December 29, 2017
Welcome to PopCult’s 684th post for the year 2017. We have two days left in this year before we get to take it out behind the barn and put a bullet in its brain. 2017 has been a demoralizing year on so many fronts that we can’t help by try to be optimistic and think that things will get better in the new year, so let’s hurry up and bring it on. As has been the occasional norm here in PopCult, we’ll end the year with a poorly-organized rant.
2016 was the year of mortality. 2017 has been the year of morbidity as the deaths of famous people continued at a high rate, but we’ve become so numb that many of them don’t even register. This was the year that we discovered that, like many of us, The Grim Reaper always got John Hurt and John Heard mixed up, so he just took both of them to be sure. He had plenty of helpers this year, in Las Vegas and Texas, and with Mother Nature ramping things up with hurricanes.
Politically in 2017 we were only protected from worst-case scenarios by the ineptitude of the elected leaders, who are luckily too incompetent at governing to do actually follow through on much of their horrible agenda. However, they did manage to squeak out a tax bill at the end of the year that will insure that the rich will get richer and the middle class will pay for it. If the GOP couldn’t find a way to help the rich and hurt the poor, they’d lose their financial backing.
Politics cast a pall over much of pop culture in 2017, with consumers so reluctant to spend money that we will see double-digit drops (or close to it) in sales of toys, comic books, movie tickets, music and DVDs. The only glimmer of hope is that sleazy people who deserve to exposed, like Harvey Weinstein, are finally getting a comeuppance that we can only hope eventually extends to the White House.
You can’t talk about pop culture in 2017 without talking about the #Me Too movement and the repurcussions as, after more than a century, Hollywood and the media are finally being held to basic human standards of decency. This is long overdue. When people like Weinstein and Spacey are so blatant about their actions that they have jokes made at their expense on network cartoon shows, it’s way past time to clean house. Exposing the institutionalized sexual harrassment that has been ingrained in show business since day one is long overdue.
It’s a shame that scandals have taken out some creators whose work I like, but we’re at a point where, at least for the time being, we have to have a zero tolerance policy.
I do feel that distinctions need to be drawn about the degrees of offenses, but those distinctions have to be made after the offenses have been called out. What Louis CK is accused of is not as horrifying as what Weinstein is accused of, but it’s not exactly something that needs apologists covering for it, either. Actually it sounds like one of his comedy routines.
If the end result of this soul-searching and house-cleaning is that more women creators get a fair shot to make movies and TV shows without having to sell their souls or bodies, then there’s no way this can be seen as a negative. The only way the #Me Too movement can go South is if it just turns out to be a temporary distraction before everything returns to the status quo, with just a few people made examples of as a way of paying lip service to the concept of equality.
Time will tell is this turns out to be a genuine, much-needed revolution, or if it’s just an orgy of gossip to take our minds off of the current political climate.
Politics seems to have infected every area of our lives. Marvel Comics bent over backwards to try and cater to a diverse audience, and was met with rather fierce resistance and a retailer revolt before giving the axe to their Editor in Chief at the end of the year. Just in the last week they announced the cancellation of seven titles (and counting), all of which featured gay, female or minority lead characters.
Rather than simply a political decision, this was motivated by sales, which were pretty bad on the titles that were cancelled. It was a pretty major misstep by Marvel to take shortcuts to diversity in the first place, by simply changing the race/gender/sexual orientation of existing Marvel heroes instead of creating new characters with organic stories.
Even Net Neutrality, which is a no-brainer as a populist cause, is in jeopardy. What’s worse, the usual “Facebook Experts” are out in full force mocking people who are concerned about the recent attack on a free internet by Trump’s FCC.
I know that part of the charm of Facebook is watching how people with little or no grasp of an issue suddenly appoint themselves as experts in what are usually unintentionally hilarious attempts to make themselves look smart, but with the Net Neutrality issue some folks are rising to new heights of demonstrating how a “little knowledge” can be a a dangerous thing. One FB friend actually tried to tie the recent FCC ruling to Suddenlink suddenly offering faster speeds.
This was seriously just too stupid to even comment on. Suddenlink is improving their service because Verizon is considering bringing FIOS to West Virginia. If you want to see how Suddenlink will operate under the new FCC rules remember the two years you spent without access to the Viacom channels, then wonder what life will be like without Netflix.
I don’t want to make it seem like everything was lousy this year. We had some cool pop culture high points like the revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (left) and the success of the Wonder Woman movie. In terms of corporate pop culture Disney had their usual success with Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel. Charleston actually got to see some cool independent films, if only fleetingly. We were treated to really cool reissues of great music by The Beatles, Rolling Stones and ELP. Exciting new music, while not selling anywhere near the numbers it used to, was released by Dhani Harrison, Lady J and her Bada Bing Band, Kesha and others. Television, thanks to the proliferation of streaming services, is more robust than ever. And indie comics like The Charlton Arrow, The Creeps and CARtoons Magazine all made the leap into Diamond Previews.
So rather than leave you all feeling depressed because 2017 was so much like it turned out to be, how about we get optimistic about 2018. We have a chance at a poltical reversal. Even in hard times, there’s still cool comics, movies, TV shows, music and toys coming out. Most of all, 2018 can’t be any worse than 2017…can it?
That’s the PopCulteer this week and this year. Let’s hope for a better time in the future. Happy New Year!
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