As 2020 ended, It’s now time to look back on the pop culture aspect of this eventful time. While the year itself was difficult for almost everyone on the planet, there’s no doubt that most of us turned to pop culture in these times. The movies, TV series, and other forms of content gave us solace, a place to escape to, distraction, and a way to pass the time while we were cooped up at home. Not only this, but the offerings of pop culture also provided a much-needed ray of hope and inspiration at times.
While some might remember the year 2020 as the time when the world stopped, that’s not completely true. Life as we know it may have come to a halt, but our need for entertainment and news evolved. Live entertainment wasn’t really possible in the same way as before, so performers found several new stages and reached out using creative methods. Let’s now have a look at the different elements of pop culture and how 2020 contributed to them:
Brian Stokes Mitchell honored frontline workers every night around 7 pm. Along with the horns and cheers, Mitchell’s tenor could be heard from his residence on the fifth floor. The Tony winner managed to recover from the coronavirus and sang his signature song ‘The Impossible Dream’ to honor those who were risking their lives.
Misty Copeland also made good use of her time during the pandemic. The first black female to be the principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, Copeland brought together over 30 ballerinas from fourteen countries. They all performed the ‘Dying Swan’ to make a video. The aim was to raise funds for the ‘Swans for Relief’ campaign, which was made to help struggling dancers.
Along with a lot of live content, fashion shows were also virtual during most of 2020. However, some individuals like Christian Siriano made his runway show happen by extending innovations to his home in Connecticut. There, it was possible to hold a runway show with social distancing. Even the models wore masks.
Sacha Baron Cohen, also known as his stage name Borat, filmed a sequel to his previous works. In his signature manner, the new release was outrageous, even featuring a glimpse of Rudy Giuliani (Trump’s lawyer). The overall effect was a bit cringey, but nothing that Borat viewers didn’t expect.
Binge-watching reached new heights of popularity in 2020. Even though Netflix briefly came under fire for allowing the movie ‘Cuties’ on its platform, its subscriber numbers show a lot of growth. The movie was criticized for sexualizing underage girls, but calls for its cancellations were answered by Netflix and the content remained.
Web series also gained a lot of popularity, especially as they showcased creative and unique talent that hasn’t yet found a way to TV or cinema screens. Even established directors turned to this medium as a way to reach a larger audience. One of the most feel-good options available was ‘Some Good News’ by John Krasinki. This series reunited the cast of ‘Hamilton’ for high-school seniors who missed their prom. The musical guests were exciting as well; just a few examples include Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, and Paul McCartney.
Saturday Night Live released a ‘Stay at Home’ Edition. It featured Brad Pitt as Dr. Anthony Fauci. Even the real doctor himself asserted that Pitt did a good job with the role.
Netflix viewers were also intrigued by an original documentary by the platform that was released in 2020. This was called ‘My Octopus Teacher’ and documented a year of trying to build up a connection with a wild octopus residing within a kelp forest in South Africa. This project was the result of a collaboration between the filmmaker Craig Foster and directors James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich. Tom Foster, Craig’s son, is also a major part of the documentary. This film shows the octopus gradually revealing her habitat to a human diver. Her manner of defense, survival tactics, and many other aspects of the octopus’ life have captured the hearts of viewers around the world.
The first ‘Saturday Night Live’ show held after the US elections ended with a sign saying ‘You’re Welcome’ held by Alec Baldwin. This was a reference to the Trump impersonation by Baldwin that was a long-running hit on the show. The sign was also a celebration of Trump’s loss.
The major part of any news channel in most countries was related to the coronavirus. Updates about the number of people tested, the number of new positive cases, the number of deaths took over our screen. As the months went by, the numbers piled on and reached very worrisome levels in the United States, the UK, Italy, and several other areas.
Other than COVID-19 updates, there were reports of several deaths of beloved celebrities. The beginning of the year saw the death of NBA All-Star player Kobe Bryant along with his teenage daughter named Gianna. The two perished in a helicopter crash in late January.
News of the Australian bush fires were also raising concerns all over the world. That phase is also now known as the Black Summer. The bushfires were intense during that time, resulting in the extinction and endangerment of many species.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an advocate of women’s right and a U.S Supreme Court Justice, passed away due to pancreatic cancer in September 2020. Her death was mourned on an international level.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry stepped down from their royal duties and relocated to Southern California. This move resulted in a lot of backlash, with some criticizing the step while others supported it. The couple have a young son who is almost 2 years old. They also announced that they had a miscarriage in July 2020.
