While I think nostalgia is a two-edged sword and I am often a nostalgic memory skeptic, I do admit to missing the Good Old Days. And by Good Old Days, I mean before the year itself became a meme/joke about something terrible.
This started in 2016, when we all joked about how the year was so bad, nothing can top it. Then each year after said “hold my beer” and was terrible in its own way. 2021 was no exception.
Along with being kinda lousy, 2021 was also weird. And on occasion, good. I cherry-picked a few examples of the good, the bad, and the weird that stood out to me. Perhaps you can add yours in the comments.
The Good: Joe Biden became president, despite the best efforts of people like 9/11 Hero to Suckers Rudy Guliani, Crazed Lawyer Sidney Powell, and The My Pillow Guy. Biden hasn’t been perfect but he has done some good things. And with two very sad and key exceptions, he mostly seemed to unite Democrats, including having one of his biggest advocates being a member of The Squad, Jamila Jayapal.
The Bad: The Big Lie lives on and is a driving force in the Republican Party, which is now focused on wrecking our democracy, something you can say without hyperbole. Unfortunately, too many people in America either view this development as super awesome coolness, or are clueless enough to think that thinking there is a real threat to democracy is hyperbole.
The Weird: Even as a screwup, the Four Seasons Landscaping fiasco (see the above image) was bizarre and surreal. One of those things that if it were part of a movie, critics would slam it as a ridiculous plot development, and yet it happened in real life.
The Good: We got a vaccine – several of them! The research into mRNA is showing potential for other medical treatments as well. There is no doubt, the vaccine has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
The Bad: The anti-vax movement has become even larger, more heinous, and more dug-in than ever before. Instead of getting a simple two shots, then a booster, way too many Americans (mainly conservatives) decided the best path forward was trying one of a sad number of convoluted Rube Goldberg-like solutions to fighting COVID. Many died while bringing the term “horse paste” into the American lexicon.
The Weird: This year featured a very odd obsession with “owning the libs” over COVID from some pundits, including a lot of mocking of those who are treating a pandemic like a, well, pandemic. On May 4, Emma Green published in The Atlantic a long “lol” at those libs who are “addicted to the pandemic.” Since that date, as per Johns Hopkins University data, 238,532 Americans have died from COVID. On Dec. 13, Matthew Wahler, also in The Atlantic, lectured everyone that the down-home folksy thing to do was not give a flying shit about infecting others. Since that date, 18,824 Americans have died from COVID. Most recently, on December 20, Shadi Hamid posted about “Omnicron Panic and Liberal Hysteria.” Since that date, 9,717 Americans have died from COVID. You get the idea.
The Good: For those looking to be entertained and get a break from doomscrolling, there were plenty of good options. Live music returned, which was touch and go but thankfully enough artists had vaccine requirements (if you don’t follow musician Jason Isbell on Twitter, his battles with people yelling at him for requiring arm pokes are worth the follow just to revisit). There were many first-rate streaming options, ranging from all-too-rare Native storytelling in “Reservation Dogs” to a wonderful Ken Burns Muhammed Ali documentary to a hilariously crazy third season of the vampire buddy comedy “What We Do in the Shadows.”
The Bad: After reading the Adrastos review piqued my curiosity, I decided to take in “Being the Ricardos.” As Adrastos pointed out, it was completely Aaron Sorkin’d and Javiar Bardem was miscast as Ricky Ricardo. I’m a Lucy fan, so that was disappointing.
The Weird: “Succession” is a legitimate tour de force, one of those Great HBO Shows that starts off with a solid first season and takes off from there. A fable that is based on Rupert Murdoch, “Succession” is really a well-done family melodrama and had a legitimately legendary ending to its season 3 finale. But here’s the odd part…despite being a story of the mega-wealthy, it’s wildly popular among the progressive left. I imagine this is due to its unflinching, fresh and honest take on the megawealthy and its affect on society in general that lurks under the family drama and exotic sets.
And here’s one more…The Good: Media had some great moments in 2021. Media critics such as Jay Rosen and Dan Froomkin kept the DC punditry honest, Ed Yong did wonderful, Pulitzer Prize-winning work covering COVID for The Atlantic, The New York Times often made us nuts but also produced an incredible Jan. 6 video, and Michelle Goldberg consistently produced compelling columns on COVID, democracy, and the Supreme Court’s awful abortion decision.
The Bad: Often media figures demonstrated a clear tendency to let far-right figures like Spineless Punk Senator Ted Cruz spread misinformation and lies unchallenged, while being suspiciously tough on Democrats and left-of-center figures. Two living examples include Poster Child for All That’s Wrong with the Sunday Shows Margaret Brennan and Failed Meet the Press Host Chuck Todd, who recently went after 1619 Creator Nikole Hannah-Jones with a rather weird level of venom during an appearance on his show.
The Weird: UFOs, or excuse me, Unidentified Ariel Phenomena (UAPs), hovered over our year with some interesting moments. In June, the much-anticipated UFO (sorry, UAP) report was released and was a little disappointing to those of us who do not realize that these kind of government reports announcing a new initiative are generally detail-free. However, it did say only one of the 144 incident reports could be initially explained away, so I suppose that’s something? Then Seemingly Normal Senator Kristin Gillibrand demanded a bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of this stuff. Soon after that story hit, the new defense bill was released and seemingly included money to basically form…the X-Files? Apparently, it sparked some real-deal DC bipartisanship:
The new legislation to collect and analyze data on such incidents was sponsored in separate bills by Gallego and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and was cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Never mind aliens, that list of sponsors being together on a bill in 2021 is pretty weird in and of itself.
So, quite a year. I would say I hope next year will be better but we’ve said that for about five years now, so I don’t want to jinx it.
Hard to find a good last word song for such a year, so I’ll let The Mountain Goats have it by default because I like this song. Sue me.
One thought on “One Weird Year”
The Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference is something right out of a Borat movie, amirite?
Now I need to carefully examing the fonts&kerning&reflections in that photo to see if Sasha Baron Cohen is lurking in it somewhere…
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