This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
There is a rumor that I was actually happy at one point in 2020. The alleged incident was said to have taken place on Feb. 2, just blissful weeks before the world stopped turning, things ceased to make sense, people refused to wear masks, and things like sanity and fulfillment were realities, not merely concepts.
This so-called happiness apparently occurred in the evening. The talented entertainer Jennifer Lopez was starring in the Super Bowl. (Who were the teams? Sorry to those men.) It was fresh off one of the most irreconcilable sins in cultural history—she was not nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Hustlers—and yet she rose from the pyre of negligence at the Academy’s feet. Literally, she climbed... up a stripper pole.
She had already burned more calories singing and dancing to her underrated catalog of bops than the average American does in a decade, and yet she climbed. She got to the top, spread her arms like a glittery diva on the crucifix, and smiled. “This rocks,” I said.
That now-unfamiliar experience—serotonins???—is reported to even have lasted for an entire week. It was just seven days later when Parasite won Best Picture at the Oscars, the rare absolutely correct and deserving coronation from a body so negligent they, again, did not nominate Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers.
You could look at those two events in tandem and even argue that the year 2020 even started out... kind of great? My god. Imagine.
The real shock is that those two cultural highlights actually took place this year at all. From our perch (the corner of the couch from which we have not moved for going on 10 months now), J. Lo’s Super Bowl performance and Parasite’s Oscar win might as well have taken place centuries ago, when my soul was in another body before being reincarnated into this blobby sack of cheese snacks and fraying sweatpants.
It made me wonder, what else happened this year that we have completely forgotten about—or at least wouldn’t believe actually was a moment in time during this merry-go-round of shit, operating at lightspeed, that we called 2020.
Tiger King was this year. Remember that? There was a time when “that bitch Carole Baskin” was not just a misogynistic meme, but the thing we were most preoccupied by. Ten months of a pandemic? A coup? Who could even think of such a possibility when there was the matter of whether that kooky lady in the flower crown murdered her husband and fed them to the tigers.
Love Is Blind was also this year. My god! Were we ever that young? I vaguely recall watching a lady who was 34 (but he was 24) giving her dog some wine, but it could also just have been a fever dream from a former life.
The first TV show I saw in 2020 was Spinning Out, a soap opera-thriller about a bipolar former figure skater trying to resurrect her career in spite of the trauma caused by her also-bipolar mother played by Betty Draper herself, January Jones. That is actually the plot line, and we didn’t care! No one watched! How naive we were, not knowing how good we had it. We’d take a recently sharpened skate and drive it into a nemesis’ achilles to have a show like now that to divert us from the real world.
Cheer did the whole damn thing in 2020, being the rare piece of entertainment every single human could love and root for, and then becoming the subject of a disturbing, heartbreaking scandal—amidst which one of its subjects competed on Dancing With the Stars.
There was an entire new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm that aired in 2020. What?! Is Larry David even still alive?
My notes tell me that there were episodes of Westworld that aired this year, but I cannot definitively prove that. It is also whispered about that we used to all clamor for new episodes of YouTube cooking videos from the Bon Appétit test kitchen, which, if true, surely we’ve all been canceled by now.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were still part of the royal family in this, the year of our Lord 2020!!!
Jada Pinkett-Smith took herself to the Red Table, and introduced “entanglement” into the vernacular. There was a film called Birds of Prey and I even purchased a ticket to see it in a real-life theater. Pick my jaw up off the dang floor, because I just confirmed that I also went to see Broadway shows!
People were mad about scooter-sharing services, which indicates that people actually went places. “Karen” was still funny. I could be certain that when I saw something that couldn’t possibly be cake, it was not cake. I pulled a hamstring trying to do the “W.A.P.” dance and couldn’t walk for three days. Dorinda was still a Real Housewife. I received mail on time. Pete Buttigieg???
I don’t know what the point of all this is. A year is longer than we think, so don’t dwell on the shitty parts? Things were once so perfectly fine that what we now think of as outrageous milestones seemed inconsequential? That the world moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it? OK, now I’m just plagiarizing Ferris Bueller/citing my senior class high school yearbook quote.
2020 was a lot, in every sense. I hated so much of it. I’ve never been more scared, more sad, or more miserable. But... hey. We still had fun.