Music

What ‘Dear White People’ Has To Say About Miley Cyrus, YesJulz, And Blackface Parties

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“Dear white people… top of the list of unacceptable costumes: Me.”

The premise of Netflix’s recently released college dramedy-satire, Dear White People, revolves around an ill-advised Halloween party pitched by the staff of a fictional Ivy League college’s culture magazine, Pastiche, where attendees don an assortment of “urban-themed” costumes, many of which include Blackface. The show is a satirical take on “race relations” in America, with jokes about “wokeness” interwoven with genuine commentary on the often fraught interactions between people of different ethnicities — especially with regards to culture and appropriation.

And while the show is clever, tightly plotted, and slickly written, even its writers never could have foreseen how apropos it would be in real time, paralleling current events in entertainment, with not just one, but two different personalities in hot water for appropriating Black culture in the same week of its release. “Dear white people…” often sounds like the lead-in to a slander-laden tirade against Caucasian folks, but in the case of pop culture personalities like Miley Cyrus and YesJulz, there are greater lessons to be learned and taught… which is the whole point of the show in the first place.

“… And the Jay Z song was on…”

Until “Party In The USA” stormed radio in 2009, Miley Cyrus was just the latest “America’s sweetheart” model to roll off the Disney Pop Princess Factory assembly line, fresh off a successful second season of tween alter-ego comedy Hannah Montana. The show’s premise: A teen pop music star switches between dual identities — from regular teen Miley Stewart to eponymous megastar Hannah Montana — in order to enjoy the benefits of both normal life and ridiculous fame. If this doesn’t sound familiar, it will. After the release of her EP, The Time Of Our Lives, she went all-in on a “hip-hop-inspired” image and sound for her fourth LP, Bangerz, executive produced by Mike Will Made It. She debuted a new look that included an undercut, faded out hairline and custom, basketball-jersey dresses, and twerked across stage to tunes that now featured rappers like Future and French Montana. However, recently, in a promotional interview for her new album with Billboard magazine, she revealed that she no longer listens to rap music thanks to differences in “political” views.

Meanwhile, just last night, during what is affectionately known to its participants as “Third Shift Twitter” (i.e. the overnight run, when things get really saucy and the jokes reach a level of bawdiness normally reserved for late night booty calls and liquored-up Uber rides home from shutting down the bar), social media personality/event host/”director of vibes”/accused culture vulture Julieanna Goddard, aka YesJulz, sent and promptly deleted a controversial tweet featuring a slogan tee that featured the dreaded “n-word,” with the caption “So… am I allowed to wear this shirt to the festival tomorrow or nah (sic)” It should be noted that this isn’t the first time Julz has found herself in hot water; she has often been accused of being a “culture vulture,” or someone who routinely engages in the practice of cultural appropriation for personal gain. She hosts parties that prominently feature hip-hop personalities and musicians, but remains suspiciously silent with regards to the social adversities faced by the primary purveyors and connoisseurs of hip-hop culture. This is a fact made even more ironic by the tagline of her “creative marketing agency”: “…bridging the gap between cool and conscious.”

The reason Dear White People seems to so eerily reflect life is this is a story we’ve all heard before: White kids dabbling in Blackness ‘til it gets too hot, and jumping back out of the fire.

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