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'Dear White People' musical season doesn't strike the right chord

Deron Horton as Lionel Higgins, Wade F Wilson as Michael, Brandon P Bell as Troy Fairbanks, John Patrick Amedori as Gabe Mitchell, Marque Richardson as Reggie Green, and Ashley Blaine Featherson as Joelle Brooks in Dear White People. Picture: Lara Solanki/Netflix

Deron Horton as Lionel Higgins, Wade F Wilson as Michael, Brandon P Bell as Troy Fairbanks, John Patrick Amedori as Gabe Mitchell, Marque Richardson as Reggie Green, and Ashley Blaine Featherson as Joelle Brooks in Dear White People. Picture: Lara Solanki/Netflix

Published Sep 22, 2021

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The final season of “Dear White People” abandoned its previous narrative style for a musical set-up and while I was intrigued at the beginning it quickly became a cringe-fest.

Rating 2.5/5

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We kick off the season with a time jump in the not so distant future in a post-pandemic world set against the backdrop of their senior year of our boundary-pushing students at Winchester.

Now, like many other fans of the show when the news first dropped that it was going to be a musical season, I was very concerned.

This new trend of shows having musical episodes, in general, doesn’t work since most of the actors aren’t great singers given the fact that it's not what they originally signed up for.

And when some actors have a musical theatre background the lack of singing ability is only emphasised in group numbers.

The framing device used to kind of explained why people are randomly burst out in song as future Lionel (DeRon Horton) teams up with Sam (Logan Browning) for the 4th volume of his “Dear White People” book series based on their time at Winchester, which is set to be adapted into a musical show.

And the fact that they were busy with an Afro-futuristic and 90s-inspired musical show at the university in their senior year.

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Therefore, there is an in-universe explanation for the musical numbers but this show has a similar problem to the Amazon Prime Video “Cinderella” where it’s clear that the people involved don’t have a grasp of how to construct a musical.

While in some moments it makes thematic sense to have characters bursting into song, in others it feels very out of place.

The songs in the top end of the season sort of make sense and it feels like the show sort of gets in a groove, but as the show progresses the musical numbers become more cringe as we go along.

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One specific scene involved two characters doing a rock cover of “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC, and it fell flat.

The show still has the overarching theme of black American millennial students navigating a predominantly white space and while the more outrageous scenarios were entertaining because the was a semblance of truth in them.

This time around it strangely feels out of place and cartoony with the way characters act in situations especially in the musical numbers.

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“Dear White People” should have stuck with its original storytelling structure and leave musicals to the people that do them well.

The final season feels more like Glee through a BLM filter and it’s disappointing to have one of the most progressive shows go out like this.

Dear White People” is streaming on Netflix.

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