by Rebecca Farley | via Refinery29
Welcome to Joelle’s episode, which finally addresses her second-fiddliness. She spent season 1 as a supporting character, offering funny takes when needed and largely remaining out of the drama. She was Sam’s sidekick, and this episode deals with that. She does, in fact, feel like Sam’s sidekick. And Sam, true to her protagonist nature, sometimes treats her like one. In the show’s opening scene, Sam routinely interrupts her friend during a recording of Dear White People. Joelle recently joined Sam as host of the show, which is parallel — she’s also stepped up to join Sam as a “main character” in the broader show of Dear White People.
So, we get the background facts on Joelle. She was valedictorian of her school. She’s a really good singer. (She twice sings “Lift Every Voice And Sing” in this episode.) She’s obsessed with grades and being the top of the class, although a mystery character labeled T. King is always just a few points behind her in grading.
Look, I don’t want to say that this episode unfolds like The Babadook mapped atop You’ve Got Mail, but it does. Joelle foreshadows it best when chatting with Gabe (they’re friends) in the library. “This world is not kind to the Kellys of this world,” she grumbles. She’s talking about Kelly Rowland, but he assumes she’s talking about Kelly Ripa.
So, when T. King turns out to be a thoroughly handsome man named Trevor (ACTOR), things look fishy. It’s all too good to be true, at least for the narrative this show is spinning. Despite their immediate connection, Trevor shows tiny signs of misogyny that Joelle (and us, really) are only too happy to ignore.
When he first meets Joelle, he tells her he’s pleased to see a Black woman doing so well in the world. Later, he takes her to the culinary lab where they eat oyster and lobster (??? in a college???). He confides that he doesn’t like Armstrong-Parker House, which feels like a red flag because, well, AP is the core of this show. All of the characters cherish AP. Trevor has some conspiracy theories as well, tossing out references to “the power” and “taking it back.” But he’s tall and sweet to Joelle. He takes her out for ice cream!
Sigh. I would really like for Joelle to catch a break.
Trevor’s time comes when he visits AP house with Joelle. He’s a hotep, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a slang term used to describe men who are pro-Black but generally backwards. (This post will help.) The term actually comes up earlier in the episode in reference to Carson Rhodes. He’s not a hotep, one character pointed out, but he does hate Rikki Carter. CORE and BSU want Carson to come to campus, remember? But a small portion of the Black caucus wants Rikki Carter to come to campus.
Click HERE to read the rest of the recap, “Joelle.”