FX’s Atlanta is not currently airing new episodes, but a clip from one of its most memorable past airings has gained new appreciation online in the wake of recent protests about police violence against people of color. Donald Glover’s FX show is certainly not known to pull punches on racial issues, and it’s become a cultural touchpoint in recent days of protests as tens of thousands take to the streets to protest police brutality.
The cartoon, an ad for the fictional Coconut Crunch-O’s cereal, features cartoon children exploring what looks like a tomb with a police officer. The group then encounters a wolf, presumably the Wally the police officer on the box is admonishing.
The three children get the bowls of coconut cereal as Wally bursts out of his sarcophagus too late. As he approaches the children, though, he’s taken to the ground by the police officer, who insists he “stop resisting” and roughs him up while he’s cuffed on the ground. The children look on in horror, insisting Wally could have some cereal as the officer puts a knee into the wolf’s back and then, on his neck.
“He was trying to steal your cereal, right?” the officer asked, otherwise emotionally blank as the children tell him to stop and say he’s hurting the wolf. The scene is reminiscent of the disturbing images captured of George Floyd’s death, where a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he died screaming for help.
The commercial continues as usual, but the children look horrified by what’s taking place in front of them in an otherwise cartoonish scenario. The in-episode commercial made waves in 2016 when it first aired during an episode in which the show’s main character appeared on a fictional cable news show. The cereal commercial was among the fake “ads” that played during the episode. But as the nation has fixed its attention on another swath of images of police brutality the video recirculated on social media, the similarities between the in-episode critique on police brutality has popped up online across various platforms. It’s a reminder that the events that have made Americans leave their homes to protest have happened across American cities for a long time, and Atlanta is just one of the places where that kind of violence has been critiqued long before 2020.