Donald Glovers Atlanta: Dreams & Nightmares
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Atlanta ended a few weeks ago. This is my favourite show ever so this was a bittersweet moment for me. I’ve really been contemplating what the show was about. The finale left me more puzzled than ever. Atlanta is a show about dreams, and everything that word entails, from the American dream, to REM sleep, to simulation theory, to surrealism. It’s the only show I’ve seen that’s simultaneously about everything and nothing at all. It’s like Seinfeld, Louie, Chappelle's show, Greek Mythology, Dali & Disney all in one thing. It's horror, comedy, and so many other things. The show follows these characters in their extremely real yet dreamlike journey in trying to achieve their dreams through poverty.
There’s something deep, mysterious & ethereal about this show, and there always has been. Past the absurd surrealism of scenes like the invisible car, transracial Niles, Teddy Perkins egg and black Justin Bieber, the show has always had this uniquely mystical philosophical depth. The pilot had a man making a nutella sandwich on a bus telling Earn to bite a sandwich and that “Resistance is a symptom of the way things are. Not the way things necessarily should be. Actual victory belongs to people who simply do not accept failure. You’ve accepted your losses. That’s why you feel like you’ve failed.” In the pilot Darius thinks it's a De Ja vu, which makes the ending really seem like the whole series was Darius' dream.
This is the most culturally significant show of my generation. This will be looked back at like a Dream Team moment where some of the dopest artists linked up for a moment in the history of visual storytelling, and used it as a way to showcase a culture that has never been showcased in this way before. Each season was better than the last in terms of pure quality, regardless of which season you prefer, it’s undeniable that they stepped up their game and were more ambitious with each season.
From the writers, to the actors, the directors, & cinematographers, this show was next level from beginning to end, the quality of the show is objectively undeniable, while being relatable in a way I’ve yet to see another show be. No other show would play Kodak Blacks Skrrt as an intro, & have Nileseyy Niles, Jai Paul, Slawn & The Migos as actors. At the same time, the people who are making this product are masters at what they do & you can tell. The show is much smarter than you, the world is much bigger than you & it’s taking you through a journey.
In the end, Just like Biggie said, It was all a dream. Life, celebrity, entertainment, media, politics, society, and dreams, realities within realities, but if you break it all down to its very core, even down to reality itself, like Bostrom hypothesized in his simulation argument that Darius references, it’s all a simulation, Darius’ dream. Simulacra, concepts, ideas that we inhabit. It becomes difficult to tell the difference between dreams and reality, when reality itself is dreamlike.
Atlanta started off as a show about a couple of guys that wanted to make it in the music industry, and used that to tell one of the most all encompassing depictions of existence in the world.
The way talent, influence, race, crime, perception, interests, ambitions, & values converge in the world is surreal.
The show depicts the journey of this idea of winners & losers as achieved by social standing, fame, clout, money, stunting, flexing, houses, chains, cars, etc & how it intersects with our instinctual needs for survival, ultimately depicting what we are willing to do to survive & succeed.
The characters journey followed the ideas of culture, celebrity, influence, family, friendship, crime, industry, institutional racism, success, failure, society, wealth, poverty, fame, commerce, art, the human spirit, where they intersect and how they play out as seen through the journey of these 4 dynamic characters, Darius, Alfred, Van & Earn.
These are some of the most fleshed out characters I’ve seen on television since the writing on Bojack Horseman. Rewatching it lets you know how well the writers understood these characters. They knew them inside and out. There was an arch to the story, it was just buried beneath so many other things that you wouldn’t notice at times. Each episode was filled with dynamic, hilarious, profound and current commentary, while showing you a deeper layer about each of the characters & their story in their place in time.
As the show progressed it got more surreal, and much darker, but it was still following these characters in their journey. This show is about the quest for dreams, these concepts we want to attain, and what we are willing to do to get them, and the realities of what's going on in these characters' quest to secure their physiological needs, safety needs, love & belonging needs, esteem needs, and self actualizing needs, what it takes and how genuinely surreal it is to achieve the American Dream.
Donald Glover said he based his series on Kanye West albums and while rewatching it I could clearly see what he was talking about. Glover has always been an outspoken Kanye fan even referring to himself as “the son of Kanye'' It's clear that Kanye was a big influence on Glover and the creation of the show, but as I’ve gone back to rewatch the series after reading Glover refer to it as following Ye albums, it changed my entire perspective of what I was watching.
Season 1 is The College Dropout. Earn who is homeless in the beginning of the show represents the broke yet Intellectual, ambitious and motivated dropout willing to do anything to get on and prove people wrong, Paperboy is the materialistic drug dealing rapper like the Louis Vuitton Don signed to Rocafella records, and Darius is constantly wildly creative, he’s the inner child dreaming up the entire story, something like the dropout bear or the Soul.
Scenes like Earn trying to buy a kids meal but being rejected, or Earn going on a date and only having $100 are filled with the endearing and relatably self deprecating hood circumstances that made The College Dropout so lovable. But it’s also way bigger than that, and as the show progressed they really showed us how much bigger & deeper the world of Atlanta can get.
Season 4 might be my favourite season and that’s honestly saying something. Season 4 Episode 8 is one of my favourite things of anything that’s ever been made, it simultaneously ruined the Disney character Goofy for me & made him cooler. The show took unique risks by incorporating animation, which was wildly different from the tone of the rest of the season. Each episode this season had its own vibe and felt like it drew from a different source of inspiration. The pacing in season 4 was much slower, with long takes & incredible acting performances. Episodes like The Homelist Little Horse & Andrew Wyeth. Alfred's World. (despite having insane moments like Paperboy fighting