Dear White People trailer

Dear White People has always used topical issues to inspire its storylines. Season one dealt with the aftermath of a blackface party on a college campus and an incident of police violence. Season two dealt with social media trolls and the rise of the alt-right. Series creator Justin Simien told the Television Critics Association what season three would tackle when the press visited the set of the show’s third season.

“This year, some would call it an overcorrection but I think it’s probably a necessary reckoning of re-evaluating people,” Simien said. “We find some of our heroes to be more problematic than we had hoped and what do we do with that? In a community where we really need our heroes, that was an over-arcing theme this year.”

Problematic heroes have revealed themselves a lot in the previous year. Just this week, Liam Neeson revealed a racially motivated revenge plot of his youth, which may have tainted some of his action movies. #MeToo revelations have revealed some icons to be irredeemable abusers, and others to have committed problematic acts for which they may or may not have sufficiently atoned.

The question needs to be asked on a case-by-case basis. Does one person’s offense negate their positive contributions to society? Is it possible to simultaneously appreciate someone’s noble efforts while condemning their missteps?

“We raise the question,” Simien said. “I don’t know that we answer it because I don’t have an answer but we certainly raise that question? Where’s the line. Especially black people, we’re all very politically minded. We have to be. How do we make this country a bit better for us to live in? So where do we draw the line between the politics that affect me and the ones that I also have a moral obligation towards? It’s a murky are and we love murky areas here on the show.”

This might seem like a weird example as it pertains to Dear White People, but I faced this question long ago when it came to Steven Seagal. Seagal proved to be a monster in real life, even in the ‘90s, and now even more horrible charges have come up as he’s fled to Russia. But I think the persona he played in movies was genuinely admirable. His characters were spiritual, inclusive and righteous. Seagal never came close to living up to those ideals, but the ideals still exist in his movies and my heart goes out to the people he abused.

That’s probably not who Simien was thinking about, but we all take what we want from art. When it comes to Sam White (Logan Browning), Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton), Coco Conners (Antoinette Robinson), Joelle Brooks (Ashley Blaine Featherson) and Reggie Green (Marque Richardson), they are dealing with their own identities.

“At the heart of the show, it’s a character show about identity versus self,” Simien said. “Who do you have to play in the world versus who you might have really been if you didn’t have to play that role? That’s always what the show comes down to.”

Season three takes a big leap on that front simply by jumping into the spring semester.

“We’ve been in fall, the fall semester after the blackface party for a while now,” Simien said. “So we actually skip ahead this season in time. We meet our characters at a different place in their lives, so the conversation has shifted because they’ve shifted. I feel like we’re meeting everybody after the evolution that they’ve had in the first couple seasons. In that way, the conversation has absolutely shifted.”

Netflix has not announced a premiere date yet for Dear White People season three.

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