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Series / Atlanta

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Atlanta is a series created by and starring Donald Glover, set in the eponymous city of Atlanta, one of the top cities for young rappers looking to make a name for themselves in the business.

Among those up-and-comers is Alfred Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), a hot new artist going under the rap name Paper Boi, who is trying to understand the line between real life and street life.

He is managed by his cousin, Earnest "Earn" Marks (Glover), who gets caught up in the local rap scene and his cousin's career after returning home to Atlanta. Earn does whatever he can to try to get Alfred's career to the next level. Darius Epps (Lakeith Stanfield), the rapper's right-hand man and visionary, is also in Alfred's entourage.

When Earn isn't busy managing his cousin's career, he spends much of his time with ex-girlfriend Vanessa Keefer (Zazie Beetz), who is also the mother of his daughter.

While nominally a comedy, Atlanta might be best described as "Twin Peaks but set in the South" as it blends drama, Magical Realism and horror together into a mix as complex as the city it's set in. The series is very experimental, often having episodes with strange subplots or highly symbolic interactions contrasted with weird, quirky asides. The series is also filled with social commentary on racism, black culture, and the rap scene in general.

The fourth and final season concluded on November 10th, 2022.

Atlanta provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • Nothing ever comes of the Chekhov's Gun in the Season 2 finale.
    • Maybe the alternate Earn in Season 3. We see "our" Earn receiving his luggage at the end, but nothing happens with it in Season 4.
  • Actor Allusion: In "Teddy Perkins," Teddy takes a picture of Darius, who then says he doesn't like pictures too much.
  • Adam Westing:
    • In "Tarrare", Alexander Skarsgård plays a sex-crazed, unhinged version of himself who displays cannibalistic tendencies.
    • In "Trini 2 De Bone", Chet Hanks plays a former client of Sylvia's who speaks in a fake Trinidadian accent. In real life, Chet Hanks is known for his attempts at a Jamaican Patois accent.
  • All Just a Dream: The final episode's title. In the end, Darius implies that the entire series is him dreaming about everyone.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Zan, the internet personality trolling Paper Boi. Lampshading this becomes a Running Gag in the episode "The Streisand Effect"; every time he's mentioned, characters ask something along the lines of "Isn't he Dominican?", "Is he Asian?", or (after he casually uses the N-word) "Are you even black?"
  • Ambiguous Situation: The finale deliberately does not answer the question of whether or not the show really is a dream Darius is having while doing a sensory deprivation session. Having mentioned earlier that the way he anchors himself and determines if he's in the middle of a dream is to watch Judge Judy on TV and determine if she is "thick," Darius, hanging out with Van, Al and Earn, turns on the TV and watches an episode of Judge Judy. The camera then cuts to a close-up of Darius, reacting to something the viewer can't see, and then the show cuts to credits.
  • Amicable Exes: Van and Earn, to the point where they are barely exes, such as in "Helen" when Earn accompanies Van as her lowkey date.
  • Artifact Title: Season 3 shows Alfred's European tour, so only the non-cast episodes are even set in the U.S.
  • As Himself: Liam Neeson in "New Jazz", and Alexander Skarsgård in "Tarrare".
  • Bald Head of Toughness: Discussed in the second episode of Season 3 by Darius when a young, prematurely-balding guy he meets at a party asks him if he should just shave it all off.
Darius: I dunno, I feel like that's more easily pulled off by white men that are assumed to be dangerous, right. Like Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, The Rock... Same reason why Black dudes can do it as well..."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In Season 3, Earn is finally a skilled manager for Alfred, making tons of money and able to navigate the music scene. He's also burning out from the workload and finding Europe is just as bizarre and potentially dangerous as Atlanta.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Downplayed. The episode "The Woods" is all about Alfred's stubborn refusal to give into the rapper persona and preference to "keep it real." His refusal to do so leads to him striking out on his own, nearly getting killed, and going through an intense odyssey of questionable veracity wherein Al becomes just a little bit closer to accepting the trappings that his fame is bringing him, in conjunction with letting go of the past he's been holding onto. After all this, Alfred runs into a fan of his music, and he decides — rather than push him away or react with annoyance — to take a picture with his fan.
