At last, we've come to the end. I can't believe how ridiculously time-consuming this thing was! It was seriously like packing a year into a week. Actually, take the "like" out and that sentence is just as accurate.
Reason No. 4 - Because MTV finally came around
After years of stuffing its lineup with portrayals of twentysomething assholery (The Real World went from a means to help motivated people attain goals to an end for famewhores) MTV subverted vapidness with brilliance via Paris Hilton's My New BFF. As for the other best new reality show of the year, The Paper, it represented the perfecting of something MTV had already proved itself good at: exploring the lives of articulate teens. There's nothing much more to add to the love letters I wrote to both (The Paper is here, Paris is here), although Bikini Corrie's tour de force speech bears repeating:
"I mean, Paris, I plead to you, that you more know so much than anybody else what it's like to have people see something of value and worth and hate you because you're beautiful and you didn't ask for it. I did not ask for this! It was given to me. I used to come home and cry in high school and say, 'Mom, I don't want to be pretty anymore.' And she'd be like, 'You stop it.' Heavy is the head the wears the crown. And, like, you were born into it. I was born the way I am, like...People call me 'Bikini Corrie' back home, because I have earned it! And it's not being cocky, I earned it."
Tracie called this "the best elimination speech in competition-based reality TV programming ever." I'm inclined to agree.
No. 3 - Because Mickey Rourke made me care about him
Not that The Wrestler was going to have any trouble sucking me in in the first place, it being about two things I'm obsessed with: the formerly famous and Jersey. Still, as Randy "the Ram" Robinson, Rourke goes beyond the call of duty to deliver maybe my favorite film performance of all time (it's certainly one of the most complicated that I've ever seen, as Rourke is playing at least three roles: the man, the wrestler persona and the actual wrestler). I don't even care that, like, everyone else in the world is fawning over this shit: it's deserving. Ram's character is honest right down to cliched nature (when he asked for, "A cold one," in his strip-club haunt, I swooned).
Darren Aronofsky basically grafted the main points of the 1999 documentary Beyond the Mat onto a comeback story. However, the director wisely lets Rourke run the show (a motif threaded throughout the film finds the camera literally following the Ram's lead, as we watch the back of his head). That devotion to character study is what ultimately makes The Wrestler the best movie of the year. It isn't perfect -- the parallel drawn between the Ram's fading career and that of his aging-stripper object of desire (Marissa Tomei's Pam/Cassidy) is obvious and as hokey as hair metal, for example. And yet, if you look past the bullshit, you can still enjoy this movie wholeheartedly. Just like a professional wrestling match.
No. 2 - Because Mariah Carey made her usual questionable choices public
I don't care about any celebrity like I do Mariah, so when it was announced that she had married Nick Cannon after dating him for, like, a second, I was upset. I figured that she was losing it yet again and I genuinely worried about her. But then I realized two things: 1) My favorite Mariah is the Mariah who's, in fact, lost it, and 2) Impulsively marrying a man about 10 years her junior is just a continuation of her youth obsession. She is, as she's said soooo many times, eternally 12 and aspiring to marry Nick Cannon is definitely something a 12-year-old would do. Toss him in with the Hello Kitty, the girl-throwing, the proudly high-pitched voice, the even more proudly set boobs and he's just another idiosyncrasy that makes Mariah so lovably ridiculous.
Not that I expect others to really appreciate that -- her album this year, E=MC², essentially flopped and I'd argue that it's all because of her. Its undoing was its lack of sophistication (which was overwhelmingly present on the infinitely more successfulThe Emancipation of Mimi) and deluge of Mariahisms ("This is for my peoples who lost their grandmothers," "I brings that levity," and "Cause my jeans, yeah they fit, but it might benefit / Me to throw something on to feature my hips / Accentuate my tits and steal the show," among them). No matter: still full of hits that never were (including "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time," whose inability to connect with audiences will forever remain a chart mystery to me), E=MC² played on my iPod at least three times as much as any other album all year. Since chart success has been inherent to Mariah's persona since her debut, I fear that her next outing will be subdued. But no matter how she tries to tone it down, her weirdness always oozes out in one way or another. That's the stuff I live for.
1. Because of Prop 8
Recently, I found myself at a party in California, surrounded by four guys (two sets of husbands) whom Prop 8 directly affected. Instead of grief, however, the tone of the discussion was one of hope. My friend Jeff explained that had Prop 8 been shot down, it would have been a very, "Duh," moment -- California is known for being so liberal that keeping an expanded definition of marriage was practically expected. When it passed, he reasoned, it demanded national attention and political action extending way beyond California that would not have arisen otherwise (at least, not at that moment). This injustice kicked our asses into action, he essentially argued. That someone about to be stripped of his rights could look past himself to see the possible greater good of a setback was so inspiring to me. If he's hopeful, how could I not be?
Changing small minds is a process. There's no magical switch to flip that will allow people to unlearn the hatred that propels them to support discrimination. Fuck what Huckabee says (which: duh, but still) -- it's amazing to me that those against equality think that they can rationalize their beliefs as being motivated by anything but hate. As those of us who are right become more outspoken and involved, let there be hate from those who are wrong. While they're given the opportunities to spew their shit, their words ring increasingly hollow; their rationales grow increasingly threadbare (my favorite is the trend in religious officials to decry opposition to their bile in an argument that essentially goes, "You must tolerate my intolerance!"). Look, if the passing of Prop 8 didn't get people riled up about the acceptance of hatred, I doubt the outrage against Rick Warren would have been half as strong. We're only getting louder, our cause is only growing in its relevance. And though Obama's defense of his Warren choice ("What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable") sounds like the reasoning of someone who's never known conviction, we know better than our President-elect. Feel free to disagree, just be ready for a fight.
Finally, I was going to do a rundown of things I hated in '08 like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Leona Lewis' diabolical scheme to adult contemporize pop music and noted homophobe Byron Crawford's shitty ignorance about exactly what "gay" means that yields shittier writing, but whatever. Fuck that. There's only one real thing that bothered me in '08 enough for me to mention is...
The ubiquity of dude scarves
Seriously, guys: most Bea Arthur-ass trend EVER. Let's do better in '09. You stop it.
(Collage swiped from COED.)