Featured, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Recap

Atlanta Episode 7: “B.A.N.” Recap

“Most people don’t realize their chakras are in another universe.”

Does the black community have a problem with the LGBT community, specifically the trans-community and if so is it merely a by-product of oppression fatigue? This question and many others (such as why an Arizona iced tea is ringing up at the register as $1.29 when “the price is on the can, though”?) are posed in the most adventurous episode of Atlanta yet. Structured around a faux Charlie Rose-style talk show hosted by a Don Lemon-type, Atlanta breaks format to expound upon ideas it has been building on all season.  When the station I.D. rolled across the screen for Glover’s faux Black American Network with those familiar dancing silhouettes that welcomed every new-old Peabo Bryson video back in the day, I hollered. Not everything in this episode works here but it’s not for lack of effort.

Earnest Marks is noticeably absent (save for an off-camera shout out), as is the rest of the cast, from this episode with the exception of Paper Boi who has been booked on Lemon stand-in Franklin Montague’s  show to discuss his recent controversial Twitter comments about Caitlyn Jenner. Joining him on set is Dr. Debra Holt representing liberal Dwight lady sensibilities to hilarious effect. Dr. Holt has an axe to grind with our dude Paper Boi due to some perceived inflammatory statements he’s made about the fluidity of Jenner’s gender. You see, Jenner is a trans woman who used to identify as a white man. A rich white man. And seeing as how the real-world Jenner has been called out for her tendency to overlook the intersection of race and sexuality as it pertains to trans women of color in her own community( such as the fact that 19 of the 22 trans women murdered last year were trans women of color), Paper Boi can’t understand why he should care about what this rich white person does.

Rich white people gon’ do whatever the hell they want to do just like they’ve done for hundreds of years.  Paper Boi doesn’t see what all of the hullabaloo is about seeing as how he just found out trans people existed five minutes ago. Dr. Holt brought the damn receipts, though, by way of actual Paper Boi lyrics and she gets him to admit that he actually puts very little thought into the actual lyrics that he writes and is just “trying to get paid”, a struggle Atlanta has gone back to in theme several times during the course of the series.

The segment is cut short by a commercial break as viewers are granted entrance to the twisted recesses of Glover’s psyche.  This and last week’s episode “Value” ushered in a temporary break in director duties from Hiro Murai and what both episodes lack in cinematic stylistics they more than make up for with a sharp tone and a tongue in cheek nod to black America that only we could accurately capture. I have a basic understanding of the way segmented marketing works so when the commercials began rolling I didn’t notice they were parodies, each resembling a specific commercial I can remember playing in between back to back episodes of Unsung.

When the first ad for the Dodge Charger (complete with “This is a closed course” warning at the bottom of the screen) aired I didn’t even pick my head up from the freshly dried laundry I decided to fold on commercial break. The joke was well-played the first time but the final reveal  that dude’s just been driving that car around the neighborhood after losing everything in the divorce were well worth the set up. I think the next owner’s going to want to get that interior detailed as intricately as possible. Probably best to just throw away the whole damn seat.

The Nutella sandwich guy makes another appearance this episode (outside of my lucid dreams) in a commercial straight out of a Tim and Eric episode. Yes, that number is real and if you call it prepare to be creeped out. The small details of “blackness” found within the DNA of every commercial are what really work here. The suaveness of the guy in the Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor ad right up until the point where he isn’t, the wink to the camera at the fact that no black person actually smokes the tobacco found inside a Swisher Sweets Cigarillo, the way the animated police officer in the Coconut CrunchOs commercial refers to one of the little black girls as, “sir” right before threatening her, all lead to a complicated but accurate love-letter to black folk in America.

The connection between living in a society where transgendered people are often treated horrifically and a supposed trans-racial society where one can merely choose to identify as a race they were not born into is murky water here for Atlanta. No one would argue that there are those of who feel biologically born to the wrong gender and those people often go through a great deal of torment both internally and from the world to feel at peace.  But in similar vein just because the Rachel Dolezal’s of the world like Girlfriends more than Sex and the City should they be granted blackness? Since race is merely a social construct can blackness or whiteness even be granted? Who controls it? Are only white people allowed to identify as something else since they created this shaky Jenga game of race relations we’re all forced to play here?

The panel exchange in the first segment was all over the place for me and made some parallels that I think could be dangerous if left in the wrong hands. Antoine revealing in his side-splitting taped  interview for segment two that even though he appears to be a dark-skinned, early twenties black man currently living in Atlanta that he actually identifies as a 35 year old white man named Harrison is hilarious mainly because of how far-fetched something like that still seems in a society with a racial hierarchy.  It also fine-tuned the point I think Glover was attempting to make in this episode as well as Episode 2’s prison scene. This is played almost entirely for laughs with Antoine’s insistence that he works as a systems engineer at Coca Cola even while his own mother admits he doesn’t have no job, Tommy! I laughed so loudly through the entire segment I had to watch it again to catch all the jokes.

