Black. White
Film Reviewed by Kam Williams

Black and White Families Swap Skin Color to See How the Other Half Lives

The Sparks: Before

The Sparks: After

The Wurgels: Before

The Wurgels: After

Photo Credits: Robert Zuckerman

Black. White. Reality-TV series review by Kam Williams


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk around in a different color skin? This is the social experiment at the center of ’Black. White,’ a riveting reality series airing Wednesday nights at 10PM on the FX Network (check local listings)

The show stars two families, one black, one white. The Sparks, Brian, Rene, and their 17 year-old son, Nick, are African-American, while The Wurgels, Bruno, Carmen, and their 18 year-old daughter, Rose, are Caucasian. But not for long, since the idea of the program is to get a good idea of how the other half lives.

So, each day, for the duration of Season One, they will live together and undergo elaborate Michael Jackson-level transformations in order to be able to pass. The debut featured Brian buying shoes as a white man, and being shocked to have an affable salesman happily help him slip samples on and off. Later, after he takes a job as a bartender, he was shocked to hear a customer he was serving go on endlessly about the virtues of living in his lily-white neighborhood.

Rose Wurgels

Rose, meanwhile, who looks better black than white by the way, ventures into South Central, where she takes a course in poetry slam. Though she’s the only one of the six whose make-up leaves her looking human, she is apparently the most conflicted about behaving differently in order to trick strangers. So, she talks and walks and speaks exactly the way she did before she became a sister.

Her father, however, decides to gets some lessons from the Sparks before venturing into the world as a brother, boning up on Ebonics, learning how to shake hands, putting a swerve into his stride, and even adding the N-word to his lexicon. Curiously, amenable Bruno still turns out to be the villain of the first installment, since he arrives home after the first day as an African-American and announces that he had encountered no racism.

Brian and Bruno square-off shortly before the closing credits roll, giving a hint that sparks are likely to fly as this groundbreaking series continues to unfold. It’s just too bad that Rose is the only participant in this experiment who doesn't look like she stepped off the set of White Chicks. It makes you sort of skeptical about whether anybody the others encountered were really taken in by the charade.

Regardless, I’m hooked.

Related Links

Brian Sparks Interview

Black Power Line

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