Hyper Masculinity in Atlanta: Paper Boi or Paper Man
The show Atlanta is a comedy-drama show created by a man who is both a rapper and an actor. Donald Glover, also known as his rap name “Childish Gambino”, is an American man well known for his rapping and acting abilities. He has put out many songs that have reached the top charts and his show Atlanta was nominated for many different awards including the Golden Globe Award. The show is about a Princeton dropout trying to make it in the rap community as a manager for his cousin. The show attempts to show the real life struggles and success of a growing rap artist. It also tackles common cultural issues such as racism, homophobia, violence, and drug related activities.
The show has many underlying meanings that may not be noticed as a normal viewer. Taking a closer look at the show, one may find that there are many social issues covered throughout the show. The main message of the show is that masculinity in rap culture is portrayed to the public in a falsified way. Rapper may act in a way that makes them seem masculine even if they really are not. A rapper’s image may be completely different behind the microphone than at home. The rap community is a very tough community to be a part of, especially if you are just starting out. Typically, rappers are known for being very masculine and aggressive. Rappers over time have created an image of hyper-masculinity. Masculinity plays a major role in the TV-show. One would imagine that the main character of a show about rap culture would show hyper masculinity. “Earn”, the main character of the show, is not one of those tough guys. Earn is a character that always seems as if nothing is going his way. Although he has many hardships, he is very laid back while trying to deescalate issues throughout the show. He is a very rational character and one can tell that he puts a great amount of thought into his decisions.
The show portrays the lower level rap community very well through the eyes of someone who would not typically be associated with rappers. It seems as if you have to be masculine to be a leader in the rap community. In the article, Holding Back Tears: Rap’s Role in Redefining Black Masculinity, Dylan Green says on DJBooth, "The overarching theme of the record is that when we were young, we were told that being tough—keeping your emotions to yourself—and all that was what made you a man.” In the rap community, masculinity means that one is not allowed to show any emotions because it makes one “weak.” Growing up, many men were taught to hide emotions because “crying is for girls.” Also, Annette Saddik says, “comfortable contradiction between self-conscious role-playing (theatrical performance) through its aggressive display (wealth, masculinity, subjectivity), and the centrality of authenticity (“keeping it real”)…” (111). Although rappers may seem “hard”, it...