Do all mid-thirties white guys wear thick brown belts and watch Game of Thrones on Sunday evenings? How long has Antoine been studying to be a white person? Is black life in America all just one big study on how to be a white person? Atlanta handles this segment with more clarity than the segment preceding it and does an okay job of tying the two together when they bring Antoine back after his “transformation”, flipping expectations on their head when Antoine/Harrison reveals he’s actually very much against gay marriage.

Dr. Holt is shocked (shocked!) that a person who understands the pain of being “othered” would step all over the rights of somebody else. The fact that she misses her own bias against Paper Boi and incorrectly assumes things about his character based upon what he looks like and what she ignorantly assumes that says about fragile black masculinity is clever character set-up by Glover. Dr. Holt’s  liberal stance on sexuality in no way prevents her from seeing Paper Boi as less than enlightened before coming to an agreement that tolerance is sometimes the most that you can really expect from others. The episode gives us no real view to rally behind. Certainly not those of the opportunistic Montague who’s just disappointed he couldn’t get a black man and a white woman to fight on his show. Shots fired, Don Lemon. Shots all the way fired!

After hearing the familiar voices of Cree Summer and Kevin Michael Richardson in the cereal commercial I’m inclined to believe that the overarching message of the first season of Atlanta has to be that authentic blackness can look like anything just as long as it is in service to celebrating black folk. All black folk. Solange’s breathtaking album, A Seat at the Table, makes similar claims with tracks like “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “F.U.B.U.”, intimating that blackness will rise or fall on our ability to love each other. To stand for each other and to create spaces where we can practice self-care in a world where the police flaunt their murders in our faces while the world wonders what pale ales are on tap at the bar. “B.A.N.”  will more than likely require multiple viewings by me and may go down as a classic episode in the vein of our favorite Chappelle Show skits.

When it worked it really worked for me. It was hella experimental and I applaud it for creeping outside of the lines to bring us something truly unique, even if we had to miss out on what’s going on with Darrius for another damn week.

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.

  • Damon Young

    “a complicated but accurate love-letter to black folk in America”

    this is the best way to describe atlanta. i actually tweeted something similar last night.

    https://twitter.com/VerySmartBros/status/786038524445241344

    i’m in love with this show. and last night was one of the best 30-minute stretches of TV ive ever seen.

    (also, FELON DEGENERES!!!)

    • Vanity in Peril

      Felon Degeneres is a perfect joke.

    • ChellZ

      Fellen Degeneres had me on the floor

    • If folks were still fronting on how dope this show is, last night HAD TO CHANGE THEIR MINDS. PIDD.

    • HoneyRose

      Felon DeGeneres had me rolling. We had to pause* the episode to finish laughing and then roll it back so we could experience it again.

      *We always watch the episode On Demand.

  • Trill Mickelson

    “The price is on the can, though.”

    That Arizona commercial killed me dead. As soon as it rang up, we actually started yelling “IT SAYS 99 CENTS ON THE CAN” out loud.

    • I’ve definitely seen places charge 1.29 for Arizonas….not in my America, B

      • brothaskeeper

        The Pakistani man who owns the convenience store across the street from me sells me Arizonas for $.89. (Shhhhhhhhhhhh).

      • BagOfNoodles

        There was one for $1.49 the other day. I refused to pay that much for it.

        • Quirlygirly

          If it say .99 cents on the can..that is what imma pay..

        • The price is on the can tho

          • The papi store ‘roun my tho?
            Let something end in .99,..they’re keeping your got damn penny.
            Talking bout “one dollar.” Then pop that bidge in the drawer. I stand there with my hand out, Mrs Papi said, it’s only a penny!”
            **silence**

            Then she puts the penny in my hand.

            • Gina Marie

              you gotta be from philly. the only place i know that calls corner stores papi stores.

      • Val

        So Arizona iced tea is a thing? Who knew?

        • wakakaja

          My sis and I live together, and I used to drink Arizonas heavy. I came home from work and noticed a can missing. I said, ‘Was your boyfriend drinking my tea?’ ‘He wasn’t over here.’ ‘Yes he was, all black men love Arizonas.’ ‘…Okay he was… is that a thing?’

    • When they try to throw in a bottle deposit and tax. The can says 99 cents!

      • Val

        Don’t you have to pay tax and deposit though no matter what the can says?

        • This is why I only go to bodegas

          • Val

            Gotcha. Interesting.

    • RW

      Truth! I paused it at the end of the commercial and just sat there in stunned silence because I hadn’t caught on that it was a parody. Five seconds later when my brain finally caught up, I completely lost it.

  • It was a legitimately hilarious episode, but I was aware of the landmines and I think they made out clean (I haven’t seen much backlash). I think at this point, I have a better idea of what the show is…it’s less about Earn and Alfred’s journey as the pilot seemed to indicate as much as it’s just their characters, more like a Seinfeld.

  • King Beauregard

    I am a man of simple tastes and I loved this episode beginning to end.

    That said, it’s true that Harrison DID look like the fifth Beatle, but not for the reasons Paper Boi intended:

    https://vimeo.com/8904532

    • Hibiscus???

      “Simple man of simple tastes”.

