“Can I just please get a kids meal?”
One of the only good things to come out of the recent push to all things Hipster in the past couple of years is an ability to pass off bargain-basement decisions that come with being broke AF as a facet of Hipsterism. Pabst Blue Ribbon is trendy as hell. The bonus is that it is cheap. The drawback is that it also just so happens to taste like the pot of piss broke folks don’t even have to… you get the picture. I don’t throw dinner parties where I serve box wine out of my old Garfield jelly jars because I can’t afford real glasses. Nawl! I do it because I’m a hipster douchebag and because it’s an ironic post-modern choice to deny my guests the luxury of things like fine stemware, a scathing indictment of man’s obsession with Stuff™. I’m like Tyler Durden for the iPhone 7 generation. And it’s a good thing too because as “Go for Broke”, episode three of the new hit FX show Atlanta illuminates, Earn Marks is broke AF. Not Television -broke, either. Real broke. Ordering off the kid’s menu- broke. Only having $62 left in his bank account (on payday, no less!) after he accounts for his quite necessary MARTA card-broke. And he’s going to need every last penny of the left-over balance to take his girltuation Vanessa out to dinner later that evening, an olive branch of an invite after she bailed him out of jail in last week’s episode.
Earn goes to discuss rap game business and smoke cheeb with his cousin Paperboi and professional tree-measurer Darius and finds out that outside of rapping, they keep themselves afloat in the…ahem… import/export industry. They “sell drugs to the community!” and Paperboi is not ashamed to tell Earn that if he wants to keep a roof over him and his daughter Lottie’s head maybe he should think about selling the reefers too. At least until they all get rich. Darius doesn’t really offer much insight one way or the other as he is too concerned with ironing the money for their evening re-up with the middle-management of Mexican drug Cartels, a group called the Migos. That and laying out his Sunday best. I’m pretty sure my Uncle Billy wore that exact turtleneck to my parents wedding rehearsal dinner in 1978. Darius lives by the old adage: If you stay ready, you aint got to get ready. And really, can you blame him for wasting time on outfit changes? The man looks good.
“Why are you always turning me into the angry black woman?”
One of the many advantages that comes with producing a “black” show with an all- black writing room is the ability to flesh out characters for people of color that would be relegated to one-dimensional background players in more mainstream entertainment. Yes, Vanessa is aware of all of the pitfalls that lie before her in her quest to not just be the Angry Black Woman. But because we have black ass writers using their black ass voices to tell our diverse black ass stories we can examine just why a black woman may run towards or from that tired stereotype. Yes, it’s straight up white supremacy and misogynoir that created the myth of the angry black woman. Yes, sometimes underachieving men in our lives can cause us to be the Angry Black Woman even when we do not want to be and yes sometimes a muffinfuggler does push you to the point where you lean all the way in to the title with unabashed glee.
“Because you are.” Earn retorts.
He’s not really wrong based upon what we have come to know so far about Vanessa. The episode later hints at further layers to her character, a dream (deferred) of owning her own clothing boutique and gives her one of the funniest moments of the episode that mirrors a classic Cosby Show exchange between Theo and Cliff "Pudding Pop that P*ssy” Huxtable. Van is not willing to play the role of understanding girlfriend to Earn, not while the baby needs diapers and barrettes and 3-D printers (I don’t have a clue what it takes to raise a healthy baby nowadays. Or ever, for that matter. ), but she has enough love for him to let him shoot his shot even though she doth protest.
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Can we just stop and talk about the black ass writer’s room again for a menudo? The non-sexual black intimacy on display between Earn and Van as they get ready for bed is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen on t.v. before. At least not since Martin said, “Damn, Gina. Will. You. Marry. Me?” Going to bed before showering is another level of nasty but to see two black people in a sort-of committed, sort-of relationship say “I accept your funky ass, your head wrap, your boxer briefs with the holes in them and yes even your propensity for effing up your life” is revolutionary to me. The vulnerability in those scenes tells a story of two young people who don’t quite know how to love each other but could possibly learn.
