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Ask the Mary Sues: What Pop Culture Are You Thankful for in 2021?

During another pandemic year, these gave us a boost.

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As we wrap up our second year in a global pandemic (sigh), we look back on all the fresh dumpster fires that 2021 has given us. But amidst all the drama and heartache of 2021 is another year bursting at the seams with films, series, games, and viral memes that made us all laugh. In another year that saw many of us stuck at home, there was plenty to watch, play and enjoy. Here’s to the pop culture that gave us a boost in 2021.

Briana Lawrence:

As someone who frequently watches sports anime, SK8 the Infinity is one that I didn’t see coming. I’ve watched the series about six times now (and have a bunch of articles to show for it) and it’s become the anime I immediately suggest watching when getting together with friends who haven’t fallen in love with Reki Kyan the way I have.

While the messages of friendship you expect to get are there (coupled with a hell of a lot of subtext, like, omg, so much beautiful subtext, it might as well be text), I really appreciated having a series that championed having fun for the sake of having fun instead of trying to make something out of everything you do. At the end of the day the point was to do something you like with people you like with no need to gain anything from it beyond “enjoyment.” As someone who struggles to have hobbies that I don’t try and monetize somehow, it was a breath of fresh air to see.

Also? The found family of skateboarding misfits makes for some of my favorite anime characters of 2021, not to mention the legitimate insecurities they learn to overcome. I especially love Reki learning to accept that he doesn’t have to be as skilled as the people around him. I love that he learns that yes, there are people who are better than him at skateboarding, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he’s good at it, too.

SK8 is a series that makes you feel happy that you watched it, with voice actors who truly love it as much as we do. There are a lot of things that made me happy this year but this is the one I keep coming back to… even if the show ended months ago!

Rachel Leishman:

I’m thankful for WandaVision. I didn’t know how much this show would mean to me this year, I just knew I’d love it because of my appreciation and love for Wanda Maximoff. But as the year went on, the more I turned to the show’s exploration of grief as guidance. Yes, it is a corny line in the show but “what is grief if not love persevering” is something we can all learn from and take comfort in. That show gave me a way to process grief and explore my own emotions that I wasn’t expecting and for that, I’m thankful to WandaVision.

Chelsea Steiner:

Damn there was a lot of terrific television this year! But few shows have hit me so hard in the feels as FX on Hulu’s Reservation Dogs. The coming-of-age dramedy about four Indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma with dreams of escaping to California is a hilarious, profane, and poignant look at teenage angst and the pain of growing up. With a ridiculously talented young cast and an irreverent style all its own, Reservation Dogs is the best new series of 2021.

Dan Van Winkle:

I’m thankful for something that hasn’t even come out yet: Spider-Man: No Way Home. Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, but I haven’t been that excited about any of his Marvel Cinematic Universe movies so far. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed Homecoming and Far From Home, but neither of them really made a huge impression on me.

Far From Home, however, has given me something to really look forward to with all the mystery around it and returning characters from the character’s past movie incarnations making this feel like a truly seismic movie event, and something to look forward to at that level is exactly what I’ve needed, given … well, everything right now.

Kaila Hale-Stern:

The most delightful media I’ve seen of late is Hulu’s series Only Murders In the Building. Starring comedic legends Steve Martin and Martin Short, it also brings in Selena Gomez to represent the younger generation, a role she fills well and with fabulous style. The three appear as neighbors who become unlikely podcast co-producers and friends after they team up to solve a murder in their sprawling Manhattan complex. Cleverly and warmly written, with twists and laughs aplenty, this show is great to watch no matter your age. Its winking self-awareness and send-up to true crime podcasts and fandom are also much appreciated. And its backdrop of the “Arconia” building and its surroundings on the Upper West Side ground it as a uniquely New York story of strangers connecting. I am thankful for this escapist treat that proves generational divides don’t have to exist, especially when there’s a murder to solve.

Alyssa Shotwell:

Something that has brought me joy this year has been the novels of Alyssa Cole. I read her first mystery/thriller last December, When No One is Watching, and she was my go-to when I decided to plunge into reading adult romance this year out of curiosity and as a way to confront my own internalized misogyny. I devoured the Reluctant Royals series and am on book two of the Runaway Royals, How to Find a Princess. Even though the pronunciation of “anime” by the voice actress in the audiobook edition was kinda cringy, the Can’t Escape Love novella (Reluctant Royals) was one of my favorite fiction titles I read this year across all genres.

What pop culture are you thankful for this year? Let us know in the comments!

(image: Funimation)

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Author
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.