Guest Editor’s Note: Our Pop Culture Apocalypse Survival Guide continues into January with another piece by one of Clarissa’s regular Editors. This time it’s the turn of Amy Roberts, who delivers a bumper New Year’s Special packed with morale-boosting recommendations to keep your spirits up as we get ready to go all Amanda Nunes on 2017’s ass. By the time I was finished reading this piece I felt like I’d just been through the trainingest montage of all, and I hope that by the time you finish this article, you will too. Toujours l’audace, readers, and if all else fails, we’ll always have Black Philip…
I don’t need to tell you all of the political atrocities that occurred in 2016 But put as simply as I can fathom: As evidenced by the results of several stomach churning, sweat inducing, tear farming votes in Britain and the US this past year, it’s clear that we’re living in a time where hate and completely irrational responses to frustration and fear have reigned victorious. These have been votes which have stared directly into the eyes of everyone who can’t identify with being white, cis-male, heterosexual and financially prosperous and said We are actively disregarding your desire to survive.
They were votes which shrieked with all the galling fervour of the town idiot celebrating the rare, redundant win of a throwaway pub bet so he could finally prove his superiority to everyone else. They were votes which said: We don’t care about your basic human rights, your absolute necessity for bodily and financial autonomy or your desire to just live a simple life where you can be who you want to and love who you want to, wherever you want to – we want absolute control. We want to ruin you.
And that’s absolutely chilling.
To hear the unmistakable roar of fascism creep nonchalantly into the mainstream and be presented as a harmless or even new ideology is unsettling to say the least. But with those dangerous ideologies also comes the fact that the people buying into them have clearly underestimated the power of the people they seek to belittle. Fascists believe, after all, that the rest of us are utterly dependent on the power of white boys and their frankly pathetic sense of entitlement to rule the fucking planet. How naive.
Whether consciously or otherwise, I’ve been attempting to comfort myself this past year with work that acts as a reminder of how those underestimations can be used to a person’s advantage. And my main source of inspiration has come from beyond 2016 in the form of Veronica Mars, a TV show which I’ve binge watched twice in it’s entirety this past year (including the movie). As a character, Mars is a diminutive yet powerful threat and what she lacks in physical strength, she more than makes up for in her intelligence, daring and drive.
She’s a tiny, blonde, beautiful teenage girl who nobody expects to be a private detective worth losing a wink of sleep over. But not only does she use that fact to her advantage, but she also always manages to figure out a way to find her target, and to take them down.In three short-lived but perfect seasons, Mars fights major corporations, corrupt police officers, rapists, murderers, child abusers and the wealthy elite of her hometown, Neptune. And she never backs down against them.
The show manages to make colossal statements on rape culture, class warfare and white, male entitlement by portraying it’s lead character as a rape survivor from a low income background continually fighting against the privileged elite for answers, fairness, equality and retribution. And it does so with some gleeful, confident and essential humour which always feels like a carefree, TV hairflip to the clusterfuck of terrible that modern living has become.
And when an inexperienced rape-fantastist more resembling American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman than any political leader got elected into the US White House, the show delivered a cool reminder of how puny these types of men are. How weak. And how easily they are to defeat, mock, crush and destroy. Misogynists, though hateful of women, are ultimately more fearful of us and our basic potential to ruin them with that power. And that’s a fear I’m all too eager to exploit.
But, you can’t just plug all of your desperate anxiety into one pop cultural outlet, no ma’am. And as much as I’ve been buoyed by the strength of Veronica Mars, 2016 has required a small army of movies, music, YouTube Channels, TV shows and podcasts with which to claw me down from the edge. And here, in no specific order, are 18 of my favourites from the past year:
1. The Witch
I’m sure I’m not the only woman who fantasized about Black Philip sweet talking them into picking a life of satanic deliciousness this year. When men like Donald Trump are wielding the sort of power that they currently are, surrendering yourself to a charming devil goat full of exquisite promises doesn’t sound crazy in the slightest.
Possibly one of the only shows currently airing which has any kind of realistic appreciation of our generation’s current economic quagmire. Atlanta charmingly dismantles the American Dream with a uniquely pitched dark humour alongside some crucial commentary regarding society and black identity.
3. Anna Faris Is Unqualified
Sometimes delving into the unpredictable terrain of improvised comedy, Unqualified features the strangest celebrity interviews you might ever hear alongside said guests offering love life advice to listeners. It can make for a strange, but oddly compelling and often hilarious listen.
