In May 2016, Netflix announced it had contracted for a new comedy series based on director Justin Simien’s independent film, Dear White People. While the film gained little attention at the time, the teaser trailer released this week for the series has merited loads of comment on social media. Much of it is negative because of its portrayal of white people.

The trailer features actress Logan Browning playing the role of a radio station show host, Samantha White. She said on air, “Dear White People, here’s a list of acceptable Halloween costumes: pirates, slutty nurse, any of our first 43 presidents. Top of the list of unacceptable costumes: me.” The trailer then segues to images of upscale young white people wearing classically preppy clothing, but then flashes over to the same white people in blackface and posing at a party. Then they are followed by a black woman who says “Wow!” in shock as other black people also react angrily. A caption reads: “America needs a voice of reason.”

On YouTube, the trailer has received more than 207,000 dislikes and approximately 15,000 likes. It has become the most popular teaser trailer yet for Netflix.

Netflix has moved into producing its own content to complement the work of studios. Other series Netflix has produced that have social or political agenda are: 13th, which holds the incarceration of black Americans for crimes is equivalent to slavery; and Orange is the New Black is a prison comedy that has a leftist tilt.

Comments were rife on YouTube about the trailer:

Austhetic” wrote: “Racial tensions are bad in the US right now and Netflix is just adding fuel to the fire. I'm black and i'm SO against this. How can we want equality while we do BS like this? No other race does this kinda shit, really.” “KermStar” wrote: “Congratulations Netflix. You now confirmed that you support a terrorist organization known as Black Lives Matter.”

"King Aesthetic" wrote: "I can tell all the triggered white people in the comments actually didn't watch the movie. It was far from racist." FleXgo wrote: "Shoutout to Netflix for making white people feeluncomfortablee. Still not even a glimmer of what it's like to be a minority in American and jusging by these comments I don't think they'll las a second in our shoes."

"Aurin Ambivalent" wrote: "I canceled my Netflix subscription (the one that's been giving you mone since 2014) no longer. Dear supporters of 'Dear White Popel': I'm not going to write anything addressing black people collectively because that would be racist. Kind of like how putting white people in a signle group is racist And don't give me that 'racism requires power' bulls***. That's sytemic racism, racism in gneral only requires you to believe either certain races are superior to others, or that people possess certain qualities unrelated to skin pigmentation just because of their skin color."

Director Simien responded for a time to messages posted at YouTube and then ultimately issued a statement about the insults he had received. He said that he is now inspired to create more stories about minorities, especially minority women. “I want those who are chronically unseen in the culture to feel seen,” Simien wrote. “And I want those willing to extend empathy to experiences unlike theirs to understand their humanity more deeply.”

Simien wrote that he believes most white men and women feel threatened by Dear White People because they are not accustomed to seeing a “woman of color refer to white people en masse. Something she dare not be allowed in decades past.” In a tweet, Simien referred to conservatives as a “bunch of whiney liberal snowflakes protesting everything!”

Chris Selak -- executive vice president of Lionsgate TV, said in a previous press release that the studio is proud of Simien. “We’re proud to expand our partnership with our friends at Netflix on a comedy that tackles racial themes with a combination of intelligence, honesty, irreverence and wit,” Selak said. “Justin and the rest of the creative team have an opportunity to expand this world and bring its timely and universal themes to a global television audience.”

In a 2014 interview with The Telegraph, Simien addressed accusations of reverse racism.“It makes me very sad that these communities who are grouping together for a moment are coming under attack from a majority who claims that they are somehow being ‘reverse racist,’” Simien said. "If it's not affecting you, it's not racism.”

The cred for Dear White People among progressives and Democrats is bolstered by the fact that screenwriter Jack Moore is outspoken in his progressive views. Following the November 2016 general election, for instance, he expressed consternation over Donald Trump’s victory. Writing of Hillary Clinton, Moore tweeted “We didn’t deserve her.”

 

He also tweeted “F*** white people,” followed by another tweet that read, “Seriously. Fuck white people.” This was accompanied by a screen capture of election results that showed the advantage Trump enjoyed among white voters.

Simien himself has called for the impeachment of President Trump. 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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