Atlanta Episode 6: “Value” Recap » VSB

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Atlanta Episode 6: “Value” Recap

Atlanta has thus far been able to paint a lush picture of black life for television, a portrait that includes the various shades of black masculinity and how it can sometimes feel pigeon-holed to certain stock archetypes, essentially robbing black men of their humanity. The show through use of stunning cinematography, stellar scripts and sharp tonal shifts has created a world where the life of a black man can be examined and celebrated. Atlanta has done a lesser job so far of painting this portrait for black women.  Earn’s on again- off again girlfriend, Vanessa, has played the sideline the past few episodes and has been under-utilized for the better part of the series’ first season. Tonight’s episode, “Value”, places the spotlight on her character and what she is willing to do to keep her life and the life of her daughter intact.

What does it mean to have value as a black woman in America? Is it strictly something that can be determined from a monetary perspective? Maybe how attractive we are in comparison to one another? These are certainly identifiable if not rudimentary ways for us to determine the value of one human. The larger society has a problem with how we value women even beyond the intersection of race and gender. Are we to deduce that the value of any and every black woman lies between what’s between our legs like white Feminism has been railing against for decades? If Instagram is to be believed (and it isn’t), that’s where our value lies. Still, maybe the value of a black woman is solely determinant on how many plates she’s fixed her man in her lifetime, or if she even has a man. Who determines our value? An episode centered-around Van reconnecting with an old friend answers that question.

From her decision to order a bottle of wine, to her meal choice, to her hair stylist Fernando, Van’s longtime friend Jayde, who just dropped back in town, finds new and impressive ways to shade her friend. She flaunts her affluence in homegirl’s face, questioning her value, her allegiance to Earn, forcing a semi-public confrontation between the two before setting Van up with the Love and Hip Hop equivalent of Waldo Geraldo Faldo, an “L” Van is used to taking for her girl.  I wondered last week if Atlanta would stumble with a black woman-centered episode. Did the writers room contain enough voices from powerful woke black women to create just the same amount of complexity to the female characters as to the male?  It turns out I shouldn’t have been that worried. The confrontation between Van and Jayde was messy as hell but it’s played very real for the audience. I can recall having similar conversations with friends; people I consider to be sisters to me. Friendships are complicated.  Sometimes they can be very one-sided and you never know which side you can end up on in any moment. This is especially true when lives and careers take divergent trajectories.  When one is a mother and the other is single. The choices we make which bond us or break us. It can be hard to maintain friendliness when pride and the gender-rules that say women should always be in competition with each other get in the way.

“Women need to be valuable. Black women have to be valuable. “

In a recent article over at the AV Club, 2 Dope Queens podcaster Phoebe Robinson discusses a majority culture that is not interested in “validating women of color” which is true when you realize our favorite movies and T.V. shows that deal with celebrating black womanhood came out at least a decade ago. It was so refreshing to see two black women portrayed as complicated but reasonable. Nobody splashed a drink in anybody’s face either which is sort-of cool.  As if we were just regular people who make choices like everybody else, amirite? Van and Jayde butt heads but at the end of the day, they family. The ladies make peace over a joint in Jayde’s car and Atlanta allows us to really see Van for the first time. She has a very human moment of self-doubt when she compares her life to her friend but she also recognizes an emptiness inside of Jayde, despite her class upgrade, who doesn’t seem as satisfied by her Cardi B-Lite lifestyle as she proclaims to be. Jayde’s character represents a version of the constant struggle black women find themselves in to succeed in a society where we are the most educated but least respected. Again, choices. Van knows that Jayde is right to make her question her value but she knows who she is and the worth in her struggle (her daughter).

“But weed is for people that aren’t going anywhere, though.”

Van is sent crashing back to reality the next morning when she is reminded that she has an office-wide mandatory drug test that same day. She may be slightly jealous (if also slightly hypocritical) when she sees a picture of another woman in Earn’s phone but she doesn’t feel a level of intimacy with him anymore that would allow her to honestly ask him for help. Instead she asks for Paper Boi’s number so she can blow his spot up a few times and grill him on how to pass a tox screen after Jayde proves no help. Al says he’ll work on it but Van is the kind of woman to take matters into her own hands instead of waiting on some man to do it. She fails spectacularly. Ethical implications of distilling your own daughter’s urine to pass a drug screen aside, I was rooting for Van to get away with it. The show pulls a wonderful bait and switch by having it be the woman who gets hemmed up in life due to our biased marijuana laws. I don’t think I’d have the ingenuity to perform the alchemy Van performs when she puts on those rubber gloves. As we watch her strut into her elementary school job, glorious 4A crown teased to the gods, musical score swelling through our speakers, we’re meant to cheer for her. I don’t know what that says about me but  I cringed more at the Administrative Bish firing her then immediately asking if she was ,”all right” than I did at that balloon exploding in Van’s face. Well, almost. It was a pretty jarring way of revealing the sometimes ugliness and desperation of poverty. Plus, it was all for naught as Van got fired anyway.

