To be Young, Gifted, Black, and Broke in ‘Atlanta’

By I.A. Sutton

Rating: 4 Stars

 

I’m biased.

Donald Glover, known to me for the longest by Childish Gambino, and I have a close and personal relationship. In my head we’ve been friends for years. The kind that sit in Washington Square Park on late summer evenings discussing everything from comic books to screenwriting to the nuances of his music. We’ve went on road trips, stopping along the way to take selfies and pick up bizarre souvenirs. We have showed off our non-existent dance skills in the dark confines of club while an indie band plays. Given my imagination, all of this is completely real to me. When you lived next to him on a Culdasac in 2010, signed up for Camp with him in 2011, and listened to him Because of the Internet in 2013, a certain closeness develops. As a musician he is one of my favorites to ever do it.

As a television writer, producer, and actor the same can be said.

Atlanta, Glover’s new FX series, takes place in its namesake. The comedy-drama follows a trio of young men attempting to break into the music scene there, an already crowded market for an up and coming rapper and his entourage. In episode one and two, we are introduced to Earnest “Earn” Marks, played by Glover. A Princeton University dropout, Earn attempts to stabilize his life by managing his cousin’s career. Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles is the talent, a rapper caught in between the music and life in the street. Keith Stanfield as Darius serves as Alfred’s right hand and resident Social Media Officer. Zazie Beetz as Van is the mother of Earnest’s daughter, their relationship in that in between phase of on and off.

Upon hearing of the show’s inception I had high expectations. This is Donald Glover after all. The man is a comedian, once a writer on NBC’s 30 Rock, and after that was cast in the sitcom Community. He’s had appearances in movies like The Martian and The Lazarus Effect. After #donald4spiderman went viral on Twitter, he’s now cast in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not as Spider-Man, but you get the point. He’s got the skills and experience to create something substantial and with Atlanta, he’s done that.

I think I would’ve liked this show regardless. Everything about it screams authentic, more like you’re going through your own day, not watching from the other side of the TV screen. From the music, to the scenes (particularly that awkward exchange in the holding area of a jail). Each character is uniquely their own (my favorite being Darius for his purely original and introspective thoughts) but there’s one thing that sets this show apart from the rest. And that is representation.

Atlanta, among other things, is a true and sincere depiction of life as a millennial. While that aspect can obviously be related to and enjoyed by anyone, this show is not for everyone.

Atlanta is for us.

It shows what it is to be young, gifted, broke, and most importantly, Black. This is a condition that seems to afflict more of us than not. Black creatives not only have the responsibility to produce that which is true to them, but compounding that is our color which can diminish our work, demean it, or simply disregard it. We all strive to make it on our own, under our own conditions. Our complexities are wide and long, but they’re are ours and rarely does a show capture that so implicitly.

Atlanta, essentially, is the story of that.

It’s just like my friend Childish Gambino said. “The black experience is black and serious.”

 

 

I.A. Sutton is a writer based out of New York. When she isn’t penning characters of color and serial fiction, she enjoys seclusion, anything lemon-flavored, and all things Rihanna related.

You can read and support her work at Patreon.

Twitter @shedoesfiction

 

 

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