Caroline Fortuna ‘19/ Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
When Atlanta first came out, creator Donald Glover described the show as “Twin Peaks with rappers.” In true Glover fashion, his description left room for interpretation, exploration, and discovery. It has become apparent throughout the season that the show is dedicated to live in a gray zone with both hyper-realistic and surrealist undertones, undoubtedly inspired by Twin Peaks. By episode 5, viewers should be all the more eager to explore the marvel that is Atlanta.
Perhaps the most brilliantly “weird” episode of Atlanta, “Nobody Beats the Biebs,” brings up prevalent issues through thought-provoking plot lines.
In this episode, Alfred “PaperBoi,” participates in a celebrity basketball game for charity and Earn accompanies him as his manager. Alfred is overshadowed by fellow celebrity, Justin Bieber. The two musicians fight the whole night. In the world of Atlanta, Justin Bieber is played by an African-American actor who shares the same undesirable characteristics as the infamous pop star. While Alfred and Bieber fight, Earn is mistaken for another agent, Alonzo, and gets brought into a formal social gathering where he makes connections and networks. Soon, however, the women who mistook Earn for another agent calls him out for double crossing her. A confusing and misleading confrontation ensues. Meanwhile, Darius goes to a gun range and a conflict arises when Darius shoots at a poster of a dog instead of a human target.
So why does the show- particularly this episode – deserve so much praise? Many shows try to force feed a message down the throats of viewers, which ends up insulting the audience. On the other end of the spectrum, some shows seldom put thought into making a statement. Atlanta is a rarity, both in form and execution.
First, the decision to use the infamous Justin Bieber to make a statement about racial privilege is one that only the witty show could execute. By making the decision to have an African-American actor play Bieber, the audience is prompted to reevaluate how much the real Bieber is able to get away with based solely on the privilege of race. In the episode, an interviewer who profiled Alfred as a “gangster” explicitly tells Alfred that society wants to see him as a villain, while Bieber is forgiven immediately. In a society that seems to be moving backwards, we should commend Atlanta for creating a plotline that makes the audience think about the privileges we provide based on prejudice.
Atlanta also tackles the issue of gun control in a thought-provoking manner with the intriguing character, Darius. When confronted with his decision to shoot at a dog target, Darius asks, “Why would I shoot a human target?” The men that had a problem with Darius’s actions were shooting at oddly specific human targets. This whole plotline brings up the issue of gun control, or lack thereof, in this country. The anger gun enthusiasts at the range have over Darius shooting at a dog target juxtaposes the way they devalue human life and promote gun violence with their own targets.
The reason that Atlanta is one of today’s most important shows is because it not only draws in an audience willing to think but also shapes such an audience. The show might be taking an unusually long time to expose its arch, but this episode was yet another testament to the show’s oddball humor, calculated plots, and commitment to bringing up real issues.
Episode Grade: A-