I'm like a month late with this semi-review but I don't care because time is a social construct and like my hair, it isn't real. Against my better judgement I sat down and wasted a few hours of my life that I'll never get back by watching the Dear White People series on Netflix. Why was I apprehensive to watch it? Because the movie from 3 whole ass years ago was so terrible. The show was probably even worse, and I didn't think that was possible. The corny jokes, the corny clapbacks, the terrible tumblr 101 discourse on social issues, I was just... girl. Much like 13 Reasons Why, I was sighing through each episode wondering when it was going to end. Cause I couldn't take it much longer.
The only redeeming quality and shining star of that show was the bad bitch that is Coco Conners. I loved her in the movie and I loved her in the show. She was a bittersweet character to me because of how she was portrayed though; she was given the average "woe is me" dark skinned girl backstory who struggles with confidence, but during the show you get to see her slowly work through it as she learns to be more comfortable with herself and her blackness. However, I am very much tired of Hollywood thinking every single dark skinned Black girl hates themselves, yet I couldn't stay mad at it because Coco is me, and I am Coco. I was the girl who was constantly overlooked by guys, who sat alone in the cafeteria, had some trouble fitting in, who was sexualized and not seen as worthy by other men. And so was Coco.
Her whole story from start to finish speaks to me and it honestly hurt to see, it's like I was reliving my most hurtful experiences. But it also felt good knowing that I wasn't the only black girl who experienced and went through these things, and that it really wasn't ever my fault, despite how much it felt like it was. It was simply society's fault (because I am a peach honestly) and I happened to be the one who unfortunately was its victim each time.
When I first saw her character I was like "oh she's gonna be the mean dark girl that's bad and boujee that everyone hates", and while that was only partially true (because her meanness is subjective really, what's mean to you is realness to me tbh, and yes she was bougie), she wasn't your stereotypical mean black girl that no one liked. She wasn't simply some cold mean person. She had layers to her character like a Pillsbury biscuit. And I appreciated that, like I really think she was the best written character on the show. The best character period, the only one who ever made any sense. It would've been way better if she was the protagonist, I'm telling you. Sam and her biracial tears bored me to death like, it's 2017 and y'all still afraid of dating white men? But I guess when you feel like you're not black enough you do whatever you can to make up for it.
Sam was not an interesting, funny, or complex character. She was no different than any other biracial person who struggles with her biracial identity and tries to overcompensate for that feeling via overdone problackness. It's so boring, I feel like I've seen a million shows, films, and actual people that are like her and I would like it to stop, truly. Not only is she boring, but she also exhibits antiblack ideals. When Coco walked into their dorm wearing her natural hair, for some reason Sam thought it was funny to equate Coco's decision to wearing her natural hair out to being broke and in need of something. She literally said, "what's up with your hair? do you need money? are you high?" I wanted to slap that biracial broad. And while we're talking about Sam, she honestly reminds me of Denise of A Different World, especially her and Reggie. The boring and pretty light skinned girl that the probably colorstruck dark skinned guy chases after even though she doesn't really want him. They're a modern-day Denise and Dwayne. Keep it.
But back to my darling Coco, there were many scenes, many things she went through that broke my heart because I literally felt that. The first thing would've been her first encounter with antiblackness when she was in like, the 1st grade. She was playing with some girls in the classroom and they told her to take the ugly doll, which was the last one left because nobody else wanted it. And what did it look like? It looked like Coco. A dark skinned doll with a kinky afro. That was the moment where she knew she would have a life of difficulty trying to fight internal battles everyday.
However I think my main gripe with Coco's character was how hypersexualized she was. Yes it's a reality for many dark skinned black women but like... that trope is so overused now. I'm kind of tired of seeing narratives like that. I watch movies and tv shows to get away from reality and it totally defeats the purpose when I'm watching a show and it's like looking in the mirror. It was another story of the dark black girl that's only seen as a sexual being and used solely to relieve a man of his sexual urges, which in this case happens to be Troy. Her and Troy had several sex scenes throughout the series that were really pointless to me and served like zero purpose to the plot. I'm no prude of course, but if I'm watching a movie/tv show I don't want to see a bunch of sex. Especially pointless sex. That is what Pornhub is for. I am here for the drama and that is all. It's like it's impossible for people to create shows and movies these days without sex scenes, it's kind of annoying and frankly kinda shows a lack in creativity.
