Lee certainly explores black female characters more closely than in his debut. School Daze is one of the few films to address colorism head-on, and depicts the various ways black men respond to black women depending on their skin tone, facial features, and hair. The film even makes a gesture toward an understanding of misogynoir. Misogynoir, coined by Moya Bailey and further articulated by writer Trudy Hamilton, is misogyny directed toward black women where both race and gender play a part.
At one point in the film, Dap’s girlfriend Rachel (Kyme) remarks that she has always suspected he was with her because she was one of the darker-skinned women on campus. Associating darker-skinned women with a pro-Black image and lighter-skinned women with glamour, status, and upper-middle-class aspirationalism is a form of cultural branding, based in part by the way black men evaluate the skin tones of black women in the media and their personal lives. Black women then are forced to internalize that messaging, lending to an internalized misogynoir that remains rampant to this day. Dap’s relationship with Rachel is certainly a purposeful foil to Julian and Jane, whose union is based mainly on presentation. Together, they are a picturesque light-skinned duo: Greek royalty, financially stable, and tentatively socially acceptable.
The tension between the dark- and light-skinned women onscreen was encouraged by Lee’s offscreen insistence that they be separated on-set in order to create an authentic animosity. By the time the women face off toward the end of the movie, their disdain for each other is palpable. Their fight is brought to life by a dance-off in a vast hair salon, where they sing, wear team costumes, and insult each other over their respective hair textures and the negative implications that go along with them. The song -- "Straight and Nappy" -- is sung with childish petulance. The choreography echoes the showdown between the Sharks and Jets in West Side Story, but with jazzy music similar to that of Guys and Dolls.