by Rebecca Farley | via Refinery29
This entire episode is devoted to Lionel’s relationship with Silvio (D.J. Blickenstaff), an important cliffhanger from last season. Dear White People takes its narrative upstarts seriously, and the show is ruthless when it comes to reckoning with the events of last season. Silvio kissed Lionel on The Night. It was dramatic. For us, the viewer, it was liberating. Lionel! Some love! Finally! For Lionel, it was probably liberating, too. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing since. Last episode, they materialized briefly, seemingly on a date. This episode, it’s clear that Silvio is fucking around. What’s more important is Silvio, through his fuckery, becomes an emcee of sorts for the queer community of Winchester’s campus. He takes Lionel (and us) through its winding halls, treating us to glimpses of both its grand flaws and its ecstasy. This is Lionel’s Goldilocks journey: He has to find the community at Winchester that fits just right.
They begin their “date” — Silvio arrives drunk and is generally rude throughout the night — at a party for literary students. All the newspaper editors are there, chatting about their favorite Real Housewives. I would like to take this opportunity, again, to grumble about the show’s pop culture inconsistencies. Why reference real television shows when there are already fake television shows within the show? That said, all the references are very funny, and the show uses them well. Real Housewives comes up whenever the characters are looking to deflect. When Lionel calls out another editor at the literary party for using a racial slur to describe Asian men, he ignores the comment, turning instead to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
This episode deals a lot in the word “problematic” and how the characters in the show react to it. At the literary party, the editors and writers seemed exhausted by it, asking if it can be retired. On the other hand, Troy employs it freely and seems to welcome it.
“I’m problematic as fuck,” he tells Lionel when he’s called out for queer erasure. (Troy was “working on” a threesome with a pair of “fake lesbians” who just turned out to be a couple.) “Just @ me in your next thinkpiece.”
The crux of the drama is that, ironically, Lionel has nowhere to write a thinkpiece. The Independent lost its investors, the Hancocks, who turned out to be ultraconservative. The narrator tells us that the Independent used to be a right-wing publication, a conservative response to the Bugle, the university’s more well-known paper. Important: the Bugle published a tell-all on secret societies at the school in 1924. Lionel is studying this article, possibly because all the X’s he’s seeing around campus refer to a truly secret society.
Click HERE to read the rest of the recap, “Lionel.”