First things first, in the end of Dear White People, Sam White (the lead black female protagonist) chases down a white dude and confesses that she loves him. I really wish someone would’ve told me that before or mentioned it in one of their reviews because I absolutely would not have watched it. Frankly, Id rather listen to Geraldo Rivera. Second first thing, I’m mixed asian. Read into that.
Prior to the release of DWP, I had been reading anything I could get my hands on about Dear White People. I re-posted so many interviews on my blog that I stopped for fear of alienating my follower. I had been giddy about the chance to see the film. Sounds great on paper- cool, young, hip, black, an asian lady, race politics, shit talking about how white people have some serious (often deadly) difficulties wrapping their head around race and privilege, college radio, fashion. I love all that stuff. Some of that love is packed with problematic internalized racism projections, sure, but that’s for another time.
As the release date was approaching. I starting checking all the theaters within an hour driving distance. I was brain storming people who I could watch it with. I made plans with multiple people even though I certainly would’ve watched it alone. In fact, I made plans with white people to go see it. Then I started to get nervous that the local, independent, volunteer run Capitol Theater wouldn’t show it. (Olympia, as you should know, is a small white liberal haven and the Capitol Theater maybe has shown relevant films before but judging from recent selections there was no indication they would feel obligated to show a film like Dear White People.) Needless to say, I eagerly anticipated this movie.
Finally tonight the moment arrived. I broke the speed limit by 5 miles on my 7 minute drive home from work, slammed half a PB&J and walked fast to the corner store for some Halls and then walked faster down to the theater. My awesome friend of color was there waiting. We got some beers, avoided sitting by the few separate but large groups of white people and let’s get this shit started! Time to enjoy one of the few exceptions where we can hear white people get called out in public and not expect immediate contempt. After 3 trailers for movies starring all white casts, the scene was set.
108 minutes of post-racial time pass.
Okay, that was a pretty funny movie. Some unexpected kisses and some good one-liners. But if you want to know what it’s about and why this white dude said this about it:
“Justin Simien’s first feature film [Dear White People]…is as smart and fearless a debut as I have seen from an American filmmaker in quite some time: knowing but not snarky, self-aware but not solipsistic, open to influence and confident in its own originality.” – A.O. Scott New York Times
you should rent it from the library and watch it or read any of the numerous reviews of it all applauding it for similar reasons.
To me the only thing that really matters is the ending. You may be wondering why this bothers me so much. In retrospect I shouldn’t be surprised by this ending. Because it’s the same ending to almost every movie almost ever in the history of movies made in countries predominantly white. The white dude wins. Russel Crow beats Denzel Washington in American Gangster even though he’s severely outclassed.* Heck, Ryan Reynolds beats Denzel Washington in the end of Safe House.** Who believes that would happen in their reality mind? White people don’t actually always win. Muhammad Ali won all the time. Sistah Sinema is winning. Grace Lee Boggs wins. Ferguson began a victory.
Why send white people that white centered message yet again? The movie is very accurately titled. Yes Dear White People indeed. Dear White People, it’s okay. Everything is going to be okay. Black people are angry but in the end they’ll come to terms with it and hold your safe, white supremacist hand even while their friends look back at them in disgust. Translation to the real world- watch Crash for the same effect. Yes white people you are culpable in crime after crime against humanity. Your unearned privilege chokes others to death but we’ll come around to love your Sandra Bullock ass in the end. So keep shopping the way you shop, talking the way you talk, dancing the way you dance and ignoring the way you ignore because, as we learned from DWP, forgiveness is always a courtship away.
This perhaps explains why this movie received so much applause and positive review. My friend asked me earlier to send her a full review because she wouldn’t be able to see it. My response, oh it’s gonna be good, just go watch it, no review necessary. I was so naive earlier today. Would the same reception had been given if Sam White ended up with Reggie, her black counterpart? Would Justin Simien have made the same movie after the events in Ferguson have shifted the momentum?
I find being this upset and frustrated at a movie about black and white relations potentially problematic for a blended dude like me, so I’m going to deflect those feelings onto Gabe, the white lover. Fuck you Gabe why’d you insert yourself into this film? Why’d you manipulate a mixed girls white father complexes? You should’ve went to Notre Dame you hairbag.
*check out the Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period podcast. **it’s delicious.