When we were young, many of us were told marijuana users are lazy, irrational, dumb people. We were forced to watch commercials depicting a frying egg with a voice saying ominously, “This is your brain on drugs.” Despite the studies, irrational fear of marijuana persists, and subsequently, millions of people are still in prison for a drug that we’ve learned is quite harmless.
In Atlanta, Darius is Paper Boi’s assistant drug dealer sidekick. He asks weird questions and makes out-of-the-blue statements that are sometimes outside the natural scope of any given conversation. If you take the character at face value, then Darius seems every bit the quintessential representation of a pothead. But, if you limit the scope of Darius’s contribution to the show as the local pothead, you do yourself a complete disservice by failing to grasp the wider concept of who Darius is as a person. Although he is a weed smoker, Darius is often portrayed as the smartest person on Atlanta; Donald Glover and the other writers purposefully refute the all-too common archetype of the weed smoker as the resident idiot.
In Episode 4, “The Streisand Effect,” Darius and Earn go on a long journey to get Earn some money for his daughter. While Earn looks at how to get money quickly, Darius looks at things in the long-term, trading up on Earn’s cellphone for a $4000 investment. When Earn finds out that the money will be delivered to him months from then, he delivers one of the greatest lines in the show to date, highlighting the struggle and the difficulties of poverty. He says, “See, I’m poor, Darius, and poor people don’t have time for investments, because poor people are too busy trying not to be poor.” Although Darius understands this dilemma, he is a street-wise hustler who knows how to effectively earn, flip, and produce money for future investments that will keep himself afloat.
Darius is not necessarily wise in the college sense, although he does display deep knowledge on occasion like when he references Steve McQueen or highlights the hypocrisy between animal and human rights. Darius is street smart, a trait that we so often admonish as being less important than book smart. However, in poorer neighborhoods, being street smart has a greater value than being formally educated. Not only does being street smart help people earn money, but it shows a high level of common sense. In areas of higher crime, being street smart can often mean the difference between life and death. Life experience is often the most valuable teacher, and that is exactly what Darius has a lot of.
Darius also has an understanding of the world that is not shared with Earn or Alfred. He is the porridge that is just right whereas Earn and Alfred are two opposites, one being the college-educated kid and the other being a rapper who never left the hood. In Episode 2 of the show, after bailing Alfred out of jail, he delivers a take on the world that sounds like something straight out of an Intro to Philosophy class.
As humans, we’re always close to destruction. Life itself is but a series of close calls. How would you know you were alive unless you know that you can die?
Darius has an understanding of the frivolity of life, the likes of which would make Nietzsche crack a smile. He is wise beyond his years which is a trait that can definitely be put to use more as the show continues.
While Earn and Alfred stress over what they feel to be important issues, Darius knows that a lot of people’s problems are mainly trivial in nature. As he says in Episode 4, “Everything’s made up, nigga. Stay woke.” Darius is the calm peace to the show; whether he is speaking with friends or getting into an argument with an ignorant man from the country, he will always have something smart to say, displaying a level of intellect that can challenge our preconceived notions of weed smokers.