Thursday, April 9, 2015

You're only technically black.

Indian. Mexican. Spanish. Jewish. Muslim. Italian. Hell, even Hawaiian if you can believe it.

Pick any of the above, and I have been labeled it on more than one occasion in my lifetime. And while I'd love to claim any of 'em as distinctly who I am, when it comes down to it, I always end up bubbling in 'white/Caucasian' on standardized forms. And even then, I hardly feel it applies. I may appear one thing, and actually be another, but honestly? I don't really identify with any of them. 

If only I could bubble in 'indifferent'.

As foolish as I'm likely to come across as, I'm not indifferent toward other races and cultures, it's just not something that I honestly put a lot of time into. Maybe that's a mentality born out of sheltered unawareness (with a dash of growing up in Hawai'i), but I've always been more concerned with your mindset rather than your bloodline. You like the same shit I do? We're cool. You don't? We're still cool. But we're probably not going to be good friends.

Dear White People is a film that brings race and racism front and center. And as the aforementioned indifferent dickhead, at times the film was utterly jarring. It's easy for me to forget that racism is alive and well where it has no business to be (if that makes sense), but clearly that isn't the case.

I work in an inner-city middle school where race is the reason FOR EVERYTHING. But these are kids, you know? Eighth graders. But at a prestigious university? No way, right? People are too smart for that bullshit. Too grown up. Too mature. Well...not so much.
Taking place at the fictional Winchester University, Dear White People tells the initially muddled tale of four black students navigating through life at a predominately white school. Feel free to use the poster as a reference, or even my much more sophisticated chart below. Either way, our main characters go a little something like this:

  • Samantha - juinior, college DJ, shitstarter. Samantha runs for, and surprisingly wins, Housing Leader of the traditionally all-black Armstrong/Parker house. This was a position that used to belong to...
  • Troy - Her ex-boyfriend and son of the Dean of WU. Troy's the privileged one, who may not be black enough for the rest of his housemates. He's got a white girlfriend, who happens to be the sister of Kurt, head of the political satire magazine on campus. Kurt's dad? He's the President of the school (and subsequently the boss of Troy's dad). Troy, if I remember correctly, at one point hooks up with...
  • Coco - a female student trying to make a name for herself with a YouTube channel. Coco is also vying for a job with Gabe, while at the same time trying to up her game enough to be the star of an upcoming reality show. That show, wouldn't likely star...
  • Lionel - the possibly homosexual outcast, desperately trying to find footing somewhere in this story. Eventually Lionel finds his niche while landing a job writing for the school newspaper. His topic? The housing controversy...featuring Samantha and Troy (his soon to be roommate). With a little dash of Coco for good measure.
Confused? I was too. But luckily for us, writer/director Justin Simien has got it covered, as his debut film manages to deftly tie all the subplots together in the end. Is some of it forced? Well, sure. But sometimes, to make a point, you have to have certain characters pop up for no good reason whatsoever. 

Hey, look! It's the Yays and Boos!

Does Troy sort of look like Tiger Woods?
  • Tessa Thompson, playing Samantha, is great. Even if she is a Lisa Bonet-wannabe.
  • Pedro Cerrano, aka The All State Guy, aka the esteemed Dennis Haysbert. Even with minimal screen time, Haysbert always classes things up. Jobu would be proud.
  • Even though I've never seen one, I have nothing but respect for all the Madea-related hatred some of the characters drop in this one. 
  • Dude, Samantha's Gremlins theory? That shit was awesome. Even better than White Guy's sweet ass Coming to America reference.
  • The Tip Test scene was kind of cool. I wasn't exactly sure of its relevance...but I enjoyed it.
  • The writing of the invitation was a good angle. When this was dropped on us, I kind of rubbed my hands together Montgomery Burns-style. Excellenttttttt.
  • I also dug the scene where Lionel headed to the BSU meeting. It's about to hit the fan. Ruh roh.
  • And finally, the credits. As awful as those clippings were, they provided the perfect amount of weight to the generally light-hearted vibe Dear White People dresses itself in. It's got important things to say, but handles it in an readily-accessible way.

  • Voting by app? F--king kids these days.
  • That was a pretty harsh outgoing message, no?
  • So...there's a point where I'm pretty sure every single character totally sells out. I thought Lionel would stay legit, but even he gives in to the power of the nookie.
  • And speaking of, did everyone have a side-piece of the Caucasian persuasion? 
  • Black Mitch. From Vermont. I swear I went to college with this guy. His name was Bryan. He went by B-Nice. If only I were joking.
  • I hate flashbacks from twenty minutes prior. Yes, I realize I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but twenty minutes? Imply that shit. You don't have to show me.
  • And finally, It's a Small World After All. As impressive as this campus appears, apparently it only has eleven students on the entire campus. These f--kers can't go two feet without running into each other, seeing someone kiss someone they shouldn't, or visually confirming their white boyfriend/girlfriend. Yes, I get it, it's a movie about these four people. But, like...what the f--k? Again they run into each other? Doesn't anyone have class? (though I guess if they did, they'd all be in the same one, huh?).
Look, I'm not going to lie to you. I watched this one two weeks ago. At this point in my life, if I can remember if I'm currently wearing pants, I feel like that's a pretty major win. But looking back on a movie I saw weeks ago? It feels as if it's some sort of distant memory.

You know, when everything was black and white.


  1. Great review! I haven't seen this yet, it's somewhere in my ever growing Netflix queue, so hopefully it gets to the top soon. I'm curious about this Gremlins theory now...