    • Both Darius and the viewers are led to believe this is the case with Teddy, wherein either he or Benny were created personalities of an insane person. Ultimately, it's subverted, though it's debatable which would've creepier.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Van lampshades her Pun in "Tarrare" when she inflicts pain on a man with pain.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "The Big Payback." Marshall has made his peace with the reparations tax, found a good serving job at an upscale restaurant, and is working extra hard to pay his debt off early. However, for society at large it's implied a new age of slavery has begun, and seeing that all of Marshall's fellow servers are people of color, it seems nothing has improved for anyone but African-Americans, meaning eventually resentment and rebellion will start up again.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Crossed with Bigger on the Inside. In "The Old Man And The Tree", Fernando's mansion is somehow located inside a modest London block house. While the house could just serve as a hidden entrance, it doesn't explain how the mansion has multiple levels, many rooms including a full service restaurant, a swimming pool, and a wide central courtyard open to the outside, yet still isn't visible from the street.
  • Blackface:
    • In "Sinterklaas Is Coming To Town," Paper Boi cancels a concert in Amsterdam when he sees the entire audience with their faces painted black. They're all dressed as Zwarte Piet, a Christmas character with chimney soot on his face, but the explanation doesn't piss him off less.
    • Inverted by a creepy African-American student named Tobias at Van's school. He comes to class wearing white face-paint, just trying to get a reaction. It definitely works.
  • Bottle Episode:
    • Among other things, "Teddy Perkins" fits this bill as well. Aside from the opening, the episode is mainly set in one mansion, with the only characters being Darius, Teddy, and Benny, with Earn having a speaking role and Alfred only appearing for a few seconds.
    • "Cancer Attack" is set entirely in the backstage area of a venue that Alfred plays at in Budapest with the exception of the final scene, which happens in the parking lot.
  • Breather Episode: "Champagne Papi" is a much, much, much needed one after "Teddy Perkins."
  • Brick Joke: In "The Club," Darius tells Paper Boi that Marcus Miles acquired an invisible car, and even shows pics of Marcus posing with it (which naturally show him posing next to nothing). Alfred sensibly calls it bullshit. During a parking lot shooting at the end, Marcus Miles is seen driving away in an invisible car, even accidentally hitting several people.
  • The Bus Came Back: Tracy reappears in "The Homeliest Little Horse" as a personal assistant for "Gordon Rosenbaum, literary agent for the Eastern Seaboard" which is probably the most obvious early clue that something is off.
  • But Not Too Black: What it means to be black and black enough is discussed continuously throughout the show. It's also the focus of "Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga", where a light-skinned black guy has to try and pass as black having apparently spent his whole life passing for white.
  • Call-Back: The investment that Darius sets up in the Season 1 episode "The Streisand Effect" is paid back the following season in "Sportin' Waves."
  • Calvin Ball: One of the traditional Oktoberfest games Earn and Van play in "Helen" is something called "Hootz-Kutz", which involves people sitting in a circle and passing ping-pong balls around and tossing them at a cup in the circle. No one ever explains to Earn when or why you're supposed to pass or shoot and he amazes the crowd by just leaning forward and dropping the balls in the cup (apparently something no one has ever thought of).
  • Caustic Critic: Paper Boi's music gets a harsh negative review from a caustic YouTuber, prompting him to unwisely fire back at him.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The rich white man mentioned under Foreign Culture Fetish has an album collection that includes Childish Gambino’s own album Awaken, My Love!
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The second season of the show, while maintaining semblances of a wackier tone, is notably darker and more intense than the first. It only gets worse (or better) with the inclusion of not just one, but two exceptionally dark Mind Screw episodes separated by a Breather Episode, then immediately followed up by a similarly intense Origins Episode about the pro- and deuteragonist.
  • Chain of Deals: Darius convinces Earn to pawn his phone for a samurai sword instead of cash, insisting he can get a better return for it. He then leads him on a wild goose chase bartering the sword for other things, finally delivering a dog to a farm. That's when Darius reveals the recipient is a dog breeder and they won't get their return until the puppies are born in several months.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The first is during the episode "North of the Border", wherein there are many, many antique flintlocks in the white frat house hanging upon the wall. Later, as the crew are driving back, Tracy's aiming a (unusable) gun he got as a souvenir at Earn is what pushes Earn over the edge to challenge him to a fight.
    • The second is the gold pistol that Earn's uncle gives to him in the second season premiere. Earn still has it before he and Alfred are preparing to board their plane with Clark County.
