Guest column by Arianna Ngnomire, junior screen acting major
Dear white people,
There is a stark contrast between how the Duffer Brothers, creators of “Stranger Things,” and Justin Simien, creator of “Dear White People” (the 2014 film and 2017 Netflix show) were treated after their respective successful Netflix series took off. The three students all graduated from the Dodge and yet, “Stranger Things” has received much more support from Chapman.
One example can be seen when walking from the Digital Media Arts Center parking structure to the front entrance of Marion Knott Studios. There stands a larger-than-life “Stranger Things” billboard for all to see. On the other hand, in front of Dodge sits a recycling bin, with the 2014 “Dear White People” movie poster taped to the side. The poster is practically hidden and insinuates that the project is subordinate and likened to trash. Additionally, the poster isn’t even Simien’s most recent achievement. “Dear White People,” the Netflix series, was released in 2017.
On Nov. 4, the Duffer Brothers were invited back to Chapman to accept the Alumni Achievement in the Arts Award. Chapman Celebrates adhered to the “Stranger Things” style, themes and characters in one of the many Broadway-style performances that night. A day earlier, the brothers held a master class for film students to learn from them, which understandably sold out quickly.
Emails, flyers and word of mouth about Chapman alumni creating “Stranger Things” was spread all around campus. When searching Duffer Brothers on Chapman’s website, a multitude of blog posts immediately pop up. In contrast, when doing the same for Simien or “Dear White People,” a short, poorly written, poorly formatted post is Chapman’s primary article.
Perhaps it’s because of the impressive nominations and wins that “Stranger Things” nabbed last year. The fact that the “Dear White People” series wasn’t nominated for a single Emmy is laughable. Its first season gained a perfect 100 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes – meaning that every critic gave the season a positive review – despite its measly $1 million budget, according to The Daily Beast.
Over the years, there have been many discussions about Hollywood’s lack of diversity in television and film. When a film with black actors as main characters breaks out, it is categorized as a “black film” and other audiences are discouraged from viewing it. Chapman should encourage students to change and improve the Hollywood work environments. We should not be taught to tolerate the current situations. Toleration is a cop-out.
Students who argue against social activism on campus like to quote the wise man Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a way to erase the race issues that are apparent on campus.
On Dec. 10, 1961, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at then-Chapman College and voiced his opinion about the right way to impose change. He said that “the realist in the area of race relations seeks to combine the truths of two opposites (the optimist and the pessimist) while avoiding the extremes of both.”
Chapman loves to mention Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic visit, but simultaneously ignores the modern history from black alumni that’s been made since then. Celebrate the black history now.