There’s a reason why John Oliver blowing up a huge neon sign that read “2016” with dynamite in the season finale of Last Week Tonight resonated with so many: The year 2016 has been a complete and total catastrofuck. For too many reasons to list and for too many reasons that many of us have become familiar with. So with that in mind, I decided to focus on the things about 2016 that are actually good and I asked my fellow Overlords: what are the pop culture-related things that you’re thankful for this year?
And here are their answers:
Everybody Wants Some!! and Midnight Special, because that’s two of my favourite directors putting out great work, and I’m a simple man who needs simple things.
Also Hell Or High Water, because holy shit is that a brilliant movie.
And finally Metallica putting out an album of a calibre way, way beyond what was expected. ‘Atlas, Rise!’ is an absolute belter.
This scene from Shameless.
And nobody come at me with “That’s from early March of 2015.” This is the scene I’ll always be eternally grateful for. Not just because Shameless is still the only show that understands what it’s like to be poor in America. Not just because the scene itself is gloriously heartbreaking in its honesty about the struggles of leaving poverty behind. And not just because they could teach an entire goddamn acting seminar on Jeremy Allen White’s line reading of “I’m here.” I’m eternally grateful for this scene specifically because of this shot.
Every single kid who has grown up poor has created a facade that endears us to people who can help while actively hiding how bad things actually are. Every poor kid has also, at one point or another, felt that facade crack, and everything spin out of control. What you’re seeing is the panicked last second of mental maneuvering before that kid realizes he’s got to come clean. It’s terrible and beautiful, and should be winning an Emmy every year from now until the end of time.
I think we all know my deep love for this scarred, insane character. Thank Galactus for the movies I have been and will be gifted with starring my beautiful Merc with the Mouth.
Girl Meets World.
The adults have let us down. So let’s hand this world over to the children. One child specifically: Rowan Blanchard. I’m thankful for Rowan, and for Girl Meets World not only because it’s one of the most heartfelt shows on television with the most important messages that is also spectacularly funny, but because it’s allowed millions of tweens, teens and grown-ups to meet its star. The 15-year-old devotes her entire social media life (which, for any 15-year-old, is just life) to inclusive feminism, racial equality and awareness to causes like Black Lives Matter, the Dakota Access Pipeline and more. And the show itself has devoted episodes to girls in STEM, feminism, cultural appropriation, and the notion of entitlement, wrapped in a package of an eternally strong female friendship that has never faltered for a moment even under the dreaded we-like-the-same-guy trope.
In a year where bright spots were rare, thank you Rowan for shining a light on the darkness so your fans can help make it better. And thank you, Girl Meets World, for giving them something to laugh at and think about while saving the world.
The Hamilton Mixtape
Look, we’re all grateful for Hamilton. Or at least, we all should be. If you’re one of those obstinate malcontents who hasn’t listened to it yet, I’ve no time for or interest in you. Hamilton has been, in short, life-changing and life-affirming. I resisted it and regretted that resistance the very first time I listened to it. I thought it was the greatest thing I’d heard in years.
And then came the Hamilton Mixtape, a collection of covers and songs inspired by the show. It’s not even out yet — the full album doesn’t drop until December 2nd. But there have been six tracks released so far and they have been my everything. They range from beautiful and soulful (Kelly Clarkson’s cover of “It’s Quiet Uptown”) to lovely and sensuously entrancing (Usher’s “Wait For It”) to boot-stompingly fuckin’ fierce (the “My Shot” homage by The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Nate Ruess, and Joell Ortiz). But the strongest tracks have been Nas and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Wrote My Way Out”, Sia and Queen Latifah’s cover of “Satisfied” (guys, Queen Latifah can still CRUSH that shit), and my favorite, the revolutionary immigrant fight song “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” by K’NAAN, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, and Residente. That last one is a collective of immigrant rappers and there’s an unbridled intensity to it, with painfully poignant lyrics like “Man, I was brave, sailing on graves/ Don’t think I didn’t notice those tombstones/ disguised as waves/I’m no dummy, here is something funny/ you can be an immigrant without risking your lives/ Or crossing these borders with thrifty supplies/ All you got to do is see the world with new eyes”. Everything about the Mixtape thus far, including the covers, feels like a collection of fight songs, of music to stage a revolution to. It’s stand up and raise your fist music, and it speaks to me now more than ever, more than even Hamilton ever did. It’s been the year’s musical highlight.
