I started this intending to highlight the five best and the five worst elements (characters, relationships, plots, etc.) of Netflix’s “Dear White People”, but halfway through, I lost momentum, particularly when I realized that there were way more themes in the show that I thought were terrible than ones that I thought were genuinely good. So instead, here’s a short list of the 5 best and worst (mostly worst) people and relationships in “Dear White People”.
WORST – Gabe:
Let’s start with the fact that we’re introduced to Gabe when he initiates a post-sex “what are we?” talk with Sam – that she’s clearly not interested in having – and tries to guilt, pressure, sweet talk and generally coerce her into committing to a relationship she’s clearly not ready to be in. When that fails – and his jealousy gets the best of him after seeing her with Reggie – he then publicly exposes their relationship by posting a sexually suggestive photo of Sam and tagging her in it, without her knowledge or consent, effectively broadcasting details of her sex life to everyone she knows. Add to that his woe-is-me, “am I ‘accidentally’ racist when I weaponize my whiteness against black people every time I’m inconvenienced” brand of “well-meaning” allyship and you can throw the whole Gabe away.
BEST – Troy & Lionel:
The love and respect these two have for one another as their complete – and in the case (and words) of Troy Fairbanks, “problematic as fuck” – selves gives me all those warm fuzzy feelings. It’s refreshing to see a character like Troy – who plays into almost every other stereotype of traditional masculinity – be so openly supportive of Lionel and his sexuality as well as the way that their relationship is neither hindered nor defined by it. Lionel is never referred to or represented as Troy’s “gay” friend/roommate. They are friends, plain and simple, with a genuine friendship in which they support each other, encourage each other, and call each other on their bullshit. #TeamTroynel4Eva
WORST – Sam:
I don’t know whether it’s the fact that the actress who plays her manages to simultaneously over and under-act most of her scenes or her character’s sanctimonious, self-aggrandizing rendition of “wokeness” that annoys me most. Sam is every problematic biracial “activist” that stays overcompensating by blindly raging against “the system”, desperately trying to absolve her own white guilt and reconcile her biracial identity, while actually helping no one, at the expense of victimizing and exploiting every black person in her path. And while she gets called out almost constantly by her darkskinned frenemy for failing to recognize her own lightskinned privilege, she never seems to learn anything or grow from the exchanges.
BEST – Coco:
Look at the GIF. Need I say more? Colandrea “Coco” Connors is everything I never knew I needed in a character and in life. She is easily the most authentic and complex character in the show and every single scene she’s in is my favorite scene. Whether she’s pulling Sam’s card about her “blacker than thou bullshit” or reminding Troy that she’s “not this girl” that settles for a “come thru” text and that she could have so much better than he’s offering, she stays giving me life. She not only knows who she is and what she wants, but demands what she is owed and makes any and all necessary moves and sacrifices to obtain it. Underneath the hardened exterior of a darkskinned black girl from the southside of Chicago trying to claw her way to the top in a white supremacist society, she’s also loving, raw and vulnerable in a way that makes you want to wrap her up and keep her safe, and no matter what happens, I always find myself rooting for her.
WORST – Sam & Gabe:
The only thing worse than Sam White and Gabe Mitchell individually is them together. Not only are their scenes together disappointing and devoid of chemistry, the relationship itself is boring and cliche. Season one briefly touched on a love-triangle between Sam, Reggie – a brilliant, charismatic, tech-savvy, funny, passionate, attractive, etc. etc. black man, – and Gabe – a mediocre-in-all-ways white dude. And after spending one night with Reggie, Sam ultimately decides that her heart wants to be with Gabe’s boring, needy, clingy, manipulative, how-come-your-friends-hate-me-for-my-whiteness ass and, even after he rejects her, spends all of season two pining for him and trying to get back with him for reasons that are supposed to be complicated and difficult to understand. They’re not. The reasons are as follows: he’s white.
*I’d also like to give an honorable mention to “Defamation”. I’ll let y’all decide in which category it falls.