Donald Glover takes director credits for this episode from music video–maker-turned- FX golden ticket, Hiro Murai, delivering on an impressive script that examines how black women are valued in society and how we value ourselves and each other. Men are seen primarily from the periphery with Glover’s Earn and Brian Tyree Henry’s Paper Boi playing bit parts this episode. Darrius is currently upstairs with Judy Winslow.

While the story focus shifts temporarily, it is clear Glover and Murai have a symbiotic vision toward where the Universe of Atlanta is headed.  Both men are skilled at capturing the beauty in the mundane such as the day to day goings of an elementary school faculty while crafting surreal set pieces around normal black lives. The image of the almost aberrational black boy with the white face strikes the perfect level of incongruity and WTF did I just watch-ism that I was unable to look away.  Tobias in white-face was such a startling yet hilarious cut away (and cleverly the second use of “white-face” in the series) that I almost wish the writers had decided to cut his reappearance in Van’s classroom at the end as it played a bit too much like your standard sitcom.

But Atlanta gets the tone right more often than not and this is largely by Glover’s design. In an interview with MTV, Murai confirms that Glover’s persistence and star power allows both men the creative control with the network suits to go places “Black T.V.” has never gone before.  They’ve masterfully crafted an element where we really have no way of telling where this show will go next and for the meantime, I’m happy to go along for the ride.

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Jordan Kauwling

Jordan Kauwling is an early thirties Philadelphian but she tells everyone she’s in her late thirties because she doesn’t understand how math works. When she’s not busy writing, singing, eating all the falafel or unsuccessfully finishing another craft project you can catch her talking junk on Twitter.

  • This write up is actually making me interested in Atlanta, particularly since I’ve since that frenemy vibe among Black women, and curious how it can be explored responsibly.

    • LadyJay?

      Please expound on the frenemy vibe among black women…..are you trying to say it’s just specific to us and does not cut across the board?!

      • “It’s a trap”

        • Jennifer

          He brought tbos on himself.

      • No I’m not. Women of all backgrounds do it. It’s just me, being a Black guy, see it more often among Black women. Dudes can compartmentalize their friendships more, and also are OK with being friends with dudes that are in different classes and circumstances. Women tend to have more drama with that.

        • LadyJay?

          I know not what you talk of.

          In the first place why would one even have a frenemy? That’s not friendship that’s enemity cloaked in madness.

          • catgee12

            Exactly my thoughts. I don’t get the whole frenemy idea. If you constantly try to shade or downgrade me in a condescending, better than me manner you can kick fuq-in’ rocks. I don’t need that in my cypher.

            • Van had some witty response defense banter going on, Jayde just out talked her.

          • cakes_and_pies

            The official frenemy motto ” I don’t have a lot of females friends because they’re dramatic.”

            • LadyJay?

              That’s THAT boolsheet.

            • FarbissinaPunim

              “I didn’t come here to make friends.”

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          I see what you’re saying.

          But watch this turn away from what we clearly witnessed on the show to an indictment of your character and discounting your own thoughts and observations.

    • Freebird

      Your raise something that I see in my world… alot. Have you seen any of this in women from your family in regards to other women? Can you provide an example of how this happens in your circles?

  • I really want to like Van, but I just feel like they have yet to write her correctly. She can’t stand Earn most of the time, she can’t stand her homegirl, so it’s like…what the h*ll do you like? It comes off as bitter.

    The episode itself was meh, I was here for Paperboi’s pettiness. And this gross but glorious gif https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c8aea982cc9a1c86fcd9af159884811fefac3e1c458e6cec0adee60ec8be935c.gif

    • cyanic

      Real life gets in the way of optimism. Earn is not dependable. Her girlfriend’s a snob. Vanessa was very mindful of Earn not wanting to tip the waitress. We know she’s doing the best she can under real world stresses.

    • Girl…you really loud today!
      Man oh man.