Swiss Army Man thrilled me months before I even got to see it thanks to the odd buzz out of Sundance, then A24’s masterful marketing that leaned hard into The Daniels’ deliciously weird vision. When—at last!—I saw it last spring, I was in utter awe. Not only of Daniel Radcliffe’s Oscar-deserving performance as a farting corpse (I’m serious),
but also of the quirky soundtrack, bonkers visuals, and gross yet sweet message about the importance and beauty of finding your tribe. Exhilarating and unabashedly bizarre, Swiss Army Man manages to fill me with wonder and hope, even on my darkest days.
Also The Lure, because it’s a musical horror movie with ’80s rock and mermaids. This world still contains magic.
And finally Lemonade. Somehow I had been blind to the full might of Beyoncé. I was blind. But now I see. All hail Queen Bey, and the visual album that gave me chills and all the feels.
This line of dialogue from The Good Place, in which Michael (Ted Danson) describes his favorite color as “plueragloss ” and what it’s like: “The color of when a soldier comes home from war and sees his dog for the first time.”
I’m thankful for the Evil Ginger Lady Cabal of Kathryn Hahn, Sharon Horgan and Aya Cash, because tell me one thing that wasn’t made better by them in 2016? You’ve got Bad Moms (a not great movie salvaged by Hahn), Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Transparent from Hahn; You’re the Worst and Joe Swanberg’s Netflix series Easy for Aya Cash; and Catastrophe from Sharon Horgan. They are always the best part of whatever they are in. They are funny and clever and incredibly attractive, and each one of them has a wicked acid tongue capable of dissolving the lesser people around them, which is everyone.
I realize this show isn’t for everyone and as much as I wish I could shotgun through all ten episodes, I’m thankful for the downtime in between, because there’s a lot to unpack. It’s an intersection of all the things I love: a Masters’-Class-in-acting-their-asses-off cast that chews up two incredibly diverse sceneries, a storyline that Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are KILLING every week, haunting music from the incomparable Ramin Djawadi, and the real star of the show? The player piano. The showrunners (and tangentially Crichton) have created another playground for adults on screen and on the internet that for me, is like being sorted into a Hogwarts’ house. I feel like some days, this show is an offering or an apology for how shitty 2016 has been. It’s not perfect, but I’ll soak it up as much as I can.
Music: Beyoncé and her visual album ‘Lemonade’, Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ and A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service’
I’ve got nothing here other than listen to all three. Weep, feel ethereal and contemplative, get empowered, then high-five me later.
Viral: Ryan Reynolds, Chrissy Teigen, and Chris Evans on Social Media
This trifecta is my happy place. Sometimes, the tag “Celebrities are Better Than You” is true because of these 3, guys.
Lastly, and importantly, you all. Thanks for being here, poodles. Even NateMan.
I’m thankful for Green Room, which was incredibly good, and unnerving, and gruesome as hell to watch, and for seeing Anton Yelchin give another terrific performance in a career full of terrific performances before he was taken from this world too damn soon.
I’m thankful for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. It’s both hilarious and fiercely intelligent, and when Samantha Bee and her writers and producers aren’t making you laugh, they’re making you angry when they remind you how fucked-up this world truly is, and how we should be working a little bit harder to try and change that.
I’m thankful for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in both Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (the Ultimate Cut is much better and is more deserving of your time than the theatrical version) and her own film, Wonder Woman, which will be in theaters next June. She made the film better every time she appeared onscreen and when she finally appears to help Superman and Batman in the battle against Doomsday (complete with Junkie XL’s rip-roaring theme music), the audience I saw it with on opening weekend cheered and completely lost its shit, and understandably so.
(goes back to lighting all of the sage and incense) Please let Wonder Woman be great…Please let Wonder Woman be great…
I’m thankful for Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, who were the brightest spots in the flawed-but-entertaining Suicide Squad.
I’m thankful that Shane Black is still making great action comedies like The Nice Guys.
I’m thankful for Person Of Interest, and that the final season was worth the wait.
I’m thankful for the women of Luke Cage: Simone Missick as Detective Misty Knight, Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple.
And Mahershala Ali as Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes, who absolutely killed it.
And I’m thankful for every minute of Moonlight. What a beautiful and brilliant film.