In “Dear White People,” the new Netflix show based on the 2014 film of the same name, the woke AF gang is back. Samantha Brown (Logan Browning), Coco Conners (Antoinette Robertson), Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton) and Troy Fairbanks (Brandon Bell, reprising his role) have made their way to the small screen to fight cultural bias and navigate political correctness like it’s their damn job. Somebody’s gotta do it.
The ten-episode series, which premieres on Friday, kicks off with a familiar scene. Reeling from an ill-advised, racially charged party where white people practiced their best Rachel Dolezal — think turbans, black face, Nicki Minaj wigs, the works — the fed up black population at Winchester University majorly count themselves as the minority. Samantha is the series’ center, a biracial woman with a radio show titled, of course, “Dear White People,” where she sends up the daily microcosms of racism she witnesses and experiences on a regular basis. She also uses her activism and outspokenness as a tool to distract from the inherent privilege of her mixed-race identity (plus the fact that she’s been secretly seeing Gabe, a very attractive white dude).
For what it’s worth, the Netflix’s version of “Dear White People” is lighter on the satire, and yet somehow, more biting. Sure, writer-director Justin Semien is still taking on racism, homosexuality and feminism. But this time, it’s Trump era-proofed with an urgency necessary for today’s political climate.
It’s lively and firmly in the here and now. The dialogue is fast, stylish, and references everything from Sandra Bland to “Scandal.” And Winchester, a sort of fictional Ivy League, sets a scene that’s a lot like real-life universities across America. It’s a highly relatable series for people, like myself, who attended school at majority white universities, for the people who have lived as a minority in a world full of majorities. But if that’s not your experience, “Dear White People” is still worth a watch. (As I learned with “Girls,” it’s totally okay if not every show is made for you.) It’s crucial to have a show like this right now. Good thing it’s entertaining as hell.
It packs a punch, too. At the end of the first episode, Samantha delivers an emotional monologue, defending why her show “Dear White People” isn’t racist, and explaining why a blackface party is. “Before this party, A POC on the campus couldn’t even think the word racism without being accused of crying wolf,” she says. “But just like it took a Sandra Bland, a Trayvon Martin and a Philando Castile to wake some folks up, this party is what it took to wake this campus up.”
“Dear White People” would certainly like to wake some people up, too.
“Dear White People” premieres on Netflix on Friday, April 28.