Harvey Weinstein received a prison sentence of 23 years from his many sex crimes. The mogul was handcuffed and locked up just days before the coronavirus was globally recognized. This was a major win for the #MeToo movement.
The stakes were high when it came to global politics. The most talked about event was the Presidential Election in November 2020. Due to the pandemic, mail-in ballots were an option. Trump and his campaign were strongly against this, as they claimed it would lead to an increase in voter fraud. The concerns surrounding this idea were debunked by media-based organizations. Eventually, the votes went in the favor of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
George Perry Floyd Jr.’s death triggered a lot of discussion around the Black Lives Matter movement and the general treatment of colored people in the United States. George Floyd, an African American, was killed during an arrest after a store clerk’s allegations. Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit 20 dollar bill. Four police officers responded to the call. The group included Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd’s neck while the latter was handcuffed and lying face down.
With most of our plans canceled, many people used technology to try and recapture life as it was before. One of the best examples is the Disney+ streaming of the live-captured version of ‘Hamilton’. With this version, viewers get to experience an actual Broadway crowd along with the art itself. The filming for this was done back in 2016, so the experience is a nostalgic one for most of us.
The use of technology also extended to charitable efforts. 2020’s largest Facebook fundraiser was contributed to by over 1.3 million people from all over the world. The final amount raised was over $35 million, which went towards providing relief for those suffering from the aftermath of the Australian bushfires.
During the Presidential election, almost every American adult on Instagram and Facebook was able to have access to the Voting Information Center. This gave them information on voter registration along with facts about the voting deadlines.
The announcement of Kamala Harris’ Vice Presidential Selection was among the most-mentioned moments in August 2020. On social media platforms, this moment drew in over ten million posts in a single day.
Many people resorted to using Zoom, a previously little-known video-calling platform. This was the basis of video calls for work meetings, educational lectures, or just for catching up between family and friends. The platform was also used for creating several kinds of virtual experiences, such as a Zoom baby shower or even a Zoom prom.
The holiday week starting from April 6th, including Easter and Passover, was the busiest one when it came to group video calls. It was also the most popular time for Facebook Live broadcasts, especially when it came to spiritual and Christianity-based pages.
Around 1.5 million people in Spain express their appreciation and gratitude for the efforts of their medical staff. Since gatherings weren’t the best idea, they cheered their heroes on with the hashtag #aplausosanitario.
Facebook Live and Instagram Live videos surged in both volume and views, especially in Italy during the initial lockdowns. In the United States alone, viewership on Facebook Live videos increased by 50 percent. This was due to the increase in online fitness classes, forging connections with artists, and discussions regarding global politics.
The Academy Awards were swept up by ‘Parasite’, which was directed by Bong Joon Ho. The film was from South Korea.
The Emmys were virtual, though they had a somewhat awkward format. Still, there were a lot of celebrations in Canada following the success of ‘Schitt’s Creek’.
Another shocking celebrity death in 2020 was that of Naya Rivera, one of the leads in the “Glee’ TV series. Her body was found four days after she went missing on Lake Poru while boating with her four-year-old son. The boy was rescued after being found sleeping in the drifting boat. This incident was the third untimely death to strike the cast of ‘Glee’.
The most-nominated female artist in the history of the Grammy award is Beyoncé. This year, she just added nine more nominations on her record.
The trans community in Hollywood is seeing more acceptance and representation now, with the latest big update being that of Elliot Page. Formerly known by the name Ellen Page, Elliot has come out as trans. The actor has been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the hit movie ‘Juno’. Page is also known for playing one of the leading roles in The Umbrella Academy, a recent TV series that’s gaining a lot of interest with its audience.
The year had few blockbusters, which is understandable. However, the movie Wonder Woman got a lot of attention for the sequel movie at the tail-end of 2020.
The year 2020 was full of tragedy, loss, confusion, and fear. Still, there were quite a few ways to find the silver lining and make the most of the time we have. Even the pop culture moments this year were unlike anything we’ve seen before the pandemic hit. Everything seems to be tarred with the same brush, including even the most iconic pop culture events so far.
At the end of the day, we have to be grateful for the technology we have along with the plethora of entertainment options available right at home. Without internet access and a lot of other offerings, the lockdowns and quarantines might have put even more pressure on our mental health. As it is, people have been able to get the support, connections, and distractions that they need so much now. For now, let’s hope for a better and happier time in the future, with an effective vaccine and a true appreciation for normal life.