Review of Dear…

Dear… on Apple+ is about letters written to people who have influenced their lives. It’s a mix of people ranging from artists to activists to athletes to even Big Bird. But the show isn’t just letters being read aloud. It’s also the stories of the people (and bird) who have received the letter(s) explaining a little of the how and why behind what they did. You have letters read by Oprah, Stevie Wonder, Lin Manuel Miranda, Jane Goodall, Yara Shahidi, Aly Raisman, Misty Copeland and more.

It starts off with one of the most influential storytellers of our time, Spike Lee. The stories of the people who wrote the letters was as interesting as him explaining why he did certain projects in the first place. He begins by explaining how his father hated going to movies because he hated the way black people were always depicted. And then how while studying filmmaking at NYU, a professor was teaching about the ‘father of cinema’ and Birth of a Nation. But he entirely left out how it caused a resurgence of the KKK and was responsible for beatings and lynchings of black Americans. And there you see and understand a little of the dichotomy he experienced, and the inspiration. But simultaneously, you could see why storytelling and being able to see yourself represented in some way is so important through the stories of the people who wrote the letters. School Daze was watched 204 times by a man who had once never even thought about going to college, and went on to get his Ph.D in education and become then president of Kentucky State University. It’s a lot harder to imagine yourself doing certain things if you’ve never seen them done before by someone like you. And alot of people couldn’t see themselves in the films out there, which were mainly made by white men who depicted black men as rapists, violent, gangsters etc. Culturally that was just ‘how it was’, and it was perpetrated by white men who were running everything in Hollywood, whether they realized it or not. And I’m emphasizing whether they realized it or not, because it wasn’t a premeditated elaborate plan by the evil white patriarchy. But culturally, that’s ‘how it was/is’. Culturally, we collectively decide “just how things are”. It’s not rules set in stone. Culturally, it’s important to understand and hear form different perspectives. He ends the piece by explaining how everyone has an individual and unique story to tell, and it’s more clear exactly why that’s important to him, and as a whole.

Big Bird has gotten a lot of letters from children over the years. Big Bird is someone children can relate to and live through. He thinks, talks and acts like a child. He deals with real life issues; from a hurricane destroying his nest to Mr. Hooper’s death. Sesame Street and Big Bird have inspired a lot of children enough that they’ve written to Big Bird over the years to tell him how they’ve been inspired. It’s heartwarming and cute, and makes you appreciate certain programming that we now take for granted.

With Gloria Steinem, you hear from women who have written to her about how they’ve been impacted and inspired, and what they’ve gone on to do. In Ireland you see a large movement happen rooting from a girl and a t-shirt, inspired by a picture of Gloria in a t-shirt. The magazine Ms. was created during a time when every other magazine out there was entirely owned and edited by men, including Ladies’ Home Journal. Men assumed they knew what women wanted better than women ever could. Again, that’s just “how it was”. And things continue on.. such as how in 2019 Alabama created a law so that women can’t get an abortion, including in cases of rape or incest.

Things from the past continue on. And that’s the big takeaway that I got from this; how it was not only about the people reading the letters. It was equally about the stories, changes, and movements by the people that they’ve inspired. Significant change does not happen because of only one person, it happens because of all of the people that are inspired to take action to make changes happen.

 

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