[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the “Atlanta” episode “Money Bag Shawty.”]
“Atlanta” continues to blow us away week to week with its insight into today’s culture, brand of danger-comedy, gorgeous cinematography, and layers of meaning all packed into a half hour. Thursday’s “Money Bag Shawty” kicked off that episode’s tone with a direct reference to a viral video.
In the spoof, a blonde white woman with the username “lilysmom_11” addresses the camera, distraught over her daughter listening to Paper Boi’s (Brian Tyree Henry) latest song on the radio. The mom proceeds to read out loud the song’s lyrics, which include profanity and liberal use of the N-word. As she becomes increasingly upset, she’s particularly disturbed by the rapper voicing a disdain for college and referencing Colin Kaepernick. She eventually breaks down crying, and later, Earn and his friends toast to her “white tears” for giving Alfred’s song even more exposure. Incidentally, we’d also offer up a cheers to the enterprising troll who created the real-life “lilysmom_11” Instagram account complete with posts referencing a Toby Keith concert and sweet tea.
In October 2016, a white mother posted a video to Facebook in which she complains about her daughter listening to the song “Norf Norf” by rapper Vince Staples. The video runs almost parallel to “Atlanta’s” spoof, including having her child in the background, noting the radio station the song played on, reading the song’s lyrics, and of course, bursting into tears. The real-world response to the video was just as gleeful and even inspired this mix below:
The “Rocky III” Freeze Frame
While IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers wrote about the Michael Vick ending in his review of the episode, how that race was shot was intriguing in that as soon as Earn (Donald Glover) got the jump on Vick, that scene freeze-framed while dramatic music (specifically, Eric Caissy’s “Highway Patrol”) swells. While the scene isn’t about the ultimate matchup between equals in ability, it does remind us of the end of “Rocky III” and how the match-up between Rocky and Apollo Creed ended. Just as the two of them throw punches, the scene is caught in freeze frame as “Eye of the Tiger” plays to introduce the credits. At least one fan took to Twitter to point out the similarities:
Bruh.. did they pull the Rocky vs Apollo Creed freeze frame during that race with Michael Vick? #AtlantaFX
— T'Chunky (@PhenomBlak) March 16, 2018
That Black Lives Matter Sweatshirt
Viewers could be forgiven for missing the political message in the recording studio scene. After all, that entire sequence is oozing with tension after the engineer’s computer continues to crash, which does not make the deceptively calm Clark County (RJ Walker) happy. But if you looked closely at Boogz (Donald Paul), who acts as the rapper’s muscle, the message is hard to miss.
At one point, the stark white words on the back of Boogz’s black sweatshirt can be seen. It’s a list highlighting the various innocuous reasons that black men had been stopped by the police, shot, and then killed. This particular list was first tweeted out in July 2016 by civil rights activist and Trayvon Martin Foundation board member Michael Skolnik. This litany serves as a reminder to the Black Lives Matter movement of how little it takes for racial profiling to kick in and have these men deemed a threat.
Shopping at Walmart.
Failure to signal.
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) July 6, 2016
On the front of Boogz’s sweatshirt is yet another message: “Black America Again,” referring to Common’s socio-political album and the single of the same name released during the election year.
Harriet Tubman $20 Bills
When Alfred and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) first arrive at Clark County’s studio, they discover that the young rapper has “Tub Dubs,” a.k.a. $20 bills with Harriet Tubman’s face on them. How did he get his hands on such mythical money?
“My mom, she used to work in the government,” Clark County says. “Yeah, and she got them to me before they stopped making them. So, kind of like a good luck charm.”
In April 2016, the U.S. Treasury had announced plans to put the face of the famed abolitionist on the $20 bill, moving Andrew Jackson to the back of the bill. It was expected that the new $20 would enter circulation around 2020. In August 2017, however, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dismissed expending the redesign process and merely stated, “People have been on the bills for a long period of time,” he said. “This is something we’ll consider. Right now, we have a lot more important issues to focus on.”
Nicolas Cage’s Dinosaur
Just before Clark County stops rapping about toking and drinking (even though he does neither) because his engineer’s computer crashes, he spews out the line, “Yo, I just bought a dinosaur like Nicolas Cage.” As enticing as this image is of the “Ghost Rider” star somehow becoming the owner of a pet velociraptor, the real story is far more practical (but still pretty darn weird).
According to the New York Times, the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar was stolen from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and then was sold at an auction in 2007 for $276,000 to an anonymous buyer, who turned out to be Cage. Once Homeland Security contacted the actor about the skull’s provenance, however, the “National Treasure” star agreed to turn it over.
All About ATL
As would be expected, “Atlanta” includes many direct references to locations around and products made in Atlanta. Here’s a list of some of the ones we caught in the episode:
- Pure – Alfred can be seen wearing a t-shirt with the Atlanta-based brand while he’s out day-drinking.
- 656 Sports Bar – Where Alfred, Earn, and Darius cheers to white tears.
- Been Broke Before t-shirt: The shirt is part of the Been Broke Before movement started in Atlanta that aims to foster an environment of success by changing one’s mindset: Being broke isn’t about failure but only being “without” temporarily until that setback is overcome.
- Onyx – Yep, this is a real strip club.
Setting the Record Straight
At one point, Van (Zazie Beetz) tricks Earn into thinking that using the phrase “red-handed” is racist because it refers to so-called red-skinned Native Americans. Even though she owns up to the hoax, she eventually starts to second-guess herself. We just want it on record that the phrase refers to actual blood on your hands (from murdering or poaching) and dates back to 15th century Scotland, according to Mental Floss.
Did we miss anything else?
“Atlanta” airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.