Feature

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A eulogy for 2016

Reviewing a rollercoaster year

By Dorian Grayson
Staff Writer

There’s hardly a time when 2016 wasn’t disappointing. Through music, celebrity deaths, politics, etc. 2016 was absolutely deplorable. But, even as we move on toward the New Year and put 2016 behind us, we must still understand why it was a bad year, and talk about what we hope doesn’t follow us into 2017.

To start on a positive note, 2016 had some excellent internet challenges. As opposed to past endeavors like the Cinnamon Challenge, the major challenges of 2016 didn’t ask for any physical danger or torture.

The first was the Water Bottle Challenge, a wholesome embrace of useless skill and luck caught on camera. Started by a successful trick at a high school talent show, soon the entirety of Twitter was blowing up with videos of successful – and failed – water bottle flips.

The second major challenge was the Mannequin Challenge, where groups planned elaborate set ups and poses in which a continuous video of humans appeared like a set of mannequins. It’s difficult to describe something so visual in words, but the lengths to which some people went was incredibly impressive. Through these, the internet demonstrated its ingenuity and capacity for entertainment, even in the hardest of times.

Celebrity deaths were prevalent in 2016, adding to the stressful undertones of the year. Notable musicians died, such as the beloved David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Writers died too, such as Harper Lee, which lead to the discovery and publication of “Go Set a Watchman.” Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winning writer and Holocaust survivor, also passed away in 2016.

Actors were also affected by 2016, one being Alan Rickman, a widely respected actor from both popular movies and artistic character dramas. Other noteworthy actors who died includ eAbe Vigoda and Gene Wilder. Comic artist Darwyn Cook was also lost.

Boxing – and humanity in general – lost Muhammad Ali. And, for a more specific, personal source of mourning, Fritz Wilder and Earl Hamner Jr., notable for their involvement in “The Twilight Zone,” died this year. And I’d be remiss to not mention the extinguished flame that was young movie star Anton Yelchin. These deaths reminded me, and others I’m sure, of our mortality and the fragility of the future.

Despite the deaths of some notable actors, the movies did relatively well this year, at least. Those that loved big blockbusters got the biggest blockbusters. The Russo Brothers’ “Captain America: Civil War” gave some of the best action scenes in history, alongside some of the best comic adaptations of character dramas put on film thus far. Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds’ “Deadpool” also pleased crowds with a down and dirty comic book movie that wasn’t afraid to break the formula.

Serious cinema also had a good year with a slew of movies dealing with issues of complicated masculinity, such as Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” and Clint Eastwood’s “Sully.” Upcoming Oscar season releases include films that are predicted to be amazing, such as Denzel Washington’s “Fences” and Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” (for those of you wondering why there isn’t a woman director on this list, you found another reason why 2016 disappointed).

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Television also had a decent year. Despite DC Comics lagging in movies, their TV universe has continued to expand on the CW Network, including a full on comic crossover in March. Netflix continued to expand its original content, with “Stranger Things,” “Luke Cage” and “Black Mirror” all hitting hard. However, “Sesame Street” fired long-time members Bob McGrath, Roscoe Orman and Emilio Delgado, who had all been on the show for over 40 years, Bob McGrath having been on the show’s premier. This was in service of a “retooling” of the show, but speaks to the 2016 trend of desecrated pasts.

But, of course, the best, most wholesome thing in 2016 was Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” In April Beyoncé improved everyone’s life with this release, and it was the thing that sustained many as 2016 continued in its dreadfulness.

Not all music news was good in 2016, though. As already noted, Leonard Cohen, Prince and David Bowie all died. Additionally, on the 10th anniversary of My Chemical Romance’s seminal “The Black Parade,” the band inadvertently teased a reunion that was bound to never happen. And,  personally the most devastating impact, was the farewell tour and eventual ending of tier-two pop-punk band, “Motion City Soundtrack.”