      That to me is THE most chexaaay man everrrrrrrr. So long as the face matches doe.

      • King Beauregard

        Heh, think of Festus from “Gunsmoke”. That’s what a HANDSOME version of me would look like.

        I don’t speak in authentic frontier gibberish, though.

  • Davey

    My favorite part was that Super Sayan joke. I wasn’t ready for any part of this entire episode.

    • King Beauregard

      DBZ is mainstream culture now. Never thought I’d say that.

      • HoneyRose

        Me either!!

  • Val

    I just want to know what was up with that Mickey’s commercial? Was it real or part of the show?

    • Davey

      I kind of wish it wasn’t part of the show and Mickey’s just had this dope ad campaign. I was going by whether the “FX” logo was at the bottom of the screen.

      • Val

        Didn’t notice the FX logo. I guess I was just so shocked to see a Mickey’s commercial.

        • Vanity in Peril

          I loved the one guy blocking his path to ol girl w card tricks.
          If it wasn’t for that terrible Ice Cube song from that one video game commercial playing I wouldn’t have known what was what.

    • It wasn’t real but it was so ***king real.

    • I died at the jazz playing.

    • brothaskeeper

      Malt liquor in champagne flutes ?

      • Val

        I figured Mickey’s was trying to come up. Lol

      • Mary Burrell

        That’s what I’m talking about that so ratchet.

    • Mr. Mooggyy

      The commercials threw me off for a sec! I was like “hol up”! But I saw the FX at the bottom corner of the scree and realized it was apart of the show. It was genius though!

    • Mary Burrell

      All I kept thinking that ratchet drink malt liquor out of champagne glasses but i laughed at the absurdity of it all.

      • Val

        Lol Yeah, that was funny.

  • Why did Nutella sandwich and juice ninja look like the type of guy who approaches you at the public library while you’re trying to check out and he’s printing flyers for a business meeting at the Hyatt next to the Amrak station?

    *Edit

    Does NSAJN’s presence confirm that Earn being on the bus was a dream or nah?

    Everything about this episode was hilarious.

  • Most surreal piece of black video I’ve ever seen in my life

    • I’m almost shocked that the wolf/dog that they keep seeing and Darius was prepping for target practice with didn’t make an appearance this episode.

      • You Ain’t no Guest You Family

        Wouldn’t that be the wolf that got arrested in the cereal commercial?

        • MsSula

          I thought this exact same thing!

  • Val

    I enjoyed the shot they took at car commercials aimed at Black folks. Lol They never tell us about the cars, just some condescending bs.

    • brothaskeeper

      I felt some type of way, because I own a Charger. But it was spot on, because a Charger is to Black men as wetness is to water. Even if they do look like giant Darts.

    • Why was dude nekkid at the gas pump tho?

      • Val

        I think that was just an extension of them making the point that those commercials are ridiculous.

      • Dtown_boughie

        from what i gathered, he lost everything in the divorce. He said take everything but the Charger!

      • Rod

        My wife thoughtfully pointed out that he he only hot the car and the shirt on his back.

    • HoneyRose

      It was funny because on my channel, a real car commercial aimed directly at black people – with black actors – came on directly after that one ended. I thought it was fake until about 10 seconds into the commercial. I can’t even remember what car it was for, but I was chuckling at myself.

  • Roz Cat

    .Many of the sly references went way over my head (the kid who was the 35 year old white man, is some kind of an internet viral guy?) And the acting and dialogue in the the panel discussion just wasn’t very good. Satire works best when it’s played super straight… no winks and nods. And why do we buy that Paper Boi would even be the selected guest? Come on, give us a little character and plot development.

    Came across like a mediocre web series sketch. Maybe that was the point? If so, it was all just little to meta for me. Love it though that the show is being given such creative room

    • Val

      I thought he was selected because of some lyric (homophobic slur?) in one of his songs and also because the host seemed to have a thing against rap.

      • L8Comer

        I’ve seen 2chainz on CNN (I think it was him) and other rappers so it made sense to me. Plus he’s got a top song on the radio. New star and everyone is singing his transphobi lyrics / controversial comments about an extension of Kardashian= ratings

        • Val

          Yeah, I’ve seen clips of rappers on CNN, MSNBC and even Fox. Seemed normal to me as well, especially since we know Ern is booking a lot of appearances for him.

    • Julian Green

      I believe the guy playing the trans-racial kid is Nileseyy Niles from the Lean Squad. They do skits on YouTube.

    • Annalise Keating

      “Came across like a mediocre web series sketch….”

      That really summed my feelings about this episode.
      I love the show and really liked all the other episodes so far but this one was an anomaly for me. I got the jokes and I saw what he was trying to do. His ideas were great, some of the content was thought provoking but his setup and delivery fell short.

      I didn’t think it was unrealistic to have the rapper on the show, I did find his prolonged mocking of the blonde haired guest a little heavy handed and unrealistic.

      Still love Paper boi though….

    • justtwo post

      The dude in the Arizona commercial is in a lot of short films and web shows. He was in The Ghost and the Negro.

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