Brow Beat

The Week in Culture, “Elephant in the Room” Edition

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Getty Images.

There’s an elephant in the metaphorical room that is this week in culture. Don’t you see it?

Elephants are big and loud and hard to ignore, making them just the kind of symbol for which Forrest Wickman makes a case in “Against Subtlety,” a cultural critique that asks what’s so bad about heavy-handedness anyway. After all, it was good enough for The Great Gatsby, Citizen Kane, Beethoven’s Fifth, and several more of our most widely celebrated pieces of art, wasn’t it?

In the music business, Adele’s entry onto the charts is the kind of unsubtle moment that accountants dream of. Slate’s charts expert Chris Molanphy digs deep into how her new song “Hello” is perfectly formulated to reintroduce her to her fans.

In Boston in the early part of this century, the thing no one wanted to talk about was child abuse in the Catholic Church. Spotlight, in theaters this week, is the film based on the true story of the Boston Globe journalists who revealed the scandal, and movie critic Dana Stevens praises it as a celebration of old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting and journalism.

Meanwhile, what makes Aziz Ansari’s new sitcom, coming to Netflix this weekend, special may be that instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, it actually confronts it: From Plan B to how you should treat your parents to race in Hollywood, Master of None is a canny social satire and a truly great sitcom, according to Slate’s Willa Paskin. (It’s hardly the only time race is the elephant in the room—just ask Project Greenlight’s Effie Brown.)

And making plenty of noise in our culture section this week was the November issue of the Slate Book Review. Laura Miller laments that Stacy Schiff’s history of the Salem witch trials isn’t able to make sense of the many confusing threads that led up to the catastrophe. Katy Waldman sits down with Phillip Pullman for an erudite Q&A. Tammy Oler writes about the triumphant conclusion of Ann Leckie’s groundbreaking and gender-bending sci-fi trilogy. Jason Zinoman writes about the theater columnist everyone in the stage world loves to hate, Michael Riedel. Elliott Holt worries about how Mary Gaitskill has bridled herself in her new novel The Mare. And two historians ask whether the elephant in the room of America’s recent history is that all the progress of the past 100 years has come undone.

And here are a few more room elephants worth pointing out:

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