“Atlanta is leading the vanguard of modern storytelling, redefining what it means to be a television show.”
Episodes Reviewed: Season 1
Writers: Donald Glover 👨🏾🇺🇸, Stephen Glover 👨🏾🇺🇸, and various
Directors: Hiro Murai 👨🏻🇯🇵🇺🇸 and various
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Atlanta is leading the vanguard of modern storytelling, redefining what it means to be a “television show”. Season 1 was surreal, desperate, and darkly humorous, all wrapped up in an artful package. You can see Murai’s Japanese influences in the contemplative pacing of each episode and the sheer negative space that yawns across each frame. Meanwhile, the loaded history of Black America lends Atlanta its drive and energy.
Between the (calm) direction and (tumultuous) narrative, a beautiful tension emerges. It’s fascinating to watch, and more importantly, it’s entertaining.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Atlanta follows the daily lives of Black men, primarily. But unsurprisingly, the two episodes with writing credits to Stefani Robinson showcase a more equal perspective, as “Value” (S01E06) and “Juneteenth” (S01E09) reveal layers to Van’s character and show that Atlanta is capable of writing women with maturity. They just don’t choose to, and I’m okay with that. Atlanta stays tight and focused this way. But it doesn’t mean I can give them 5/5 for gender when this show is distinctly created from a male’s perspective.
One of the few shows out there truly giving voice to the minorities they are meant to represent. The creators, writers, and directors involved in Atlanta are all people of color, and damn, but it shows in the sheer complexity of their characters. Nothing else on television has felt this illuminating to the Black experience in America.
Okay so…hear me out. There might not be any LGBTQ representation on the show, but the sheer meta of “B.A.N.” (Season 1, Episode 7) and its absurdist segment on a “transracial” white man trapped in a Black man’s body had an incredible punchline that highlighted the absurdity of transphobia. With just one line, delivered as a wink towards enlightened audiences, we were invited to join in with indignation towards a transphobic character.
So, much like with the Gender category, Atlanta does not focus on this demographic but when they do, they sidestep over the entire issue of LGBTQ rights and go straight to normalizing them as humans, worthy of ribbing but executed with warmth, not malice.
Mediaversity Grade: B+ 4.25/5
A B+ for Atlanta is a great reminder that Mediaversity grades do NOT deem whether a show is worth watching. That’s what traditional reviews are for. What Mediaversity grades do represent is how inclusive a particular program is—and in this case, as phenomenal, exciting, and diverse a show Atlanta is, they simply do not showcase women or LGBTQ demographics in their stories. And that’s fine. It makes for a super tight, cohesive story, and that’s what makes Atlanta so strong.
I would still recommend that no one miss this show. If just to hear Black stories told by Black artists, skip the slave narratives and their backwards-looking brethren, and listen to what young Black men are saying today about their own lives and their own histories.