Every new year I say to myself, “Self, keep track of the media you love this year so when December rolls around you know exactly what to write about,” and every year, I don’t do it. This year is no different. Trying to come up with some of my favourites of the year often results in a list of the most recent stuff I loved. But after reaching back through the entire year, I’ve come up with a list that’s reflective of what a dumpster fire 2017 has been and how I think that makes our media even more important. It can give us a moment of joy or solace or escape, it can inspire or encourage or motivate us to fight back, it can help us find and form communities. The media that sticks out the most for me this year does all of these things.
Night in the Woods had been one of my most anticipated games since it was announced way back in 2013. I was first introduced to Scott Benson’s work through a short video on Vimeo called “But I’m a Nice Guy” and I was overjoyed by the beautiful animation style and the inspired lampooning of Men’s Rights Activist-styled misogynistic attitudes towards women. I was immediately drawn to Night in the Woods because of the charming, autumnal aesthetic featured in the original Kickstarter trailer, but I had no idea the final game would contain such memorable characters who I couldn’t wait to return to night after night. Some of the puzzles were rough and frustrating, but the residents of Possum Springs and their honest, believable struggles under late capitalism more than make up for it. Hey Scott, if you’re reading this, I still wanna collab with you on something! WINK WINK.
I did not get into Destiny; I came into it too late to make my way through the campaign with friends, and it just really does not shine as a solo experience. I gave up after a few nights. When Destiny 2 was released, I made sure I played it right away and sometimes played with friends to really get a sense of how the game feels, and it did not disappoint. Credit to the team at Bungie because they really know how to design a satisfying shooter. The worlds and levels were a delight to navigate, and while the story is far from notable or award winning, the characters, multifaceted and diverse, were enjoyable to follow on their quest to save the world, regain the light, stop evil… you know. Video Games.
I think why Destiny 2 struck a chord with me specifically is because I travel a lot. I’m rarely home. So when I do have a bit of time in my own house, I tend to hermit and not socialize very much. Destiny 2 was an opportunity for me to catch up with friends and get in some social time, all from the comfort of my own couch. This experience is not new to people who regularly play online games, but I’m not really one of those people. Playing through campaign levels with friends gave me a wonderful opportunity to spend time with people I rarely get the chance to, and save the galaxy while doing it.
This year I spent more time intentionally seeking out new music, and two albums released in 2017 that stick out are both by artists who are new to me. The first is rapper Rapsody’s second studio album called Laila’s Wisdom. Her beats and rhymes are solid and, of course, I’m thrilled to see another talented woman breaking through in the still very male-dominated hip-hop space. There are loads of guest appearances on the album; everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Terrance Martin to Busta Rhymes shows up. (I usually skip through the Busta Rhymes part ‘cause I can’t ignore his sexism and homophobia and frankly, I just don’t like him. I mean, lyrics like “puttin’ my seed inside her.” Ugh!)
But these guests leads me to the next album I want to recommend: Sounds of Crenshaw Vol 1 – Terrance Martin Presents The Pollyseeds. I can never pass up a really solid lounge music album with smooth, chill beats. This collection fills that need beautifully. As its title suggests, this music is deeply rooted in the Los Angeles music scene which I’m immediately drawn to. So many of my musical foundations were established during my early 20s in random, questionable warehouses and bars in downtown LA listening to (mostly) men play, create and experiment with all kinds of electronic music. Highly recommend this for chill Sunday mornings.
The Good Place is a surprising breath of fresh air. It was one of those shows that I saw people talking about a bunch on Twitter and decided I needed to check out. Much to my delight, I couldn’t stop watching. In a year that has been utterly deflating, a show that is pleasant, fun, and easy was exactly what we needed. But I think what makes the show so special is that while it’s not an overtly political show at all, it’s also not a show without a political position. There are many subtle ways that the story comments on social issues without ever feeling heavy handed; it all makes perfect sense within the context of the show and the ethical questions it raises only help make the world and characters even more vibrant. I can’t wait to see where they go next in this bizarre, wonderful afterlife.
Broadchurch season three was a deeply emotional experience for me and it wasn’t explicitly because of its intense subject matter which, holy moly, was intense. Season three is about investigating the attack and rape of a woman. The reason I found it so emotional was because of how much respect, dignity and compassion the survivor of assault receives from the detectives investigating the case. I don’t think I ever realized how much I needed and wanted to see that specific representation. In a culture that has historically treated rape survivors with blame and disdain, watching authority figures and a community rally around and try to support someone going through such intense trauma was really gratifying. If we are going to represent assault in our media, let’s make it a lot more like Broadchurch and a lot less like Law & Order: SVU. Thanks.
