2015 has been an awesome year here at Clarissa, with more writers contributing to the site than ever before. As well as hating just about everything, there have been a select few amazing pieces of pop culture which have made 2015 great. Let our Clarissa roster of writers take you through the best and worst of the year!
Cinematically, this has been an incredibly frustrating, disappointing year. I would love to be including, for instance, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl somewhere on this list, but alas, finding a local cinema which was willing to sacrifice mainstream movie content in order to screen it for more than a single day proved impossible. More frustrating about that scenario is the fact that, Mad Max: Fury Road aside (which remains one of my favourite cinematic highlights of the year. Tom Hardy! Female uprisings! Matriarchal Biker gangs! YASS!), nearly every major, mainstream film that I’ve seen this year has been utter garbage.
It started with the Tory propaganda packed, derogatory working class portrayals of Kingsmen: Secret Service (worst film ever) and it ended with the unnecessary hype machine of Star Wars: The Force Awakens — a film which fans were going to watch 5 or 6 times over without having it forced down their throats at every given opportunity (and I really don’t want to be deep throating that shit myself, Disney. Please, put it away. We’re aware of your presence).
Some of my favourite films of this year have all been ones exploring horror: from melodramatic, ludicrously camp commentaries on teen culture (Unfriended), a haunting STD in the form of a sexual chain letter (It Follows), a horrifying insight into the destructive mechanics of the music industry and celebrity (Amy), the overcoming of childhood abuse via cinematic fantasy (The Wolfpack) and a truly terrifying portrait of sleep paralysis (The Nightmare); these were all relatively small films which seemed to mirror a society currently struggling with a grubby conscience and cowering in disgust and terror at the most rudimentary workings of human nature. More than anything, these films time and again portrayed a society of people trying, and failing, to escape themselves and their own reality.
It wasn’t all horror though, both Mistress America and Tangerine provided two stunning, if incredibly parallel, portrayals of female friendship. The former being a wonderfully observed portrayal of new friendship, idealism and creativity between two young women at radically different stages of their lives and the latter being a refreshing (and often hilarious) portrait of a long-term friendship between two trans women (who are — hold onto your hats — both played by actual trans actresses rather than Eddie Remayne and Jared Leto).
Female friendship also formed the basis of some of my favourite TV shows of this year, with Broad City (so good I watched both seasons twice this year) being the much needed comedic catharsis necessary in a year plagued by endless exhaustion and stress, while UnReal was easily the most surprising, giving me the complex and incredibly dysfunctional female friendship I dearly craved to see between toxic careerists Rachel and Julia (and let’s not forget UnReal‘s relentless feminist spirit and complete daring in portraying love as a fictional, unachievable entity: subversive as fuck).
Great kudos also goes to Netflix shows Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Jessica Jones for delivering complex female characters who both dealt with (and helped me to deal with) trauma in their own way. While Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt felt like it gave me permission to laugh at and own my pain as a way of working my way through it, Jessica Jones encouraged viewers to face their trauma head on and vanquish it, physically and mentally, from existence (which I took deep inspiration from, and did). Both were incredibly empowering in their own right.
Without a doubt, though, The Affair has been my TV Drama obsession of 2015 with the second season of the show maturing from the horny zeal and gender politics of it’s first and becoming an alluringly grotesque showcase of destructive personalities, the uncertainty of love, the impact of coincidence and the tragedy of it’s consequence. I also absolutely adored all the Lynchian references in the final few episodes. Dark, brooding and compulsively unsettling: The Affair understands the sickly, pathetic and confused ego at the heart of human nature and pokes at it like few other shows have the patience to try.
2015 has been marked by colossal failures (like Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour – just don’t get me started), and major disappointments (I’m looking at you, Mad Men finale). But aside from the overwhelming dreadfulness of the majority of pop culture this year, there have been a couple of stand out gems I won’t brain-erase immediately. Here’s the best and worst meshed into a sick sandwich.
The show Younger proved that it’s possible to follow-up Sex and the City with something every bit as zeitgeisty, whilst making post-divorce life a little less depressing.
Radiohead’s Spectre dropped Christmas Day, embarrassing all other attempts at Bond themes.
The Affair was compulsive, and understood human relationships better than anyone. But did I enjoy it? I don’t know.
Scandal continued, and continues, to be ridiculous. And the man I once found irresistible, Fitz, turned out to be controlling and emotionally abusive. Who knew?
Grey’s Anatomy pulled a major shocker, killing off a core cast member. Months later, literally no-one cares.
Ed Sheeran and Calvin Harris attempted to fight the good fight on Taylor Swift’s behalf. It was an embarrassing act of anti-feminism heroics. Swift’s online behaviour in general left a lot to be desired.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was THE BEST show to launch this Fall, so why aren’t you watching it?
Fifty Shades of Grey proved that a film about sex can be boring as shit (hell, I fuck better than that Christian Grey joker).
If it was a competition, TV beat film easily, with amazing original content like Jessica Jones, Flesh and Bone, and You’re The Worst Season 2. Long may TV continue! Cinema, step up your game fast please. The only thing to save Star Wars: The Force Awakens were the catalogue of hotties! Oh, and y’know, the feminism.
It seems as if I spent most of this year saying what was problematic, exploitative or just plain icky about pop culture in 2015, so it’s nice to have an opportunity to concentrate on the good stuff for once. And what a lot there was! Orphan Black came back and was everything we Clone Clubbers wanted and more: few things are going to be able to top Helena, the cutest, most sugar-addicted assassin in the world walking out of a garage covered in blood, saying ‘you should not threaten babies’, but BBC America are going to have to try in season four, and the dark hints about uber-bitch Rachel in the final episode suggest they’ll be able to.