    1. Ha. If I ever left blogging/died, one of the lasting effects would by MASSIVE Netflix backlog. I love it, but I swear some night, I spend 90 minutes scrolling right.

      I would recommend this one, but not in any kind of urgent fashion. That Gremlins bit is brief, but certainly clever.

  2. LOL, Gremlins!!!! That was an epic moment. And I loved Thompson here...she is going to be a STAR! You are right...forced at times for sure, but it made it's point well enough, and the cast was great.

    B-Nice! BAH! Makes me think of Malibu's Most Wanted.

    "Brad is my slave name!"

    1. Thompson is the truth. And my hot.

      There were just moments where I thought it all needed to breathe a little bit. I get the urgency, the suffocation...but at times, I had to roll my eyes, you know?

      Man, B-Nice. A good enough kid...but to carry that legacy for FOUR years? Impressive. And sad. The things we do freshman year....(that never go away). Ah, college.

  3. Your last name is awesome. So many points to touch on. Thompson was great but now that you mention it, 21st century Lisa Bonet for sure.

    The tipping convo is not particularly relevant to the plot, but definitely relevant to the theme since it's become a major stereotype that some choose to actively counteract when we go out to eat.

    Yes! Those snapshots at the end totally deserve to be both a yay and a boo.

    I can no longer see/here Dennis Haysbert without having an All State commercial play in my head. Dude is still great, though.

    So much more I could say, but I'll just stop on this: B-Nice, lol.

    1. Though your last name is awesome that should totally say last line. F'in phone.

    2. I'm going to tell you now...I read this while my kids were reading 'Watership Down' and I cracked up. It took me a minute to realize your typo...but your follow up comment slayed me. So funny. My phone comes up with some weird shit, so no worries (I hate commenting from it).

      I waited tables for years and had ZERO knowledge of that particular stereotype. Maybe people on vacation are above all that! But it makes sense to knock down as many stereotypes as possible, while your at it, huh? Swing away.

      M. Night quote quota attained, I'm with you on those pics. I get that racism exists (I'm not fully stupid), but it boggles my mind that it can be so prevalent in f--king college of all places. Those are literally the four years where you should be the most open and understanding ('cause it's so much f--king fun), and yet here's evidence even our so-called best and brightest are f--king morons. Ridiculous.

      F--king All State.

      Oh, and f--king B-Nice.

  4. I watched and reviewed it months ago but I do remember that I enjoyed it. Not a perfect film but definitely something people should check out because it's smart in a lot of ways and yes, a sad reminder that so much shit still goes on.

    1. Yeah, by the end I was totally won over. It straddled the line from comedy to statement film with such ease, I'm looking forward to Simien's next flick.

      A lot of shit goes on indeed, and I'm sure for some people, not a day goes by that they're not reminded about how awful and racist the world can be. Personally, I don't see a lot of it, and this movie was a welcome reminder.

      Well, 'welcome' might not be the right word...

  5. If this movie is just half as entertaining as your review was I'd consider it a fairly nice trade-off. Great review.

    1. Ah, thanks Mike. I'm not sure how 'entertaining' the movie is, but it's still probably worth seeing. It's interesting and makes you think, you know?

  6. "At this point in my life, if I can remember if I'm currently wearing pants, I feel like that's a pretty major win"

    Yeah, I feel you. Sometime I'm out of the apartment on my way to work and I'm like 'did I wear a skirt of have I forgotten?'. I don't know if it's old age or just being slightly mental.

    I'm 99% sure I wouldn't understand much from this movie, the less I talk about racism in America the better, because whenever I do, I come off sounding like a bitch.

    1. I think old age and being slightly mental is one and the same, right? it is for me. That's too funny about the skirt. I'm pretty sure I ask myself that same question once a week. Luckily, I always forget the skirt. Always.

      Oh, and talking about racism? I wish I could sound like a bitch. I just come off like an asshole. A huge one.

  7. I've been intrigued by this movie since I saw it on Wendell's blog. I grew up in an academic community with PhDs who were too "smart" to say the "N word," which was ubiquitous in North Carolina at the time, but just as bigoted. :-( So I'd probably relate to this movie, at least to some degree.

    I'll go look for it on Netflix -- I'm so scattered these days, if I don't do it now, I'll forget about it in 5 minutes. Umm ... am I wearing pants? Yes! Good.

    I date my memory lapses to my first pregnancy (though I suspect I wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer before that). Apparently, "Mommy brain" never goes away. I'm blogging about pregnancy today, BTW. :-)

    1. Perhaps on your hiatus, this may be one to take a look at. It's certainly going to start a discussion, maybe not curriculum-related, but....maybe?

      I grew up, at least initially, in Texas, and I always thought that counted as the South. Turns out, no, it's the West. I can only imaging North Carolina thirty years ago...although maybe some of it hasn't really changed ever?

      'Mommy brain' -let's be honest- just levels the playing field. At least in my house. Even when my wife was in the throes of labor, I'm assuming she could still tell me where my car keys were, as I frantically stared right at them.

  8. It could've been really great, but I just found it all a little too... much. Much, as in very overwhelming directing. Something about me really tired me, really wore me out.
    Tessa Thompson is such a babe though, really loved her performance. Everyone was great really.

    1. I think that's completely fair, saying that it wore you down. Looking back, I can totally get on board with that.

      Tessa Thompson? Soooo so good. I hope to see more of her in the future (I typed that three different ways, and that was the least pervy).