Lionsgate Films

After what seems like a year's worth of trailers, teasers, and dozens of free screenings for Bougie Blacks and guilt-ridden Whites, Dear White People was finally released. Some are calling it genius and whichever other superlative they can think of. Others have been somewhat underwhelmed.

Last week, we started an email thread for the VSB contributors (some of whom have seen it, some of whom haven't, and some of whom eventually saw it while this discussion was taking place) to share their thoughts on it. (BTW, there are some minor spoilers)

Advertisement

One of my biffles saw it and hated it, but he hates a lot of things. He was disappointed in the interracial subplots and ranted to me about it for, like, an hour.

—-Danielle Belton

I find that Black folks who have limited interactions with White folks are among the most frustrated by them. Which is interesting. To me. But. That wasn't what you asked.

Advertisement

Just based on what I know of the movie…and what I see on Twitter… it's an observation.

—-Maya Francis

Maya, I would have guessed it was the opposite. At least from my experience. The people who seem to complain the most about Whites are the ones who interact with them on a daily basis. Me? I work for EBONY and VSB, so I don't need to interact with Whites unless I go to Panera. Basically, I love White people.

Advertisement

—-Damon Young

Yes and no. I think more interaction yields more complaint (that's with anything, right?) but in my experience, I find folks who are most rigid in their views of White folks have limited exposure.

-—Maya

I haven't seen it but plan to . My expectations have already been made by reviews. I want to be entertained, I want to like it, and I gather I will like it. Will I think it's important? I doubt it.

Advertisement

My whole thing is, as much as a movie like this deserves to be made, I don't see how it has to be this deep, impactful thing. I remember going to a screening of Black-Ish and Tracee Ellis-Ross was there to do a post-screening Q&A. One of the things she said about the sitcom (and I'm paraphrasing here) was that she wanted people to remember, the whole point of Black-ish is to be funny, not save the race.

I think people forget that whole medicine-in-the-candy thing. Things can just be good, clean fun. That in itself is a step in the right direction, and that is all I want Dear White People to be.

—-Jozen Cummings

Jozen, it's interesting that you say that, because the less than positive reviews (haven't heard or seen any straight negative ones) I've heard/read all basically said that the problem with the movie isn't that it's not "important" or that it doesn't save the race. It's that it's not funny…or even fun. (And yes, I'm aware those were two of the most awkwardly constructed sentences ever created)

Advertisement

—-Damon

I think what you mentioned is very important. When I go to the movies, my ULTIMATE desire is to be entertained. That's it. I have loved some of the most terrible movies ever (You Got Served is my shit) b/c of the entertainment value. So when I say I wasn't even whelmed, it wasn't because of what this movie was supposed to mean in terms of depth and impact. Noap. I walked out and I wasn't even sure how entertained I was. I want to like movies b/c they made me laugh, feel, or something. Something that I walk away and I'm like…yeah, that joint right there???

I know quite a few folks who have seen it already. Multiple times for some people and what I noticed was that nobody who has seen it was talking about it. The only thing folks have said - opinionated folks, mind you - was that it was good. Nothing more. That struck me as odd and interesting. I'm like you Jozen, I just wanted Dear White People to be fun and entertaining…as a whole.

Advertisement

Yeah, I can't wait to hear the opinions.

—-Panama Jackson

I got all ready to see it and then remembered that I live in 1998 and it's not playing here. Will have to get to DC or something. I'm curious to see if the leading character is as obnoxious as I suspect she is. The clips alone feel heavy handed. But, you can never be too direct when battling their Fuckshit. Need to get my hands on a screener.

Advertisement

—-Alex Hardy

I really think the "save the race" thing was placed upon them more so than their intention. I mean, they really couldn't escape that because funny/entertaining or not, the very existence of a movie entitled Dear White People that is so open/candid in a time where race relations are relating like a motherfucker, it is bigger than just a movie.

That said, I think messages are best conveyed in a funny/lighthearted/sarcastic manner. At least, they seem to be better received that way, from the mass audience. I don't even expect it to be deep or heavy-handed. In fact, I would've been disappointed if it was.

Advertisement

Point is, It's possible to be entertaining and learn something. Edutainment for the motherfucking wins.

—-Tonja Stidhum

the very existence of a movie entitled "dear white people" that is so open/candid in a time where race relations are relating like a motherfucker, it is bigger than just a movie.

Advertisement

This is exactly why I want to see it. The boldness of the title. period. Because we live in a society that says talking about race is racist, and race baiting is the real problem here. And I love the idea that this movie plays (potentially) into the so-called problem of race in america.