2016 was also a year of natural disasters. There were over 40 natural disasters in the United States alone, according to the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). Japan had yet another major earthquake and tsunami, this time without a nuclear disaster. And if that wasn’t bad enough, 2016 is looking to be the world’s hottest year on record, dating back to the 19th century. The rising temperature and uptick in severe weather patterns are clear indications that the global climate is warming, and that humans are in severe trouble if things don’t change. And looking at recent political developments, things won’t be changing for the better.

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When 2016 goes down in the history textbooks, it will be known as the year of the rise of the alt-right, a far-right ideology based around hate, power and white nationalism. They’re often splinter groups from traditional conservative groups, such as the United Kingdom Independence Party’s break from the Conservative and Unionist Party. While there is no strict party platform for alt-right groups, its members believe in such horrors of white supremacy, Islamophobia, anti-feminism, homophobia, anti-semitism, ethno-nationalism, right-wing populism and traditionalism.

After festering on the internet for years on places like 4chan and Breitbart news, the ideology took major strides politically this year. The major victories were surprises and close calls, due to the alt-right’s ability to mobilize everyone that would consider voting for them through fear-mongering and flamed hatred. The United Kingdom, in a referendum the United Kingdom Independence Party, voted to leave the European Union, which they had wanted for years. There still doesn’t seem to be much actual movement on it, mostly because the Conservative Party is still in power and has been more than reticent in actually following through on leaving the European Union.

As far as the United States, the alt-right hasn’t created its own party so much as coopted the Republican Party. Through extremist movements like the Tea Party and the white nationalism that lay at the undercurrent of the Republican Party for a long time, there was a takeover of the Party this year. The earliest example was John Boehner stepping down as Speaker of the House because he had to constantly fight against the far-right aspects of the party. However, the party struggles  were best exemplified by the mess of the Republican National Convention.

But, of course, the real alt-right victory in the United States was the  Presidential election, where President-Elect Donald J. Trump won the election with the support of only 27 percent of the eligible voters. He did so with a platform of hatred, bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-Mexican beliefs, anti-immigrant beliefs, anti-woman beliefs, sexual assault, war crimes and general far-right populism. He won.

This isn’t intended to be a political article, but an analysis of 2016 would be disappointingly incomplete without covering the fear of what is to come. The true damage has yet to come, but with just weeks until he takes office, everyone is on edge. There’s no telling what’ll come, but 2016 will be to blame for whatever forms the atrocities take.

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After all of that in early November, everyone needed a bit of a release and break from fear and sadness they felt in this situation. Enter Cards Against Humanity. While the company behind the popular party game were happy to poke fun at the election, releasing Trump and Hillary packs during the election, and a full Trump set after the election, they weren’t free from the sadness. Their answer? A Holiday Hole dug on Black Friday.

“The holidays are here, and everything in America is going really well. To celebrate Black Friday, Cards Against Humanity is digging a tremendous hole in the earth.”

About 30 minutes south of Rockford, Oregon, Cards Against Humanity had a crane. That crane would keep digging the hole for as long as people kept paying. Through two hours, the crane kept digging and the people kept paying. After the money dried up, though, the hole needed to be filled back in. The Holiday Hole is nearly all filled back in, but that’s not the important part.

Initially when asked where the hole was located, the Cards Against Humanity team answered “In America. And in our hearts.”

The Holiday Hole was the perfect catharsis for Black Friday. After a year of disappointment and sadness, the sardonic release of a pointless hole, being contributed to by people all over the world, was just the remedy. Almost no matter who you were, 2016 was a harrowing year. There was a hole in all of us. And transferring that hole to the ground, together, was the perfect way to deal with the year.

“What if you dig so deep you hit hot magma?”

‘“At least then we’d feel something,”’ said Cards Against Humanity in their Holiday Hole Q&A.

But, of course, 2016 isn’t over yet. So enjoy your finals, holidays and the everlasting hole in your heart.

 

dgrayson@willamette.edu