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'Dear White People' Promises To Entertain And Question

Rex J. Lindeman |
October 11, 2014 | 10:29 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Code Red/Homegrown Pictures)
(Code Red/Homegrown Pictures)
We’d like to think that we live in a post-racial America; that outdated concepts like racism and stereotyping were finished once MLK ended his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

But that’s a lie. Racism thrives, and that’s most likely due to ignorance; ignorance to gel with people outside of one’s own race; ignorance to experience different cultures and lifestyles; ignorance to care about inadvertently stepping on millions of toes with a racial generalization.

And now they’re fighting it back. “Dear white people,” goes Sam White (Tessa Thompson) on her radio program at the fictional Winchester University, “the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two.”

READ MORE: Film Review: 'The Equalizer'

Well, at least I’m ok. But it’s this consistently prickly criticism that so eloquently defines “Dear White People,” Justin Simien’s shot at a comedy bursting at the seams with satire. The movie features an ensemble cast headed by “Everybody Hates Chris” alum Tyler James Williams, and even Dennis Haybert as Winchester’s dean.

“Sorry,” continues White, “but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count.” …shoot. I’m racist.

Simien’s comedy, which he both wrote and directed, first started in June of 2012, when his concept trailer went viral. Its success then translated to a fruitful Indiegogo campaign. After nearly two years in the filmmaking workshop, the movie premiered at Sundance of this year, where it drew both haughty laughter and uncomfortable silence. This, combined with its strong word-of-mouth, encouraged Roadside Attractions to nab the rights and set a theatrical release date for October 17th.

Even before its first wide theatrical release, it’s safe to say “Dear White People” will put Simien on the Hollywood map.

But not without criticizing that same Hollywood. One trailer is a staunch questioning of Hollywood’s habit of casting black actors in overtly racist roles; a group of black Winchester students rattle off on a box office guy who doesn’t know any better. “You have a movie with characters in them” presses White, “instead of stereotypes wrapped in Christian dogma?”

The worker nervously tiptoes with his response: “[the movie’s] got 2 Chainz in it.” That’s not going to fly.

Going off the trailers, the movie appears filled with all sorts of sharp, albeit hilarious, criticisms of white attitudes towards black people. As Variety’st Jusin Chang puts it, “[the movie] provokes admiration for having bothered to ask some of the hard questions without pretending to know any of the answers.” Well, then; what answers do we have? What solutions can we conjure to cure the racism ironically embedded in a “post-racial” America?

But first, we’ll need to listen to the questions raised by “Dear White People.” And it looks like we’ll be delighted while we do.

“Dear White People” releases Friday, October 17th.

Watch the trailer below:

Reach Staff Reporter Rex Lindeman here, and follow him on Twitter.



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