Marvel blew it on the big screen with that scene between Black Widow and Bruce Banner in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but succeeded on the small one with the universally-acclaimed Jessica Jones and Agent Carter, which I also really enjoyed even though it didn’t make the same splash as its grittier stablemate. And where Marvel didn’t manage, the Star Wars franchise more than succeeded, giving us, in Rey, a woman who can not only do everything a certain Tattooine farmboy did in the original trilogy, but can even do it better. Watching Rey duke it out with Emo Sith Lord Kylo Ren in the film’s climactic lightsaber duel made me want to go out and purchase a tube of coloured plastic with a light in it for the first time since I entered my teens. It’s just a shame the formidable Star Wars merchandising machine is less willing to embrace Rey’s greatness.
I’ve had a busy year with both writing and touring commitments, but I’m glad I found the time to read Casey Plett’s A Safe Girl to Love, a collection of stories which are truer reflections of the trans experience than anything you’ll see in Transparent or that piece of forced feminisation Oscar-bait Eddie Redmayne’s starring in, and which I strongly recommend you read. My year would have been very different if I hadn’t read it, that’s for sure.
2015 has also been a great year for female couples in film, whether their relationship remains in the subtext, as in Clouds of Sils Maria, which finally laid to rest all those memes about K-Stew not being able to act, or Todd Haynes’ acclaimed Carol, so I want to end my review of 2015 by revisiting a movie which I feel I was a little unfair on. I’m not ashamed to say The Duke of Burgundy triggered me after I first saw it (for reasons which only became clear later), with the result that I fixated on what I saw as director Peter Strickland’s mishandling of the consent-violation scene between Evelyn and Cynthia, which seemed to me to be a major failing of what was an otherwise beautiful, impressive and unique film. But it’s the kind of film which stays with you, and after seeing it again a number of times it becomes abundantly clear that the abusive dynamic in this d/s relationship doesn’t only flow in one direction. In that one instance, I’m happy to say I got it wrong.
The reality of Girlhood: There’s a moment in Girlhood (dir. Céline Sciamma) when Vic, Lady, Fily and Adiatou, four, black suburban-Parisian teenagers, having spent the evening getting dressed up, drunk and stoned in a hotel, sing along to “Diamonds” by Rihanna. This genuine, fearsome moment filled my heart with a melancholy joy and made Girlhood my favourite film of this year.
Growing a mole hair to see how long it would get: Very liberating. I recommend it just for the sheer marvel of a body’s hairy persistence. Completely inspired by the beautifully hairy armpits of Gaby Hoffmann in everything this year.
The hysteria of The Falling: The first half of Carol Morley’s film is a psychedelic, Tracy Thorn soundtracked dream that is disorientating and devastating. A hallucinatory experience about how weirdly intense and sincerely present teenagers can be.
Couch to 5k to outrun the apocalypse: I started running this year because I genuinely think at some point I’m going to need to run very fast to escape the end of the world. Plus I figure if the end of the world is anything like The Walking Dead I’ll need to outrun a couple of people I’ll be wishing died years ago.
The terrifying sex of It Follows: I wrote about how perceptive this film was for Clarissa back in August. A beautiful film that freaked me out and kept me gripped, all the while reminding me of sexual exchange and all its reverberating consequences. Brilliant stuff.
Another year gone and, in the words of the Swan of Avon, the grave continues to gape ever wider. There were many cultural highs and lows that accompanied me on my journey toward my inevitable demise.
Amongst my TV highlights was undoubtedly You’re The Worst Season 2. Witty, cynical, disturbing, and at times deeply moving, with characters that are enormously flawed and endearing, I loved it. I want to be Jimmy Shive-Overly and I probably am already.
The BBC came up trumps by letting Pemberton and Shearsmith have a second series of Inside No 9. Episode 2, “The 12 Days of Christine”, was the most beautiful piece of television I have seen in years.
Hannibal Season 3 disappeared further and further up its own rectum and I bailed when the stench of artsy pretentiousness overcame my delicate cultural sensibilities.
I watched a lot of movies this year (Cineworld Unlimited Card FTW) and most of them were appalling. Far From the Madding Crowd, based on the book by up and coming young author Thomas Hardy (surprised Tom Hardy hasn’t sued), was thoroughly enjoyable. Nice to see a young male writer creating a strong female character.
My favourite movie was undoubtedly The D Train. Having expected it to consist mainly of the comedy stylings of Jack Black, I thought it would be shit. It wasn’t though. It was incredible. High school reunions should all be that fucked up.
I didn’t enjoy Mad Max, mainly because everyone knows that girls can’t do boys stuff (I’m kidding). I enjoyed that it riled so many sexist dickheads on the Twitter, but it made me have a realisation about myself. I DON’T LIKE ACTION MOVIES. There, I said it.
The musical event of the year, decade and, dare I say it, century (I dare) has to be “Hotline Bling”. I love everything about it. But, urgh, Adele. It’s just no.
And of course, Mad Max, because finally a woman saved the world and defeated the bad guy. So thank you Imperator Furiosa, you are my inspiration (also Charlize Theron’s performance was outstanding). I’m actually thinking of naming my future child Imperator Furiosa, what a cool name! Hurray for strong female characters!
On TV, I’m really grateful for Master of None. It’s a must watch: funny, smart, and realistic. I can’t wait for season 2!
Thanks Clarissa readers! May 2016 be the year of great shit! And hey, sub us something. xoxo