In "Juneteenth," 'Atlanta' Introduces Van's Stepfather Craig, A White Guy So "Woke" It's Almost Painful
There is no experience more painful than being forced to attend a party hosted by someone who wants to aggressively hang out with you while you'd prefer to do anything else, and I don't think I've ever seen a fictional character that hates socializing more than Atlanta's Earn. And while "Juneteenth" represented a potential step forward in Earn and Vanessa's relationship, undoubtedly the funniest part of the episode was the introduction of Van's stepfather Craig, Atlanta 's resident uncomfortably woke white person. And in the span of a single episode, Atlanta manages to perfectly pull off dealing with a "Craig" type that should be familiar to the show's POC audience and, as usual, likely resonates with black viewers in particular.
First, there's Craig's overly chummy greeting, complete with a tortured attempt at a fist bump. Note how totally out of place a complicated fist bump/secret handshake was at this fancy — dare I say, bougie — Juneteenth party. Everyone is dressed in daytime formalwear, the vibe is relatively somber, and the occasion is literally celebrating freedom from white oppression. This was before it was even revealed that Craig was Van's stepfather and that they were visiting her mother too, so the intimacy level of greeting Earn that way stuck out even more. It made me want to escape through a secret trapdoor.
Next up, that supremely weird trip to Craig's study, which was like a museum exhibit in the study of performative wokeness. Painting a picture in honor of a Malcolm X quote when he doesn't even seem to understand that the quote was talking about dismantling systematic discrimination and white supremacy? Oof. Adding in the clichè but no less infuriating "you should visit Africa, the homeland!" was a great touch.
And then, there's talking about rap. Not only was this the pinnacle of why Craig was such a hilariously cringeworthy character, but it also provided the actual climax of the episode, as Van and Earn's charade was revealed to be a lie, and Van loses the chance to both professionally network and potentially form a closer relationship with her mother. If only Craig and his deep knowledge of trap remixes hadn't gotten in the way.
Images: Guy D'Alema/FX (2)