Home Tech ‘Atlanta’ Season 4 scrutinized a viral moment from the George Floyd protests

‘Atlanta’ Season 4 scrutinized a viral moment from the George Floyd protests

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In the opening scenes of the fourth and final season of Atlanta, Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) visits Target to return an air fryer. “I remembered I have an oven,” he tells the store clerk. Suddenly, an alarm blares with disturbing incessancy, as people begin to spread throughout the department store, looting as they go. Darius remains distinctly nonchalant and offhand, seemingly oblivious to the impending chaos, focused on the task at hand. But the clerk grabs Darius’ cash and bolts, leaving him still in possession of the unwanted item.

As he tries to leave, a white woman in a wheelchair blocks the store entrance, and refuses to let Darius exit with his air fryer. Though he quietly explains his refund errand, she cuts him off: “I would rather die than let you take that.” Rolling his eyes, Darius walks around her. Seconds later, the woman cries out, as looters spray her with a fire extinguisher. Then, she emerges from the smoke, disheveled, wielding a knife, and steadily following Darius as he begins to run. The sounds of the woman’s wheelchair resound, echoing periodically through the rest of the episode.

Entitled “The Most Atlanta” and written by Donald Glover and Stephen Glover, the episode marks the return of the FX series for a final time, following a season that had viewers greatly divided. The third installment of Atlanta saw its core characters plucked from the Peach State and sent travelling around Europe, facing a series of bizarre, ambiguous, and often frustrating circumstances. Now, Earn (Donald Glover), Al (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius, and Van (Zazie Beetz), have returned to the eponymous city that sits at the crux of the series. Atlanta has returned to its roots: exploring society, race, history, and modern life through the lens of its complex characters.

In Season 4, the Glovers and and longtime Atlanta director Hiro Murai’s choice to begin with Darius’ Target encounter is a testament to this. The woman who blocks his exit, played by Deadra Moore, is a close representation of a figure widely discussed during the 2020 protests against police brutality and systemic racism following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.


Credit: Guy D’Alema/FX.

In May 2020, during protests in Minneapolis following Floyd’s murder by police officer Derek Chauvin, a video surfaced online of a white woman in a motorized wheelchair blocking the entrance to a Target store that had been looted. Identified only as “Jennifer” in the videos, she reportedly appeared to be holding a knife or sharp object, and allegedly tried to stab people at the scene. This incident, and the materials recorded, were utilized by people online, by both those supporting Black Lives Matter and the antiracist movement, and those campaigning against racial justice.

The framing, from both sides, became a subject of contention. Conversations ensued about race, disability, and power; discourse about misinformation rising on the internet; and a stream of memes under the label of “Wheelchair Jennifer” or “Target Jennifer”.

In Atlanta, there is no specific indication of why the looting is occurring in the episode, or whether it has anything to do with a nationwide movement at all. The white woman is called “Christine” rather than the name her character is likely derived from. Still, the impact was made. Several viewers of the season premiere pointed out the explicit parallel within this narrative, and many on Twitter applauded the inclusion of the character and ensuing narrative arc in the FX show.

“I don’t know what Fox News has been feeding you,” Darius calls out later in the episode, as Christine tracks him to an empty lot, inching towards him. In a moment of tentative negotiation with Christine’s steadfast prejudice, Darius specifically tells her he’s not a looter or antifa, the term former President Donald Trump favoured alongside many in the media and on the right to label “far-left anti-fascism” activists. But Christine won’t hear it: “I don’t care,” she says.

Christine’s persistence in fulfilling an attack or inciting some sort of reckoning upon Darius is chilling — but the whole situation leans on irony, as is the case with so many narratives in the series. Darius was returning, rightfully and legally, a purchased object he didn’t have use for. Instead, Christine perceives him according to her own warped judgments, taking it upon herself to be some kind of misguided crusader for “justice”.

In quintessential Atlanta style, the portrayal of Christine opens a window into the kind of timely social and political conversations the show is prone to sparking. Making use of the Target Jennifer meme, the Glovers and Murai take it a step further with the back-and-forth between Darius and his assailant. This isn’t the first time Atlanta has repurposed a meme or facet of digital culture, either. For example, in Season 2, episode 1, “Alligator Man”, Darius again platforms a widespread meme: Florida Man. Fans will recall his warning to Earn to watch out for the so-called Florida Man, a singular figure he perceives to have committed the most outlandish crimes in the state.

The seamless, nuanced integration of pop culture, internet language, and social politics is something Atlanta has long perfected, and this was one of the strongest points in Season 4, episode 1. The final season is gearing up to please, intrigue, but most importantly challenge viewers, presenting an unflinching look at life in America today, leaving bare hypocrisy, injustice, and systemic bias.

Atlanta is now streaming on Hulu in the U.S.(opens in a new tab) and Disney+ in the UK.(opens in a new tab)

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