Tag Archives: Itself
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Atlanta is the smartest show on television. I’m unoriginal in that sentiment—for the entirety of its first season, which emerged in 2016 with the marvel and depth of an art-house indie film, it was regarded as such—but that doesn’t make it any less genuine, or true. Depending on how you color it, that view does present its creator-star Donald Glover with a high-stakes dilemma for the second season: How do you reinvent the most inventive show currently on TV?
In the lead-up to last year’s Emmy Awards—where Glover won for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series—I wrote about Atlanta‘s expanding narrative parameters. For the whole of its first 10 episodes, Glover introduced viewers to a universe that was familiar to some, and imaginatively new to others. There was a cultural knowingness alive in his telling; one that, until its debut, had never been granted room on TV (partially due to the racial and gender conservatism Hollywood refuses to assess properly, even now). But, ultimately, a magician has only so many tricks and trap doors at his disposal.
Looking back, it seems ridiculous to think that a series of such tender truths could ever fail in a climate besieged by such baroque distortions and deliberate misbeliefs. Yet, even Glover was prepared for the show to do just that. Thankfully, powerfully, it did the opposite. The TV landscape benefitted from Atlanta’s refusal to be made small and indistinguishable from its contemporaries.
During its 15-month sabbatical—remember, the Season 1 finale aired two Novembers ago—fans wondered if Glover could deliver magic once again. Would he be more daring in Season 2? What unpaved direction would he take us in? Would black Justin Bieber reappear like a unicorn in the forest of our tangled lives?
Reinvention, like all good TV, is predicated on risk. And with the second season, Glover has gambled on one of the riskiest propositions an auteur can: shrinking the expanse of his show and turning the camera to the prejudices and motivations of its audience.
It’s still TV’s most self-defined and self-propelled series, but the Atlanta that returned earlier this month, officially styled as Atlanta Robbin’ Season, is fueled by a new narrative structure altogether. If the first season blurred the lines between the bizarre and the real, the second suggests that the ravine between life and death for black people—at the bottom looking up, just trying to get by—is moored by a grim, mundane fate.
For starters, there’s less episodic dissonance this season, which gives the series more of a backbone and traditional arc for its 11 episodes. It’s also thick with plot, and threaded together by a heavy presence of violence that hangs overhead, the kind of violence that unveils itself in upheavals large and small. “Robbin’ season. Christmas approaches and everybody gotta eat… Or be eaten,” Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) and Earn (Glover) observe in the debut episode (“Alligator Man”). They’ve caught sight of a lifeless body surrounded by police. Nearby another man sits with his wrists tightly handcuffed. There’s terror and desperation in the air, and they know it well.
But the failure is ours when we register brutality and dread as exceptional when really they are constants for people who have nothing and are often forced to impose those realities on the people and communities around them. Glover doesn’t want us to unsee what’s right in front of our eyes. Life unfolds this way, in wrinkles and creases, in beginnings and bloody ends, a scorched harvest with no guarantee that the rain will replenish the land, with no sure bet that the land itself won’t also betray you. Glover’s weaponized Atlanta against its residents. The violence needn’t always be physical, though. There’s a deadlier violence that presents itself socially, through slow-moving gentrification, or psychologically, through subtle racist remarks made by people who don’t realize they’re making subtle racist remarks. All of it compounds, and eventually someone cracks.
Early on, we see Alfred, aka Paper Boi (a moon-eyed Brian Tyree Henry), grappling with newfound local fame. It’s not exactly how he envisioned rap life—having to show face at an out-of-touch streaming company modeled in the vision of Spotify (where one white executive jests: “Everyone calls me 35 Savage”); or being robbed at gunpoint during a drug transaction by a dealer who tells him he can recoup lost funds through his on-the-rise rap career (it’s financially stalled, but the dealer doesn’t know that). The mundane darkness of the season begins to jell more visibly in tonight’s third episode (“Money Bag Shawty”), when Earn encounters a series of repeated defeats (that is, more than his usual share per episode). It’s date night with Van (Zazie Beetz) and he’s finally got some money, but the thing is, life’s still out to flatten him. He quickly learns that money is of no value if people refuse to extend trust, or are clouded by racist beliefs. At the strip club, Al clarifies: “Money is an idea. There’s a reason that a white guy dressed like you can walk into a bank and get a loan and you can’t even spend a hundred dollar bill.”