On the advice of a coworker, Earn decides to take Van to Midtown’s Indigo Lounge which, despite the intel, does not in fact serve $5 apps for Happy Hour. In fact, there’s no longer anything on the menu even in the ballpark of a five dollar foot long. The Gods of Open Table are frowning down on our pal Earn as well because he just so happens to have the WORST waitperson this side of a Chotchkies. Thanks to her extra with a side of extra ass, Earn’s tab is fitna come in just shy of the United States’ annual stimulus aid to Israel. He tries to put on a brave face and ball totally in control but Van keeps adding drinks and apps and entrees to the order like a bish is hungry or something? The unmitigated gall! The writers play up the ambiguity well here. Is Van really that narcissistic to think her homeless baby daddy can afford this bill or is she just punishing him for his previous episode’s shenanigans? I’m pretty sure she had to sacrifice the rent money to get Earn out of Alcatraz and I’m sure she’s not too jazzed about that. Here’s hoping that the writers continue to add layers to her character and that she is not just a Capital “B” word.
Paperboi and Darius are sitting in the whip, listening to "Encore", waiting for the Migos when they are advised of a change in location by a scary vato in a dark-tint SUV. The cameras pan out to a breathtaking crane shot of both cars driving through a winding road of lush Atlanta vegetation. Did you know the A was that beautiful? NO you did not. Stop lying. This is the part of the recap where I tell you that Hiro Murai is a moddacluckin genius director and the fact that he is directing all ten episodes of this season means Jesus loves us, this I know. I’m talking Gucci –ass aspect ratios in HD, I’m talking dreamy score provided by Shabazz Palaces “An Echo from the Hosts that Profess Infinitum”. Somewhere, David Lynch twerks in the grave he sleeps in at night.
Paperboi and Darrius seem shook but they really shouldn’t be because the Migos actually turn out to be the real-life rap group the Migos. I’m old enough to remember when Will Smith yelled “Yo! Homes, smell you later!” so I had absolutely no idea who any of these people were nor did I realize I should be afraid of them but when they let old homie out of the RV bucket nekkid and told him to run I certainly knew what that meant. Apparently the old sport matriculated at the Ricky School of How Not To Run Serpentine When Being Shot At (Rickon Stark’s an alum, I heard. RIP) and got got faster than you can say, “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” Our guys are scurred, especially since Darrius handcuffed the briefcase of money to his wrist and forgot the key while he was picking out ascots. The commercial pause breaks this tension, not to mention the extremely off-putting commercials for Ryan Murphy’s latest American Horror Story—- you’re not fooling me this season, Ryan! I saw Coven and it stunk!—- and once we’re back we learn that these guys are actually pretty reasonable and just take the money out of the briefcase like any normal person with a brain would have.
“We need a chance as humans to fail in order to discover what works.”
Let Earn’s parents tell it and Earn is a Princeton drop out who can’t come in the house. To Van, Earn is a wannabe rap mogul and walking cliché. To Paperboi and Darrius Earn could be their ticket out of the hood. The reality? Earn is all of the above and more. He is a work in progress, a luxury most young black folks are not afforded in this country. Through him, I see myself. I see all of us. The cousin hustling food platters after her regular nine-to-five. The cat with the bootlegs down at the Barber shop who will throw in a free Obama caricature with your purchase of three DVDs. The single mother of three just struggling to survive while holding on to her dream of going back to school. Earn is all of us. I am so glad Donald Glover is getting the chance to tell our collective stories.
So what did you think of episode 3? Was Van’s two-strand twist out giving you as much life as it was giving me? Would you watch a spin-off series that follows the life of the freelance valet guy? Sound off!
Jordan Kauwling is an early thirties Philadelphian but she tells everyone she's in her late thirties because she doesn't understand how math works. When she's not busy writing, singing, eating all the falafel or unsuccessfully finishing another craft project you can catch her talking junk on Twitter.