We’re only three days into 2017 and already the narrative has been established: 2016 was an awful crap fest of a year and we’re glad it’s gone. But was it as bad as we think? Was there really nothing at all redeeming about the past year?
A lot of the hate surrounding 2016 seems to have a lot to do with how we ended the year on a rather sour note. The aftermath of the election was still front and center in our minds and the death of Carrie Fisher was and still is weighing on us. When it comes to 2016 these are the two things everyone seems to be talking about right now: the election and celebrity deaths. Now, the election was a heated one and there were a lot of celebrities that passed away last year, but I think some good things happened too.
For starters, it was a great year for the domestic box office, making over eleven billion dollars. That’s the first time in history. And the year was full of noteworthy movies, the top three grossing being Finding Dory, Rogue One, and Captain America: Civil War. Although we might as well just call it “Disney gets richer” because all three of those came out of studios owned by Disney.
But even though Disney ruled the box office it was still a great year for other movies as well. I personally really enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane, the kinda-maybe sequel to the original Cloverfield back in 2008 (although you don’t have to have seen the first one to enjoy it). It was a smartly paced horror thriller that proved that you never really can trust John Goodman. And I mean ever. Right when you think you’ve grown to trust him the movie throws something back at you that casts doubt on the whole situation. It’s tense, exciting, and never really lets up. If you’re a fan of horror or even just thrillers in general, I highly recommend it. Even the debut trailer for the movie was great, capturing that gradual sense of unease as things grow more and more demented.
I also really enjoyed Arrival, a sci-fi film with a unique take on first contact with aliens. I already posted a full review of it a few weeks back so I won’t go into so much detail again. It’s a smart movie that puts the focus squarely on the impact of aliens arriving on Earth. Their intentions unknown, the governments of the world scramble to assemble teams and figure out what the purpose of their arrival is. It’s a high concept movie with a decidedly human core to it.
But it wasn’t all rosy in movie land. As much as I would like to put Rogue One on my “best movies of 2016” list I simply can’t, mainly because it’s lackluster first half was only saved by such an extraordinary second half. And then there was also Blair Witch, the 17 years later sequel to The Blair Witch Project, which failed to capitalize on any of its interesting elements and instead settled into a boring parade of pointless jump scares and shadow retelling of the events of the first movie.
It was also a great year for alternative energy or “clean energy”, if you prefer. Solar energy is now the same price or cheaper than fossil fuels in thirty countries around the world. Not only that, but Tesla managed to power an entire island using solar panels. Sure the island has only 600 residents, but it’s still an amazing feat. It shows that the future of energy may finally be arriving. You may or may not believe in global warming, but I’m sure you can at least agree that fossil fuels will not last us forever. Regardless of global warming, we have to secure humanity’s future by switching over to renewable energy sources.
And hey, remember Pokemon GO? It was that mobile game that actually got people to go outside and walk around. How amazing is that? A video game actually made people go enjoy the outdoors. Never mind the media, who apparently tried their best to sour the achievement by reporting all the accidents that occurred with people playing the game (although at least one such report of a highway accident involving the game was false). The hype around Pokemon GO has certainly died down at this point, but there’s no denying the impact it had on popular culture.
See here’s the thing with 2016: I think most of the bad stuff that happened was at least slightly blown out of proportion by either the news or social media. There were certainly a lot of high-note celebrity deaths last year, but as Cracked points out pretty much every year is the worst year in celebrity deaths. And something I didn’t mention before, but in the aftermath of that Dallas shooting in July where five police officers were killed we had this narrative in our heads that the United States had become such a battleground for our forces in blue that they were afraid to even step out the door because they might not come back home. Never mind the fact that the number of police officers being killed has been, on average, declining for the past few decades. It just shows you how our perception can be shaped so easily by exaggeration.
And when it comes to the election, yes there was a lot of vitriol flowing around, but we have to remember that this has been the culmination of the public frustration that’s been brewing for quite some time. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t have gotten nearly the amount of attention they did if they had run even just a decade ago (Trump did actually try running for the Reform Party back in 2000, but withdrew before the voting began). And while Trump’s win greatly upset a lot of people, I don’t think it makes 2016 a terrible year. If anything, I think it makes 2017 an uncertain year because now he’ll actually be able to start doing things when he takes office on January 20th. Before, all he could really do was talk (or tweet). It leaves us with an uncertain future on progressive policies and environmental issues. I mean, Trump is the guy who once said that wind turbines are killing all the eagles. No joke.
But despite all my defenses of 2016, I still don’t think it was a great year. Hell, I’m not even sure if I would necessarily call it a “good” year, just an average one. But it certainly wasn’t the doomsday terrible good-for-nothing year that many of us seem to have in our minds. If anything, instead of focusing on the bad parts of 2016, we should be focusing on fighting to make sure 2017 is a good year and goes where we want it to. The past can inform us, but it can also bind us and steer us away from the things that matter.
Well that’s all I have for this week. But before I go, I do want to say one thing. I made a resolution during New Year’s that I haven’t shared with anyone else yet, so this is the first time I’m speaking of it period (aren’t you lucky). My resolution is that I will write a short story each month this year, so twelve in total. And on the final Wednesday of each month, instead of a normal blog post I will be posting the story for that month for you all to read. It’s another way to help me keep writing (I have been working on a full-length book, but working on that all the time really takes its toll after a while so I’ve wanted new projects for a while). Please, do leave feedback on the stories and tell me what you think.
Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.
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