Somehow Atlanta Got Better Last Night
Last week I discussed how Atlanta takes the unlikeliest of situations and stretches them for comedic effect. That comedy does not come from a contrived, over-the-top premise we’re used to seeing in your 30-minute television affair but instead mires in the everyday drudge of real human existence. In Atlanta’s case, that existence being a lower class (read: piss broke) Earn and his enterprising drug dealer/rap game hopeful cousin Alfred. This week the show doubled down on both. Spoilers, d’uh.
In case you were still somehow confused, Atlanta is not a comedy show.medium.com
Normal TV shows follow a standard A, B, C plot conventions, with A and B taking center stage and C serving as a background serving, often leaking into the first two as some sort of deus ex machina. Atlanta, already doing away with prototypical portrayal of black America we are so used to on TV has also decided to flush the C plot entirely for the duration of it’s 30 minute snippets of reality. This kind of focus allows for a more focus tale and an even stronger juxtaposition of both Earn and Alfred.
This week, Earn is paired with Darius, who keeps growing as both a comedic juggernaut for the show as well as a magical black philosopher. As Earn tries to make rent for Van and his daughter, he goes to a pawn shop to trade-in a phone. Darius convince him to trade up for a katana sword which leads both on a cavalcade of impromptu hood treasure hunts ending up at a breeder farm, dog in hand, with a promise of $2,000 (a step up from $190 Earn was going to get for the phone), but in fucking September (presumably it is not September on the show). It is there were Earn opens up about the reality of being broke, but rather than showing like with the kid’s meal or the dinner scene from last week the show spells it out for you. Earn is poor, he doesn’t have time to wait for 2,000 when 190 is right in front of him. It may make mathematical sense, but that is not the reality in which he lives in.
You should forgive the show for driving the point home so bluntly, but it seems that in current day and age, our agency to analyze things critically has taken a dramatic downturn. When the whole country is debating whether or not a man’s right to protest is disrespectful to the United States military somehow missing the point that the protest itself has nothing to do with the military, you maybe need to sit people the fuck down and spell it out for them, one word at a time.
While the whole story drives to Earn’s window into broke-America, the journey and not the destination is what’s important. Darius is painted more than your resident weed-head n***o. On his discussions with Earn he demonstrates a complex knowledge of history, however random and representative of someone’s 2:30am dazed perusal pattern of a Wikipedia page to acute business sense of how to turn $190 into $2,000. It’s investment on the hood scale, making ends meet where the opportunity presents itself. While distant from your “banking investment portfolio” reality, it closes the gap in principle. Eliminate the variables of what they’re trading and you arrive at the same destination and one goal: trying to rub two quarters together into a dollar.
Alfred’s journey is a little bit less dire, but it does establish Brian Tyree Henry as the standout of the show. Paper Boi deals with the fallout that comes from a local “YouTube Star” who has taken to trashing his music and his side hustle of dealing drugs in a series of posts, vines, videos and tweets. The funny part about it is that no one but Alfred seems to much care for the situation, letting it go for what it is, just another online personality trying to make ends meet. To Earn however, it is personal, it is his life.
If you wanted to somehow flaunt your philosophy degree you would start to diverge into how the show is trying to make a point of perceived separation between social media and reality and how that line of demarcation is closer than you think. However, that’s some bullshit.
At the end of the day, a hustle is a hustle, which the Zane reveals to Paper Boi at the end of the day. Everyone has got their own shit, and they try to exploit it any way they can, playing into public reality. I mean, the dude is delivering pizza’s, I doubt his opinion has much sway on anyone or more than 15 people (counting Alfred) watched the video. It does deal with our fascination with the online world and perceptions, but the more important point here is the hustle itself. It doesn’t matter what you do or where your talent lies, a grind is a grind is a grind is a grind. And everyone’s got aspirations to be more than just a pizza delivery man or a weed pusher.
Same as always, “The Streisand Effect” manages to capture these moments at their most microscopic, just two dudes going about their business as part of their every day lives. There isn’t a grand statement here on the economic divide or the downfall of the traditional business model failing striving musicians, although I’m sure if you squint enough you can almost convince yourself to see it. The main point here is that it sucks to be broke and sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get by. It’s just three men going about their business trying to pull it together.
“Try not to get killed.”
“Shit, every day”