I’m not very hip. For that reason, I’m a huge fan of year-end lists: in one shot, I get to find out about all kinds of albums and writers and films that were off my cultural radar. Otherwise I generally find out about cool new music on about a six-month-to-a-year delay, and I don’t see that many movies either. I watch a fair amount of TV, but truthfully like half that amount is just Parks and Recreation on repeat in the background while I’m paying bills and writing emails.
What, you might reasonably wonder, am I doing with my time? Heaven knows. Making a bunch of hard-boiled eggs and moving to different places, if the last year is any indication.
Would you like an egg?
Unfortunately, I can’t give you one. I’m far away, or you are, depending on the perspective we’re talking about. But consider the lists below little baskets of pop-culture eggs, painted with stars and gold medals and exclamation points. These lists are by no means comprehensive, because I don’t hear about a lot of things. But of the things I did hear about this year, here are the ones I liked best.
Presented in no particular order:
Best Songs By New-to-Me Lady Musicians
Rapper Azealia Banks has got swagger to burn and an unpredictable delivery that keeps your ears perked.
Those Darlins address the age-old dilemma of the rough-and-tumble girl who just wants to hang with the guys and the guys who just want to make out with her.
A torch song from the British chanteuse who may be the next Adele.
A song that starts light as a spring shower and ends as a thunderstorm, from an Irish singer-songwriter with loads of charm.
Best Songs and Music Videos by Familiar Musicians Who Were Also Killing It This Year:
Everything a great music video ought to have: a catchy beat, killer dance moves, fun costumes and colors, and as much Beyoncé as possible.
My favorite lady speed-raps and gives us a chorus to sing along to.
Flo and the Machine excel at big, bold songs that swallow you up whole, and this single is no exception.
These two just sound (and look) like they’re having so much fun. Plus, Aziz Ansari is the hype man!
A sweeping, self-deprecating song about feeling lost in these modern times.
I Laughed, I Cried, I Moved to Texas and Plotted Revenge: Best TV of 2011
Pretty Little Liars
Not just a guilty-pleasure teen murder mystery show about girls with great clothes, although there is that too. But the relationship between Hanna, Aria, Spencer and Emily is one of the most heartwarming–and strangely true-t0-life–representations of female friendship currently out there. Also, several members of the Girls Like Giants crew have assigned ourselves our parallel PLL characters via in-depth discussion, intuition, and online quizzes. We take this show very seriously.
Parks and Recreation
Every member of this ensemble cast fills my heart with laughter and love, but I especially like it when Andy gives speeches, when April is the moon, when Ben is in love, and when Leslie leads.
Friday Night Lights
Swinging between dirty jokes, bleakly funny despair, and warm, understated moments of human connection, Louie‘s second season surprised me with each new episode.
A good old-fashioned fist-clenching melodrama with a flawed (anti?) heroine, a remorseful yet icy villain, and best of all, a Nolan.
Best Movies of 2011 That I Saw, Which Were Not Many
Possibly part of the reason I didn’t see many movies this year was because I saw Bridesmaids three times in theaters.
Touchingly acted, beautifully written, warmly directed, and a Jack Russell terrier who thinks existential thoughts in subtitles. Sold.
Lose yourself like Eminem circa 8 Mile but with the apocalypse and Kirsten Dunst and bathing in the moonlight of destruction.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Oh man, thank goodness it was awesome. What if it hadn’t been?
Midnight in Paris
This movie is like a vacation (Woody Allen movie) in a vacation (Woody Allen movie set in Paris) in a vacation (Woody Allen movie set in Paris in the 1920s (sometimes)).
Best stories about women in entertainment and the media:
“To survive the truly hostile environment on set, I started to pray nonstop to my God, as working-class women often do, and to listen nonstop to Patti Smith’s ‘People Have the Power.’ I read The Art of War and kept the idea ‘He that cares the most, wins’ upmost in my mind. I knew I cared the most, since I had the most to lose. I made a chart of names and hung them on my dressing-room door; it listed every person who worked on the show, and I put a check next to those I intended to fire when Roseanne became No. 1, which I knew it would.”
