The continuation of the 2014 film “Dear White People” was released on April 28 and has already ignited opposition from white nationalists on Twitter. The satirical film turned Netflix series has created an anti-“Dear White People” movement with people threatening to cancel their Netflix accounts and claiming the series perpetuates racism. White nationalists’ disregard for their own racism and the true intent of the show is a clear indication of why this project is timely and necessary.
Creator, writer, and producer Justin Simien recounted developing the series during an interview preceding an advanced screening of the first two episodes in Atlanta, Ga. on April 20. The triple threat remembered being in college and began to use his experience as the base of his content.
“At the time, it was like if you mention that racism is a thing, people looked at you funny like you were crying wolf,” Simien said. “The other thing was… I’ve always been a black person who was jumping between black and white worlds, and I just didn’t see that experience anywhere.”
With the film’s success, Simien observed the characters and story lines that had not been uncovered and decided to create a show that continued the conversation. Although the series was presented to various television networks, Netflix won the bid and Simien feels that is where the project belongs.
Young people, especially college students, are avid users of Netflix, and the series speaks to them. He stated that while the series is not based on a specific Ivy League institution, he did pull from the histories of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
Simien said that when writing the first draft of the movie in 2005, the world was in a different state than it currently is. Marque Richardson, who reprised his role as Reggie, noted that the show is important given the current state of the country and its administration.
“Things have amplified in terms of hate and bigotry, especially on college campuses,” Richardson said. “With this show being released right now, I feel like that could be a like a medicine to help have these conversations on college campuses or in the workplace to help progress people forward.”
Although Logan Browning, who now plays Samantha, has never been a college student, she imagines the college atmosphere is like “social media in the vain of vanity, activism, pairings and groupings.”
“I think it gives college students today a mirror and a voice when in a place where you feel unheard,” Browning said. “It’s like a different world for this generation, and it’s just a good pairing for right now.”
“When I was in college, everything I did, everything I believed in was of the utmost importance,” Simien said agreeing with Browning. “It just felt like the most dramatic and compelling and immediate way to get into all of that was through doing it as a college show.”
John Patrick Amedori, who plays Gabe, Samantha’s love interest, did not attend college either. He said that the show is built around each character’s perspective and how their prior experiences effects their relationships with others.
“I think it’s a reflection on the idea that we need to communicate and listen to each other and be open to change and what it is that we can do to help each other instead of fighting each other constantly,” Amedori said. “I think there’s a lack of worldly understanding sometimes.”
Simien followed up Amedori’s comment by stating that everyone wants to be involved in the revolution and expects change to occur immediately but end up frustrated when that change does not happen on demand. The characters in the series experience the same situations this season.
“For someone that’s been frustrated, that’s been disappointed, in the trenches, been on phone calls trying to get people to vote, been at marches. For me, it’s cathartic to go through that experience with these characters and see where they land. I hope a lot of people can relate to that.”
Richardson then provided an example of how the show is pushing the conversation forward on college campuses. In March, North Carolina State University students held a protest inspired by the film and series. Students used signs posted around campus to educate their racist and white supremacist white counterparts.
Simien was unware of the protest, but was pleased that students were inspired to take a stand through his work.
“That kind of stuff for me as an artist is why I do it,” Simien said. “To feel like me just trying to talk about my truth is helping bring somebody up or helping to give somebody that little push that they need because that’s what my favorite movies did for me.”
Given the diverse cast, each member has had contrasting life experiences that they apply to their character.
“It really wasn’t until the show when I was surrounded by everybody and I realized the opportunities or the things that I did have,” Amedori said about the privilege he has as a white male.
Amedori also realized he has been privileged in the roles that he has been given when accepting projects and realizes that there is a lack in projects being written for people of color.
Browning agreed with her co-star and said her experiences, especially as an African-American woman, are littered throughout the series.
“I think that’s part of what our experiences as Black women is that we get put in a box just like you,” Browning said. “The fun thing about ‘DWP’ is we explore all those different intersectionalities, and Sam is not excluded from it, so I appreciate that about the show.”
The message of “DWP” is crucial to extending the conversation about the Black experience in a world of racism and white supremacy. The series is a visual representation of the struggle Black people face when met with opposition and how to overcome it. The series will leave viewers feeling empowered and ready to tackle racism and white supremacy in their own circles.
Ayron M. Lewallen
Campus News Editor