As a Black Teen Girl, Here’s Why FX’s ‘Atlanta’ Bothers Me

  |  Topic: Entertainment, Identity, Opinion, Race/Ethnicity, TV
By Nicole O. Johnson

We all enjoy watching “Atlanta” on FX, the wacky dark comedy television series about black peoples’ adventures in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Episodes include zany scenarios, such a man with a pet alligator, Justin Bieber being an African-American, and my personal favorite, an invisible car. Created by Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, the show has received high praise from critics and has gained a large fan base that consists of people who live in and outside of the city the show is named after.

The plot, writing, directing, and acting for the series is great overall. But, there is one aspect about the show that has been bothering me since its debut in the Fall of 2016 — the negative portrayal of black women, specifically those of darker skin.

Throughout the series, black women are stereotyped to the point where it makes me want to roll my eyes into another dimension. They are shown to be ditzy, annoying, loud, disrespectful, and attention seeking. The actresses do a great job with the material they are given, but I can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable laughing at the jokes.

In the episode “Woods,” there is a character named Sierra, a former stripper who does anything to get attention on Instagram and judges rapper Alfred “Paperboi” Miles about his lack of care for social media. The episode “FUBU,” includes a young girl by the name of Erica, who will only talk to Donald Glover’s Earn character if he has money.

The only black woman on this show that is somewhat portrayed as an actual human being, is Van, who’s biracial and light-skinned, played by Zazie Beetz, and that isn’t saying much. Her relationship with Earn, her on-and-off again boyfriend, is quite disturbing because of how poorly he treats her. He takes her along to places that she doesn’t care for, such as a strip club, but she doesn’t complain. In the “Juneteenth” episode from Season One, he’s very disrespectful to her as she celebrates her family heritage, because he finds it weird. He even wakes up in bed with another woman, but Van doesn’t do anything about it. Van admits to him she wants their relationship to be better, but he doesn’t care to hear it. This enforces another stereotype that black women have been tainted with — having a child with and putting up with men who are no good for them.

I’m not surprised at all to find how few black women are involved in the making of the series, because it shows. The series includes a diverse group of writers, but only includes one black woman, Stefani Robinson. The infamous “Champagne Papi” episode where a dark skin black woman stalks a celebrity and his white girlfriend, and a black woman faking an invitation from Drake in order to get into his party, was directed by a white woman, Amy Seimetz, who is known for her roles on “Stranger Things,” “The Girlfriend Experience,” and “The Killing.”

This is why it is important to have black women create fictional black women, so they can be portrayed correctly. In her YA novel, “The Hate U Give” (soon to be a movie), Angie Thomas does an amazing job of portraying the different types of black women, not just the ongoing stereotype. The Netflix series, “Dear White People,” features a variation of black women at an Ivy League college, and how differently they adapt to the college lifestyle. The two sisters on The CW’s “Black Lightning,” are being raised in a crime-plagued, drug-riddled city, but are the complete opposite of the hood rat stereotype. On my personal favorite, “Lethal Weapon,” the teenage daughter is portrayed as an actual girl, having a wide range of emotions, besides being angry all the time.

I wish “Atlanta” would do the same.

I ignored it mostly throughout Season One, but there has been no change in the current season (the Second Season finale airs tonight at 10 on FX). I do consider myself a fan of the series, but I might have to let go of it sooner or later if the portrayal of black women doesn’t change in the future of the show’s run.


NicoleNicole O. Johnson, 19, attends Clayton State University and thinks Hollywood needs to do better.

VOX Teens Review The Much-Anticipated 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'
VOXCAST S3 E3: Is Netflix Series 'On My Block' Worth the Hype?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.