From racism to casteism to patriarchy, Dear White People resonates with any and every person who has faced an instance of systematic oppression, finally a movie with not just a token representation but a real one.
Humanity, as a collective, has consistently shared one thing— the feeling of being different; the feeling of being isolated, alone, and deeply ununderstood. Dear White People ends up striking exactly this chord with every single person in the audience. It holds up a metaphorical mirror to society, forcing us to look around, observe, and realise, that in all our talks of unity and diversity, maybe we have forgotten what unity is supposed to look like.
The movie being largely inspired by film director Justin Simien’s book by the same title, finds a place to showcase its literary roots in the structure of the movie itself. The movie begins with a very storybook-like screen and the words ‘Prologue’ etched onto it. This trend follows throughout as if taking us systematically through the chapters and finally leaving us at the ‘Epilogue’ to mull.
It isn’t a new phenomenon, the feeling of being comfortable with other people belonging to the same backgrounds, regions, histories, and realities. Neither is its manifestation in academia new.
The movie brought forward the historically entrenched power equation between unequals, the groupism that is not just embedded in our public lives but also our private, and the dichotomy of being different— of being too much or too less, just never enough. It grapples with the question of personal choices and stereotypical ones and the struggle of not wanting to subscribe to the prejudiced notion people form of you upon your first meeting.
Dear White People ended up being more of an explanation about the need for people to find others belonging to the same circles, not because of something that they have seen or been taught, but simply by the reason that others who are the same as you have a considerably less chance of wanting to bully you for your choices, teasing you and your inherent differences, or stereotypically putting you in a box. Following Lionel’s story, the struggle of fitting in was something we could all relate to, but the fact that he was trying while the world was stuck in the ways of decades past, spoke more about that ingrained racism that found its foothold over centuries of oppression and takes more than having “two black friends” to refute.
When Lionel asked “Am I black enough for the Black Student Union?”, when Sam broke down the divisions mentioned in Ebony & Ivy, when ‘Coco’ consistently tried denying her own identity, we ended up seeing shades of different ideas and opinions, with refreshingly the oppressed being a reflection of their own oppression.
Not surprisingly, the arguments used by the “whites”— the most repeated one being that the most difficult thing in today’s world is being a white man— are the same ones that we have seen and heard in real life, on Twitter, and on the streets.
The movie ended up being a brilliant portrayal of reality and more than being solely about racism and its struggles, became a reflection of every other instance of systematic oppression, finally showing a real representation.
Feature Image Credits: Athena Film Festival