It hasn't all been a disaster: Why 2016 doesn't suck

Hang in there, America

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published November 7, 2016 11:58PM (EST)

Beyoncé in "Lemonade"
Beyoncé in "Lemonade"

Oh my God, this year. This friggin' YEAR already. What do you even mean, there are seven more weeks to it? Then can we all just be put in some sci-fi state of suspended animation until the calendar rolls over? 2016, yo — the year we lost David Bowie, Prince, and Muhammad Ali. The year we couldn't escape Donald Trump and his shrieking phalanx of sycophants.

What else? Rape culture? Check! Police, shooting unarmed black men? Of course. Homophobia-driven mass shootings? This year has had everything.

But not all of it has been horrendous, right? Please say, "right," as you nod your head in the affirmative. There were the Cubs, and that was a beautiful thing. There were the Rio Olympics and the inspiring performances of women like Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky. Jane the Virgin even ended her streak and got it on at last with Michael. 

So if you are feeling like 2016 has chewed you up and then horked you out on life's carpet like a hair ball, let me reassure you of some things that didn't suck, with a few Salon staff picks for what's getting us through. My own choices include Beyoncé's  groundbreaking "Lemonade," Amazon's hilarious, razor sharp "Fleabag," author Emma Cline's breakout novel "The Girls" and Park Chan-wook's twisted, twisty thriller "The Handmaiden." 

Say what you will about how exasperating this year has been for the ladies, culturally it has been a great time to be an angry woman. And there's more.

Matt Rozsa: One of the best things to happen in 2016 was the retroactive vindication of "Back to the Future: Part II." Last year I wrote an article reviewing the various ways in which the movie's predictions for 2015 were wrong, but this year we've had (1) the Chicago Cubs win the World Series and (2) Biff Tannen nearly take over, and ruin, everything.

Amanda Marcotte: "Hedonism" by Cakes Da Killa, "Midwestern Farmer's Daughter" by Margo Price, "Nosebleed Weekend" by The Coathangers. All three have some nostalgia wound into their sound, but they also push their genres forward.

Erin Keane: On TV, 2016 gave us "Stranger Things" and the inimitably quotable Dustin; also Pamela Adlon's "Better Things" and Issa Rae's "Insecure," two smart, funny, fresh, true-to-life — and relatively nontraumatic, even! — portrayals of contemporary female life. The "Grandpa" episode of HBO’s ”High Maintenance" is a stark and weepy and ultimately hopeful reminder of why humans don't deserve dogs.

If you're an '80s movie obsessive — and you love "Stranger Things," so that's a yes — two new books will deepen your understanding of the importance of John Hughes et al to Generation X: Jason Diamond’s heartbreaking memoir “Searching for John Hughes,” about growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the '80s and '90s, and Salon contributor Kevin Smokler’s “Brat Pack America,” in which he writes about place in '80s films and visits the locations where iconic films like “The Goonies” and “The Breakfast Club” were filmed.

Melanie McFarland: If nothing else, 2016 gave us a TV show starring future White House contenders Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart. (Also, "Luke Cage," "Underground," and "One Mississippi.") 

Tatiana Baez: Books written by black women were KILLER this year: "Another Brooklyn" by Jacqueline Woodson, "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi, "The Mothers" by Brit Bennett, "What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours" by Helen Oyeyemi,  "We Love You, Charlie Freeman" by Kaitlin Greenidge — AND SOOOOO MANY MORE, but those were my faves.

Scott Timberg: The Booker Prize — for the first time ever — went not only to an American, a black writer, a (former) Angeleno and a really cool guy — Paul Beatty. The Nobel Prize for Literature, of course, went to the first American in 23 years — to a singer whose name I can't recall.  

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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