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Atlanta – S1E9 – Juneteenth

Previously on Atlanta, “The Club

Atlanta – S1E9 – Juneteenth | Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz | Writer: Stefani Robinson | Director: Janicza Bravo

Photos: Guy D'Alema/FX

Photos: Guy D’Alema/FX

This damn show. I mean, wow.

We’ve all watched perceptive, intelligent comedies in our lifetimes that have gleamed on qualities and traits we, as African-Americans, relate to on a personal level. Atlanta, however, has done the unimaginable by shining a light on every dark corner and grey area then twisting it to humorous effect. In this week’s episode, Vanessa and Earnest prove themselves to be severely incompatible yet keep the lie alive to provide their daughter the best opportunities they can. It’s a sacrifice both are willing to make despite their growing enmity for each other. In every case, there’s a limit to how far one is willing to go; for Earn he found his ceiling after a day in the life of the whackest new money couple ever to reside in Tuxedo Park.

Juneteenth is a supposed to be an observance of the abolition of slavery across the Confederate South, which finally ceased with the confirmation of General Order Number 3 in Galveston, Texas. Of course any African-American versed in the history of our culture would know it wasn’t so cut and dry: the border states along the Mason-Dixon and specific political zones were exempt from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Slaves had to wait two more years before the President’s declaration went into effect. Even then, politicians and landowners assured this entire nation of freedmen and women were suppressed, marginalized, and assaulted for the next century.

And now, after all the struggles our ancestors endured for the betterment of their families and their community, for the proliferation of our ethnic pride, and very survival as a people… we have to contend with fake-ass bustahs like the goddamn Allens.

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Say what you will about Earn and Van, nothing compares to the tragically myopic “power couple” that is Craig (Rick Holmes) and Monique (Cassandra Freeman) Allen. From the moment Vanessa and Earnest stepped inside the Allen’s half-mansion dripping with opulence that reeked of desperation, the kids may have felt completely out of their element. By the end of the night, the Allen’s razor-thin facade was torn through by Earn’s blunt criticisms; his outburst may not have been eloquent (blame the Hennessey) yet his tirade was effective all the same. No matter how much money you have in the bank… no matter how many cars and homes you buy… all the crystal chandeliers, wine cellars, and walk-in closets in the world cannot compensate for a complete lack of civility and tact.

C’mon now… alliterative cocktails and a muhfuggin quartet singing Negro spirituals? NOT MY JUNETEENTH. This is the kind of bullshit people do that believe themselves to be above their own culture after acquiring – or marrying into – vast sums of money. You know the types, the kind that eat pizza with a knife and fork or use a napkin when biting into a drumstick… those deplorables. The Allens emit their aura of faux sophistication and veiled condescension in tandem, portraying another side of The Culture that’s become quite prevalent and extremely toxic for our continually shifting status in modern America.

atl-s1e9-craig-earnest

The lesser evil, Craig, is… well, he was something else. Painfully oblivious, ridiculously informed yet infuriatingly smug, Mr. Allen was always compelled to prove his love for Black culture by reading every book, collecting every scrap of art, even visiting “the motherland” to get in touch with the rhythm of his soul. Honestly, he had pretty good cadence during his slam poetry minute… also, what the hell was that?! Craig was a definite card that, sadly, many of us have encountered in our lives: this man’s intentions may have been good but they’re easily deconstructed as a means to prove that he’s “in tune” with a people rather than understand them. Ultimately, it’s a form of fetishization that subtly robs the agency of those he allegedly admires – Earn, in this case – to bolster his own ego. When he persists in knowing Marks’ ethnic background in listing off various tribes across Africa, he might as well have been rabbit punching Earn in the ribs. We don’t even have to get into the fact that it’s yet another white man appropriating our entire culture for his benefit. But at least Craig keeps his ear to the street. One more fan for Paper Boi!

Oh, I kid. Eff whitey.

As for Monique, oof. What is there to say except all of us probably have one of those types in our family. The fake smile, the fake laugh. The incessant desire to throw shade while showing off the latest addition to the kitchen where the maids cook. Ms. Allen might as well be known as Black Cersei due to her propensity for avarice and duplicity. Monique is so locked in about assuring her financial security for the rest of her days, she doesn’t even care about her own damn happiness. It couldn’t be any sadder if this wasn’t a common justification among some married couples in real life. Still, that moment of vulnerability she shares with Van isn’t enough to forgive Monique for her conceitedness. The money didn’t transform her into this person overnight; she sought Craig out and used his glaring faults to her favor. Everything that occurs in this episode is a ruse meant to keep Monique relevant among her affluent associates and her bank roll husband happy.

In fact, Juneteenth was a distant memory for Monique after showing obvious contempt for Earn’s real job as a manager for his cousin, “the thug”. It’s a wonder that Van lasted as long as she did among Monique’s good graces; she and Earn held up appearances for Lanie’s sake, but as they learned, nothing is more valuable than self-respect. Although “Juneteenth” was played up for laughs (and there were plenty), it was a dual reminder of a current malady that’s spreading among Black culture: the continued distancing from our storied history in favor for the advancements within a shared culture that enjoys the specific contributions we’ve made, but not the persons therein.

Atlanta S1E9 = 9.3/10
  • 9/10
    Plot - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Dialogue - 9/10
  • 10/10
    Performances - 10/10
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About Rexlor Graymond (493 Articles)
Rex Graymond is 24.6kg tripolymer composite, 11.8kg beryllium-nickel-titanium alloy. Constructed in Northern California. Loves comics and films almost as much as pancakes. ALMOST.
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4 Comments on Atlanta – S1E9 – Juneteenth

  1. I was gettin’ drunk just watching this party.
    #bourbonsavedmylife

  2. Rex is writing his ass off! That was a great recap and a cringeworthy episode. I’m glad they had the balls to have an episode like this.

  3. Nina please do a podcast on this show next season. Pretty please?

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