Dear White People

On October 17th, director Justin Simien is going to challenge moviegoers on the issue of race relations.  Thank God, I say.  Finally, here is a movie that will move Americans to openly and honestly discuss race and their society in a fair and honest manner.

Just kidding, lol.

Taken from a commenter in the HD trailer’s comment section, in a preview for a movie ostensibly about challenging stereotypes, you have:

  • Stereotypical clueless/harmless white guy who needs the guidance of another culture to understand the world around him.
  • Stereotypical arrogant white authority figure who needs the guidance of another culture to understand the world around him.
  • Stereotypical confrontational black mob who loudly react at minor provocations.
  • Stereotypical black woman who plays the straight on every opportunity for satire.

The trailer declares this movie a “satire of the Obama generation.”

Indeed it is perfect representation of Obama and a world that picked him as its figurehead, it is a satire of itself.

“My film isn’t about “white racism” or racism at all. My film is about identity. It’s about the difference between how the mass culture responds to a person because of their race and who that person understands themselves to truly be.
– Justin Simien, not understanding the implications of what he says.

This movie could have actually been thought-provoking and meaningful to the nation’s dialogue had Justin realized mass culture and the individual act in a feedback loop.  When you stare into the abyss, and all that.

Unfortunately, Simien chose to pick the low-hanging fruit.

Here is a film with light-colored blacks in obviously trendy and obviously SWPL attire speaking in very whitewashed English.  You have Simien’s Mary Sue character including an obvious signalling dig on Christianity, despite the fact that blacks “are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole.” [source]

Despite the color of the cast, one really doesn’t see a movie for Black Americans in this preview.  The only thing that these characters seem to share with your average Black American is a feeling of being an underclass, a feeling of envy.

As Justin Chang from Variety noted, this happens to be a feeling the movie does not provide an answer to.  This also happens to be a feeling that people exploit for money, which probably doesn’t incentivize people to find solutions…  But hey, this movie has white people being goofy and ineffectual, which has been shown to make people feel better on a superficial level.  Superficiality seems to be a decent substitute for equality or self-actualization these days.

One might feel different about this whole issue if one were to ever consider that the answer provided by this movie and the typical black oppression narrative is likely the problem disguised.

Consider that Simien raised funding via Indiegogo, primarily visited by white males with no children and at least a college education.  [source]

This film has been picked up by Lionsgate for distribution.  Let’s take a look at their corporate leadership:

Whether or not the inspiration was an instance of true oppression and inequality, what we have with “Dear White People” amounts to projection funded by white people for explicit white consumption.

Though it may actually be thought-provoking to someone on some level, if the movie does not seek an answer, it does not expect to find one…  At least, it doesn’t expect Blacks to find it.

This movie would rather entertain than challenge, profit than progress.  This product chooses projection over reflection, which is perfect for a movie but not so perfect for a social issue.

Far from empowering Blacks, what we really have here is a modernization of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” dutiful servitude to a White narrative that does nothing to raise the Black from his or her lowly state.  Unfortunately, this modernization lacks the original work’s theme of Christian love overcoming because according to Simien’s Mary Sue, Christian dogma somehow undermines Black people.  White audiences will certainly love that rational dismissal, except not even Dr. King’s assassin did that much damage to his message.  Oopsie.

I see people already getting unnecessarily angry or defensive over the white guilt/white oppression narrative.  I am certain Fox News will try and politely pan the movie, I’m even more certain Huffington Post will respond to the critique with a call for the destruction of all right-wing thought in the name of fairness.

It’s really paint-by-numbers at this point; it’s even more simplistic a formula, considering the only colors here are black and white.

Personally, I don’t like being told the only alternative to me oppressing a person I never met is to pretend childish projection makes us more equal.  Sippy-cup equality does not appeal to me, and it should not appeal to an enlightened society.

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Bulbasaur is a blue collar worker and part-time polemicist from the Southern U.S.