Now Reading: Netflix Comedy ‘Step Sisters’ Touches On Racial Appropriation


Netflix Comedy ‘Step Sisters’ Touches On Racial Appropriation

January 29, 20184 min read

From the producers of Dear White People and Straight Outta Compton comes the 2018 film that talks about the divided sharing of stepping. Step Sisters features a college student named Jamilah Bishop (Megalyn Echikunwoke) who seems to excel at everything. She’s president of her sorority, captain of the step dance crew, liaison to the college dean and a star student who is on her way to Harvard Law School. But when Jamilah is asked to teach a misbehaving, mostly white sorority how to step, success seems impossible. Without telling her own sorority sisters, Jamilah begins training rivals Sigma Beta Beta (SBB) for the “Steptacular” competitive dance competition.

In the film, Jamilah has come to the crossroads of whether the world of Stepping should be shared with others. Between her sorority sisters and family at odds with her in her decision to let caucasians “appropriate” the African-American heritage and then her dilemma to trade that in exchange for a place in Harvard, the question is posed to the audience: “What are the boundaries of Racial Appropriation? And how does one share a mutual respect for each other’s cultures without being stigmatized?” Though the film did shed light on the fine line between respect and appropriation, there are still some things that are worth stomping about (pun intended).

There were negative responses prior and on the day the film was released. Some called it a modern-day reincarnation of The Help in correlation to the Black Protagonist being assigned to help a group of white sorority girls. Some called out the “unnecessary inclusion of white people to spice up the plotline.” But most of the negative press points to the similarities with Dear White People, which made it repetitive.

Despite that, Step Sisters still received fairly positive reviews for its efforts in providing different viewpoints on racial issues with a humorous liberal touch. With perspectives such as the “woke” white person; the overachieving African-American woman who isn’t too focused on the “theirs-ours” argument; the dictatorial white antagonist who perpetuates the stereotypical white person; and people who are in various standpoints of this spectrum, the film allows the audience to discover how blurry the lines really are. It was also praised for shedding light on the Black Greek culture that is strongly rooted in African-American culture — how sometimes sharing is a way of understanding.

I am adamant on whether the film will have a fundamental impact on the general audience. After all, the plotline is supposed to be feel-good, not intending to step on anyone’s toes (pun not intended). Though the plot does center around the premise of the politics of cultural appropriation, it takes on a neutral stance on how we deal with such issues. At the end of the day, the film has its pros and cons, but the judge of how it affects oneself is up to the viewer.

Step Sisters is now available to stream on Netflix.

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Alexander Wayne

Alexander loves the arts and culture of the world. Often like The Thinker, he ponders about life as well as walked the halls of the oldest museums in his free time.