Troy and Coco's relationship was another aspect of her experience of a dark skinned black girl that just really shook me on the inside because I know it all too well. She was constantly overlooked and ignored by guys, and once she found someone (Troy) that she thought actually cared for her besides just sex, she latched onto him because she thought she finally found what she'd been longing for this whole time. And that's what happens when you go through life being invisible, ignored, sexualized; at some point you try to hold on to something that's not even real.
When they started arguing about whether they were exclusive or not, that's when I really knew. Troy threw Coco to the side like she was nothing and like they weren't in an intimate relationship, even if they weren't exclusive. It was such trash. You can be intimate with someone and have a connection without being boyfriend and girlfriend (but men are stupid and simple-minded and can't grasp this). In the 4th episode she spoke some realness and I don't care how mad you wanna be about it.
And it was 100% true. A testament to how many men, especially black men, sexualize dark skinned girls and only use them for sex but when it's time for a real relationship? They'll exclusively commit to a lighter skinned black girl or nonblack girl in a heartbeat. They'll give them everything they won't give a dark skinned girl, and then some. It's not uncommon for dark skinned black girls to be used as sexual objects then thrown out, which I talked about my personal experiences with here. It's probably one of the hardest things to deal with because it can really alter your confidence and any positive perceptions of yourself.
On a lighter note, let's get into some of the gems that Coco gave the girls during those terrible 10 episodes. Because there were a lot, because unsurprisingly she was the only person on that show with common sense. Dark skinned women in particular are very keen when it comes to surviving in this world and navigating safe and soundly since for whatever reason we seem to be everyone's target on their radar at all times. During the series she was truly the only voice of reason and she was shown to be very socially savvy when it came to socializing with them rich white folk. In the 6th episode she stated the clear distinction between assimilation and self-preservation, which cannot be stressed enough because contrary to what some of you simpletons may think, there's a fine line dividing the two.
She was doing what she had to do as a Black girl in a predominately white setting so she could actually get somewhere. She joined those sororities and clubs, befriended the white girls, went to fancy galas and whatever because networking is key. Because connections matter, and she knows that. What's seen to others as shuckin' and jivin' is self-preservation to Coco, and the main difference with her is that she's well aware of what she's doing. She's not doing this in a sunken place with the delusion that she is the same as these other people. Coco knows good and well that she needs to tell these people what they wanna hear so she can get what she wants and bounce. That is smart to me, I don't care what you say. Fool these white people, sis. She put on the bad and boujee act, befriended a couple Becky's, and was in because as she said, "laughing at dumb white people jokes is lucrative". Sis knows.
I'm not mad at the way she socializes and presents herself because she clearly stated that people take one look at her skin and assume that she's ratchet, poor etc., so she tones it down in order to avoid those perceptions so she can move around better. That's really where the bougieness comes from and it makes sense. At the end of the day you gotta do what you gotta do in this world as a dark black woman. What's important though, is that you maintain a sense of high self-awareness as you navigate through life.
The thing about her is that she's been woke (I fucking hate that word) from the jump, eyes wide open. She's aware of all the bullshit that goes on around her, and she said herself that during a BSU meeting while telling them to stop acting a fool while protesting. "As soon as you double down on your blackness, they double down on their bullshit." That scene really solidified the fact that she was the only smart person on that show with common sense, really. She goes about everything with a very realistic point of view and honestly she's right, whether you liked what she had to say or not. Leave it to dark skinned black women to show y'all the way to glory. The way she maneuvers around white spaces by fitting in as best she can as a black person, she's smart. not a sell-out. or a coon. or whatever some of you people who lack any sort of nuance want to call her.
After her and Troy "broke up", in the span of like 5 minutes she went from Hold Up to Don't Hurt Yourself. Sis turned around before leaving his dorm and said I'm smarter than you, more ambitious than you, and when I get to the top I'm not even gonna remember your name. Yes! Yes! The business of us girlies begging for the company of unworthy men is over much like Katy Perry's career. We need more character's like Coco. She gave me a sense of comfort and empowerment despite how corny that sounds. Dark skinned Black women deserve more than representation that's only comprised of women with low self-esteem, sex, and generally no sort of depth. IF season two is renewed, I might be back to watch only to see Coco's greatness and roast Sam.