Previously on Atlanta, “Teddy Perkins”
For the second time this season we’re blessed with a Van episode (helmed once more by Amy Seimetz, who guided us through Van’s recent hardship in “Helen”). While the overall plot appeared to be Van’s rampant desire to get a selfie with Drake to up her followers on IG, this narrative was a front for the tightly layered, multitudinal storytelling of what women endure – be it through the influence of others or their own frailty – in their quest to receive validation, and the deception of our “reality”.
If you give this episode a second look (or caught it all when “Papi” first aired), virtually every minute of it is fake AF. We’re quickly introduced to Van’s squad whom we never saw before, and seem to meet up exclusively when word of a celebrity party is about to go down. Naturally, the ones that require triple ciphers, passcodes and geotagging to verify your worthiness, the better. And in this instance, Van’s girl Candice (Adriyan Rae) has the hook-up for Drake’s NYE party thanks to her “friend” DJ (Markell Williams), who may or may not really be a DJ. In short time, Van and the girls are shuttled to an opulent mansion where the female to male ratio is straight up ridiculous. Still and all, everyone at the party isn’t there to have a good time; under the guise of conviviality, all are eagerly awaiting their opportunity to climb the social ladder to its tippy top – or at least latch on to someone who is a firm fixture on Mount Drake.
The only one of them who is honest about her attendance is Van, who couldn’t care less about the party as she is about catching more followers on Instagram. Por quoi? Sure, it’s a nice bump to the ol’ ego to have thousands of strangers interested in your daily goings-on but as time and fully funded psychological research has confirmed, the ‘Gram ain’t your friend. In any case, Van is deadset in getting a pic with Drizzy and during her quest encounters one thirsty-ass hanger-on (the nutritionists’ cousin? Really, my dude?), a frustrated abuelo and a whole mess of threads, scented lotions and emollients. Basically Van was the one person you hate hate hate to be snooping through your shit. However, during her nosy stalker gotta-wear-a-man’s-clothes-like-a-damn-creep self tour, Van and (her friends during their respective jaunts) learned everything is nothing, and nothing is real.
Firstly, we have to discuss how much effort the women in the episode to continually put themselves on that next level. No, I’m not talking about their appearance because how they choose to dress for a night out is none of my damn business, even in a dramedy like this. Rather, “Champagne Papi” is peppered with a few hits about how Black women have to hustle for every opportunity and ultimately don’t have much if anything to show for it thanks to men.
From the jump, Candice was working her IG with a live video, promoting her jasmine brandy lip plump, and seeking another Netflix password. Like Bibby in “Barbershop”, Candice is using her particular set of skills handily, and they’re apparently working if she’s throwing referral codes out there for beauty products and gaining access to one of the 6God’s many residences. While Candice may be doing aight and bringing along Van and friends Tami (Gail Bean) and Nadine (Danielle Deadwyler) for the ride, those three are still finding their place among the masses. Each woman was tested of sorts once inside the menagerie, however Van in particular accepted that fakeness permeates far too much of her life, persistently twisting her motivations, and most alarmingly, her self-worth.
The excitement of reaching the tippy top waned pretty damn quick once the ladies (minus Candice) realized the NYE party was yet another “thot-a-thon” that catered to the few men present in Drake’s crib. Everything about the scene indulged the male gaze, and if one paid extra special attention to the background, in nearly every cut there was a man preying either on an unsuspecting extra or the leads themselves. Aside from Van’s mousey stalker who went the extra mile out of desperation’s sake, it was your typical meat market situation with men on the fringes of status hoping to cash in for the new year.
Thankfully much of “Champagne Papi” focused on the insipidness of it all. For Tami, after witnessing her celebrity crush Deyvon had a White girlfriend, she let the alcohol take the wheel and dragged this “beautiful woman” across hot coals about her privilege granting her the opportunity to support her man, the future star. Now… Tami wasn’t wrong. Black women continue to be unappreciated from all fronts – the most disappointing being Black men. It also didn’t help that Snowflake opened her mouth to prove her worthiness except it backfired, verifying Tami’s argument that Deyvon was a glorified accessory. Still though, that edible kicked in at the wrong damn time because Tami’s headcanon had her convinced she was the perfect girlfriend for a man she only knew in movies… with her crazy-ass eyes.
The most profound moments involved Nadine and Darius, who appears to be just fine after having a front row seat to a murder-suicide. Atlanta’s resident philosopher managed to calm a bugged out Nadine and dropped some knowledge germane to the experience they were currently undergoing. In short, nothing is real. Darius name dropped Nick Bostrom and his hypothesis about far future civilizations would have tremendous computing powers, therein a fraction of which could generate simulations of one’s ancestors, making it indistinguishable from reality. Ultimately, the lives of the simulations could be manipulated without their knowledge and fashioned to the minutest of detail.
While this was some high-concept speculative science dropped on unprepared minds, somehow Drake’s party and Bostrom’s hypothesis are a seamless combo in action. Absolutely nothing within and outside the compound is “normal” in casual regards. Paper booties over Louboutin heels. Rhinestone rodeo bulls. A model in the middle of a pool dancing for no one. A cardboard cut-out that guarantees a fan thousands of likes. No gotdamn Drizzle at his own gotdamn event. It is a party full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Eventually Van (after going through all of the Raptors’ number one fan’s gear) realized the things she most cherishes – the same stuff she was dogged on earlier in the episode – could never be replaced for the promise of flashing lights and greener pastures.
Not if all of it appears tragically fake within the simulated reality we may or may not be occupying.
"Champagne Papi" Atlanta – S2E7 – Champagne Papi | Atlanta – S2E6 – Teddy Perkins | Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beets | Writer: Ibra Ake | Director: Amy Seimetz
Atlanta S2E6 Review Score
Atlanta – S2E7 – Champagne Papi | Atlanta – S2E6 – Teddy Perkins | Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beets | Writer: Ibra Ake | Director: Amy Seimetz