    • Invoked in "Tarrare,” in which Van, pretending to be a twisted Film/Amélie-type, carries around a baguette with her all day, only to use it to visciously beat a man in the middle of a museum (in front of his partner, no less.) It’s even lampshaded by Xosha and Shanice.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In "The Big Payback", a (white) man named Earnest appears in the lobby, looking disheveled due to having lost his luggage, and gives a speech to the protagonist about racial privilege before shooting himself. The same actor (Tobias Segal) had appeared in "Three Slaps" to give a similarly themed speech during the initial dream sequence, though he wasn't explicitly named. And then, in the final scene of the season, a piece of luggage is delivered to (Donald Glover's) Earnest with his name on it, even though he isn't missing any bags. Inside is a picture of a depressed-looking (other) Earnest with his wife and two kids. As is typical for this show, what exactly this means isn't expanded on; were the events of the "anthology" episodes really happening while the guys were in Europe, or is this other Earnest another manifestation of our Earnest's inner struggles?
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Darius, who can't seem to go a full scene without asking strange non-sequiturs or delving into a philosophy discussion. He names his gun "Daddy," believes in a conspiracy between the state of Florida and the sinister being called Florida Man, and tells Earn that he switches cell phones often to "keep them from tracking me." Even when his misadventure with Teddy Perkins ends with him witnessing a murder/suicide, Darius is mostly concerned about losing out on obtaining a piano with colored keys.
    • Also, in the third season, Van. In "The Old Man and the Tree", her behavior, which includes randomly pushing party guests into the pool, doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. She then vanishes and we next hear about her in "Tarrare", where she's apparently been living a bizarre life of dealing drugs, fetish work for Alexander Skarsgard, and even cannibalism, in Paris. She snaps out of it when Candice invokes her daughter.
  • Cool Car: NBA star Marcus Miles has an invisible car. Paper Boi is skeptical, as it's shown with Marcus showing off pictures & selfies standing around with nothing. At the end of the episode, there is a shootout at the club, and Marcus drives off, running several people over with the only thing you can see being him driving. This also averts Visible Invisibility.
  • Cringe Comedy: Among other things, Loquareeous being forced to nae-nae by his family for acting up while a concerned white woman who doesn't understand Southern discipline tries to intervene.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Happens three (or technically four) times with Earn in Season 2.
    • Earn decides to challenge Michael Vick, ex-NFL player and codifier of the running quarterback style of play, to a footrace. We don't see the race, but it goes predictably bad for him.
      Van: "It's Michael Vick."
    • In "Helen," Earn and Vanessa enjoy a game of ping-pong while at Oktoberfest upon which Earn's (potential refusal of) participation in the festivities rides. Van beats him mercilessly. Now forced to participate in the festival, Earn expresses his intense apathy at something Van cares about, which leads to a second curb stomp ping pong battle where the stakes are the pair's relationship.
    • After the craziness of "North Of The Border," Earn challenges Tracy to a fight in a blind rage. Tracy, being an ex-con and having a good 6 inches on him, kicks the crap out of him.
  • Daddy Issues: Oh, Teddy Perkins has 'em. He's planning a whole museum to ambitious fathers, in tribute to his own father who abused him when his piano wasn't good enough.
  • Day in the Limelight:
    • "Value" is focused solely on Van, with Earn and Paper Boi making small appearances.
    • "Barbershop," which is entirely about Paper Boi, with no appearances from any other lead.
    • "Teddy Perkins" is focused on Darius, with Earn and Alfred having minor appearances.
    • "Champagne Papi" is another Van-focused episode, with Darius appearing near the end of the episode.
    • "Woods" is another Paper Boi-focused episode, with Darius having a minor appearance in the beginning and Earn appearing off-screen in a phone call to Paper Boi.
    • "The Homeliest Little Horse" focuses on Earn. and also his terrifying revenge against a racist who wronged him in the past.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Zigzagged all over the place. The show starts by showing Earn's struggles to provide for his daughter and prove his worth as a manager for Paper Boi. But as Paper Boi's career rises, he often becomes the focal point of episodes, while Darius and Van each receive A Day in the Limelight frequently. Then Season 3's format becomes a partial anthology featuring none of the main characters at all. In the finale, it's strongly implied that the protagonist has always been Darius.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Al and Earn are shocked in the Netherlands when they encounter people in blackface as part of the real-life Zwarte Piet folklore.
