A contender for most overused word of 2020, though it did capture the mood of “what the…?” and the double-take that ensued as wave after wave of “unprecedented” (another contender) misery rolled in. Finding clever ways to make old skills/businesses/homes work in a new way was admirable, but let’s leave the spinning to the ballerinas next year.
Should we blame Joe Exotic? He’s guilty of plenty else, so we might as well pin the return of the dreaded do on the star of Tiger King, which seemingly had everyone transfixed mid-year. But given its widespread resurgence amongst footballers we’re more inclined to put it down to a concussion-related brain injury. We pray memory loss will follow, and all traces of this appalling travesty of a hairstyle will disappear.
If you’d bought shares in Zoom this time last year you’d have paid $US66 a pop; today you’d pay $US400. As everything from board meetings to Friday-night drinks to kids’ birthday parties moved to the virtual world, Zoom won big from the pandemic. But the novelty has worn off, and it’s time to zoom-zoom back to where it came from.
Is it one person, two, or a whole bunch of nutjobs? Do they really believe there’s a secret Satan-worshipping sex-trafficking cabal running everything? Or is it all just an elaborate gag? Whatever the truth (it is out there, surely), the conspiracists’ conspiracist is a joke, but no laughing matter.
At first, the whole working-from-home thing was quite the novelty, and homeschooling an opportunity to see how our little angels were tracking. But as lockdown dragged on, weekends disappeared, homework became a tautology, and playing We Are Family on high rotation got old. At least it helped us realise that work/life isn’t just about balance, it’s about separation too.
He started out rolling pastry, now the former MKR host is completely flaky. The dodgy COVID-busting lamp was bad enough, but the Nazi imagery he shared on social media before saying he was ignorant of its meaning, finished him off as a mainstream media personality. But he’ll no doubt keep disappearing down rabbit holes in search of fresh serves of conspiracy for his followers.
The pariah cough
The merest hack – even when directed, as per government decree, into the elbow (see above) – now causes one’s fellow train passengers to glare in disgust while stepping back a metre in horror. Oh, for the heady days of 2019, when coughing was merely a background noise, not the soundtrack of a plague.
Smoke on the water (fire in the sky)
The year started with people being evacuated from Mallacoota by boat; it ended with shiploads of unwanted Australian coal marooned at sea. If China’s tit-for-tat games end up doing more to break the deadlock on coal than the threat of environmental devastation it will be a shameful indictment of politics in this country – but welcome all the same.
Is this the last we’ll see of the Orange Meanie? Almost certainly not. But for now let’s luxuriate in a moment that captured the sleaze, ineptitude, and cack-handed attempts at media manipulation of his four years in the White House: his legal advisor Rudy Giuliani fronting the press in the parking lot of Four Seasons Landscaping in Philadelphia, with an adult book store next door and a crematorium across the street. Despite the glaring evidence it was a SNAFU – the booking, it is assumed, was meant to be at the Four Seasons Hotel – no one from Trump’s camp ever conceded as much. What a perfect way to bid his presidency farewell.
Any residual notion that workplace performance is tied to the cut of one’s Saville Row two-piece was surely dashed by the fact lots of people performed perfectly well from home in a T-shirt and jeans (for some, even the pants were optional). We have nothing against the suit as a sartorial choice, but the idea that you can’t play the part unless you dress the part is just so last season.
No shows (and no-shows)
When Miley Cyrus cancelled her bushfire fundraising concert just three days before Grand Prix weekend, it was a sign of things to come. Since March, we’ve been starved of international touring acts, and Victoria has missed out on live performance across the board. Now, theatrical shows are back and some acts plan to quarantine here ahead of shows next year. Fingers crossed we continue to trade staged restrictions for stage attractions.
Toilet paper wars
Civilisation teetered on the brink of collapse due to a dunny-paper run by a few s—heads. But despite fears of a supply-chain collapse, the system held firm against the onslaught of a selfish minority. Maybe next time they’ll be more inclined to hold on, like the grown-ups do.
Nothing said 2020 quite like the moment you said “hi” to a friend in the street and they stared blankly at you. Was it the wild COVID hair (check), the trackypants-and-ugg boots combo (check), or just that the facemask covered most of your identifying features (check)? The eyes may be the window to the soul, but the face is the whole house, and without it we’re a bit lost.
There was some amazing innovation in entertainment in 2020 – virtual theatre, virtual concerts, virtual festivals. There were even virtual awards ceremonies with (real) statues presented by [people in Hazmat suits. Some of it worked, some didn’t, some of it was funny or moving or inspired. But enough. Can we please just get back to the real thing in 2021?
The daily Dan
Whether you saw it as determined or diversionary, the daily briefing from Dan Andrews was one of the key (recurring) moments of 2020. The North Face jacket, the Auslan translation, the diametrically opposed social media memes of #IStandWithDan and #DictatorDan, the number, and finally the sweet, sweet taste of double donuts: these were all part of the fabric of the year. And if we can now consign them to the ragbag of history we will be delighted.
David Foster Wallace wrote about a trip on a cruise ship under the title A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and many thousands of passengers might have felt inspired to do the same this year as their luxury liners turned into floating petri dishes. With its core demographic also the most vulnerable to the virus, the industry may need to set a new course. But you know what they say about trying to turn a ship around.
If there’s been one upside in this year from hell it’s that everybody became interested in numbers. Even those with a lifelong fear of mathematics had something to say about R values and transmission rates and the like. This is 100 per cent a good thing (margin for error: +/-2 per cent).
The culture wars
There are legitimate issues at stake in the so-called “culture wars” but tolerance, humour and a bit of forgiveness would go a long way to easing the transition from what was to what will be. We’re all for a world free of discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality, race, ability or anything else, but can we just play a little nicer in 2021?
The instant TikTok superstar
Proof that the world has officially lost its marbles: a guy drinking cranberry juice and skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams became one of the year’s biggest stars. Proof that the world is still OK despite everything: the fact Nathan Apodaca, aka Doggface, could use his instafame to lever himself out of poverty. Even in this crappiest of years, some dreams did come true.
Karl Quinn is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.