Atlanta and Afrosurrealism
The third season of Donald Glover’s long awaited Atlanta premiered on March 24, 2022. The crew–Darius, Earn, Al and Van–find themselves accompanying Al, also known as small-time rapper PaperBoy, on his European tour.
The season opens with an eerie and unsettling story by one fisherman to another on a pitch black lake by two fishermen in the dead of night. The story is about a young black boy that escapes two crazy ladies after being taken by social workers from his home.
The story explores ideas of whiteness as a social construct, and how it affects interracial social expectations and behaviors. Glover, the executive producer and primary writer, ties in hilarious vignettes that help keep the situation light as it falls into dire territory.
At the end of the first episode, we find that Earn–portrayed by Glover–dreamed the whole narrative. Waking up from his deep and ominous sleep, he scrambles to get from Prague to Amsterdam, where Van and Darius are attending the death of an unknown dutch man and Al is in prison.
Despite the northern setting of the third season, all of our characters hail from Atlanta. The typical city offers a rich and textured backdrop for the posse to find trouble in. The first two seasons are built on Earn learning how to manage Al’s music career, while trying to provide for him and Van’s infant daughter.
Earn finds himself in situations that feel strange and problematic, often falling into them rather than instigating them. The dry and offbeat comedy of the show comes from uncommon characters dealing with even stranger secondary characters and conflicts.
The term Afrosurrealism was first used by Amiri Baraka to describe the work of writer Henry Dumas. It is used to describe hypnagogic media made by African American artists. Often, afrosurreal media examines social and professional relationships between African Americans and white people.
Some great contemporary examples include Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a psychological thriller about body snatching white liberals, and Sorry to Bother You by Boots Riley, a hilarious movie that follows a telemarketer that finds his ‘white voice.’
Atlanta’s Afrosurrealism comes to play in the periphery most of the time. Instances include a hit-and-run committed by a basketball player in an invisible car and Justin Beiber being a black teenage soundcloud-esque rapper.
Afrosurrealism works to express the strange and unsettling feeling African Americans experience while living in a world built for white success. By using quietly ludacris plot devices and situational comedy, Glover is able to present the absurdity of black life in Atlanta and beyond.