  • Denser and Wackier: While the pilot is the most grounded, the series has been, with each passing episode, increasingly unusual.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The secondary plot of "The Homeliest Little Horse" revolves around Lisa Mahn, an aspiring writer who quits her job and hires illustrators and publicists after being told that an elite literary agent wants to sell her story as "the next Harry Potter" unaware that the entire thing is an elaborate prank orchestrated by Earn, who is upset at her for ruining his vacation by profiling him and Van at the airport. While there are parallels to real events, the time spent on humanizing Lisa throughout the episode doesn't exactly set her up as the kind of person that deserves to have her life ruined.
  • The Dog Bites Back: You might notice how many tropes on this page are about Teddy Perkins. None mention his brother, Benny Hope. That's because Teddy has kept Benny in their mansion's basement while likely subjecting him to physical and psychological torture. The second Benny gets a chance he blows Teddy away with a shotgun before turning it on himself.
  • Dream Intro: "The Woods," though it's a bit hard to spot. In it, Alfred's mom is speaking to a sleeping Al in the background. However, earlier in the series it was already established that she died.
    • "Three Slaps" starts with two men night-fishing on a Georgia lake and discussing a Black town beneath them that was flooded by the government, and are then attacked by the ghosts of the drowned townsfolk; it turns out to be a dream Loquarious is having in class.
  • Dream Episode:
    • It's heavily implied that "Three Slaps" is All Just a Dream of Earl, as the episode ends with him waking up and commenting that he had a weird dream. There are more "anthology"-style episodes later in the season, but they lack the "dream" reveal at the end.
    • "It Was All A Dream" has at least one dream of Darius's, and more might be sprinkled throughout, with it left ambiguous if the whole series was one or not.
  • Driven to Suicide: Benny Hope blows his own head off with a shotgun right in front of Darius. Considering the horrors he's probably experienced, it was likely a relief.
    • Devin commits suicide offscreen after going through an entire day of being mocked for his supposedly inauthentic FUBU clothing. His tormenters and classmates were unaware he was going through a difficult family situation, with his parents divorcing...not like it would have mattered.
    • (Dream) Earnest shoots himself by a swimming pool after being hit by reparations lawsuits. A nearby hotel employee comments that "there's plenty more where that came from".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Actually inverted. Season 1 is much more grounded in a lot of ways, with episodes that are very realistic and have no magical elements at all. Episodes like 'Value', where Van goes to dinner with an old friend, seem more off-kilter than the wacky hijinks they get up to later in Season 2.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: When Earn and Van visits one of her old school friends in a Juneteenth-themed party, they meet the woman's husband, a rich white man who loves and praises African-American culture. Even all of the couple's friends are prominent and rich black people.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Maybe to the point of being a formula-breaking season. While Season 2 tended to be Denser and Wackier, Season 3 devotes an entire three episodes - "Three Slaps" (heavily implied to be a Dream Episode), "The Big Payback", and "Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga" - to entirely separate speculative stories with none of the main or recurring cast in attendance.
  • Filler: The critiques of Season 3 have suggested that this is one interpretation of the non-main cast episodes of Season 3.
  • Freudian Trio: Darius is the superego (grounded, passive, more than a little odd), Alfred is the id (but more from necessity in his role as a increasingly famous rapper), and Earn mediates between them as the ego.
  • Genre Roulette: Although every episode is still comedic, they switch from dramedy to Magic Realism to outright satire ("B.A.N."), sometimes within a single episode.
  • Handcuffed Briefcase: Darius takes one to a drug deal... and forgets to bring the key to the handcuffs. The drug dealers decide they're going to get their money anyway... by opening the briefcase and putting the money in another bag. That was easy.
  • Hide Your Children: In Season 3, Van and Earn's daughter, Lottie, is apparently staying with Van's parents.
  • High-Class Cannibal: "Terrare" reveals that Van is involved in a particularly extreme version of French Cuisine Is Haughty, running hands backwards and forwards for an extremely fancy private chef who works for Alexander Skarsgård.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Antoine Smalls, a Black teenager who identified himself as a white man named Harrison Booth and wants people to accept his white trans-racial identity, does not accept transgender people and same-sex marriage.
  • Informed Ability: The central storyline revolves around Alfred/Paper Boi's career as a rapper, but, since Bryan Tyree Henry (probably) isn't actually a proficient rapper, he doesn't do anything resembling rap on screen. In fact, numerous episodes revolve around Paper Boi being about to perform, then something goes wrong resulting in the performance/recording session not happening. The one song we do hear has vocals by Stephen Glover, Donald Glover's brother and a writer on the show.
