Atlanta is a city known for its southern pace, crime rate, and Black population. In Donald Glover’s new FX series “Atlanta” he accurately and humorously depicts the slow, lumbering attitude present in the metropolitan area and some of the conundrums a resident may be faced with.
Donald Glover is the star of FX’s “Atlanta.” (Courtesy photo)
Glover’s Atlanta follows Earn Marks, a Princeton dropout and aspiring manager, and his cousin “Paper Boi” as they struggle and smoke their way to success.
As a new resident of Atlanta, I was surprised to find that many prevalent Atlanta stereotypes were easily recognizable within the show. The show follows a slow, laid-back rhythm that is characteristic of the South. The hustle and bustle found in the North is missing in the South—the days are lazy and long and the city’s residents are perfectly in sync with the relaxed mood around town. “Atlanta” showcases this attitude as we see the show’s protagonists trudge around the city frequently pausing for smoke breaks and commonplace conversation.
Instead of rushing to get to the episode’s climax, Glover enlists the viewer on a leisurely journey with Earn and Paper Boi, somehow making the ordinary comical.
A great deal of FX’s “Atlanta” is centered around drug and gun violence, Glover couldn’t have accurately portrayed Atlanta without showcasing one of the things the city is most famous for: its crime rate. Forbes magazine ranked Atlanta the sixth most dangerous city in the U.S., and drug violence, robbery, and assault are viewed just as symptoms of the specific brand of poverty exclusive to the South that currently inflicts Atlanta.
Within the first five minutes of the premiere episode, the viewer watches a confrontation between Paper Boi and a pedestrian turn violent and most of the second episode takes place in jail. Crime is a theme “Atlanta” is centered around, and Glover confronts the topic within the context of the city authentically and humorously.
“Atlanta” tackles issues not only specific to the Atlanta community but the Black community as a whole. In an interview with DailyBeast.com, Glover said he wanted to “shoot Atlanta for Atlanta…The thing that I’m most proud of with this show is that we got away with being honest… We tried to do that on the show because I feel like that’s a part of being Black that people don’t see. I’m trying to make people feel Black.” With Black people making up more than 50 percent of Atlanta’s population, Glover felt that it was important to showcase the real-world challenges associated with being Black in a major city like Atlanta.
Within the first two episodes viewers are exposed to homophobia, police brutality, and the issue of the neglect shown to mental health within the Black community. Glover calls attention to the major issues the Black community is currently grappling with and does so with an all-Black set of writers. Although the diversity of the writing staff is notable, Glover is quick to point out that neither diversity nor a larger importance were his goal.
“I’m not interested in making something important…I don’t want to win an Emmy for most diverse cast,” he said in a recent interview. Instead Glover focused staying true to the spirit of Atlanta. “It’s a heavy cross to bear.”
“Atlanta” airs Tuesdays at 10 pm on the FX Network.