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Friday 17th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Dear White People is a stinging satire on black stereotyping in the US, says MARIA DUARTE

Dear White People (15)

Directed by Justin Simien


THE FALLACY of a “post-racial” US under President Obama is at the core of this razor sharp yet hugely entertaining political satire, which puts racism firmly back on the agenda.

Dear White People begins with news coverage of a riot at an Ivy League college which breaks out at a Halloween party with the theme “unleash your inner Negro.”

Flashing back five weeks, it then follows the lives of four black students at the predominantly white Winchester University in the run-up to the disturbance.

Militant black activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), the newly elected head of a traditionally black hall of residence, wants to bring black back to Winchester.

Her former boyfriend and head of house Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P Bell) is the preppy son of the university’s dean (Dennis Haysbert), who’s desperate to defy his father’s ambitious expectations and who secretly smokes pot.

Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), a gay sci-fi geek with an impressive afro, is recruited by the otherwise all-white student newspaper to write about black culture — which he knows little about.

Meanwhile, the chameleon-like Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris) will do whatever it takes to become a reality TV star.

Writer-director Justin Simien’s debut feature, in which he takes college stereotypes and gives them a delicious new twist, is a provocative and stinging satire which is laden with humour. 

White hosts the no-holds barred radio show Dear White People — in which she warns that “dating a black person to piss off your parents is a form of racism” — even though she  herself secretly is seeing a white guy and is a closet Taylor Swift fan.

Her staunch defence of her paper on how The Gremlins is an allegory of suburban white fear of black culture is inspired.

As she points out: “The gremlins are loud, talk in slang, are addicted to fried chicken and freak out when you get their hair wet.”

Thompson is magnificent as White and delivers Simien’s whip-smart dialogue with great passion and sass as she launches a campus culture war and tries to snap her comrades out of their stupor and misguided belief that their white counterparts see them as their equals.

Dear White People is an extraordinarily impressive and thought-provoking first film. Simien is one director to watch.