Charlie Murphy and The Rock: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP

Charlie Murphy, the Sidekick Who Became a Star
Rembert Browne | The Fader
“Charlie Murphy was the perfect supporting actor in a show whose inescapable magnetism was often the direct product of its star, Dave Chappelle. Murphy’s lines, while initially few and far between, always hit. His delivery dripped with authenticity—expertly playing a tough guy, since he was legitimately a tough guy. And he was effortlessly comfortable in his own skin alongside Chappelle, the heir to black comedy.”

Stop Comparing Girls to Sex and the City
Brian Moylan | Vulture
“The major difference between the two is one of tone and craft. Sex and the City is a sitcom in a very classic vein. Sure, it can sometimes be bittersweet, but most episodes end with the story lines tied in neat little bows and a sense of uplift. Week to week, season to season, we knew exactly what we’d get when tuning in. Girls was never as interested in that, vacillating wildly in terms of focus and quality (sometimes to its detriment) and willing to experiment with form in a way many series never do.”

How the Gothic Writing of Arthur Conan Doyle Inspired Other Creations
Kaya Genç | The Times Literary Supplement
“For their Victorian readers, Arthur Conan Doyle’s gothic tales did the kind of things Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episodes have been doing for us over the past six years. They shocked and terrorized them thanks to the relentless imagination of their author, and yet also came to them naturally, depicting the extremities of the modern world they knew only too well. Both have emerged from shifts in the production and distribution of popular culture.”

What Defense Means in the Age of Explosive NBA Offense
Danny Chau | The Ringer
“Basketball is divided by two halves of a court and two sides of play, which naturally suggests a 50–50 split in the value of offense and defense. But value fluctuates by era, by season, even by game. Playing defense asks each individual in a five-man lineup on the floor to view not only its opponent, but itself, from the third-person. A good defense, on any given play, collates different perspectives on the action —into a coherent game plan that lasts no longer than 24 seconds at a time.”

How the Rock Became Our Favorite Populist Hero
Scaachi Koul | BuzzFeed
“As The Rock, [Dwayne Johnson] was enticing, charming, handsome, cocky, and winning, even when he technically wasn’t winning. He’s always had a populist appeal, managing to morph himself into whatever his audiences wanted: Sometimes he’s all brawn, a body pummeling through men like they’re paper dolls; other times he’s a bro, an action star who takes the work seriously without taking himself seriously; and other times still, he’s the best version of a woke bae, socially conscious, feminist, and wildly hot. The Rock has always had the range.”

How Lucky Peach Changed Food Media Forever
Helen Rosner | Eater
“It’s possible that food media didn’t need Lucky Peach in order to look how it looks today: more visually multifarious than ever before, with editors and art directors bringing illustrators and sculptors and hand-letterers into the pages of our publications, not just limiting their presence to mood boards. Maybe aesthetic zeitgeists are destiny, unavoidable confluences of an infinity of trends and pressures, unstoppable forces. I don’t know how else we could have arrived here; all I know is how we did.”

The Lost City of Z: An Adventure Movie as Chilling as the Amazon Fog
Amy Nicholson | MTV News
The Lost City of Z is so jarringly out of step with summer blockbuster season that watching it feels like discovering a relic. Today, any film about a colonialist confronting remote tribes must be run through the 2017 political filter and judged on philosophies its primitive white characters had yet to discover.”

Mike Judge, the Bard of Suck
Willy Staley | The New York Times Magazine
“If you set aside his long-running TV show King of the Hill, which is much too loving to be considered satire, Judge’s corpus of work cleaves neatly into two pieces. In one, people are driven nearly to ruin in their efforts to escape the crush of immense managerial apparatuses (Office Space, Extract). In the other, we see the opposite—imbeciles left completely and terrifyingly to their own devices (Beavis and Butt-Head, Idiocracy). Silicon Valley, remarkably, fuses both of these impulses.”

On Finally Watching Girls
Jia Tolentino | The New Yorker
“Watching the series all at once, I kept thinking that its greatest artistic success was responsible for its major critical handicap: The show was so well-written, so carefully directed, and so attuned to a narrow type of rarely-seen-before verisimilitude that some portion of its audience simply lost the ability to distinguish it from real life.”