The end of the year is all about arbitrary best-of lists. Five of us here at in the Bitch Media office wrote up our favorite pop culture of the year, from comic books to subreddits.
KRISTIN ROGERS BROWN, Art Director
Graphic Novels: I fell hard for graphic books this year, particularly the visual journalism of Pen and Ink by Wendy MacNaughton and Isaac Fitzgerald. Mimi Pond’s memoir Over Easy is has a lot of edge and heart. I love the way both of those books blend of reporting and storytelling, humanizing the subjects. Yumi Sakugawa’s Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe is also fantastic. I’ve recently been reading Mari Naomi’s Dragon’s Breath, which actually is growing on me more over time; I love her bold and simple, graphic style to tell sometimes not simple content.
Podcasts: It is well-known that John Hodgman is my celebrity dream-friend. I save his Judge John Hodgman podcasts, where he mediates an often petty (but actually sometimes surprisingly poignant!) dispute among two people, for late-night and road trip listens. I appreciate the delight he seems to take in each weird and wonderful person as he takes their side or plays devil’s advocate. Also consider Paul F. Tompkins’ Dead Author Podcast, where he plays the part of time-traveling author H.G. Wells and interviews literary giants (played by a rotating roster of well-read comedians) in front of a live audience. Jen Kirkman’s episode is a great place to start (she plays Dorothy Parker).
Comedy: ANYTHING that Chelsea Peretti does, including the show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, wearing a Napsack, and her recent Netflix comedy special. Comedy Central’s Key & Peele continues to be a pleasure to watch, both for the banter and the sketch comedy; I think it’s rare that comedians are as great at both sketch and moments of standup as they are.
Movies About Space: I would watch anything about space. REALLY. (Including Gravity!) But I liked 2007’s Sunshine better than Interstellar, and I think you should go see it if you want to watch something about some of those scary feelings of mission vs. selfish human desires that come up in Interstellar, done in a way that felt more real—with more tension between individuals and less McConahghey “cowboy star power”.
AMY LAM, Associate Editor of Bitch Magazine
Twitter Feed: The sports editor at The Nation, David Zirin, writes about the intersection of the sports industrial complex and social justice. His twitter account is a great place for small snippets of real-time commentary on the sports world.
Podcast: The Read. I have so much say about hosts Crissle and Kid Fury, two queer black friends, and how I bet every one of their listeners not-so-secretly wishes that they could get in on this BFF circle. Every week they get together to dissect pop culture, with an emphasis on hip-hop and all things Beyonce. My absolute favorite segment is the weekly “read,” where they eviscerate anyone from pop culture icons to customer service reps.
Subreddit: I am one of the millions of listeners who have been sucked into Serial’s real-life story of Adnan Syed and the case of Hae Min Lee’s murder. And in between each Thursday as I awaited a new episode, I spent an inordinate amount of time on the subreddit /r/serialpodcast, where equally obsessive users shared theories, dug up old news stories, and even started a memorial scholarship fund in Lee’s name for Woodlawn high school graduates.
Dog-Related Instagram: When the world gets too tough to exist in at times, it’s nice to have a few happy places to go to. Like this Instagram account devoted to Sana, a Shiba Inu living with her people in Japan.
Beyonce Video: There’s not much for me to say about this clip except that if you haven’t seen this man dressed as Wolverine perfectly performing the choreography to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video, you’re missing something in your life. Here’s a side-by-side version, so you can see just how on-point this Wolverine is! Somebody put a ring on those claws already.
SARAH MIRK, Bitch Media Online Editor
Music to Fall Asleep To: I’ve always had trouble describing the kind of music I like. It’s low-key, electronic-kind-of stuff that I often fall asleep to. What genre is that? This year, I found the Facebook page for the band Elephant, where they list their genre as “Nocturnal Lo-Fi Bedroom Dreamy Beach Pop.” That’s my jam! This year I’ve been listening to a lot of Beach House, Elephant, Lykke Li, Typhoon, Woman’s Hour, and Pure Bathing Culture.
Fictional Punk Band: The angsty and awesome Swedish teen punk band film We Are the Best is the only thing that’s ever made me want to be a teenager again.
Sex-Positive Comics: I have zero regrets about picking up the excellent and fun Smut Peddler collection, which is packed with a bunch of stories from that vary from romantic space comedies to super-erotic queer rolls in the hay. I also like Isabella Rotman’s sex-ed comics, which are non-fiction educational zines that would be great to see in high school libraries.
Podcasts: Since I host Bitch’s feminism and pop culture podcast, I’ve started listening to a lot of other shows. My ongoing favorites are Radiolab and 99% Invisible, with newer additions Destination DIY, Planet Money, and Song Exploder. The last episode of Death, Sex + Money made me cry happy tears on my way to work, so I have to give it a shout-out, too.
JULIE FALK, Bitch Media Executive Director
Books: I loved The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast. Both books have received a lot of acclaim, and I couldn’t help being thrilled that Cheryl Strayed also chose The Unspeakable as the best book she read this year.
Music: Leonard Cohen’s new album, Popular Problems, is a pleasure.
Podcast: Like everyone else, I’m a Serial enthusiast. It brought great fun to my fall.
The Two Movies I Saw This Year: I’ve seen saw exactly two movies this year, but at least I enjoyed them. I took my my 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son to see The Boxtrolls and we all liked it. I also saw the beautiful film Proud Citizen, which is about a Bulgarian woman who wins a trip to Kentucky after winning second prize in a playwriting contest.
TYLER RIZZO, Development and Outreach Intern
Music: Beyonce, Azealia Banks’ Broke With Expensive Taste, Mitski’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, Princess Nokia, and Barf Troop are my favorites from the year.
Books: Nevada by Imogen Binnie, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire by Brenda Hillman, Cruising Utopia by Jose Esteban Munoz, The WORN Archive, and The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper by Agent Dale Cooper (AKA Mark Frost).
New TV: I liked Broad City and MTV’s Faking It
Old TV: …but I’ve also been spending a lot of time watching Lost and The Gilmore Girls.
What were your favorite pieces of pop culture this year? Let us know in the comments.