I don't even think I have expectations for the it. I actually don't know much about it at all, except the title. and until about 30 seconds ago when I googled it, I didn't even know that it was supposed to have an actual plot and actual recognizable actors. And yes, even after months of hearing about it, I haven't once bothered to look up any info. I've just been ready to pay my money to the box office simply because Dear White People is catchy as hell. and I live in Portland, OR - the WHITEST city in America - so I feel obligated to support such a movie title.

—-Gem Jones

***At this point, the weekend passed, and many who hadn't yet seen it were able to***

Advertisement

I want to say that overall I enjoyed it but definitely felt the "pressure" to be that movie that it was expected to be. I could tell Justin wanted to get as many racial points as he could within this near two hour film because it might be his — or anyone else's — last chance to do it for a while. The circle of strife. I realllllly hope this isn't reality, but from what we've been shown so far, there are only a certain number of slots open for movies for us, by us.. But, shit…that's the problem. That's impossible. We can't portray the "universal" Black experience in one movie. Shit, in ten movies. THAT'S why we need many more movies. A lot of Black folk "types" we wish to see can be told through a series of stories that White people don't have to worry about seeing. They see it all the time. Because, as we know, in the movie industry White is everyman. They're the default. Blech.

But, at the same time, I thought it did a good job by also being a movie that wasn't JUST about the racial aspect. It was really about belonging/identity to me. Which is a universal theme. I thought it did a good job of providing that balance.

I really enjoyed the cast the most and actually look forward to seeing them more.

Advertisement

—-Tonja

Just saw it a few hours ago and I really liked it. I thought I was going to have a hard time enjoying it away from the shadow of the things I'd read already, but you fall into the story pretty quickly.

As far as critiques, the only opinion I've heard that was true for me was that it was shot INCREDIBLY fucking well, but the writing lacked at times. There *were* a lot of subplots, but I didn't think it was anything overwhelming, and everything got a proper resolution.

Advertisement

As for whether or not it "accomplished" anything, I think it did an amazing job of being illustrative of real life scenarios, similar to what I love about Black-ish. I liked that even with the Black characters that you're not supposed to like there was still a sense of pride that didn't allow for certain comments to be made from the White antagonist characters (i.e. Coco and Mitch's first scene).

For me, DWP is an effective, if subtle, contribution to the conversation about racial inequality and self-identification that's been simmering recently. Sam's comments about anarchists being the proverbial mirror holders was well-placed as the story started to come together. I want to see it again but on this first watch I took a lot away from it despite the occasional forced language.

—-Ryan Sides

I couldn't agree more, Ryan.

Tunde and I saw it tonight and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I would love to see more movies like this made - movies highlighting the diversity in "Blackness" and the greyness of "the" Black experience. We colored folk are very multidimensional and I thought that was captured quite nicely in the film. The movie was far more about the Black people in the film than the White people and I love the title even more as a result.

Advertisement

—-Gem

I had an epiphany a few months ago: I enjoy juices and other beverages with raspberry added to them (raspberry iced tea, raspberry pink lemonade, raspberry Bellini, etc) so why not just make some raspberry juice? I already had a juicer and all types of blenders, so all I need to do was buy a bunch raspberrys, blend them up with some water and a little sugar, and voi-fucking-la!

So I did it, and it was…ok. Not the nastiest juice I've ever tasted, but I'll never do it again. The idea of the juice was better than the juice itself.

Advertisement

This, in a contrived nutshell, is how I felt about Dear White People. I'm very glad so many people were able to enjoy it. This bodes well for the careers of all those involved with the film, as well as other Black creatives attempting to get their work financed. These are undeniably great things.

I just wish I enjoyed it too.

—-Damon

I went to see it this weekend and enjoyed it very much. I thought it was shot/filmed well, and I though it was well written. I have some small gripes with how heavy handed some of the messaging got. It was A LOT of dialogue, but something about that was endearing. It all felt very millennial, like a School Daze for people who didn't go to an HBCU. It's almost as if the director convinced himself if he could only make one film, this was the one he wanted it to be, and that's why it had so much stuff, but by the end, I told myself, I hope this isn't the last film we see from him. He has talent, as do some of the actors.

Advertisement

—-Jozen

Yeah, I can definitely see the School Daze for an PWI thing here. Maybe for millennials it'll have the same type of resonance that School Daze/A Different World had/has for those in Gen X.