    • Paper Boi actually does step on stage in "Cancer Attack", but the camera cuts away to Earn before he starts singing.
  • Innocently Insensitive: MK offhandedly tells Darius that a lot of Black men hit on her while she lived in Los Angeles. He doesn't take offense from it. Unfortunately for her, everybody else at the party does.
  • Intimidating White Presence: In general, much of their scary intimidating white people presences are of the "well-meaning liberal" type, such as when Van's friend is shown to be married to a white man who fetishizes Black people, and when a gang of white people turn on an Asian woman at a party in an angry mob after she tells Darius than a lot of Black men are attracted to her (which doesn't bother him at all). However, the two clearest examples of them all are the wives from "Three Slaps", who are white women with eight adopted black children that they abuse, starve, and work like slaves before trying to kill them in a car accident (and are assisted by an also white, well-meaning, liberal school system), and Teddy Perkins, who is in eerie whiteface who holds Darius at gunpoint, nearly kills him, and abused his brother. Also invoked by a student in Van's class who paints his face white and defies Van.
    Loquareeous's mom: If you don't start using your common sense and acting right, these white people, they gonna kill you. Kill. You.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • "Champagne Papi" is a Breather Episode after "Teddy Perkins", though both feature a single character going on an odyssey to the big house of a famous person.
    • "Trini 2 De Bone" lacks the subtle horror and dreamlike atmosphere of the previous "anthology" episodes, being a bittersweet look at an upper-class white family dealing with a raucous funeral for their nanny from Trinidad.
  • Literal Metaphor: "Put your foot in it" is a black Southern expression that means "do something well," usually cooking. When Darius says it, however, he means it literally, and proceeds to put his actual foot in his pasta while making it.
  • Magical Negro: Atlanta is an odd show for this trope to appear. Indeed, Ahmed White (the stranger on the bus) turns out to be some sort of subversion, parody, or both.
  • Magic Realism: Given how Atlanta is sold as "Twin Peaks with rappers," this is fitting. While the invisible car is a very blatant example, we get other examples of strangeness (black Justin Bieber.) A driving point of the show is how surreal Earn's life in Atlanta can be. The most benign example is how many times he's mistaken for other men by well-intentioned white people.
  • Meaningful Name: Earnest "Earn" Marks. A mark is a form of currency, and Earn is doing his best to ensure he and Alfred get rich.
  • Menacing Museum: Teddy Perkins wishes to turn his creepy old house into a museum, complete with gift shop. He has an eerie room dedicated to "great fathers", including a model of his own abusive father (unless you subscribe to the theory that "Teddy" is the father), whose face is blank.
  • Mercy Kill: In "Sinterklaas is Coming to Town", Van and Darius stumble into someone getting seemingly euthanized, and the person may or may not be Tupac Shakur.
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: A whole episode is based around this "The Goof Who Sat By the Door", an Alternate History in which a young and upcoming black animator named Thomas Washington is accidentally made the head of the Walt Disney Company due to a clerical error. Washington, having met the creator of Goofy in college, interpreted the character's roots in Minstrel Shows as giving black people a place at the table in animation history and nearly drives the studio into bankruptcy trying to make A Goofy Movie "the blackest movie ever made".
  • Mockumentary: "The Goof Who Sat By The Door" is presented as a B.A.N documentary, an Alternate History story of Thomas Washington, a Black animator who is (accidentally) named CEO of Disney following the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Washington's family and former colleagues detail his career and eventual descent into madness.
  • Mood Whiplash: In the episode "Streets on Lock," everyone (expect for Earn) has a good laugh at an insane perp in the holding station for drinking toilet water out of a cup. However, it gets dark very abruptly when he spits water at a cop and gets beaten and restrained as a result.
  • Never Found the Body: The end of "The Goof Who Sat By The Door" states that Thomas Washington's corpse was never recovered after his apparent suicide by driving into a lake. Only the car was found (and some pieces of the Goofy costume he was apparently wearing).
  • Never Trust a Title: Atlanta is an accurate title for the first two seasons, but the third season is (almost) entirely set in Europe, with Van, Earn, Paperboi, and Darius all on tour.
  • New Season, New Name: The show's second outing gets the subtitle "robbin' season".