The season is not without flash and levity. Darius’s philosophical neurosis is even more endearing this time around. Upon first meeting Al’s father Willy (played with dynamism and bite by comedian Katt Williams), he offers: “I would say ‘nice to meet you,’ but I don’t believe in time as a concept. So I’ll just say we always met.” There’s also a young, crosstown rapper who’s more performance art and business acumen than actual skill (although the former may be the only skill that matters in the music industry at the moment). “And we drink Yoo-hoo like it’s dirty Sprite,” he gleefully raps in a commercial for Yoo-hoo, a living parody of art that’s been made fruitless by capitalist ambitions.
In a passing scene from episode two (“Sportin’ Waves”), one of the show’s central questions begins to reveal itself. Walking through the mall, speaking about the animated dark comedy BoJack Horseman, Tracy (Khris Davis) says to Earn: “Don’t get me wrong it’s a funny show, but the way they dive into depression, especially after what he did to her daughter, I was like, ‘Can I even feel bad for this horse anymore?’” That question also extends to Glover’s universe. Should we sympathize with Earn and Alfred? As observers, even if you’re from Atlanta, we watch the show from the outside, its moments so distinctively hyper-specific that everyone plays the role of spectator in most scenarios. The result of that positioning allows Glover to test the elasticity of human empathy—he’s not telling us what to feel, but I do believe he is challenging the motivations behind our compassion and concern for each character. It’s not that we’re wrong in feeling the way we do, it’s the reason behind our sentiments that Glover is poking at, and curious about. Why do you feel what you feel? Where did that come from? How did that come to be? Which gets at perhaps the show’s most important question: How do people come to know themselves? In Atlanta, it’s violently, unavoidably simple. By understanding that life can be a blade.
More WIRED Culture
(Reuters) – Investor Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason, the biggest- and third-largest shareholders of Xerox Corp, jointly plan to push the printer and photocopier maker to explore options, including a sale of the firm, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
Icahn and Deason, who together own 15.7 percent of the photocopier pioneer, have earlier separately called on the company to break off or renegotiate a joint venture with Fujifilm Holdings Corp, saying it was unfavorable to Xerox. Icahn has also called for Xerox CEO Jeff Jacobson to be replaced.
The two shareholders have now formed an alliance and plan to ask Xerox to explore options, including selling itself, breaking off its long-running joint venture with Fujifilm, and immediately firing Jacobson, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. on.wsj.com/2EYCRHd
The Journal had previously reported that Fujifilm and Xerox were discussing deals, including a change of control of Xerox, though not a full sale.
In a statement, Xerox said: “The Xerox Board of Directors and management are confident with the strategic direction in which the Company is heading and we will continue to take action to achieve our common goal of creating value for all Xerox shareholders.”
Deason has been asking the company to make public the terms of its deal with Fujifilm, which he called “one-sided”. Xerox has described Deason’s criticism as “false and misleading”.
The five-decade-old joint venture, 75 percent owned by Fujifilm and 25 percent by Xerox, is a pillar of Fujifilm’s business, accounting for nearly half the group’s overall operating profit. It has limited prospects for future growth, however, because of declining demand for office printing.
The reported operating profit of the joint venture, called Fuji Xerox, was about $ 750 million on sales of $ 10 billion in the year ended last March.
Fujifilm declined to comment on the Journal report.
Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Makiko Yamazaki in TOKYO; Editing by Peter Cooney and Muralikumar Anantharaman