Here we go again. The end of a year which also happens to be the end of a decade. It’s now time to weigh everything in and evaluate what kind of year it was. 2018 was a ‘meh’ year for Pop Culture, where so many good things happened that they almost, almost outweighed the bad.
2019 has also been a whirlwind of pressing pop culture moments. From end-of-an-era milestones like Avengers: Endgame, the final season of Game of Thrones, and The Rise of Skywalker, to an egg dominating Instagram and the notorious Fyre Festival. These are but shallow offerings in comparison to the nuances layered beneath.
At The Tempest, our commitment to pop culture has always been to explore deeper, personal issues.
What’s the impact pop culture is having? How are things changing? What are we doing to hold those with influence accountable?
The roundup ahead is simply 13 pieces we’ve published this year that we believe are dedicated to the tenets we’ve built our vertical on. As you revisit (or visit for the first time!) these pieces, we ask you to move into 2020 with us with a more critical eye but also optimism; hope that with our words we’re changing things for the better.
1. False Gods and the religious evolution of Taylor Swift by Chloe Hadavas
We are all, in large part, looking for the divine.
It’s been a great year for Taylor. Her album Lover smashed records and she was named Billboard’s Artist of the Decade. Where does faith fit in all of this? Does she even believe in (any) God? The answer might just shock you.
2. “Supergirl” Melissa Benoist makes a valiant admission to being a survivor of domestic abuse by Mishal Nawaz
Let this moral from a real-life superhero not go to waste.
We were all shocked by the news that Supergirl herself, Melissa Benoist, had been a victim of domestic abuse for years. Our hearts broke at her honest confession. The author of this piece explores how this revelation made her feel in relation to her own past experiences.
3. Let’s not pretend that Chuck Bass was some sort of Prince Charming by Maheen Humayun
Love should never justify treating women as objects.
Gossip Girl premiered in 2007 and for six years it pressed its misogynistic views of romance and chivalry onto a wide cast of impressionable viewers. The author dove back in over a decade later and highlighted just how toxic (and highly romanticized) one of the show’s main characters was.
4. How Toni Morrison brought life into a generation of Black writers by Yannise Jean
There’s no writer I know that does not fear Morrison.
August saw the passing of one the world’s most prominent writers, Toni Morrison. Her work was best known for exploring black identity in America. Jean, a black author herself in America, pens a beautiful piece about Morrison’s impact on her writing, the tools she’s now equipped with, and the importance of not bending to the pressures of writing for a community outside your own.
5. Ariana Grande’s excessive use of fake tan is ‘blackfishing,’ and that’s a real problem by Sara Hussain
Celebrities like her profit off of black culture.
We love Ari, her voice, and her music. But we also need to call her out on her behavior when she’s being problematic. The author of this piece unpacks the pop star’s image and coded behavior through the difficult concept of blackfishing – when a white person deliberately employs a darker skin tone and AAVE to appear black.
6. How Amazon Prime’s Made in Heaven is redefining the portrayal of morally ambivalent women by Mishma Nixon
Tara is the kind of female character that is never written into stories.
Nixon writes about one of her favorite shows, the sadly underrated Made In Heaven on Amazon Prime. What may look like a story behind a typical Indian wedding, conceals so much more. Its protagonists are real gems, refreshingly gray people that stem so far away from the stereotypical good and bad characters. The show is definitely worth a watch.
7. BTS are (finally) subverting their own old sexism with their new concept by Saira Mahmood
We’ve grown up, we’re sorry, we know better now.
Everyone can make mistakes, even the wildly popular boyband BTS. Not everyone always makes amends, but luckily, they did. Author Mahmood proudly delves into a deep analysis of their new, woke ways through more recent iconography and lyrics.
8. Disney’s Aladdin is bragging about “representation,” but we’re still stuck in the desert by Lara Azar
What do we do for positive representation?
This piece aims to analyze where we actually are on MENA representation in Hollywood with empirical data. No sugarcoating it. We’re still “stuck in the desert” because it’s rare to see someone with MENA origins playing a character that’s not either involved in a terrorist attempt or in an ancient, magical story.
9. Ramy Youssef on what it’s like disrupting Hollywood’s typical Muslim narrative – and on what keeps him going by Aysha Qamar
Youssef isn’t your typical actor.
Our staff writer Aysha Qamar had the opportunity to interview the one-and-only Ramy Youssef. They talked about his new show Ramy, what he thinks of current Muslim representation in media, and much much more in this honest interview.
10. How my brain tumor affected my career as a thriller writer by A.F. Brady
I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news.
Few of us come face-to-face with our mortality at a young age. Even fewer of us, perhaps, find the strength to continue afterwards. Brady, who is a published writer of several books, recounts her decade-long journey of post-diagnosis, reflecting upon the aftermath and the journey it pushed her on since.
11. Seeing yourself as a songbird: how Tuca & Bertie on Netflix gave women a mirror by Zoe Marquedant
In an animated world, is anything inanimate?
The question that this article sets to answer is, how can a cartoon be more realistic than your regular sitcom? Somehow, finds our author, it is. Tuca and Bertie might be two cartoonized birds, but they’re realer women than the protagonists of Sex and the City or Friends are. Watch this show for an oddly realistic portrayal of millennial women.
12. Here’s why I have major issues with women’s body hair in Hollywood by Alice Draper
Is television finally starting to embrace female body hair?
Women’s bodies are constantly under the microscope, with every emotional and physical attribute put on display to be judged. And when it comes to body hair, this author highlights mass media’s one-dimensional portrayal of it and her struggle between embracing her own body hair and embracing the long-ingrained appeal of hairless bodies that we’ve been fed our whole lives.
13. We have to stop making straight celebrities our gay icons by Federica Bocco
I would like for a gay icon to actually… you know, be gay.
Last but certainly not least, Pop Culture editor Federica Bocco highlights how adorning Pride events with a majority of straight artists is a blatant misstep in the presence of the vast number of LGBTQ+ talent in the world. And as we head in 2020, it’s about time that the fight for representation no longer remains a fight, but a victory.
And there you have it, our top 13 pieces for 2019. Hit us up on our Instagram with your thoughts and tell us what you’d love to see next year. See you in 2020!