As we prepare to move in to what promises to be a crazy year (2008), we can reflect on the highs and lows of 2007. Instead of a rundown of the biggest news stories of the year, however, I’ve opted to highlight a few things to be sad about and a few to be happy about—because 2007 was, as every year tends to be, a mixed bag.
Five Things to Be Sad About
Our Obsession with Britney Spears: Listen, it’s not really Britney Spears herself that makes this a sad story (though she’s not exactly the picture of happy times right now). It’s the general trend in our culture of being obsessed with celebrity breakdowns, addictions/rebab, divorces, etc. Whether it be Britney or Paris or Lindsay or any of the others, it’s a sad commentary on where our collective priorities lie when something like the paternity battle over Anna Nicole Smith’s baby gets media priority over anything else going on in the world.
The Writer’s Strike: Not a bad thing if you are (like some) ready for the death of television. But for most of us, the Writer’s Guild strike (which has now gone on for two months) is wreaking havoc on the current seasons of our favorite TV shows. And in 2008 the impact will be even greater felt with the onslaught of new reality shows, specials, and previously shelved series. The year in films will likely be just as skimpy.
The U.S. Dollar: Anyone who traveled abroad in 2007 will rightfully lament for the nosedive the U.S. dollar took in 2007. Whether you blame it on globalization or blame it on Bush, it’s certainly not a good thing (at least for Americans). Traveling abroad (especially in Europe) is not as fun as it used to be…
Meaningless Communication Hits New High: At a time when our culture needs a primer on meaningful communication, new tech wonders and digital “advances” increasingly led us in the opposite direction (what I call “superfluous communication”) this year. Things like iPhones and the latest hands-free gadgets have created millions of meaningless “let me talk to someone via this fun device because I CAN” conversations worldwide in 2008. Add to this the irrevocable damage Facebook and its various counterparts have done to meaningful communication, and 2007 was a banner year for the tech-driven trivialization of communication.
The Election: There’s something wrong when we are a year away from the actual presidential election and we are already election-fatigued. The hyper-extension of the president-picking process (so that it never really stops, actually) is quite discouraging and further encourages the commodification of American politics as just one more media tidbit for our entertainment consumption.
Five Things to Be Happy About
Decreasing violence in Iraq: 2007 began with a major increase in violence in Iraq, but the latter six months of this year have seen a rapid de-escalation of violence in that wartorn country. The levels of violence in the past six months are the lowest since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2003, and now more than half of the country’s provinces are secured by Iraqi, not coalition, forces. Whatever your politics might be, we can all agree that these are statistics to be happy about.
Pro-life Cinema: 2007 was the year of the unlikely pro-life trend in Hollywood. Films both mainstream (Knocked Up) and indie (Waitress), cynical (Juno) and earnest (Bella), celebrated life by tackling a taboo subject (abortion) and presenting a much-maligned view (pro-life) as normal and positive. The documentary Unborn in the U.S.A. also offered a strikingly positive view of the pro-life movement.
Increasing Awareness of Genocide in Darfur: Give it up to celebrities for leading the way in raising awareness in the tragedies going on in Darfur. Thanks to films like Darfur Now, The Devil Came on Horseback and God Grew Tired of Us, Hollywood is helping out a cause that desperately needs to get some screen time in America.
Radiohead’s Forward-Thinking Coolness: Every time I listen to In Rainbows (Radiohead’s new album) I’m taken to a happier place—both because it is great music and because it is a rare sign of the times that makes me feel happy about the future of music. Radiohead’s revolutionary distribution of their album (digitally, via their website) announces once and for all that the RIAA has had its day, and now it’s time to let the fans and artists recapture music.
Good Movies and Music: Even as the film industry suffers a slowed box office and writer’s strike and the music industry continues it’s decade-long collapse, 2007 was a pretty good year for quality movies and music. Here are my (very subjective) choices for the brightest moments in film and music in 2007:
10) The King of Kong
9) Southland Tales
7) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
6) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
4) Lars and the Real Girl
3) No Country for Old Men
2) Into the Wild
1) I’m Not There
*Note: I have not yet seen There Will Be Blood
Honorable Mention: Juno, The Darjeeling Limited, My Best Friend, Rescue Dawn, The Savages, Into Great Silence, Atonement, Jindabyne, Grindhouse: Death Proof, Amazing Grace.
10) Justice, +
9) Waterdeep, Heart Attack Time Machine
8) Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
7) Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
6) Peter, Bjorn and John, Writer’s Block
5) Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
4) Panda Bear, Person Pitch
3) Explosions in the Sky, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
2) Radiohead, In Rainbows
1) The National, Boxer
Honorable Mention: Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? Burial, Untrue, Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam, LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver, St. Vincent, Marry Me, Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala, M.I.A., Kala, Over the Rhine, The Trumpet Child, Feist, The Reminder, Sunset Rubdown, Random Spirit Lover.