    • Val

      It’s her life situation she can’t stand. She’s frustrated.

      • But she’s the only one being shady, slamming doors and lashing out. I get it, I just wish they would give her A win.

        • Val

          Yeah, I want her to win too. I actually think her losing her job is going to force her to pursue her dreams and that will ultimately be her win.

          edit: Ern is being shady too. I mean he’s out chasing his dream and not bringing in any money when he has a child to support.

          • I can’t EVEN imagine where’s she going after this…but first, she’s gettin’ lit, lol.

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            We don’t know if he’s bringing in the dollars or not. He’s gotten Paper Boi at least one show, a celebrity basketball game, and wasn’t sleeping on the couch this week.

            “He can stay when he pays rent”

            • Val

              Come on, Man, Ern is broke. What show?

              • Brooklyn_Bruin

                Did you miss the Zan Lives Matter episode? The beginning of the episode is them standing outside his own local performance. That’s why Glover says they could do a Kendrick Lamar thing with him on flute.

                • Val

                  Okay, I didn’t realize they had done a show. I thought they were just hanging out.

              • Kas

                The one where they run into the troll on the segueway (sp?).

                • Val

                  Gotcha.

    • HoneyRose

      Maybe she IS a young mother annoyed with life because she’s a young mother. That’s a real person.

  • QueenRaven23

    I didn’t get the whiteface thing. Are they preparing us for something?

    • I think its just intended to troll…it’s like when you watch a white show you enjoy and a black character just happens to use unnecessary slang or be eating chicken and you’re just like…”really?” I feel like that what theyre doing.

      • Peezy

        Yes, I could definitely see this, too. Like, we are doing this, deal with it.

        • Like they could’ve got any white kid in America to play Bieber, h*ll they couldve got Bieber…instead they blackwashed him, just to do so, deal with it

      • Like black beiber, lol

    • Peezy

      I think it was just to show the bs teachers have to deal with. The teacher that was telling Van about it had a very “if this boy don’t stop getting on my last nerve; I’m not for it today” type of vibe. He was a class clown. He was doing just enough to get under their skin, and really, there is no protocol for dealing with white-face. The smart-ass probably knows this, and was satisfied just to be irking the staff for the day.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      The show is meant to play on the surreal.

      It’s so very meta, which is why the 1st teacher said “Why is he doing that?”

      The quirk is reminiscent of most of the first season of True Detective and a bit of the second. Also Mr. Robot does stuff like this, slightly breaking the fourth wall, playing with the convention.

      Glover set out to make Twin Peaks with hip hop, and so far he’s touching on it

      • cyanic

        Surrealism with black people is the best thing ever.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Was talking back in the day about a “third” way, and this might be a good example.

          • cyanic

            A third way for?

            • Brooklyn_Bruin

              Blackness.

              The idea that blackness is very constrained, not only for the outsiders, but for us as insiders.

              You can only be “authentically Black” if….

              You know the mentality.

              As an example, The only time Tiger Woods gets to be a black golfer is when he’s attacked by whites.

              But Eldrick doesn’t get to be black simply because he golfs. He’s a corny dude because he doesn’t act like everyone else, or in socially accepted (by us) ways.

              There’s plenty of lip service about diversity of thought and action in the community, but little in way of support and often times derision.

              So the third way, the idea at least, acknowledges that there is in fact real and actual community restraint for “x” activities and behavior, but there is a “third way”

              To get to be different without the hate in a real sense

              We see guys like Pharell look in that direction – making fashion/skateboards/design cool, but his actual example leans towards the the fake post racial idea.

              Pretty much anyone screaming “New Black” comes off as a guy trying to justify his Marcus Garvey lyrics versus his non-black life partner.

              • cyanic

                Off-consensus black people have existed since always. Now they can be celebrated for being different because the communal narrative today is expanding the definition of who we are to ourselves and the world.

                • Brooklyn_Bruin

                  Quite possibly, or this could be a fleeting moment in the sun

                  • cyanic

                    Gender queers are visible in the mainstream. We can’t go back.

                    • Brooklyn_Bruin

                      Always forward…

      • BmoreLikeLA

        “Glover set out to make Twin Peaks with hip hop, and so far he’s touching on it”

        This is the same response I got when I asked about it. It’s just weird ish for weird ish sake.
        Donald on Twin Peaks: “A lot of questions would come up with no real answers and there was a mystery, and I kind of wanted to do a show that had those elements but for people who were rappers.”