I really despise Seth MacFarlane. He’s created some truly oppressive media from Family Guy to Ted, and wow, remember that horrific joke he made about Quvenzhané Wallis at the 2013 Oscars? Yeah, I don’t think I need to justify my disgust with this man. Which is why this next entry comes with an enormous amount of hesitation but… I really like The Orville. Sigh. Like, a lot. In a year that brought us a really disappointing new Star Trek show (which you can hear Ebony and I tear to shreds each week in our Star Trek: Discovery podcast!), The Orville is the Star Trek show we’ve been waiting for. It has all the rhythms and cadence of The Next Generation except it’s a little more adult. (I mean, you’d never have Riker asking for a cannabis edible from the replicator.)
Many of us are asking: Will this last? Will this create real systemic change?
HBO’s The Leftovers is a show that I’d watched previously but never got hooked on. It wasn’t until season three that this show worked its way into my bones. I watched this latest and last season week-to-week and it was almost excruciating having to wait six days between episodes. The Leftovers is about what happens to our world when the rapture occurs. What happens to our society and our communities when 140 million people just vanish all of a sudden? Trauma. Trauma is what happens. Massive, widescale collective grief and trauma. That’s what The Leftovers is about. And yes, it’s intense and kind of depressing, and I love it so very much. A lot of the show’s power comes from the fact that we in the audience are just as lost and confused as the characters on the show, and in season three, everything ramps up. Are they going to tell us what happened, or are they going to leave us with even more questions? This show was made by the creators of Lost so let’s be real, they could have totally fucked this up. But they didn’t. They resolve the show with grace and beauty and care. It’s rare that a show lingers in my mind for weeks after it’s done, where I still find myself thinking about the characters, and missing them like friends.
I’m not a big fan of horror movies. Enough shit in real life scares me, I don’t need to actively seek out more experiences of fear, so when Get Out arrived in theaters I wasn’t sure if I would go see it. But I’m so glad I did. The film didn’t pull any punches in exposing white supremacy, and the horror genre was the perfect way to present Jordan Peele’s vision for this essential discussion that so many white people are resistant to have. This tweet from Peele just says it all. Ebony wrote a great review for us about the film and its audience; check it out if you haven’t already.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 isn’t the most amazing movie ever made; arguably it’s not even the best Marvel movie, but minus some representation problems, I really loved it. Its mixture of a chosen family who really support and care about each other, coupled with tons of over-the-top, flashy nonsense and a killer retro soundtrack was just the pick-me-up I needed during a difficult time. It was the perfect film to give me a tiny bit of solace, and when I’m looking for something light and fluffy, I keep gravitating back to this one.
I don’t think I can write an end-of-year post about 2017 without at least a mention of The Reckoning taking place in Hollywood. As longtime feminist activists, we are very well aware of the overwhelming abuse regularly committed by men in power (and also of the enormously high rate at which men commit rape and assault regardless of class or social position). I can’t imagine any of us were surprised to hear the reports from survivors about the atrocities they’d endured, but what I was surprised about is how, for what feels like the first time, women were believed and consequences were doled out (though not for all of the men).
I never thought I would see this day. I hoped for it. And I fought for it. But deep down I couldn’t actually imagine it. I believe that the helplessness so many of us feel under the current president created an intensified desire in people to act and to create change, and that opened up space for The Reckoning. Many of us are asking: Will this last? Will this create real systemic change? Will men start to recognize their abusive behavior patterns and change them? How will this play out in other industries? After all, it’s not only famous men who perpetrate harm. (In my travels this fall I heard from local games communities that #metoo became important in discussions within their spaces as well).
I say with complete sincerity that it is genuinely a pleasure to watch men who have ruined lives suffer consequences, lose jobs, and be publicly shamed after years of victim blaming and zero consequences for abusers. But I also hope for a world in which we don’t simply dole out punishment for things done in the past, but look towards transformative and restorative justice to create a more equitable future. I want to see education, learning and growth that can strengthen all our communities and societies. I want to see a notion of justice take root in our communities and our country that recognizes our cultural and individual capacity to change, to grow, and to be better.
Check out all of our 2017 year-end retrospectives!
Carolyn’s Favorite TV of 2017
Ebony’s Comfort Blankets of 2017
Carolyn’s Favorite Films of 2017
Ashley’s Happy Distractions of 2017
Carolyn’s Favorite Games of 2017
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