Black Excellence is Trash
Episode 2 of Everything’s Trash Season 1 begins with Phoebe pinching pennies and sorting through a lot of bills. According to her podcast, however, she’s living an extravagant life.
It thrills Phoebe and Malika to learn that Parakeet (their production company) has chosen Everything’s Trash to represent them in the Culturist magazine, along with a few other podcasts. Unfortunately, they’re going up against Brooklyn Dads and Murder Gals for the cover photo of the magazine.
When Phoebe mentions how excited she is to shoot pictures at her apartment, Jessie starts to wonder if her place is too bland and boring. She shows Jayden pictures of her childhood room. Her parents once made it Yoruba themed, but then Jessie rebelled and pushed her Nigerian culture away.
Jayden suggests she call her mom to help her redecorate the house, but Jessie says she’s too intense. She wants to call her ex-boyfriend, Idris. Jayden reluctantly agrees.
When preparing for the photoshoot, Phoebe buys a $1,200 dress with her credit card, despite being broke. Malika chides her, but Phoebe insists they deserve to shine. Parakeet certainly doesn’t normally give Black women the spotlight. They will be the first and have to make the most of it.
Phoebe and Malika are convinced they are going to get the cover photo on the magazine–that is, until the Murder Gals let them in on the extravagant plan for their own shoot.
Phoebe wants to top them, so she searches for “Black Excellence” online. The pictures of the Obamas and Nelson Mandela don’t speak to her, so she searches for “Black Sexcellence.” The common factor in all of the pictures of Black stars? They’re posing with owls. And Michael just so happens to have an “owl guy.”
While Jessie buys a Nigerian mirror and reconnects with Idris, Phoebe decides to change the location of the photoshoot to Jessie’s and Jayden’s apartment, due to its elegance.
Michael’s “owl guy” comes through, and Phoebe takes several great pictures with the bird. But when Jayden and Jessie return home with their new mirror, the owl freaks out and breaks it.
Jayden and Jessie reprimand Phoebe for taking an owl into their home without their permission. Phoebe says she was just discouraged. Her apartment didn’t have the “Black Excellence” she needed. She’s broke; she just can’t afford the things the other podcasters can.
After Phoebe leaves, Jessie tells Jayden it was special for her to look at so many Nigerian pieces. She decides she wants to invite her mother for a girls’ weekend so they can look at more together.
Phoebe ends up on the cover of the magazine, but she comes clean on the podcast. She says it’s not her house or her owl in the picture. And she’s sorry she made her fans feel they couldn’t keep up with a life she wasn’t even living.
“Black excellence is a bitch, right?” she says. “Being broke doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re doing the best you can. And I think I’m okay representing that.”
The Episode Review
The standard sitcom approach to Phoebe’s struggles in this episode would be to tidily resolve her outstanding debt with a cute, unexpected solution (much like Michael’s “owl guy”). Everything’s Trash, however, realizes that not everything in life is so tidy. In fact, the episode ends with the realization that Phoebe has more debt than we knew–$60,000, to be exact.
Robinson’s comedy is taking a refreshing approach by tackling big issues and relevant themes with a light-hearted touch. Even if it waives too many small things (I’m stuck on the “owl guy”), it doesn’t resolve all of Phoebe’s problems at the end of an episode. Everything’s Trash realizes that life is messy–but it’s funny too.