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2011 Pop Culture Year in Review

Updated on June 17, 2013
Source: Wikimedia Commons, SimonPix, CC BY 2.0.
Source: Wikimedia Commons, SimonPix, CC BY 2.0.

If you have seen my other year in review article it is clear I was in awe of some of the scientific advances of the past year. But the sidekick to my headliner, science, is always pop culture and I’d like to recognize my favorites in movies, books, TV, and music for the year 2011.

1. The Muppets- This may come as no surprise when you take my avatar into consideration but I am a huge Muppets fan. I don’t know what I enjoyed more the build up to the movie with all of the spoof trailers (‘Wait are there Muppets in this movie?’) to Ok Go’s rendition of the theme song or the actual movie itself. I think all of the above. I love seeing my favorite, fuzzy friends back in the spotlight, so the year-long anticipation was fun for this fan. I was worried about whether I would enjoy the movie, I went in knowing it would never surpass the original three- The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), and The Muppets take Manhattan (1984) but with super fan Jason Segel in charge I hoped it would make the Muppet name proud. And I think it did, it was the perfect Muppet ratio of funny to cheesy, the songs were cute and catchy and I think it was a clever way to work into the script the fact that we haven’t seen much of them in the past decade. Now we can only hope Segel succeeds in his next goal- getting The Muppet Show back on TV!

2. Revenge (ABC) - It’s a show that takes the guilty out of guilty pleasure. Yes it’s soapy but so far no one has been abducted by aliens or come back from the dead (although the latter will probably occur at some point). The creators credit ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ as their inspiration but this time put it into the perspective of the daughter of the man wrongfully accused and imprisoned. And of course it doesn’t hurt that it is set in the Hamptons in NY with all the ridiculously rich people. I can’t get enough of all the plotting, backstabbing, and take-downs, mixed in with all the fabulous parties and glamorous clothes. It is one part Kill Bill, one part Damages, and one part Dynasty, it’s a great mash-up and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for 2012.

3. Crazy, Stupid, Love- I saw this in the theater when it came out and I am looking forward to a second viewing on DVD. I thought it was a cute version of maybe a somewhat overdone sub-genre of romantic comedy where there are several different couples, from varying age brackets, intermingled. I think this one was a success with Julianne Moore and Steve Carell as a married couple having issues, Ryan Gosling as the perpetual playboy and Emma Stone as the never-takes-a-risk law student, with Carell and Moore’s 13 year-old son who is in love with the babysitter (recognized by America’s Next Top Model fanatics like myself as Analeigh from cycle 11). I think at this point in time, it’s all been done before. Every plot line is a variation of another even if the overall story is a mix of several different ones. I think the key is to make the writing so good that the recycled plots don’t seem recycled at the time. There were several moments in Crazy, Stupid, Love that I reflected on later, thinking I should have seen that coming. But I was so engaged in the dialogue and in some cases laughing too much that they slid it right under my nose. Honorable mention in the movie category goes to X-Men:First Class. I really liked this origin tale, I think the cast was great, and I always enjoy a good this-is-what-really-happened movie version of a well known historical event.

4. Music-This year I didn’t buy too many CDs, but I did make an impulse iTunes purchase based on a new song- AWOLNation’s Sail and really ended up enjoying the album (Megalithic Symphony). Interestingly I think the single doesn’t represent the album all that well, the album itself has more of a poppy, electronic dance feel to it than the single leads the listener to believe. However it worked for me and I look forward to more from this band. Another good album I picked up this year was Ida Maria’s follow up to her 2008 release, ‘Fortress Around My Heart’. Katla, which is technically from 2010, has a distinct vibe from her previous album, which I think is cool. It is a fine line for an artist to still sound like herself and change it up a little bit without totally seeming like she is switching genres. It has some catchy songs like ‘Bad Karma’ the single and ‘Let’s Leave’ along with some misses ‘Quiet Nice People’ but overall a good album.

5. Books- I’ve done my fair share of reading this year, but going into writing this article I wasn’t sure how many books I’ve read that were actually published this year. This is mainly due to the fact that I hate paying full price for a book and would rather be on a lag system, where I get around to ‘new’ books when I can buy it used. I did read a new book from two of my favorite authors this year- another installment in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde and another Jackson Brodie novel by Kate Atkinson. Fforde has now written six Thursday Next novels, the first three, in my opinion, are terrific. The subsequent sequels are good; I love Fforde’s continued detail of his BookWorld. Started Early, Took the Dog by Atkinson features her middle-aged, everyman former cop turned PI Jackson Brodie for the fourth time. Atkinson cleverly weaves in other new characters making Brodie a supporting character in each. This particular installment was a quick but good read. I didn’t get as attached to these new characters as I did in earlier installments but I enjoyed Brodie as always. I will continue to read these series by both authors even if there is a general decline in both series, because they are still far superior to other serialized books. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman came out early in 2011, it centered on an English-Written Newspaper in Rome. The book’s central theme, to me anyway, was the idea of the juxtaposition of someone’s work persona and their home persona. I think we assume that people are the same in their work life and home life but often people have two very different sides. Turns out the slacker at work is a great dad while the know-it-all perfectionist at work dates losers who walk all over her. Regardless of publication date, I think some of my favorite reads this year were Tana French’s The Likeness (2008), The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larsson-2010), and The Eight by Katherine Neville (1990).

6. Reality Television Winner- I love Competition Reality TV Shows- Top Chef, Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model, Survivor, and American Idol. I tried to come up with my favorite winner of these year’s shows and thus I give a SPOILER ALERT. First out of contention is Scotty McCreery from American Idol. I knew he was going to win all along, after a columnist planted the seed, but when it happened I was still upset. There were others on this season that were more talented and much more unique than another country singer. Project Runway was a little underwhelming this season, I liked Anya’s designs but I agreed with some other contestants in their question of is it really fair for someone who can’t even sew and has limited range to win the whole thing? I love Survivor but I don’t like how this year both seasons had returning players. I feel like Boston Rob played a perfect game in Redemption Island but he should have, seeing he has played the game four times. I don’t think it is fair to new players to get to the island and find out there is someone there who has already had several attempts at the game under their belt. Up until last night I couldn't really come up with a favorite winner for 2011 but luckily someone turned up at the 9th hour. My top Reality Winner of 2011 is Sophie on Survivor-South Pacific. I think women can have a difficult time getting far in the game of Survivor. If they align themselves with a strong man on the show, they get accused of riding coat-tails, if they use their feminine wiles to get further, they are accused of flirting their way to the top and if a woman is strong, wins immunity, and plays strategically she is referred to as condescending, as Sophie was by her castmates. But Sophie prevailed in the end, successfully pleading her case at the final tribal council and I think it was one of the best earned Survivor titles.

So that’s in, my pop culture year in review, in the new year I’m looking forward to reading the third installment of the Millennium Series and Faithful Place by Tana French, and maybe a few fresh 2012 titles, more Revenge, a new season of Survivor (in which hopefully all contestants will be rookies) and All-Star Project Runway.

Happy New Year!


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