Opinion | Dear white people

Arianna Ngnomire,
junior screen acting major

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.

The poster for “Dear White People” was placed on a trash can outside of the Marion Knott Studios. Photo courtesy of Arianna Ngnomire

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.

Sincerely,
Arianna Ngnomire

16 Comments

  • Arianna, please. This article is baffling. I’m happy to give credit where credit is due, however, no credit is due here! Stranger Things is a globally acclaimed show and of the many awards it has won, one of them happens to be from the NAACP. Dear White People, on the other hand, is on par with the work of an 8th grader using iMovie. Please, please, stop making things about race. This is a television show, and it just so happens that one program is much better than the other.

    • “On par with the work of an 8th grader using iMovie…”

      Someone clearly has never seen my 8th grade films… (Simien is light years ahead of that, check yourself)

  • Dear White People is laughable, that’s whats laughable. Obviously the school wouldn’t share that well, as it is an irrelevant show based on race, something a school would never promote. Best to you Ariana!

  • “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.”

    So by your “racist white boy” practicing social activism, he was arguing against social activism?
    By him bringing race issues to light in his article and how previous “solutions” haven’t worked, he was trying to erase apparent race issues?

    Oh please.

  • I personally haven’t seen Dear White People, but I agree that Chapman/Dodge should celebrate the fact that a former student has successfully created their own film and a subsequent television show. Whether or not the other commenters think that show is good or not is completely irrelevant. Simien has managed to make a name for himself after graduating, and would provide great insight for students of any race into the industry, but would particularly have a unique view on how it is for a POC to navigate the film industry.
    No one can say definitively why Chapman/Dodge hasn’t been as welcoming to Simien as it has been to other alumni, but I think you make a well-researched and well-written argument. Definitely makes me think. Thanks for sharing!

  • “The poster is practically hidden and insinuates that the project is subordinate and likened to trash.” Jesus Christ the delusion here is real. So you’re saying that they decided to put the poster there to actually hate on the movie? That makes zero sense.

    • Thats because everything today is a “microagression.” Everyones motives are inherently evil and even something supporting the show such as this poster is seen as an attack. Thats the logic on the left.

  • There is not one piece of research in this article. It references MLK, who would find this to be flat out shameful.

  • While I think there are some valid points in the article, I feel like there should be better examples than the billboard vs. trash argument. There are many factors to consider when deciding what goes up on a billboard. Why did Chapman have a larger than life poster of ‘The Barber’ at DMAC, a movie that received mainly bad reviews? They spent millions of dollars on that project through Chapman Filmed Entertainment; a business decision and not a racist one.

    The rest of the article goes off topic about how the shows were received by the public. While that issue is relevant today, the earlier paragraph was trying to make a serious point that Chapman supports white alumni over black alumni.

    To make such a bold statement, you need examples that analyze a greater sample size than the two bodies of work mentioned in the article, which, by the way, are so different from each other, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

    Is it really surprising that a sci-fi show providing escapism and nostalgia is more popular than a satricial critique of our society? I’m not saying one’s better than the other; both types of work are important. But I know which show I’m trying to watch after a long day.

    All in all, I have lots of love for Chapman and I certainly hope there isn’t some sinister motive behind the promotion of our alumni’s proudest work.

    • I agree with this take wholeheartedly. The milk box and juice box trolls who stalk every Op-Ed to offer a gut reaction should not be the critique of this piece, which is valid when it comes to noting that Justin Simien has not been recognized enough for his achievements. Justin absolutely deserves more recognition, and it speaks to how Dodge College in particular treats its alumni that he does not.

      That said, STRANGER THINGS is a global sensation and is one of the most popular Netflix series of all time. Critical reception on Rotten Tomatoes is not the same as popularity, and the writer shows naivety by failing to recognize that, undermining her main argument.

  • Sooooo let me get this straight. Dear White People deserves more than Stranger Things because DWP is… not as good as Stranger Things? I’ve seen both, and that’s my opinion. And a lot of other peoples’ opinions, too by the looks of it.

    • No, in fact I believe how Chapman celebrated ST was really dope. But I notice that DWP didn’t receive nearly the same amount of attention. In this opinion article I merely want Chapman to do more for the filmmakers I look up to. All love.

  • I’m pretty sure that “Dear White People,” which received outstanding critical reviews and was spun off into a successful Netflix series, is every bit “as successful” as “Stranger Things.” Ignore the racist trolls here who seem to show up to vent their ugliness on every opinion piece (Panther, you might consider blocking them; it’s obvious what they are…). Arianna makes an excellent point – these two shows by Chapman alumni are both VERY SUCCESSFUL and well-reviewed, yet one has led to alumni celebrations and large posters, while the other has led to…hmm. Simien has spoken at Chapman a couple of times, but he should ABSOLUTELY be celebrated more by the alumni. If the Duffer Bros deserve an alumni achievement in the arts award, so does Justin Simien! Make it happen, Chapman! And THANK YOU for airing this concern, Arianna.

  • Great article, really well written, Simien deserves so much more recognition from the school and I wish they would have him come here to speak. Dear White People is one of the freshest, funniest, best written shows on TV and has largely been swept under the rug in part because people don’t want to think about how racism affects lives day to day. Ignore the trolls Arianna, you wrote a dope article.

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