  • Nice to the Waiter: Earn quickly befriends the janitor, Prince, at a radio station when he wants to gain access without his friend who works there realizing.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
  • No Ending: As befitting such an idiosyncratic series. The series finale features no big send-offs or events, and simply depicts a standard misadventure for Earn, Alfred, Van and Darius involving a sushi restaurant and sensory deprivation tanks (It Makes Sense in Context, kind of). Eventually they all eat dinner together, go out to the porch for a smoke and enjoying each other's company, and that's it. It is implied that some or all of the series is a hallucination of Darius...but that even isn't that off-brand for this show.
  • Noodle Incident: While Uncle Willie chastises Earn for his fear of being cut off from Alfred, Willie mentions how some of his family members were in a similar situation in the music business. No other specific details are brought up apart from how it ultimately left the relationship of those two in shambles.
    Willie: Now they don't even talk no more, 'cuz you find out family is business.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-Universe example. After Paper Boi's arrest in the first episode "Big Bang," he gets a large following of fans who consider him a real gangster. Also appears to be deconstructed somewhat in the following episode "Streets on Lock," since Paper Boi seems to grow increasingly uncomfortable when part of the recognition of his music is also tied to his arrest.
    • Another example in Season 2. When a white suburban mom makes a video denouncing Paper Boi for explicit lyrics, drug references, and praising Colin Kaepernick, his single goes Gold.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • In the first episode, Earn seeks out an old white friend that he wants a favor from and has to force a grin as his "friend" unabashedly uses the n-word as he tells a story. After they separate, Earn asks the black janitor who works at the building if he normally speaks like that, and the janitor says that he never does, especially not around him. Later, Earn pushes his friend into repeating the same story, this time with Alfred and Darius with him, and stares stone-faced as his friend awkwardly self-censors himself.
    • Alfred explicitly asks Zan "Are you even Black?" when Zan casually uses the word. Zan says that yes, he is.
  • Oh, Crap!: In Season 2, Van and Earn go to a German festival where, she warns him, people sometimes show up in blackface. When they arrive, a woman goes up to Earn, gushing about how great he looks. She then goes to rub his face... and realizes he isn't wearing makeup. There is an uncomfortable silence before she quietly apologizes and walks away.
  • One-Song Bard: The only song we hear a substantial amount of is Alfred's initial hit, "Paper Boi". Other song titles are referenced, or instrumentals may be played, but there haven't been any other full songs by Paper Boi.
  • Only in Florida: Darius speaks of "Florida Man" as if he's an actual, otherworldly being of weirdness.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Earn becomes extremely concerned when Van joins them in Europe and begins acting against her usual self, including stealing a small statue from Fernando's mansion and pushing people into a pool as a prank.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Kirkwood Chocolate is the undisputed ruler of the Chocolateland studio, but spends most of his time giving strange, contradictory stage directions to his crews, resulting in various headaches while they try to patch them into the stories.
  • Police Brutality: In the Season 1 finale, Earn, Alfred and Darius go to their Uber driver's house to get Earn's jacket back, only to find that said Uber driver is wanted by the police. The police then shoot him to death when he runs out of his house (wearing Earn's jacket).
  • Purgatory and Limbo: Atlantic Station is implied to be some form of Purgatory. When Earn and Van go shopping there, they find themselves repeatedly (and constantly) running into their respective exes; when Earn quizzes an ex-girlfriend on how she got there, she doesn't remember and is implied to have been there for several years. She manages to escape by following Van and Earn through a darkened emergency exit.
  • Race Lift:
    • Justin Bieber, a white pop star in real life, is black in the Atlanta universe. No clue if he’s still Canadian, though.
    • Drake is apparently Mexican in the Atlanta universe. And in contrast to Bieber's depiction, the show uses Drake's real-life likeness.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Earn is being mocked by Uncle Willie for being scared of Al cutting him off and leaving him without any support, Earn fires back with what is implied to be years' worth of frustration with Willie.
    Earn: What I'm scared of is being you. You know, someone everybody knew was smart, but ended up being a know-it-all fuck-up jay that just let shit happen to him.
  • Recurring Camera Shot: Both "Trini 2 De Bone" and "Tarrare" end on a closeup of a (mysterious and of unknown origin) family photo.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • The first episode of Season 3 is very clearly based off of the case of the Hart Family, as it depicts two white women neglecting and abusing their adopted children of color while putting on a veneer of progressive happiness to the rest of the world. However, unlike the tragic and disturbing story it's based on, the children are able to escape at the end of the episode.
