The Year’s Best
I don’t put much stock into what critics say is good or bad.
Objectively speaking, Spotlight — last year’s Best Picture winner — was a good movie. I enjoyed it, not least because it’s always nice to see someone Get The Story Against All Odds. But, let’s be real, it was not better than Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie so bombastic and visceral I felt faintly ill from adrenaline when I left the theater.
A critic is less an arbiter of good taste, and more someone whose opinion you respect and (hopefully) like to hear — someone with human likes and dislikes, and who also happens to expose himself or herself to a lot of pop culture. I hope that I have served adequately in that capacity for Metro readers this year.
So I shall not waste your time this week. You know what you like, and you know what you think is good. I respect that.
Instead, I thought we’d talk about the good things in pop culture in 2016 — not specific titles, but trends that speak promisingly for the future.
We call out bullsh** now. Perhaps it was all right for Princess Leia to shoulder three Star Wars flicks as the sole female character of note, but those days are long behind us. This simple notion — hey, the world isn’t entirely made of white men, so wouldn’t it be nice to see some variety in our media? — is catching hold with increasing frequency. Minor as it may seem, representation does amazing, powerful things for people. Don’t underestimate how important it is.
When people still persist in telling lopsided stories, they get called out. Sure, people resist change — just ask Ghost-busters — but the tide has turned, and now the fact that a Gotham City Sirens movie (featuring a women-led cast) is in the works doesn’t seem so absurd afte r all.
There’s so much media now. I sadly don’t watch as much TV as I would like because there’s just so damn much of it. I started watching The Crown this week, guiltily, knowing that I shouldn’t because I’m so behind on about 294 other shows. (I’ve literally been trying to watch White Collar since 2009, and still haven’t finished.) But it’s so good! So beautiful! So royal!
Don’t even get me started on how many movies I want to see that flash out of theaters before I can get there, or how many games are sitting in my backlog at this very minute. There is too much media, and I can’t consume it all. Media has never been so democratic or so good. The list of can’t-miss properties expands by leaps and bounds.
Discourse is everywhere now. Critical analysis got a bum rap in 2016, but it’s truly a valuable skill to have. We’ve got to learn to question the media presented to us. In this brave new world of “fake news,” we’ve got to be able to critically analyze whatever is presented to us.
This goes for our pop culture as well as our news sources. Ask yourself why Marvel thought casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One (a traditionally Tibetan character) in Doctor Strange was a good idea. Ask yourself why, really, why female Ghost-busters inspire such fury in male audiences. Ask yourself whether Westworld is good, and then ask what constitutes “prestige” TV these days (and whether it’s really prestigious).
Think as you consume, in all things. That’s the best advice I can give you for 2017.