Yesterday morning, news surfaced that Dear White People received the green light for an all-new series on Netflix. The 10-episode show will be aired in 30-minute increments. Filming is expected to begin later in 2016 with a projected 2017 released date produced by Lionsgate, according to Deadline. Justin Simien’s indie film first released in 2014, taking a satirical approach to defining Black people’s experiences at predominately white institutions. The film however was launched on a leap of faith.
One amazing thing about this film most people don’t know is, producer Justin Simien put together the concept of Dear White People with his refund check. After the trailer initially released, it received an unexpected overwhelmingly positive response on social media, causing it’s $25,000 Indiegogo campaign to stretch just shy of $42,000. And while this is a far ways from a multi-million dollar movie budget, it’s proof that the DIY movement for independent filmmakers writing about socially charged issues is still much a viable option. In an essence, if you have a great product, build it and everything else will follow.But here’s where things get interesting. A quick Google search shows that earlier this year, Netflix zoomed past a record breaking 75 million subscribers worldwide. In the fourth quarter of 2015 alone, the streaming platform saw a rise in 5.59 million new subscribers, with 1.56 million being from the US and 4.04 million in new international users. With a growing platform this huge, it causes me to ask one important question. Can ‘Dear White People’ become black millennials response to ‘A Different World?’ It’s barely been a year since A Different World was first added to Netflix in March 2015. However the shows original air dates from 1987 to 1993 was just a little early for most millennials to grasp. During its peak airtime, 34 million viewers worldwide comprised mostly of our parents tuned in every week to watch A Different World. And while on any given Friday or Saturday night, you can find me binge watching Whitley and Dwayne Wayne’s experiences at Hillman, it’s a reminder that we desperately need something like this in present day form. Its resurfacing has left both original and recent fans begging to know if a spinoff of the original show will ever be recreated. A definite answer we’re all still waiting for. What this does mean is that a millennial-like show of this sort must happen. Dear White People has the opportunity to fill this niche and on a much broader reach than its predecessor. A 2017 Dear White People also has the potential to see double the reach of A Different World in a non-traditional viewing form.
While this puts a lot of pressure on filmmaker Justin Simeon, Dear White People has already inadvertently began filling this void. The 2014 film touched on many issues, including homophobia, racial transgressions, stereotypes, and of course, being black in a predominately white space. A Different World touched on everything from developing one’s Black identity, Black Greek Letter Organizations, the importance of community and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. And albeit, the most obvious difference is that A Different World takes place at fictitious HBCU Hillman College, and Dear White People, at imaginary Ivy League, Winchester University. They both provide extremely eye-opening media imagery for the Black community. As we get closer and closer to production time, it’s only natural that these comparisons will happen. As an avid HBCU advocate, I am by no means comparing the both different, yet important experiences at institutions designed for us, versus those accommodated to allow us. But with the popularity of socially charged shows such as Black-ish and The Carmichael Show, we are slowly seeing an important paradigm shift of diversity in the film industry. For those HBCU lovers, however waiting to relive their experiences at FAMU, Howard or Spelman, expect to see the launch of The Yard starring Anika Noni Rose on BET in the near future. In the meantime, it’s especially important that we support the shows created by us, for us. I’ll be tuning in next year when Dear White People premieres on Netflix. Will you?