This afternoon, Netflix dropped the first trailer for Dear White People, a new series based on the 2014 Justin Simien movie by the same name about Sam White, a black college student who hosts a radio show about being a minority at a predominantly white university.
Like its cinematic counterpart, Netflix’s Dear White People focuses around a series of racially insensitive (read: blackface) parties that spark tensions on campus and drive Sam to become more pointed in her critiques of the school’s white student body.
While anyone who actually bothered to watch the trailer or Google its basic premise could easily figure out the both the film and the series’ title is meant to be provocatively tongue-in-cheek, a number of confused white people quickly took to Twitter after the trailer’s release to vent their anger at Netflix.
Things took off when Tim Treadstone, a former BuzzFeed writer who reinvented himself as an outspoken member of the so-called alt-right Twitter mob under his @BakedAlaska handle, lamented that Dear White People was somehow advocating white genocide and encouraged his followers to cancel their Netflix memberships. Soon, other Twitter users were chiming in with screenshots of their own, proudly boasting that they, too, had canceled their memberships. (I’ve reached out to Netflix and representatives of Simien for comment and will update if I hear back.)
A few hours after the #DearWhitePeople began to clog up with people bragging about their cancelled Netflix subscriptions, Dear White People creator Justin Simien wrote a brief Facebook post describing how his initial disappointment at the backlash to the series had given way to hope.
“When the first trailer for the film dropped, I’ll admit the deluge of claims that I was a reverse racist and a ‘piece of shit monkey that should shut up and go back to Africa’ really hurt,” Simien wrote. “But now, I feel strangely encouraged. To see the sheer threat that people feel over a date announcement video featuring a woman of color (politely) asking not to be mocked makes it so clear why I made this show.”
To be clear: Dear White People doesn’t call for the genocide of white people, but it does challenge viewers (particularly the white ones) to think critically about what it means when a group of white people decide to throw a blackface-themed party. Then again, maybe, to a bunch of racist people, being called out and made fun of for being racists feels like the ultimate attack on their existence. Who knows?