Atlanta’s Justin Bieber – Max

I’ve already written about Atlanta, but the latest episode coupled with Alan Sepinwall’s recap of it made me decide it was time to bring up this gem of a series again. In the fifth episode of the season, there are three stories (though one hardly qualifies as even a vignette). One features Earn in a case of mistaken identity as an older, white agent mistakes him for a different African-American agent, though with a twist. The vignette features Darius going to a gun range and using a poster of a dog as a target rather than the typical human one. (When others become enraged, he asks them why he would shoot a human target. We then see the targets people are practicing on which are either oddly specific (a 1950s father) or racist.) The most prominent story line features Paper Boi in a celebrity basketball game. The star from the other team? Justin Bieber, though not as we’re used to seeing him.

atlanta_2

Still of Paper Boi and Justin Bieber in Atlanta, “Nobody Beats the Biebs” (Season 1, Episode 5, 2016)

When I first saw that Justin Bieber was black, I thought it was a joke or there happened to be another celebrity named Justin Bieber in this world. Then Paper Boi asked him “is it too late now to say sorry?” after blocking a shot. In the episode, Justin is a terrible person. He throws fits, he uses terrible language in front of his fans, he trolls and touches reporters, and is overall a nightmare of a person. But people love him. After getting in a fight with Paper Boi, he holds a press conference where he apologizes to his fans then debuts a new song. The crowd immediately forgives him and swoons for him all over again.

It is interesting because that’s exactly what would happen in our world with our Justin Bieber, but not Atlanta‘s. Sepinwall points out that sometimes Atlanta‘s world exists parallel to ours and others it is at an angle. In this case, it’s at an angle. If a young black man did the things this version of Justin did (or any of the innumerable terrible things the real one has done) the public would not forgive him. He would become a pariah and have to crawl tooth-over-nail to regain any shred of respect again. Our Justin Bieber is terrible for years and years then releases another album and people love him again. This episode points out our society’s double standards for stars of different races. By extension gender as well. White males get far more leeway than other celebrities for all the reasons white males get everything. This episode showed something we’re used to in a way, but also something that would never happen in our world. At least not now. Again, this show is amazing. Watch it.

Plus the song that plays at the end (featuring vocals by Donald Glover) is just too catchy.

– Max Dosser

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5 Responses to Atlanta’s Justin Bieber – Max

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Wow. This is amazing, and super powerful. I have to watch this now! I think this is an especially interesting article right now, with #BlackLivesMatter at its peak, the Charlotte protesting still fresh on our minds, and other race issues surfacing every week. Justin Bieber, of all people, is such an interesting person to symbolize or represent from this perspective, which I also find very interesting. I can’t wait to hear what other discussion stems as a result of this! – Corey

  2. mediaphiles says:

    This show is definitely worth watching, I could not agree with you more. I had not thought of the meaning behind a lot of the things that they did in this episode until I saw you write about it and it is really interesting to think about now that I am thinking the same way as you. The scenes at the gun range and of Earl being mistaken for someone else have much deeper meanings than I originally thought while watching and now that you have opened my eyes to that, I will be much more on the lookout for that as I watch.

    Max Lissette

  3. mediaphiles says:

    This strategy makes me think of Broadway sensation Hamilton: casting minority actors in the role of white historical icons (or white cultural sensations/abominations). The historical revisionism (even if it’s history that’s still in the process of being made) angle is an incredibly powerful tool to say something about race relations in America. Or, if you’re Quintin Tarantino, you can revision history to create an epic revenge-fantasy masterpiece.

    –Kevin Pabst

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I have yet to watch Atlanta but after reading this I am definitely going to start it this weekend. It is interesting that you said the show depicted Justin Bieber as a different race and how his behavior and antics were still forgiven despite him never learning from his mistakes. You are right in the sense that in our world today, a white musician is forgiven for these types of behaviors because they put out successful music. It’s crazy that Atlanta can showcase a race reversal in a role but how it still can’t be happening in our society.

    -Meg Murphy

  5. marymdalton says:

    I have not seen this episode yet but, as you know, am a fan of the series!

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