    • The sketch about a "trans-racial" Black man who identifies as white was inspired by the controversy surrounding Rachael Dolezal, a white woman who claimed to be half-Black and stated that she was similarly trans-racial when her parents publicly revealed her actual heritage. The fact that the trans-racial man in the sketch is openly transphobic also alludes to the amount of transphobic jokes that surrounded Dolezal in light of the controversy erupting concurrently with the trans rights movement entering the mainstream.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Inverted. Earn is friends with a DJ at a radio station and wants him to play Paper Boi's song, but the friend tries to claim that all decisions go through the station manager and he charges $500 to listen to a song. Realizing that his friend is just going to keep the money for himself—and maybe won't even pass the song along at all—Earn befriends the janitor at the radio station and gets him to let him into the building through the back door. Once inside, Earn just slides the CD under the station manager's office door and it winds up on the radio later that night.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Darius' reaction in White Fashion, when a PR manager he met in London buys out a Nigerian restaurant he loves and utterly bastardizes the food.
    Darius: No, no. Not doing that. [Gets up, throws his food in the trash, and walks off.]
  • Sell-Out: Clark County is implied to be this, doing Yoohoo! commercials and singing about drinking and smoking all the while being sober, which earns him mainstream appeal; compared to Paper Boi, who has a lesser mainstream appeal due to him not conforming to the same standards as Clark. At one point, Darius and Earn both agree that he is an industry plantnote  during a conversation in the episode "North of the Border."
    Darius: You know that Clark County dude?
    Earn: Yeah?
    Darius: [He's an] industry plant.
    Earn: Yes! I've been saying that!
    Darius: I mean, it's obvious.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The janitor that Earn befriends in the first episode is named "Prince," and Earn has to ask if he is serious when first told.
    • Dragon Ball gets name-dropped a few times throughout the series: in "B.A.N.", Alfred jokes that a trans-racial man’s hair looks like a "Super Saiyan" cut, and gets the joke thrown back at him in "Barbershop" when he can’t get his own haircut finished. A later episode has the younger versions of Al and Earn directly reference the anime, and discuss a particular character's notoriously unfortunate design, without mentioning the character by name.note 
    • According to director Hiro Murai, Darius' outfit from the "Teddy Perkins" episode was based on the clothes worn by James Caan in Misery.
    • In the episode "Sportin' Waves," we come into the middle of a conversation where Tracy is talking to Earn about a certain animated show:
      Tracy: I mean don't get me wrong, it's a funny show but... the way they dive into depression and especially after what he did to her daughter, like, can I even feel bad for this horse anymore?
    • In "Three Slaps," the foster mothers tell Loquarious to sing a song while forcing him to work in their garden. When he responds by delivering a slick rap, they demand something more folksy and start singing an example. Unfortunately, Loquarious doesn't hit them over the head with a shovel after.
    • "The Big Payback," a story about an American underclass rising up against the people above them, ends with the song "Les Fleurs" by Minnie Riperton.
    • There's also semi frequent references to "the new Black Panther movie by various characters. Given how much these are spread out and how they word it, it's actually suggested that Marvel Studios has made multiple sequels to Black Panther in rapid succession between 2018 and 2022, in contrast with reality, where its first direct sequel was released in 2022, amusingly premiering a day after the finale of Atlanta.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: Played for laughs when a white girl covers Paper Boi's song by singing it on acoustic guitar. Al is appalled.
    Darius: It's an acoustic rap cover. White girls love that shit.
  • Stepford Smiler: The Ahmed White advertisement in "B.A.N." implies that Ahmed's clients are either this or just Bad "Bad Acting".
  • Success as Revenge: After leaving Princeton (for what's revealed to be a very minor misdemeanor that gets escalated out of all control or proportion), Earn says that he was motivated to come back to Atlanta and make a success of his life to show them he didn't need them. He does ultimately earn a lot of success, but the implication gets deconstructed in "The Homeliest Little Horse". Earn discusses at therapy that, while all the success has given him a lot of material benefits, he's never really faced his past so his success doesn't mean as much. He eventually comes around to it, though.
  • Surreal Horror:
    • Pretty much the entirety of "Teddy Perkins," which is essentially just the story of Darius being held captive by a psychotic Michael Jackson Expy.
    • "Helen": Van briefly encounters a mythical German monster in an alleyway... or maybe it was just a costume...
