This month I’ll be sharing my birthday with Donald Glover, AKA Childish Gambino, AKA star of FX newest instant-hit offering, Atlanta.
I had been seeing these odd posters pop up all over walls in the NYC subway system. But like many New Yorkers, I don’t own a TV, so even though I was curious by the unusually quirky poster image, the classy typography, and the hype about an all black writers’ room and a director whose oeuvre included only music videos… I had little hope of seeing the series.
With ‘Atlanta’ Donald wants to tell white people, ‘You don’t know everything about black culture.’ —i-d.vice.com
Then THIS happened:
In an unprecedented move, Atlanta posted the full first episode on facebook for the world to get a taste– allowing millions of people free access to the show. Not only does this bless the world with good, different, rich storytelling, but it was an excellent marketing move on their part to drum up further interest for the series. This show is weird in a good way, but many people outside of Atlanta or not familiar with black culture may not understand some of the magic. Putting it on a platform that people of all races, classes, cultures use on a daily basis, is a great way to put the series front and center for demographics who would normally ignore it. Free give-aways can be the perfect marketing tool when done well.
A HUGE part of the magic in Atlanta is its dialogues. This episode was carried by the rhythm and flow of its interactions, all filled to the brim with brilliant colloquialisms, slang, local dialect and accents to represent a much broader spectrum of black identities than we usually see on television. Even when the episode dipped into character tropes (black dandy, 420, gangster), the characters were not derivative. Each character was presented with a rich purpose, each character appeared multidimensional (which enhanced the many mysterious plot elements), and each character felt authentically drawn. These elements, coupled with the intimate yet artistically jarring compositions of its cinematic language, made for a truly refreshing watch.
“The thing that I’m most proud of with this show is that we got away with being honest,” Glover says. “The things that people are most attracted to online are the things that are the realest, the most 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.” — thedailybeast.com
Authenticity is the new currency in entertainment, as evidenced by the success of many off-kilter indie hits (OITNB, Transparent, Tangerine, Stranger Things, Mr Robot), and the more that networks appreciate the audience’s diversity and need for both the new and unusual, the more opportunities will emerge for artists from the outskirts to tell unheard stories and share unique and fascinating cultures.
***One more note– Bravo to Donald Glover. The way he plays his character is subtle, interesting, and so, so natural. His character’s personality is incredibly clear and specific, a true original who is fun to watch! Glover’s performance is so well done that it makes one wonder whether the character is simply an extension of his real self. Bravo to Mr Glover for his acting success, his music success, and for creating this precious new series. Looking forward to more!
Atlanta is also on YouTube. Go check it NOW
[EDIT: The episode was set to PRIVATE on the FX youtube account, so it is no longer publicly visible.]