“How can those of us granted a moment in the proverbial spotlight just use it to entertain ourselves to death? It’s a challenge and a series of questions. Like art should be.”
This is what Justin Simien said in his latest tweet – and his idea of “art” is indeed all over the latest season of his Netflix show, Dear White People that offers a much-needed fresh look at race and racism – an issue that even today, unfortunately, still needs addressing.
Last week the much awaited second season premiered – another 10 fantastically diverse episodes that dive straight back into society’s issues through Winchester University students.
The last episode of season one ended with a smashing number of cliff-hangers and left Winchester, as well as our hearts, in a state of chaos. The protest-gone-wrong was a turning point for many of the characters: Troy (Brandon P. Bell) left his good-boy comfort zone, Lionel gained the courage to stand up for himself, power-couple Sam (Tessa Thompson) and Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) officially broke-up, and most importantly the end to racism still seems to be centuries away. So, what does this mean for season two? Well, as the anonymous narrator of the show tells us, “watch closely”.
Season two bravely dwells into previously unexplored and underexplored issues
Like the first, season two allows each episode to focus on one character, the puzzle-pieces leading to the last episode that gives us clarity regarding both old and new questions. While developing the story, this approach is essential to the premise of Dear White People answering the show’s ongoing question of whether race is what defines us. This is why, after establishing it can own the race conversation in season one, season two bravely dwells into previously underexplored issues including abortion, cyber-bullying, sexuality, relationships and death as well as finding ‘your voice’ with the aid of shrooms.
Some of these issues may seem familiar, and of course, the theme of racism is still as big an issue in season two as it was before. So, what does this new installment offer? Apart from getting to know the characters better, since unlike most shows Dear White People has a huge framework of characters that are really worth exploring, the second season introduces an interesting element of trying to ground the present issues and their possible solutions into the past, through the uncovering of secret societies of Winchester. Although slightly unexpected, this feels like a natural turn of events as season one constantly demonstrated how the ‘then’ and ‘now’ are inseparable, creating links between the University’s racist past and it’s (still racist) present. But whether this link is the answer Sam and her friends have been looking for, and whether this discovery will be the ultimate weapon in tackling Winchester’s race issues, we won’t know until season 3.
What we do know, however, is that the show has succeeded once again in unapologetically raising topics that we are too scared to talk about, perhaps because we don’t know how to talk about them. But if we can learn anything from Dear White People it’s that the only way to find that out is by starting the conversation.