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Extreme Close Up (EXCU): Analyzing Hidden Nuances in Film/TV

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S2: The Black Elite (Outside the Box) – Highlighting Blacks in Prominent Roles in Film/TV.

Ep 7: Dear White People 

It can been seen as quite a challenge to accurately represent the many versions of Black America. Though it’s easy to create a “token” character, a criminal character, a short tempered character, a drug user/dealer character, an angry character, or any other depiction of Black people in less than glowing light; there are actually other ways Blacks thrive in the postmodern world. Black History Month alone highlights the many achievements Blacks have brought to the table. As opposed to how they are often depicted in mainstream media. Dear Black People is far from mainstream. Dear Black People is comprised of a satirically, unhinged world. A world, we are all familiar with, our reality.

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To put in proper context, before the series, there was a  film  of the same name, with the same creator, Justin Simien attached. The film, simply followed Black students at Ivy league University, Winchester and climaxed with a similar racial party the show begins with. Instead of sticking with a small Black group at an ivy league school, the series expands that group to a small percentage of Black people in the student body. Additionally, the film features characters that eventually reprise roles in the series. For good reason, Marque Richardson and Brandon P. Bell are fantastic as Reggie Green and Troy Fairbanks. Reggie and Troy translate perfectly from film to series. Those aren’t the only connections, though not playing the same character, Ashley Blaine Featherson and Jemar Michael end up getting re-casted from background roles to impactful foreground characters as Joelle and Al. Dear White People, the series even goes meta in season two with Tessa Thompson and Tyler James Williams, who starred in the film, coming back to be apart of the leading plot in the season. Thompson and Williams played Samantha White and Lionel Higgins, respectively, in the film. However, the series has Logan Browning and DeRon Horton in those roles with great results. Browning and Horton make Samantha and Lionel their own roles which we know is very hard to do when a living entity already exists. Those looking for the future of the Black Elite, look no further.

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Photo from IMDB

To its credit, Dear White People, has a very loud theme that it screams every episode: BLACK PEOPLE HAVE PERSONALITIES, TOO. Which is great considering how often they are reduced to an emotion, a color, an animal, or worse. The series shows the range of its characters with this smart storytelling device of character centered episodes. With this method we can see how they deal with each situation differently, even the ordeals that involve many people such as, season one’s school wide debacle. Black people are more than their history, Dear White People proves that with each episode. Season two, specifically, sneakily intertwines its own fictional history with real American history. Black people are as complex and unique as any other race, Dear White People proves that at every opportunity. Those looking to learn about a group you do not understand, look no further.

Dear White People is trailblazing entertainment. The themes and subplots explored in the ongoing series focus on topics that may make the average person squirm but it is the reality a lot of Blacks deal with. What makes Dear White People stand out among a congested media library, to say the least, is it’s willingness to bare its teeth. To show its characters going through socially and personally scathing situations forces conversations with the audiences. With Black Elite featured in every capacity, it’s refreshing to see proper racial representation on the collegiate level. Dear White People is a dramatic comedy that addresses the racial elephant in the room because that’s exactly what people do. The series can arguably be seen a slice of life, just not a life most would yearn for.

* Samantha White, a voice of a generation and an example of progress. ExCU S2 was a focus on Black history and ways of progression through film/TV. We can’t change history but we can be better. I feel this season really communicated that. Season 3 soon come. Thanks for following me once again. Catch up and revisit your favorite ExCU pieces only on Emcee!

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Philthy
A short story writer turned nominated script writer, Phillip Boudreaux, is a winter 2015 graduate from the San Jose State University's Radio-TV- Film department with a BA in film; with a focus of writing. Since then, he has been sharpening his skills by writing relentlessly, ranging from feature and shorts to music videos, short story fiction as well as (slam) poetry and everything in between. When he's not generating content, you can catch him a local electronic event, the movie theater, or you may never see him at all as he is an avid reader of comics and philosophy.

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