The Atlantic's Week in Culture

A roundup of our recent writing on arts and entertainment

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Why TV Needs ‘Weak’ Female CharactersElizabeth Alsop dissects series like Fleabag and Transparent, which show how vulnerability is as important as unlikeability and strength when it comes to portraying fictional women.

Lionsgate / Summit Entertainment


The Novelty and Nostalgia of La La LandChristopher Orr praises Damien Chazelle’s magnificent new musical, which pays homage to Old Hollywood while fully embracing its present.

The Lead Contenders for This Year’s OscarsDavid Sims lays out all the movies battling it out for the film industry’s most prestigious awards.

Hairspray’s Revealing Portrayal of Race in AmericaMatthew Delmont explains how the 1988 John Waters film, newly adapted into an NBC live musical, presents a view of racial discrimination that’s both naïve and enlightening.

Is O.J. Simpson: Made in America a TV Show or a Movie?David Sims argues that the new documentary, now tipped for an Oscar, is an example of the increasingly blurred line between the mediums.

Who Would Want an Office Christmas Party Like This One?Megan Garber watches the new holiday film that manages to be both funny and not terribly fun at the same time.

Miss Sloane’s Washington Is Rotten to Its CoreSophie Gilbert weighs in on the new movie starring Jessica Chastain as a ruthless gun-control lobbyist.

The Transformers: The Last Knight Trailer: What the Hell?David Sims puzzles over the new trailer for the fifth edition of the movie franchise, which shows Hollywood impulses at their worst.



The Golden Age of the TV BathroomMegan Garber reveals how restrooms, as places of solitude and contemplation of self-image, are taking center stage on popular shows today.

The Feedback Loop of Saturday Night Live and Donald TrumpDavid Sims points out the recursive nature of the sketch-comedy show’s parody of the president-elect, and his consequent Twitter reactions.

Hairspray Live! Was Big, Bland, and BeautifulSophie Gilbert delves into NBC’s third televised musical, which offered goofy charm, a nebulous message of inclusivity, and a handful of spectacular moments.

Westworld and the False Promise of StorytellingSpencer Kornhaber unpacks the dark, meta message of the hit HBO show’s season finale.

Shut Eye Wants to Be Breaking Bad, With PsychicsSophie Gilbert reviews the stylish new Hulu show starring Jeffrey Donovan as a con man whose head injury appears to give him real visions.

Joe Biden Goes on the Late Show, Plays Everyone’s DadMegan Garber analyzes the vice president’s fatherly talk-show appearance, his first since the election.

Matthew Septimus


Adam Pendleton on Art’s Turbulent MomentSophie Gilbert chats with the conceptual artist about the significance of his new exhibition “Midnight in America,” in light of recent political upheaval.

Helen Marten’s Intricate Sculptures Win the Turner PrizeSophie Gilbert weighs in on the artist’s installation work, for which she was awarded the highest honor for a artist in the U.K.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters


The Culture Wars in the Grammy Album NominationsSpencer Kornhaber provides a primer on all the contenders for the award: Beyoncé vs. Adele vs. Drake vs. Bieber vs. Sturgill Simpson.

The Secret to Westworld’s Success Is in Its MusicSpencer Kornhaber listens to the newly released soundtrack for the HBO drama series.



2016 Holiday Gift GuideCatherine Green draws up a detailed list of shopping ideas for the impossible people to buy presents for, based on submissions from Atlantic readers.