The first ten episodes of Donald Glover’s marvelous FX series Atlanta aired weekly from early September through November 1, 2016. Its first season, in other words, unfolded throughout the weeks leading up to the presidential election. In retrospect the power of its first season may live on in as a powerful snapshot of what we were, or thought we were, in the last months of Obama’s America. It wasn’t a particularly pretty picture, but the very different feel of national events since November make me wonder if Atlanta‘s spectrum of tones can be repeated in the next season. Season One is almost always comic, but its humor ranges from darkly satiric to tender and romantic as the show conjures up rootsy yet media-savvy depictions of life in Atlanta.
What follows is the second installment in an ongoing serialized essay about two overlapping developments within modern American culture: the questionable popular demand that political leaders come “with a narrative” and, on the literary front, a general revival of approval for long serial narratives.
I’m all about finding the political in art, but assertions about the role of art in the political make me nervous, maybe more nervous than they should. But…
Mike Leigh’s latest work, a highly episodic “scenes from the life of the artist” film about J. M.W. Turner, begs a question that has dogged me throughout life.