Because the episode description guarantees, tonight’s Atlanta is certain to make some of us mad, primarily a sure Black Lives Matter activist not so subtly depicted as a non-profit chief who goes by a mononym and unironically wears a Baltic life jacket as a style accent.
“White Trend,” written and directed by Ibra Ake—who additionally directed Beyonce’s Black Is King—comes for lots of necks over the course of half-hour, from the style trade, clearly, to anti-racist guide authors to the whitewashed culinary world. At its most eager moments, the episode highlights the perverse symbiosis between social-justice grifters and firms whereas the marginalized communities they purport to care about are neglected within the chilly.
There’s additionally some poking enjoyable on the “listening and studying” industrial complicated that hit a peak throughout the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Nevertheless, the episode unusually invokes the ill-informed idea of Black shopping for energy as a productive different to those corporate-driven measures and never an equally ineffectual, capitalist trick. It’s primarily complicated in an episode that ends with a Nigerian restaurant proprietor having her enterprise hijacked by white folks.
Regardless of some muddled messaging, the satire that works on this episode actually works.
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Al faces an ethical dilemma when he’s contacted by a luxurious style model referred to as Esco Esco to help of their PR efforts following a scandal with one in all their merchandise—a jersey with the quantity 5 on the again sandwiched between the phrases “central” and “park.” We additionally see advertising that incorporates a white lady modeling the jersey whereas mendacity on a picnic blanket surrounded by Black folks.
In consequence, the model’s publicists ask Al to be part of a press convention to announce their new variety advisory panel however instruct him to not say something and suggest that his function is short-term. Earn is fairly involved that Al’s involvement will appear like an “Uncle Tom” state of affairs. He additionally says that, if he had been in Al’s sneakers, he would take the chance to study variety packages and begin his personal initiative encouraging Black of us to reinvest in their very own communities as a substitute of supporting white companies.
As I hinted at earlier, this episode’s failure to interrogate Black consumerism from this angle is disappointing however not essentially stunning for a present helmed by Donald Glover. The entire ”help Black enterprise” mantra that was provided as an answer to Black folks being shot by police in 2020 is problematic for a lot of causes, together with the studied delusion that Black folks may considerably change their socio-economic circumstances if solely they didn’t purchase Nikes—however I digress! Predictably, Al scoffs at his “Martin Luther King Ebenezer Baptist Church” soapbox second and says that he simply needs an infinite provide of free designer garments for him and his “hoes.”
In the meantime, Darius’s very mundane journey to realize some jollof rice in England turns into a fable about cultural appropriation and gentrification after he requests the Nigerian staple on the Esco Esco style home. Uncertain the place to purchase it from, an assistant named Sharon (Tamsin Topolski) goes with Darius to a Nigerian restaurant and turns into fascinated by the meals and tradition, Shazam-ing the music taking part in from the audio system and inquiring concerning the time period “Naija.” Darius doesn’t make a lot of her ignorance about his tradition as a British white lady. However her curiosity is revealed to be way more nefarious by the tip of the episode when she buys the enterprise and creates a whitewashed Nigerian meals truck referred to as Naija Bowl.
Again on the racial apology press convention the place a Black lady is warming up the gang with a soulful rendition of “Superb Grace,” Al meets a younger, gay-coded Black man named Khalil (Fisayo Akinade) donning the aforementioned piece of swimwear over a swimsuit. When he introduces himself to Al, he retorts in an exasperated tone that he already is aware of who he’s, clueing us in on Khalil’s celebrity-activist standing. Khalil instantly makes it identified that serving to firms get out of racial controversies is virtually his total job, bragging that he hasn’t paid for a meal in “73 police shootings.” Later, he tells Al that if he needs to know what his charity does, he wants to purchase his guide.
It’s debatable, all through the course of the episode, whether or not Ake thinks the viewers ought to detest or respect Khalil’s hustle—particularly by the tip—provided that he’s taken rightful benefit of white folks’s ineffective guilt but in addition perpetuating this concept that racism may be eradicated with conservative, in the end hole gestures of solidarity.
Likewise, when the press convention begins, he informs the reporters that, below Esco Esco’s new variety efforts, they intend to finish racism “by 2024.” Earlier than that, a consultant for the model kicks off the occasion by telling the press that he’s “the least prejudiced particular person within the room.” Al is clearly perturbed and makes an attempt to reply one of many reporter’s questions actually earlier than he’s lower off by Khalil.
Later, the invention advisory panel, which incorporates an anti-racist guide writer and a social-media influencer whose Blackness is questionable, along with Al and Khalil, meet in a boardroom to debate what the model’s apology gesture will entail however, initially, what every particular person needs out of it. Khalil requests tickets to A Raisin within the Solar, which options Julia Roberts in a central function. DeMarco, the influencer, needs Nikes and business-class aircraft tickets. Sam, the writer, needs a thousand copies of her guide bought for sensitivity trainings. They usually all desire a hook-up to the Black Panther 2 premiere.
When Al asks how any of that helps Black folks, DeMarco, a blue-eyed, racially ambiguous fellow with a fade and a Blaccent, replies that he’s Black and that it helps him personally to a bunch of curious stares. Inevitably, Al finally ends up taking Earn’s thought from earlier, suggesting that the corporate launch a capsule assortment together with a “reinvest in your hood” marketing campaign, to which everyone seems to be onboard.
In the meantime, Earn is hanging out in a lodge foyer the place he lastly runs into Van studying a guide. When he asks the place she’s been and why she hasn’t been speaking with anybody, she doesn’t give him a lot in addition to a shrug and smile. Out of nowhere, an indignant white lady walks as much as Van and accuses her of stealing a wig she purchased at a retailer down the road. The concierge finally kicks the girl out of the lodge and provides Earn the perfect room, the place the 2 spend the night time.
Up to now, these writers will not be beating the Manic Pixie Dream Lady allegations in the case of the hole portrayal of Van, particularly on this episode the place she solely seems to have intercourse with Earn earlier than vanishing into the night time with none explantation of what she’s doing when she’s not with him. Evidently her mystifying journey/way of thinking exists solely as a degree of curiosity for Earn and an occasional reminder for him to take pleasure in life’s adventures and never be so tied down by work. At this level, the gesturing towards this very noticeable trope in male-driven tales feels uncanny.
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“White Trend” ends on an anticipated pessimistic observe. Once we see the industrial for Paper Boi’s “reinvest in your hood” marketing campaign, it options largely white folks of various occupations, ages and sexual orientations telling the digicam “we’re all from some hood.” When Al confronts Khalil about his marketing campaign basically being “All Lives Matter-ed,” he responds astutely that there was no approach a white-owned company would encourage its shoppers to cease shopping for from them—one thing you’d assume the usually cynical Al would perceive from the bounce. Khalil additionally means that Al make the most of responsible white liberals like he does and spend money on his personal charity if needs to make any precise change.
At this level, you sense the present making an attempt to present #Resistance grifters the advantage of the doubt or not less than imagining a state of affairs during which their grifting might be subversive and even moral. But when the egregious controversies surrounding Black Lives Matter’s world and native networks and their use of funds are any proof, they definitely haven’t earned any form of beneficiant depiction. General, the episode concludes in an extended, exhausted sigh.