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.
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