  • Take That!: "Work Ethic!" is an episode-long burn of the works of Tyler Perry, featuring a bizarre Perry Expy named Mr. Kirkwood Chocolate who rules over a studio churning out inane Black-aimed shows and films and forming a cult of personality around himself. When Van confronts Mr. Chocolate, she accuses him of being "a con man who makes unrelatable shit, while taking advantage of people he's pretending to help."
  • Time Skip: The third season is subtly revealed to be set a couple years after the previous finale. Paper Boi is on a different European tour as the headliner, rather than opening for Clark County. Earn has improved as a manager but appears to be approaching burnout from the workload, and Van has moved on and started a new relationship.
  • True Art Is Angsty:
    • In-universe, a central theme in "Teddy Perkins," as the reason Teddy intends to kill Darius is because he likes Darius, and the tragedy will drive Teddy to create great music. Darius, understandably, disagrees.
    • Thomas Washington, short-lived Disney CEO, apparently believed the same thing. His original plan for A Goofy Movie was to show a dark story of a Black single father traveling in America with his son, which would end with them finding Black activist Huey P. Newton's wicker throne in a thrift store before Goofy is gunned down by a white police officer during a traffic stop. The finished (real) film was "corrupted" by studio interference, resulting in Washington's suicide.
  • Uncanny Valley: Again, Teddy Perkins, thanks to being played by Glover himself under a bout twenty pounds of prosthetic whiteface makeup. According to director Hiro Murai, the production team deliberately went for a very smooth, unnatural look with Teddy's face in order to make him seem even creepier.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: In-universe. In "Streets On Lock," a young man being processed into jail with Earn doesn't really get why his ex-girlfriend is being sent to the men's section with them. When the other inmates point out she's genetically male, he does NOT take it well.
  • Wham Shot:
    • In the finale of "robbin’ season", when mere INCHES away from an airport security checkpoint, Earn discovers he never took his uncle's gold-plated pistol out of his backpack.
    • For the more scrutinizing viewer, what comes after when we see Clark County on the plane with Earn and his crew counts as well, considering the only place Earn could've stashed the gun was in Clark's bag. Moments later, we discover that Clark sold out his own man by putting the gun in his bag.
    • The final scene of Season 3 has Earn receiving White Earn's luggage by mistake, implying that the previously unconnected universes of the other episodes are actually connected in some way, or that characters can cross over between them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Season 3 begins on a different European tour than the one Alfred joined Clark County on; Clark himself has vanished without explanation (along with Tracy, who missed the previous tour but still hasn't shown up again). Tracy finally makes his reappearance in Season 4, helping Earn with his Disproportionate Retribution against Lisa Mahn.
    • Despite apparently joining Paper Boi's entourage, Socks vanishes from the story after "Cancer Attack," and we never learn if he ever admitted he stole Alfred's cellphone.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Both Al and Darius appear to believe that Earn's takedown of Lisa Mahn (hiring actors to gaslight her into believing her terrible children's story was the next Harry Potter, effectively ruining the life of an already struggling person, then holding a "wrap party" complete with footage) was a little excessive. Earn is left realizing he needs more therapy.
  • Where da White Women At?: Spoofed at the end of "Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga." Months after his white girlfriend breaks up with him for college, Aaron works in an electronics store and is playing up his Black persona. When he runs into his ex, he smoothly says he finds himself more attracted to her now, and she giggles in response.
  • White Like Me: Played to both hilarious and bizarrely unsettling effect with Tobias Walner, who disrupts his class by coming into school wearing "whiteface" (as in, ghostly clown-white foundation) and a secretive little smile that almost dares his teachers to try to make sense of it.
  • White Savior: Deconstructed with Amber and Gayle, the lesbian foster parents in "Three Slaps." Outwardly they're two loving hippies who adopt underprivileged black children out of kindess; a picture of their newest adoptee hugging a white cop paints them as wonderful parents. The harsh truth is they keep the kids living in squalor, change their names, and use them as cheap farming labor while giving them unhealthy food. It's heavily implied that they murder a social worker who comes for a welfare check.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "FUBU" flashes back to when Earn and Al were in middle/high school in The '90s.
  • World of Weirdness: A common structure is that the characters will do something that should be relatively normal (go to a party, go pick up a piano) and things will go From Bad to Worse.

“Maybe it’s just my dream, and you were just in it. Always have been.”



How well does it match the trope?

4.71 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhereDaWhiteWomenAt

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