Justin Simien's 2014 directorial debut — Dear White People — is a movie with a distinctive voice, thanks mostly to the keen eye of writer/director Simien. But more importantly, underneath the meticulous visuals and humor, Dear White People is a movie that has something it wants to get off its chest. Now that Netflix has ordered a Dear White People TV series, we better prepare to listen up.
As a bit of a backstory, the film brings together four African American students, each viewing the microcosm of their predominately white college campus in separate ways. Though the film has multiple perspectives, the title comes from one particular character's radio show — a show that holds the same name as the film — and highlights the racially-charged micro-aggressive attitudes of its student population. In a way, what the radio show seeks to do, Dear White People accomplishes with greater skill. Imbued in nearly every one of the film's characters (even the peripheral ones) are contradictions and desires to form identities — regardless of expectations.
Which is why even though the film holds the title Dear White People, it's addressed to a broader audience. That of, well, people.
If you haven't seen the film, check out the trailer below to get a sense of its whip-smart satire and timely message. (And then quickly after, go watch it in full.)
Dear White People is a clever meditation on race and identity, but the film also manages other hot button topics with ease — identity, gender, sexuality, and even privilege — all within the time frame of an hour and 48 minutes. Just think of what it can do with the 10 half-hour episodes it's been given. Without the limits of film, and without the limits of a network, Netflix's Dear White People is the type of TV show we not only want to see, but need. Simien seems to agree. In a statement for Netflix, the director said:
I'm so grateful to have this platform — not only to give a voice to those too often unheard in our culture, but to also tell great stories from new points of views... Working with Netflix is every bit as harmonious as I'd imagined it would be. Bringing this show to such a vibrant platform is an honor I don't take lightly.
Making the shift from independent film to Netflix series means that Simien's message will get the chance to resonate with viewers who might have otherwise passed over Dear White People. So I have to agree. I'm grateful as well. It's about time we start seeing more shows like this getting the green light.
Netflix's Dear White People series will be written by Simien, who will also direct at least the pilot episode. Currently, it's unclear whether or not the actors and actresses from the movie will reprise their roles. It's set to be released sometime in 2017.