Netflix's 'Dear White People' arrives in April: Will show tackle race with skill of film?

The upcoming TV series 'Dear White People'  is based on the well-reviewed 2014 movie of the same name. A trailer was recently released for the show.

Adam Rose/Netflix
'Dear White People' stars Logan Browning.

Netflix has released a trailer for its television adaptation of the 2014 film "Dear White People," and it promises to probe issues of race that appear to be ripped right from headlines in a lighthearted, satirical way.

"Dear white people, here’s a list of acceptable Halloween costumes," actress Logan Browning, who plays Samantha White, a bi-racial radio host at a college radio station, says in a voiceover laid over a montage of stereotypical images of affluent white college students. Among her suggested acceptable costumes are pirates, nurses, and "any of our first 43 presidents."

"Top of the list of unacceptable costumes: Me," she continues, as the camera cuts to a shot of Ms. Browning's unsmiling face, followed by a series of photos of white students partying in blackface.

With a predominantly African-American cast, the show is already an outlier among TV shows, as previously released data has shown a consistent underrepresentation of diversity across TV platforms, including broadcast, cable, and streaming services.

A study from the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released in 2016 looked at the more than 100 movies released by major studies in 2014 and various scripted, first-run TV shows that aired from September 2014 to August 2015.

The researchers found that of the 414 TV shows and movies examined, 28.3 percent of characters with lines were filled by actors from minority groups (a shortfall when compared with the 37 percent of the US population that identifies as a minority) and only a third were filled by women (despite women making up half the US population).

Like the film version, it appears the show will bring up various topics about race that have been percolating in the news and popular culture.

When reviewing the 2014 movie, Inkoo Kang of TheWrap wrote that the film is “a timely and important look at black identity and how it’s informed by stereotypes in the media,” while Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday wrote that director Justin Simien “has created that rarity in American society: a movie that simultaneously sends up the national ‘conversation about race’ while advancing the conversation itself.... ‘Dear White People’ isn’t a vehicle for grievance but cockeyed, even optimistic, portrait of people forced to navigate, resist and sometimes exploit an irrational system of unearned privilege. It’s true that satire is the perfect weapon of reason, and Justin Simien deploys it with resourcefulness, cool assurance and eagle-eyed aim.”

Netflix subscribers can judge for themselves whether the show is able to address these issues with the same skill when the series drops in April.

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