for the culture
With the rise of web-based mediums of entertainment like Netflix, youtube, hulu amongst others, the world of television is slowing becoming more of an option than a common household need. Nevertheless, there are certain shows and events that offer incredible entertainment values but can only - legally speaking - be viewed on tv while they are airing. One of such shows is Atlanta which is created by, produced by and starring
If you know anything about Donald Glover - or his musical alter-ego, Childish Gambino - you’d know he has a gift for creating comedic, dramatic and musical pieces that are both surreal and thought-provoking. Yet, I think what I appreciate the most about Glover’s art is his storytelling acumen. He has a way of using whatever he does - comedy, acting or music - to share great stories and all these stories are never without cultural references. He even said it himself recently, when speaking to Esquire magazine.
“I try and find subcultures. I try and find communities. I talk to people as a regular person. It’s the only place you can be anonymous.” - Donald Glover (Esquire Magazine Interview)
For example, take a look at how Glover references racism, white gaze and the Jordan Peele’s movie, Get Out in this scene from the season 2 episode 2 of Atlanta
Notice how both black characters in Get Out and Atlanta receive staring glances from the caucasians around them.
Or take a look at how he references the harriet tubman $20 bill. The bill is a rare artifact but one of the characters on the show uses it as a good luck charm.
In a season 2 episode titled Teddy Perkins, we see how Glover - acting as a black creepy famous music icon whose days of fame are in rearview - references the absurd culture of black people bleaching their skin. Some say this is a reference to Sammy Sosa. Others say it is a reference to Michael Jackson. But it could be both.
For what it’s worth, beyond all these references, is a great story. The show is centred around a black up and coming rapper who has one foot in the hood and the other foot in the limelight.
Glover has a way with words, stories and art. He is setting an example of how artists can use their medium of expression to make statements about the world around them. What I love about that is the idea that we can use art to communicate and speak up for our communities.
In the past couple decade, we have seen several musicians, actors, and comedians who have had great influence on North America subcultures spring out of Atlanta, Georgia. So I think it’s befitting that a show set in Atlanta and titled Atlanta is creating and sharing stories about and #fortheculture.