Ted Lasso holds a cup of tea.

Ask the Mary Sues: What Pop Culture Are You Thankful for in 2020?

What's been your saving grace during this truly terrible year?
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After only 5,693 months, the hellmouth that is the year 2020 is FINALLY coming to close. With only 42 days left in this cursed year, we’re all white-knuckling it through the holidays together. And once 2021 begins, we need only wait 20 days for Joe Biden’s inauguration and for Trump to GTFO of our lives forever. Oh what a glorious day that will be.

With 2020 soon in our rearview, we wanted to take a look at the pop culture that distracted us from the dumpster fire of this year. Whether it was movies, television, gaming, or wine, we all sought solace in our favorite pop culture pockets of joy. And it’s in hard times like these that entertainment becomes more than diverting. It can be therapeutic, as well. Here’s some of the content that kept us going in this relentless year.

Briana Lawrence:

I’m going to say #Blacktober and the daily dose of joyful Black art I got all through the month of October. It was the perfect burst of happiness that, thankfully, leaked into November during peak times of stress.

Chelsea Steiner:

As someone entirely uninterested in sports, I began Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso with zero expectations. To my surprise, the Bill Lawrence series offered up a delightful feel-good comedy that never punched down and always erred on the side of kindness. This is chiefly displayed in Jason Sudeikis’s irrepressibly optimistic title character, a man who is the perfect combination of old school gent and woke cheerleader.

Lasso’s relentless good humor and loving support are traits we (sadly) rarely see in male protagonists, which makes this Apple TV+ series all the more refreshing. In a pop culture world filled with bitter anti-heroes, we could all use more men like Coach Lasso. Luckily for us, Apple has already renewed the series for a 2nd and 3rd season.

Jessica Mason:

In this chaotic and generally terrible year, I’ve been most thankful for the shows and movies that brought me into Geekdom and Fandom, and aside from Supernatural, which I’ve covered a lot this week, the one that brought me the most hope was The Lord of the Rings. It means so much to have a story about the triumph of good over the shadows, where the smallest people can make a difference and be heroes.

Every day leading up to the election, I whispered Samwise’s speech from The Two Towers to myself, because we always need to remember that no matter what, there’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.

Rachel Leishman:

A great distraction for me throughout quarantine has been Lucifer. Discovering the show late in the game, I got to watch the entire run through season 5A and became addicted to it. Watching the Devil learn how to live among the world of man and grow as a character was shockingly fascinating to me. I really enjoyed how he took his own personal growth seriously, which was something you don’t often see when people talk about Satan, and I loved watching every second of it.

Vivian Kane:

I would guess that, by this point, I’ve seen every Bob’s Burgers episode (save for the latest season) at least 20 times each. All year, it’s been the show I fall asleep to because there’s something about the sound of H. Jon Benjamin yelling that I find really soothing, especially in 2020. It’s so smart that even now, I find myself catching jokes that slipped through the cracks and at its core, it’s just a really honest depiction of a family that has its issues and its difficulties, but that really loves each other and is just doing their best.

Princess Weekes:

Animal Crossing came at the right time for a lot of us. It may seem clichéd, since everyone was obsessed with it, but getting to build my island and spending the very start of COVID-19 there was a distraction that was more powerful than even Netflix. Being able to interact and build a community with people, visit friends, and even host events while stuck indoors was important. I couldn’t have gotten through those first few months without it.

Dan Van Winkle:

Shrill, Hulu’s TV series adaptation of Lindy West’s memoir, will always be the little bright spot I remember about this year before everything went to hell. As is frequently the case in January, I had nothing to watch, and I happened to check out the series on a whim after remembering it from the work of some of our writers, as its second season made its debut. They did not steer me wrong. The show manages the ever-delicate balancing act between hilarious and heartfelt with aplomb, tackling a lot of meaningful subject matter in the process, and my only complaint is that its seasons are too short.

Kaila Hale-Stern:

Basically the only podcast I listen to is Last Podcast on the Left, now on Spotify. The hilarious hosting trio of Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zebrowski provide a welcome escape from the horrors of 2020, by letting me escape into … far worse horrors! LPotL takes deep dives into “dark subjects” like serial killers, vengeful aliens, and the weirdest folks from history—but the hosts’ irreverent wit, thorough research, and a rapport developed over many years together makes the stories intriguing and transportive instead of depressing. Also sometimes there are tales like Geoff the talking mongoose that will change your life. The podcast is the thing my brain seems best able to handle when I want to be fully “offline,” and though they likely didn’t imagine this when they began the production (or maybe they did), there’s nothing better than LPotL and a hot bath. Stay around for “Side Stories,” in which Ben and Henry recap the most bizarre news of the week from around the world.

What pop culture has gotten you through 2020? Let us know in the comments!

(featured image: Apple TV+)

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Image of Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.