Like most interviews with musicians or people of influence who often say crazy things such as “when people become depressed and kill themselves, it’s because all they see is the algorithm,” Donald Glover’s interview with The New Yorker‘s Tad Friend immediately mentions that he’s smoking marijuana. The joint turns out to be a fake—a prop filled with clover and marshmallow leaves—for a scene during the filming of his show Atlanta. “This isn’t real,” Glover tells Friend, but it still gives him the effect of a tiny placebo high.
Not unlike the fake joint, Donald Glover, a Grammy Award winning musician, Emmy Award winning television director/writer, actor in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Simba in the upcoming Lion King remake, and Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story, has become a prop himself.
Is there anything you’re bad at? “To be honest, no. Probably just people. People don’t like to be studied, or bested.” He shrugged. “I’m fine with it. I don’t really like people that much. People accept me now because I have power, but they still think, Oh, he thinks he’s the golden flower of the black community, thinks he’s so different.” He laughed. “But I am, though! I feel like Jesus. I do feel chosen. — Donald Glover, The New Yorker
Hollywood has turned Donald Glover into a product, and if The New Yorker interview is any indication, the fame seems to have gotten to his head. It’s not a commendable trait, and a small bit of feeling invincible occurs in every celebrity’s head from time to time, but when you start comparing yourself to Jesus, you walk a pretty thin line between pretentiousness and gratitude.
With the sheer amount of reverence and praise Glover receives for his multitude of projects on a daily basis however, it makes sense why he would begin to think of himself as something god-like. As he states in the interview, he views himself as some sort of genius-level life-code hacker, able to break the “algorithm” that holds people back from complete success:
When he was ten, he said, “I realized, if I want to be good at P.E., I have to be good at basketball. So I went home and shot baskets in our driveway for six hours, until my mother called me in. The next day, I was good enough that you wouldn’t notice I was bad. And I realized my superpower… It sounds like I’m sucking my own dick—‘Oh, he thinks he’s great at everything,’ ” he said now, leaning forward. “But what if you had that power?” — Donald Glover, The New Yorker
The moral of this story—his advice—is not that if you practice hard enough, you can accomplish yours dreams (a.k.a. practice makes perfect), but that he has the key, the superpower, to be the best at anything he sets his mind on. “Oh, he thinks he’s great at everything,” he says, “but what if you had that power?” He believes he has that power. He believes that he’s truly great at everything.
Do you look up to anyone? “I don’t see anyone out there who’s better,” he said. — Donald Glover, The New Yorker
Now that Glover’s figured out the “algorithm,” he spends his days testing the system like a man trying to wake up from a dream. Everything he does is seemingly in an attempt to see what he can get away with. During the interview, he pitches race-reversed TV ideas constantly, smokes weed all the time, tries to “explain what rap is,” and that’s just in between shoots of his second season for Atlanta, which he named “robbin season” instead of the usual “Season 2.”
He’s Neo grasping for straws in The Matrix by reaching into Trinity’s body to re-start her heart, shocked to find out that it worked, but in a “loop” that runs over-and-over again. He’s succeeded so many times that the “loop” is to the point wherein each new idea, and each new way to test the “algorithm,” has desensitized him to the experience of awe or even the concept of luck. To Glover, it must be because he’s discovered the key to life.
He remembers growing up, and being a nervous kid writing for 30 Rock that connected more with the quirky page character than the black movie star, but his ego has now inflated well beyond humility. He’s not spending his time reflecting and being grateful that he’s been able to do so much, but instead believes that the only way any of this could be possible is because he’s a genius, unlike any other, whose god-like ability and talent has broken the code of the world to propel him to where he is today.
Dan Harmon told me, “Donald is no longer in love with everything about the world. But I’ve never said to him, ‘You seem sad or darker now,’ because, for all I know, that’s growth.” — Tad Friend, The New Yorker
Glover has succeeded in living out his most wildest dreams, something only a handful of people in the entire world are able to accomplish. We can chide him for not feeling humble, for not being modest, for sounding crazy, for comparing himself to Jesus, or for not speaking as a better role model for young African-American kids wishing to achieve just a fraction of his successes, but at the end of the day, it’s just a sad story about a guy who thought that he must be a god that can read the matrix, because how else could he have achieved everything he’s ever wanted? Just stop being humble or modest in any way, shoot hoops for six hours, and figure out how to see and navigate the Matrix, and you’ll be as successful as Donald Glover. I can’t want to see your genius art.
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