        I wouldn’t mind seeing it sprinkled in a few more times in the season, but alas…Van ain’t got no job, so we prolly won’t see Tobias lol

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Things like
          – the homeless “parking attendant “,
          “Muslim” on the bus,
          – the disturbed man in the city holding….

          That’s black life.

          The dog motif with Darius, that’s surreal

  • Also I hadn’t watched last weeks episode until this week…n*gga when Darius pulled out that damn dog target I fell out. He needs to be in every episode.

    • panamajackson

      Listen, the dog target might have been some of the best political trolling in history of tv.

    • Mary Burrell

      The dog target was hilarious.

  • J David Page

    I had so many mixed feelings watching this. Simultaneously rooting FOR Van but sorta against her at the same time? Like why she have to be a hypocritical lame… then go through all that trouble and then try and open the pee condom with her teeth… and then walk in the boss office like ISOMKEDWEED!! Its like baffling how someone could be so intelligent yet tragically inept and thats why this show is REAL AF lol

    • This is the first episode that had me commenting out loud, like an old school movie theater.

    • CY414 .

      man, you said a SERMON. hella relatable tho.

  • CrankUpThe_AC

    I didn’t care much for this episode but, after reading your recap, I think it’s probably because I didn’t catch all the subtle nuances. That dinner scene was pretty hilarious though lol

    • For a split second, at the dinner tanle, I could swear the look on Van’s face was a bit of “Earn sure looks good to her right now. “

  • I was really impressed by this episode. Even more so now that it’s been revealed that Glover both wrote AND directed. His lyrics and opinions about women have been historically and largely misogynistic.

    • cyanic

      The lone woman on his writing staff co-authored it.

      • I imagine she was the one who softened Jayde a bit

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          She might have been the one to ramp it up!

          This female writer *could* be his Katrina Pierson, a surrogate that can deliver his message, but can’t be attacked because of her personhood.

          On a different thread I was saying that Glover is aware of his public perception. The show is very calculated by design.

        • HoneyRose

          Doubt it. I had to explain the scene to my husband. He didn’t understand the conversation. I feel like every black woman has this relationship with that one friend who you can’t stand but only see when she comes to town once every six months just for old times’ sake.

          • MsSula

            Oh my God!!! I had the same conversation with the husband last night. It did not understand it at all… and he ended saying something like “Women friendships are so complicated”…

            We all have that one friend.

          • CocoBean

            Interesting! My husband totally understood Jayde & Val’s friendship. From his perspective, Jayde may not be likeable per se, but she’s the “keep it real” friend. The type of person so many black people claim to be. Jayde reminded Val that she didn’t even live up to her OWN plans of being who she wanted to be (when she said to her that she & Val used to laugh at/about women like whom Val turned out to be). It’s way harsh, but in a round-about way she was trying to get Val to see that her (Val’s) current situation wasn’t part of the plan she had for her life.

      • “Co-Authored”…. makes sense.

    • L8Comer

      i didn’t know that. Not familiar with his music. Although i did hear he has an asian women fetish

      • He just had a line about Asian women. He had similar lines regarding women of other ethnicities like all other rappers.

        • L8Comer

          Thanks. what was the line(s), if u remember?

          • Forget these white girls
            I need some variation
            Especially if she very Asian

            The chorus is about Asian girls at UCLA

            • cyanic

              Laughs.

            • L8Comer

              okay, thanks

        • He’s had more than one line fetishizing Asian women, to be fair. And there has NOT been an equal treatment of other ethnicities across his discography. So, there’s that.

    • cyanic

      Misogyny gets thrown out a lot as a casual criticism for men. Which doesn’t hold true for most. I believe there are some genuine haters of women in this world and regular guys who have some sexist views which is not the same thing as misogyny.

      • Diego Duarte

        Incidentally I’ve never seen it thrown out as “casual criticism”. What I have seen though are instances where women call out misogyny and it gets downplayed by men. It’s the same as a white person telling you he “doesn’t see race” in a very racist (be it over or implicit) setting.

        As men we have not experienced what women experience everyday. We do not understand what it’s like to deal with that kind of harassment and discrimination that objectifies women. Calling it casual criticism is irresponsible, I’m almost certain those women were very justified in calling out misogyny.

        Our job as men is to try and understand their perspective and, if not possible, not to dismiss them or downplay their experience. Because it truly does hurt their cause.

