one college campus ends up on the news for their unclever iteration of a party that requires them to dress up in blackface and mock what they think is Black culture.
- This film brought back to me an internal struggle I’ve been wresting with in my mind – is it better for Blacks to have any type of representation in the media, no matter how inaccurate it is or how bad it makes us look, or should we refuse to play a part in a system that works overtime to make us look as bad as possible? We complain about representation, but then the representation we do get involves us in crappy reality shows throwing bottles and rolling our necks. We know that Black culture is much more than that, but that’s what the collective (including us) sees…and then we emulate what we see on tv, thus perpetuating the cycle. Is removing ourselves from the system a better option? I don’t have an answer.
- Paul Mooney was so right – folks wanna be Black, but they don’t want to be Black. They’ll take all the perks with none of the liabilities.
- Privilege is a muthafucka.
- Ever notice how some of the most militant Black folks are light-skinned and/or biracial?
- Lena Waithe is one of the producers of this film, and I absolutely love her. She did a four-part pilot on YouTube called “Twenties” which is being turned into a tv show. If you haven’t seen it, you MUST watch.
- Several actors from the Twenties pilot were also in DWP – yay!
- Final thought – everyone needs to see this. EVERYONE. Go out if you haven’t. Go see it again if you have.