How ‘Dear White People’ Season 4 Will Be Different From Season 3

After a year-long hiatus, Dear White People is set to return to Netflix for its fourth and final season. Based on creator Justin Simien’s 2014 film of the same name, the series follows a group of Black students at the historically white Winchester University and their struggles against the racism both overt and ingrained that an environment like it produces. As the September release date fast approaches, fans have been clamoring for more information on the newest installment to the show. Based on what the creators have told us, things are going to look a little different in Dear White People season 4 versus season 3.

How will ‘Dear White People’ season 4 be different?

While Dear White People has always been a stylish series, season 4 is set to make a pretty big shift in presentation; namely, that it’s going to be a musical. Based on information from the trailer, it’s spoofing ’90s musicals “but Black.” While the extent of the musical elements to the season aren’t yet clear (Is it just a few episodes, or is it the entire season?), it’s an intriguing idea to say the least. Not many shows can pull off a major format switch like this, especially not so late in the game, so it’s going to be interesting to watch what the cast and crew can do.

So far, we’ve heard cast covers of songs like Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” and Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity,” with more sure to come. This seems to imply that the bulk of the songs featured this season will be covers of existing tracks by prominent ’90s artists. Even so, musical lovers can hope for at least a couple of original songs to round things out.

The season uses a musical to discuss generational relations

'Dear White' People season 4 premieres on Netflix on Sept. 22.
‘Dear White’ People season 4 premieres on Netflix on Sept. 22. | Lara Solanki/Netflix

Much of the season is still up in the air, though the trailers have begun to shed a light on what we’ll be seeing this time around. From what we can tell, the members of the main cast will now be in their senior year at Winchester and have decided to put on a musical in-story. This appears to draw the ire of incoming Black students at the school, who liken the production to a minstrel performance. From there, the main conflict is set to be between the older and younger generations of students at the school and what the legacy of characters like Samantha, Troy, and the rest of the cast will be once they graduate.

The major format change (which thrillist aptly identified as a potential reference to the Spike Lee film School Daze) looks like it aims to use the trappings of musicals, with all their heightened spectacle and emotion, in order to discuss race relations within the Black community. After three seasons primarily about intercommunity problems, this sendoff quite ingeniously turns the lens back around for an intra-community conversation about representation, reputation, and the differing needs of people of different generations.

The world has changed quite a lot since the show first aired in 2017, and even more since the original film in 2014. It’s an exciting and necessary prospect for the show to take stock of what it’s done and the new developments in entertainment that have come since its debut. Making that introspection into the thematic crux of the final season is just the cherry on top for such a cerebral show.

The series may live on outside of extra seasons

While season 4 is the definitive end to Dear White People, Simien has made several comments that indicate we could see more from the setting later on. In an interview with Deadline, the show’s creator said that spinoffs are a possibility now that the show proper is over. Though he’s unlikely to return in a major creative role, he’s totally open to someone else handling future stories at Winchester and beyond.

Season 4 of Dear White People drops on Netflix on Sept. 22, 2021.

RELATED: Why You Don’t Hear Outcry Over ‘Dear White People’ Anymore