(SPOILERS for this week’s Atlanta will be found below.)
As the third season of Atlanta comes to a close, there’s been a reoccurring theme throughout this season. Donald Glover has been alternating the point of focus in episodes this season. After we get a new update from the lives of Earn, Paper Boi, Darius, Vanessa, and company in one episode, the following one taps into the occurrences in the world of white people nearby, all for it to return to the focus of the group above in the next episode.
Following last week’s “New Jazz” episode, which followed Paper Boi during a drug-induced journey around Amsterdam, “Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga” taps into the world of biracial high schooler Aaron and his struggles with funding his upcoming college experience.
Here are some of the biggest questions we had after season three’s ninth episode.
Why Was This Episode Shot In Black And White?
“Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga” is the only episode of Atlanta in the show’s history to be shot in black and white, and with that, it begs the question why? A simple answer to this could be that it makes it harder to judge Aaron for his appearance and forces viewers to instead judge him for his actions. Aaron is a biracial high schooler who is seeking financial help in order to attend Arizona State College with his girlfriend Kate. That help seemingly arrives through Robert S. Lee, the heir to the Pink Oil hair moisturizing fortune played by the late Kevin Samuels, whose name is a bit too similar to Robert E. Lee, the American-Confederate general from the Civil War. He offers to pay the college tuition of all Black students at Aaron’s high school. However, Aaron is deemed “not Black enough,” and thus, lucks out on the scholarship. This label is placed on him due to the lack of knowledge he has about Black culture and his overall behavior, and as viewers, that’s all we can draw from with the episode being shown in black and white. If it were shown in color, it would be harder to ignore his physical appearance to make the decision that the committee did.
What Were Your Early Perceptions Of Aaron?
It’s not entirely clear that Aaron is half-Black to start the episode. During a heated argument while playing video games with people online, Aaron makes two racist comments to his opponents. First, he says, “why don’t you two n*****s go find your dads, okay?” Shortly after, he makes monkey noises and adds, “get a f*cking banana,” before turning off the game. This comes after the camera pans around his room to show posters of Post Malone and a picture of Aaron with a group of white friends. Even after we see him beside his Black father, Aaron makes snobby comments like claiming a Black teenager who was killed by police officers did “something that warranted it” and fetishizing what would happen during a police stop. Altogether, Aaron strikes the eyes as someone who isn’t exactly in touch with his Black roots — not as much as he is with his white roots at least.
Is It Really That Easy To Build A Flamethrower?
Sure, a quick Google search could’ve been done to answer this question, but 1. I’d prefer my FBI agent to not have that search on my records and 2. It’s for the sake of commentary. After his frustration with not receiving a scholarship for college boils over, Aaron picks a few items out of his garage and magically assembles a flamethrower to burn his school down in retaliation. This makeshift weapon is assembled with the difficulty of a backyard swing, but c’mon there’s no way it’s that easy. Right? Right?? It certainly puts to shame the struggles I’ve had with assembling common household items.
Did Aaron Deserve The Scholarship?
The whole premise for the scholarship is that you have to be Black, and with that in mind, you would assume that Aaron qualifies to receive it. Using the “paper bag test” to decide whether or not a student receives the scholarship isn’t a fair assessment of one’s “blackness.” With that being said, as the episode goes on it becomes very clear that Aaron is minutely in touch with his Black roots. He calls fellow online gamers (who we presume are Black) “n*****s” while also making monkey noises at them, he makes a privileged joke about being pulled over by the police, and he ironically calls an African student “not Black” due to their ethnicity. Keeping all that in mind, it seems like Aaron only cared to identify with his Blackness when it benefitted him the most.
What Was Donald Glover’s End Goal With This Episode?
With each episode of Atlanta, I try to keep in mind that it’s just a satirical take on events in the real world. Searching for an episode’s true meaning and debating whether or not it appropriately speaks on a topic can suck the fun out of things. However, with an episode like “Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga,” you can’t help but feel like there is some meaning or message within the plot. Is Donald Glover holding up a mirror to those who take advantage of Blackness when it’s convenient to them? Is this a lesson on how to, or how not to, gatekeep Black culture? Is he trying to inform us on how outsiders view and seek to interact with Black culture? There are a few more things that this episode could be, and regardless of an answer, it surely speaks to the mind that is Donald Glover.
FX’s ‘Atlanta’ airs on Thursdays at 10:00pm EST