        • cyanic

          Sexism is a marginalization of women. Misogyny is a hatred of women and has a more violent connotation. Neither is a comfortable truth but at least we can police the language we use to describe the behaviors accurately.

          • Leggy

            Misogyny can also just mean prejudice against women. They both basically the same thing. Copied and pasted both definitions for you but vsb held it up.

          • Diego Duarte

            Except misogyny does not necessarily imply solely a violent connotation. It also involves contempt for, or prejudice against women. Been trying to link definitions, but I’m not sure if it’s the VSB filter acting up or the links. Point is, my two other comments are “awaiting moderation”, and if previous experiences are any indicator, that means neither one is going to get posted.

            • cyanic

              Hatred implies contempt and prejudice. Which I said already.

    • Wizznilliam

      I’m not sure if I can name many rappers who don’t have at least some misogynistic lyrics. Even a lot of the women rappers are pretty bad. You almost have to not be a fan of rap if misogynistic bother you. I pretty much had to stop listening to rap altogether, including the urban radio stations, once I had daughters and they were constantly in the car with me.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    I love this show. This might be the best episode so far. I can’t even begin to describe the brilliance. It’s like listening to Illmatic for the first time.

    • LadyJay?

      It’s that good?

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        If you’re into writing, and you’re up on everything else – yeah.

        If you’re not into writing, then it’s merely good.

        • HoneyRose

          Yas! That’s what does it for me. I’m a writer, and the writing on this show is BRILLIANT. I say that like three times an episode.

    • MsSula

      I really had a legit fangirl moment during this show. My husband who has never lived in America appreciates it but I know he can’t appreciate it to its true level of brilliance. The Black experience in America is so rich and so unique. Bref, I love this show. :)

  • Jayde’s “value” in being a paid tramp doesn’t seem too appealing.
    Also…when Van started chewing on the condom, I was in a restaurant with headphones on watching my tablet. I actually said aloud “Van don’t bite it.”

    • cyanic

      Jayde’s not a tramp. She simply has reduced her value to giving wealthy men what the regular men want. Physical pleasure at a small price to them.

      • Small price?
        She ain’t actually perceived as a tour guide

        • cyanic

          Not a price given to tasks. More so reinforcing the lifestyle both parties want. While knowing the sacrifice is physical and mentally taxing. You’re just happy you have a sense of superiority since the world you now inhabit is exclusive from the masses. Yet sold everyday to the masses as the ideal.

          • ” You’re just happy you have a sense of superiority since the world you now inhabit is exclusive from the masses.”

            Looking at the world through rose-colored draws, I get it.

            • cyanic

              She’s so highfalutin she likely doesn’t wear them imitating the funky white girls in movies.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        It’s certainly efficient, and skirts the line of pay for play.

        I think the same moralizing happens anyway. I don’t think Ness’s character goes that route, even of the audience will do so predictably.

    • There’s a market for it for her to live a luxurious lifestyle. I know most men would be more than happy to be able to travel around the world just to be laid up with a rotary of different beautiful women.

    • Valerie

      I don’t like Jayde’s character lol

    • Tramp is harsh, I wish they would’ve elucidated what she does for a living…Jaydes point that n*ggas with money want someone around they feel is an equal (see NBA and Kardashians) falls flat when they dont hammer home thst she doesn’t actually need their money ergo they give

      • I guess they give until they’re ready to move on, or leave town.

        • It’s a strange ego thing, dudes hate a gold digger but will spoil a woman who has it…that way they look like less of a sucker

          • cyanic

            Wouldn’t the sophisticated woman who has her own actually make better use of his money than the standard gold digger?

          • Now THAT i’ve seen. NOWHERE in her league, but end up broke as heII to be seen with her.

      • HoneyRose

        I thought it was implied that Jayde was being flown around and treated by the NBA n*ggas, and not that she had her own?

  • Val

    I loved it. Best episode yet, IMO.

    • cyanic

      And you were so concern they would ignore the female gaze completely. Van’s an extension of Earn’s need to succeed.

      • Val

        Well, I was concerned that she was never going to have a backstory. And this is a very good start. I’m not sure I would say she’s an extension of Ern. I just think they are in a similar situation life wise.

        • cyanic

          They share a child. Earn remains in that hopeful phase things can work out between them because they’re already a family.

          • Wizznilliam

            Hmmm.. I don’t know about that. Seems like she is just his only option at the moment. I suspect one or both of them will end up blowing up at some point and likely there will be some bigger divides between them.

            • cyanic

              Plausible.

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