Certain keyboard warriors have had their panties up in a bunch ever since Netflix announced its new series spin-off of Dear White People on Wednesday. For those who don’t know, the 2014 comedic film is about a group of Ivy League college kids dealing with real life growing pains, including social injustice, feminism and cultural cluelessness.
But, of course, out of touch folks took the movie out of context and set social media ablaze. They’re calling the series racist, that Black folks should stop being so ‘sensitive” about touching our hair and even canceling their Netflix accounts. (Seriously – do you know how many quasi-racist movies are on Netflix?).
In reality, this movie is a no-holds barred representation of all races, challenging us all to create conversations on issues as weighted as racism or as seemingly simple as hair (And, why you shouldn’t touch it).
Prime example: actor Tyler James Williams’ larger-than-life afro — the one that gets petted by randoms and mocked by frat boys — serves as both a hairstyle and representation of his own personal journey towards self-discovery.
That symbolism wasn’t lost on director Justin Simien, who, according to the film’s lead stylist Kimberly Steward, used hairstyles as a major part of the character’s identity.
“We were told the hair was the most important part of his character. He’s at an Ivy league school, he’s gay, he’s got this overgrown afro that he doesn’t know what to do with. He doesn’t even know how to comb it,” said Kimberly who, track by track, created the wig’s textured patterns and the wig, itself.
“We could have gone to the local beauty supply and bought one of those curly Halloween type wigs, but the realism is what had to come through. It needed to move, have the nuances of different curl patterns and be able to be combed. As naturalistas, we know that struggle and it had to be realistic.”
That realism carries throughout the entire film and for those offended to reduce the experiences to sensitivity or racism further proves a pertinent crux of the movie: white privilege. Yes, this is when an afro is so much more than an afro.
“That’s why it was so important to get his afro right. That afro invoked an immediate response from everyone. [It] was too Black for the White people and it was too White for his Black counterparts.”
With the new series hitting Netflix on April 28, we’re looking forward to seeing how that conversation continues. Press play below to watch the debut trailer.