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Though the show has Troy and Coco, who don’t agree with agitation but still show up for conversations about race, it leaves out the black kids on campus who choose to not participate in such conversations or engage socially with other black students at all. The show is much less concerned with the interior lives of black people.And those stories, too, are an important part of the experience and dynamic on campuses like Winchester’s. There’s a long tradition of black folks pleading with white people. Is there a single scene of a black party in the series?At times of heightened tension, it felt like Gabe’s feelings, perspectives, and anxieties were centered in a narrative that could have spent a lot more time unpacking the trauma experienced by the other main characters. Many of the supporting characters seem more like hollow stand-ins for ideologies than they are members of a cohesive cast: There’s a token African student, another student whose only references are to religion, and an Asian student whom viewers are forced to assume is “down.” Joelle, another black female student who’s best friends with the insufferable Sam, received glaringly little development despite having, I’d argue, the potential to be the most well-rounded character on the show.All in all, I think the series, while a detailed improvement on the film, struggles with its intersecting identities as much as its main characters did.Of course there are black kids who grew up in nice neighborhoods with lots of privilege.But there are many black kids at these very affluent institutions who are certainly not from affluent backgrounds, who are there in hopes that their four years will give them access to a better life.It’s a better show for assigning full episodes to the perspectives of each of the five black leads—Sam, Lionel, Troy, Coco, and Reggie—an obvious attempt to remedy critiques of the film’s lack of character development.Where this method falls short is the show’s use of the love triangle between Sam, the biracial activist leader of Winchester’s Black Student Union, Gabe, the white graduate student she’s dating, and Reggie, another member of the Black Student Union who has pined for her since freshman year, as the throughline for the season.
Sometimes it comes in humor—Joelle’s interrupting Sam’s broadcast to figure out how to get “waist-thin and ass-thick.” Other times it comes in moments of deep pain—Coco’s confrontation with Sam over colorism after being autotuned.
It’s a tradition that emerges from political necessity, so I get it; I’m just not very interested in it. There is a black sorority, but is there a single step show?
Even the communal amusement—like the parody of , the show, is a tremendous artistic achievement.
White: As someone who also went to a PWI (Columbia), I get that the perception of the black student body at PWIs might align closely with what’s presented in .
In reality I think the black students who wind up going to PWIs are incredibly varied, just like the black students who go to HBCUs.
The original film’s satirical portrayal of race relations and black identity at the fictional Ivy League school Winchester University followed a group of black students, led by Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), and a budding campaign against the predominantly white humor magazine picks up where the original left off.