Donald Glover on criticisms Atlanta isn't for Black people: 'It's just kind of whack to me'
For many Black creatives, criticisms from within the Black community are often the hardest to take. While Donald Glover has won praise and awards for his genre-defying FX show Atlanta, he's not immune to accusations that it's "only for white people."
"I do a lot of this s--- for the people," Glover said during a Television Critics Association panel on Tuesday. "So if you're sitting there being like, 'Oh, this is misogynoir,' I'm wondering why you think that and why you think I feel that way when I'm nothing without my people. It's just kind of whack to me. Some of that to me is just internet people trying to get hot, which is also something we learned in the system we're in.
"I feel like a lot of the Black criticism bothers me only because it sounds like [it's from] Black people who don't really know what we've been through," Glover added. "I don't think they give a lot of credit to what we've gone through."
Loosely following the exploits of Ivy League dropout Earn (Glover), his cousin and rapidly rising rapper Paper Boi (Bryan Tyree Henry), general weirdo Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Van (Zazie Beetz), Atlanta's surreal, at times avant-garde, unconventional approach to storytelling has made it a favorite among critics. But it's not necessarily what Black audiences are used to in shows about their lives. Which is kind of the point as Black people and the Black experience is not a monolith.
We've finally gotten to a point in television where there are myriad Black voices and Black storytellers — after decades where that wasn't the case — and therefore myriad Black stories to tell. Atlanta premiered in 2016, at the nascent stages of a Black TV renaissance, which included shows like the more traditional network family sitcom Black-ish (which premiered in 2014) but also Issa Rae's Insecure. The latter also premiered in 2016, but had a very different approach to depicting Black life than either Black-ish or Atlanta. Yet there was room for all of them, and many more shows since.
While Glover hears the gripes about Atlanta's Black credentials, or lack thereof, he believes "the conversation isn't as elevated as it should be."
"There are better ways to talk about it rather than like with s--- I've heard in fourth grade about who we are because I feel this is such a Black show," he said. "To say it's only for white people, it's like we're cutting ourselves down which is kind of whack to me... "
Glover's brother Stephen agrees that he doesn't like "when people say the show isn't for Black people because I think it very much is for Black people," but he takes those critiques with a grain of salt.
"I will also say being in Atlanta and walking around, or even like in L.A., I run into Black people all the time who tell me this is their favorite show and how they appreciate everything we do," he explained. "They also say we're making them want to do cooler and weirder stuff... So for me, that's the real kind of conversations that are happening out there. Internet stuff isn't always real; it's not how people really feel. I kind of get my feelings from the streets, to sum that up."
The fourth and final season of Atlanta premieres Sept. 15 on FX.
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Created by and starring Donald Glover, this absurdist FX comedy follows two cousins and their best friend as they try to make it in the titular city's rap scene.