4. Green Room
In a year when fascists weren’t just the pathetic pack of dick shits defacing public buildings with swastikas and getting chased out of city centers but were actually propelled to the center of the mainstream, Green Room felt all the more terrifying (and necessary).
5. Terrace House: Boys And Girls In The City
Documenting the unscripted lives of six young men and women as they share a house together in Tokyo (and desperately try to date each other throughout), this Japanese reality show was the gentle comfort blanket I desperately needed this year. It wasn’t just that something as seemingly minor as holding hands appeared to require an entire episode be dedicated to the act (adorable), but also that the comedy commentary which interspersed each episode was also on point, ferocious and hilarious.
6. Sad13 – Slugger
The first solo release from Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz was the feminist pop album the World desperately needed this year. Covering topics as varied as abusive relationships, consent and industry sexism with sublimely catchy finesse, Slugger is nothing short of a masterpiece.
7. Mr. Robot
Simply: Everything about this show is perfection. It’s well written, beautifully shot, tremendously acted and wonderfully mysterious. And I’m utterly obsessed with it.
8. How Did This Get Made?
Whenever I’ve simply wanted to disappear for an hour or so and cackle, hopelessly, into my own delirium, I’ve listened to How Did This Get Made?, a podcast which celebrates (and hilariously denigrates) some of the worst movies ever made. Standout episodes from this past year have focused on the movies Dreamcatcher, Vampires Kiss, Bloodsport and Grease 2 (the latter of which featured a delightfully worse-for-wear Anna Faris, which I’m totally here for).
It’s basically an undead Veronica Mars, except with a zombie who investigates murder mysteries by eating the victim’s brain. And yes it has a stupid name. And yes an even sillier premise. But fuck, does this show give me life.
10. Grace And Frankie
Nothing has given me more hope for my own future than watching Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin confidently flip ageism the bird and be absolute bosses on this show. Also, Grace And Frankie easily featured the funniest moment of any comedy from the past year in it’s fearless finale.
11. 2 Dope Queens
I just want to listen to Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams all day every day, thanks.
12. Hello, My Twenties
My absolute favourite discovery of this year has been this Korean show about five young women sharing an apartment together. It’s dark, hilarious, feminist, heartbreaking, touching, soapy and gloriously ridiculous and I urge every single one of you to binge watch it on Netflix immediately.
13. Stranger Things
WINONA FOREVER (but what about Barb – Inconsolable Guest Editor AJ).
14. Eddi Front – Marina
Both utterly fragile and aggressively powerful, Marina is a devastating album full of heartbreak, doubt and longing which also manages to feel empowering and motivational in it’s own quietly healing manner.
15. Movies With Mikey
Very simply: I love you Mikey Neuman, and thank you for providing the most crucial, fun, heartfelt and weirdly emotional deconstructions of popular American cinema out there right now. If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing Movies With Mikey yet, then I recommend that you grab yourself some tear dabbers (sponges, tissues: whatever), start with the Iron Giant (above) and take it from there. You won’t regret it.
16. Still Buffering
My favourite today-has-been-an-utter-shit-fit-of-a-day thing to listen to while aggressively making dinner or, hell, just trying to get to sleep. Still Buffering features three sisters as they tackle topics from the perspective of teenagers past and present. It soothes my soul and is utterly essential.
I’m happy to watch Gillian Jacobs in just about anything, but holy shit did she wow me as the monumentally flawed (but worryingly relatable) Mickey Dobbs in Love. I rewatched the entire first season the second I finished it and regret nothing about that decision. Who needs a social life, right?
18. The Tim Tracker
Look, I don’t make a habit out of obsessively watching YouTubers go about their mundane lives, but this particular channel really touched me this year and got me through some incredibly tough shit. From Florida based husband and wife team Jenn and Tim Tracker, their channel shows their unbridled enthusiasm for life and love of local theme parks alongside a deeply contagious celebration of positive thinking. And that’s therapeutic as fuck to watch during a blistering depression.
Amy Roberts (a.k.a Alabama Roxanne) is a writer, blogger and musician based in Liverpool, UK. She’s published internationally, in print and online, and has had work published with Bustle, Kinkly,The Independent Online, Hello Giggles and Queen Of The Track. She was featured on a panel of David Lynch experts at a Northern Film & Media event in early 2015, and is the bassist for D-Beat punk band Aüralskit. Her blog ‘I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster‘, fiction and non-fiction about the horrors of everyday life, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards two years running. She also enjoys photography, go-go dancing and Timothy Olyphant and is vehemently, batshit insanely, Team Catalano.