“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.”
Donald Glover has heard the online criticism from some Black fans of Atlanta and is fed up. At a Television Critics’ Association panel this week, the creator and star of the hit FX show addressed claims, among others, that Atlanta — especially the recently-concluded Season 3 — is written for the white gaze, while indicating he was done with “the culture.”
“There are better ways to talk about it rather than like with shit I’ve heard in fourth grade about who we are because I feel this is such a Black show. To say it’s only for white people, it’s like we’re cutting ourselves down which is kind of wack to me,” Glover said.
He expressed frustration with the assumptions made about him and his brother, Stephen, a writer and executive producer on the show, specifically ones that are made by other Black people.
“It would be silly to say that sometimes what people say doesn’t affect you because — especially being Black — 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,” he said. “I don’t think they give a lot of credit to what we’ve gone through. So to be like, ‘Oh, these Black people hate Black people, or these Black people hate Black women’ — I’m like, it’s such a small view of who we are. I feel like it might even be because of what we’ve been through that you look at us the way you look at us.”
The latest season of Atlanta was particularly divisive, deviating from its typical format as the ensemble traveled to Europe, with a handful of episodes completely abandoning the primary narrative altogether with standalone stories. While he admitted he was plugged into online chatter, Glover sounded as if he had become jaded and felt even betrayed in some ways.
”I kind of feel like I’m a little through with the culture, personally,” he said. “I do a lot of this shit for the people. But the culture, I think at this point, I think a lot of us are sitting here being like, ‘Yo, a lot of this shit was learned because of fucked up shit that happened to us. And we actually have to relearn a lot of stuff.’ 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.”
He also specifically addressed claims that the show is transphobic: “I’ve seen on Tiktok where people say Atlanta‘s transphobic. Man, I’m neighbors with a trans man and he told me Atlanta is his favorite show. I love how you guys talked about the trans thing because a lot of this shit is just takes for the internet, you know?”
Glover’s brother, Stephen, expressed similar frustrations, but sounded more buoyed by a different gauge of the show’s reception.
“For me, one thing that I don’t like is when people say the show isn’t for Black people because I think it very much is for Black people. That kind of thing rubs me the wrong way,” Stephen Glover said. “But I will also say being in Atlanta and walking around, or even like in LA, I run into Black people all the time who tell me this is their favorite show and how they appreciate everything we do. They also say we’re making them want to do cooler and weirder stuff. You know, like the TikTok generation kids, they’ll hit me up online and say how much they love the episodes. 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.”
The fourth and final season of Atlanta is set to debut in September.