“The space surrounding auditions is dangerous: it seems ideal to house despair and self-doubt. On a big white wall in the corner of your mind you can screen a mental tape of you in a bright room wearing a bikini, you stuttering and asking in a high-pitched voice to start again, and then being denied and slinking off, out the door, putting on your smudged glasses.”
“If that man had never said that I was a ‘nice’ girl, I’d never have persisted. Because the fact was I was NOT A NICE GIRL. Just ask my mother: I was a nasty, grouchy, bitter, awful girl with an awful attitude and a mouth that was ugly because I was ‘ugly inside.’ Well, this guy was so obviously wrong in his assessment of me as a ‘nice girl’ that I knew he had to be wrong about my ability to be a model, too.”
“The truth is that most kinds of talent aren’t gendered. Sometimes women will be the best at things and other times men will. The implicit fear is that women are going to take spots formerly reserved for men. THIS IS SO STUPID. The most talented people take the top spots. There are no gender quotas. Tina Fey coexists peacefully with Will Ferrell and Danny McBride. They are just all the best at their specific talent (comedy).
Ferrell isn’t threatened by Fey because game recognizes game. And clearly I’m really aiming for this to catch on, but it’s not emasculating if you like it. And a lot of dudes like it. And a lot of other dudes secretly like it but are afraid of what their dude friends will think. Not caring about what other people think is attractive to oh, everybody.”
“To make a woman adorable, one successful female screenwriter says, ‘you have to defeat her at the beginning. It’s a conscious thing I do—abuse and break her, strip her of her dignity, and then she gets to live out our fantasies and have fun. It’s as simple as making the girl cry, fifteen minutes into the movie.'”
“Industry executives seem to bet on the idea that men won’t want to listen to talented female rappers, and they’re given less opportunities in general. In some cases, they might be right — even with a history of skilled lady rappers, hip-hop still sometimes seems like a man’s game, with a glass ceiling just as impenetrable as the corporate one.”
Best Occupy Essays and Narratives
The Occupy movement was an enormous part of 2011, and it’s likely to continue to be a big presence in 2012. Here are a few of my favorite perspectives.
“I have friends who are Occupying Wall Street. Good friends; people I trust. And I respect them, and I know the work they’re doing is good. But I’ve confessed, to at least one of them, that it scares me a bit, uniting behind a banner of the “99 percent.” I worry that this erases differences, erases histories, puts us into a position where all that matters is whether you are extremely wealthy or not, and I can’t match that up with my understanding of how class works, how it gets tangled up in all of these separate identities and oppressions. I realize now that this is the opposite of why they’re there; they want to bring the differences to light and make them connect without erasing each other, to create some model of solidarity that actually works. This is good work; this is necessary work. But before I can think of joining them in doing it, I have to do this, here. I have to begin to break that 99 percent apart, to speak to why it scares me.”
“Arguing that white working- and middle-class people are slaves to debt or corporations undermines not only the centrality of the African slave trade to the birth of the modern corporation but the distinct ways in which debt prevents many blacks from achieving middle-class status.”
“’This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!’ a pockmarked, limping man kept screaming from behind me. ‘This is what Lower Manhattan looks like with a bunch of people in it screaming!’ I screamed. Someone tried to give a copy of the Occupied Wall Street Journal to a cop, who said ‘Sorry boss, can’t take anything. Against the law.'”
“1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.”
“As I wrote in my last post, I still think OWS is more of a space than a movement, a space of radical possibility, but I also think it is becoming something else. It is a space, but it is also a moment: a moment in which radical critique of our political and economic systems and the harm they have caused, a critique that many of us have had for a while, feels possible to have on a larger scale. It is a moment in which people who never thought they would be out on the streets protesting are protesting. And this is revolutionary in itself.”