But what did you actually like about it? This isn't just addressed to you Jozen but to all others who enjoyed it. Most of the positive comments I've seen/read about it have been more abstract, dealing with how it's "great to see Black people on film" and how the "issues it addresses" and "discussions it'll prompt" are worthy of praise. But what about the actual movie?

Advertisement

—-Damon

I liked the story structure. This is essentially an ensemble cast playing in a coming-of-age film. I think that's a tricky thing to pull off with one character, let alone four. So I thought they did that well, but didn't make it completely Hollywood so to speak. Not everyone becomes friends, they still have to be individuals and even after this crazy scandal that's rocked their school, you're not convinced they learned something new. The only one gets that cliche Hollywood ending is Sam with her White boo, but that romance was so underdeveloped so I kind of took it as her realizing something about herself rather than the guy she was supposed to be with. Like she just needs to let more love in and be with someone who can let her be vulnerable.

—-Jozen

To me, though, part of a good film IS that it prompts discussions. I think that is valid component of a good film. That it can live on PAST the actual screening. I know the primary focus is to entertain, but for me, those things can co-exist. A movie to me is far more than simply entertaining, it's a potpourri of things. That's art.

Advertisement

Like Jozen, I thought it was shot really well and that part alone makes me want to see more work from Justin. The composition of certain shots really encapsulated his style and the choices he made with these shots really inspired me.

As for the content of the movie, I think the overall theme of finding your own identity is what I liked about it. Even within the confines of our own race, we struggle to belong. Further, I liked how the characters were contradictory. There wasn't anyone who was JUST this or JUST that, they all had internal struggles that gave them some depth. Now, I think because this was ensemble film and those are hard to do (especially in a film that has a difficult social message such as race, and a film that DOESN'T wanna be 4 score and 7 years long), some of the relationships between the characters lacked some depth. It definitely wasn't a perfect film, nor did I expect it to be. But, for what it was… I liked it.

—-Tonja

I echo a lot of sentiments already written. I loved the way the film was shot and the story development. One thing I took away from the movie is I'm damn sure I attended HBCUs for both of my degrees. The idea that I have to join the BSU just because I'm Black is absurd to me. Also, the notion that being Black is the first identifier is crazy. Yes, I'm Black but don't lump me in. What if I like chess, or comic books, or anything else? I can't be the athlete, or the nerd or the goth dude?

Advertisement

This movie gave me more Higher Learning than School Daze. The one part of the movie I didn't care for the love story with Sam and her TA. I seemed a little too contrived in my opinion. For some reason the apex of the movie during the race riot and a lot of the private meeting of the leadership of the BSU reminded me of scenes from Gil Scott Heron's Nigger Factory.

Overall I thought it was a great movie and I'm glad I could support.

—-Tunde Akinyeke

Just wanted to come back and agree with some of y'all that this makes me want to see more from the creator and some of the actors. I didn't know the star from Everybody Hates Chris was going to be in it so that was a pleasant surprise. Also, I really like Coco and Troy, together and individually, and I'm interested in what else Sam may have to offer (sorry I don't know the actors' names).

Advertisement

As far as my takeaway from the film, I want to talk about it with everyone! I want to see it again and I want to dissect not necessarily the film itself, but the different scenarios in the film and how other people have handled them in real life. I'm finding that Sam's character and the realization of the importance of anarchists has really resonated with me. I'm working through my own newly-ignited passions in the wake of Trayvon and Mike Brown, so for that concept to have been articulated the way it was has put me in this mood of exploration and trying to carve out my contribution to the change in social climate.

Plainly put, I've just been pensive as shit since seeing the movie.

—-Ryan

To summarize, everyone here who's seen it liked it. A lot, actually. Except Panama and I, and neither of us liked it at all. There was exactly one scene I thought was laugh out loud funny — Sam's silent film project about Obama — but nothing else prompted much of a reaction from me. No smiles, no anger, no cringing, nothing.

Advertisement

It could very well be coincidence that we happen to be the ones who didn't enjoy the movie, but I think there might be something else here. Aside from Danielle (who, from my knowledge, still hasn't seen the movie yet) we're the oldest people in this thread. We're both 35. No one else is above 32, and a couple of you are under 30. Basically, you're all Millennials, but we're technically a part of Generation X.

I wonder if our lack of like stems from this just not being a movie for us. We didn't need a Dear White People the same way people five or ten years younger than us might have. I understand why it was necessary. And again, I'm glad it was made and seems to be doing well. But it just wasn't necessary to me (and presumably Panama), and perhaps this lack of connection to it allowed us to be more critical of it.

Or maybe we're just two old-ass haters. Which would mean Charles Barkley was right.

Advertisement

—-Damon