Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Dear White People season 2.
The air of conspiracy hangs over nearly every minute of Netflix’s Dear White People season 2. What lead to the Davis House fire? Who keeps leaving those mysterious X’es above our heroes’ doorknobs? And, most importantly at the start of the season, who is @AltIvyW, the hateful white supremacist social media troll sending increasingly disturbing Twitter messages to leading lady Sam White (Logan Browning)?
The answer might surprise you, as it isn’t one of the many wealthy straight white men dominating the fictional Winchester University campus (remember, there are only 234 total Black undergraduates at the entire university, as Lionel Higgins says. The school is apparently 99.99% white). If fact, AltIvyW isn’t even straight or white, and his personal financial history is unknown. That’s because — drumroll please — the identity of AltIvyW is not other than… Silvio (D.J. Blickenstaff), journalist and on-again, off-again object of Lionel’s (DeRon Horton) affection. Sorry, everyone suspicious of Kurt Fletcher (Wyatt Nash).
While the reveal of Silvio’s despicable treachery in the all important “Chapter VI,” has the creeping tension of a horror movie twist you never saw coming, the moment has another quality in common with the likes of Scream and underrated Wes Craven classic Cursed: the clues to the true villain were there all the time. You simply have to look back over Dear White People with new eyes to see the writing on the wall. And, yes, there really is more to this story than the mere fact Silvio really didn't want Lionel investigating AltIvyW.
When viewers are first introduced to the faceless troll in season 2 premiere “Chapter XI,” he’s asking a baiting, faux-intellectual question, which is a common practice among so-called “alt-righters.” AltIvyW asks, “Dear Black People, tell me again how attending an elite Ivy League = oppression?” That moment echoes a near-identical comment by Silvio from DWP season 1 episode “Chapter VIII.” During that installment, budding journalist Lionel pitches Silivo, his editor at campus newspaper The Independent, the idea of profiling big man on campus Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell) following the near-shooting of classmate Reggie Green (Marque Richardson) by security. Lionel’s basic logic is, if he can prove Troy, son of the dean, rich, and commonly seen as “one of the good ones,” faces oppression on campus, then it will be clear no Black person can escape racism.
That is a sound thesis that gets to the heart of racism. Silvio doesn’t see it that way, shooting back, “Troy is a legacy kid and student body president — how is he a victim?” You can hear some of that same bitterness about Winchester’s golden boy later in season 2 when AltIvyW refers to Troy as an “animal.”
The alarm bells over the Lionel and Silvio's “Chapter VIII” disagreement shouldn’t stop there. Later in the episode, Silvio figures out Lionel ignored his assignment — to profile a boring-sounding annual parade — when the young writer and Troy show up to The Indepent office intoxicated. Silvio reveals the parade ended up being more eventful than expected, as Pastiche, Winchester’s “humor” magazine, handed out their latest issue at the event. The entire publication is dedicated to skewering the Black Student Union. You know, the one whose member was near shot to death by the on-campus security team meant to protect him. One “funny” piece even reads “Edited By Samantha White.” The entire page is redacted, save for the three words “white” “people” and “suck.” Silivio, who would rather talk about his Italian heritage than his equally sizable Mexican one, is unquestionably more bothered by Lionel missing a scoop than the fact that a “comedy” institution is targeting a minority student so directly for simply sharing her opinions.
It should be no surprise Silvio was so willing to see Sam, who will go on to be AltIvyW's main target, get thrown under the bus in season 1. At the very beginning of Dear White People, he and Lionel realize she is the person who hacked Pastiche’s Facebook page and sent out invitations for the blackface party — a party the “humor” group planned but canceled after the administration got wind of the offensive event. Sam released the invites to prove Winchester is still dealing with a legitimate racial crisis. After all, if the school was in a “post-racial” utopia, the invites would have been met with outrage, not 100 white students in all their racist regalia. When Lionel explains all of this to his editor, Silvio remains more interested in outing Sam. Lionel reminds his boss people will “completely dismiss”all the work Sam has done rather than see the nuance of it.
“We can’t control what people do with the truth. We can only report it,” Silvio responds, hiding behind the idea news-making has prominence over human people. “This could be a game-changer for The Independent and a career maker for you.”
This outlook is essentially what gives birth to AltIvyW once Lionel’s decision to reveal the many racist, underhanded actions of the Hancocks, the wealthy Winchester alumni family that secretly funds The Independent, tanks the storied publication and Silvio’s college journalism career with it. The Twitter account was Silivio's outlet for attention, which is what matters most to him. As the fantastic, unapologetically weird Brooke (Courtney Sauls), Silvio’s most loyal writer, says of her editor in season 2, “When people care, he’ll care. He’s a story whore.”
Silvio proves as much throughout season 2. When Lionel approaches his former boss about starting a new, legitimately independent outlet, Silvio’s first question is, “How are we going to get traction for this thing?” Earlier in that conversation, he says of Lionel’s unmasking of the Hancocks, “I’m pissed about what you did. But at the same time, what you did was bold.” The only reason Silvio even kissed Lionel in the first place was because of how attention-grabbing his unmasking of the Hancocks was in the season 1 finale.
Now, Silvio is able to whip up the same feeling of all-eyes-on-me fervor as his white supremacist troll alter-ego. “This campus can’t handle opposing thought. But they feel it. Everything I post gets more likes and reposts than anything I put in The Independent. The crazier the better,” he explains when Lionel figures out Silvio's alter-ego.
So it was all for the likes? “Maybe at first,” he confirms of AltIvyW. “But I’ve tapped into something so many people are feeling, and they’re shamed into hiding it. That’s bullshit. If Sam White gets a platform for her ideas, why shouldn’t they? What happened to our old pal, the First Amendment?” Coming from a man who lost his platform after cowering to the whims of powerful white men, this defense sounds like pure jealousy. After all, Sam’s voice is louder than ever precisely because she could do what Silvio was too afraid to attempt in the first place: telling oppressive white people they're oppressive white people.
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