The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2020

The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2020
From left: Pottery Barn Star Wars swaddle, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Digimon Adventure, and What We Do in the Shadows. (Image: Pottery Barn,Image: Square Enix,Image: Toei Animation,Image: FX)

No matter who you are or where you are, 2020 has been a rough year. It’s been a year where things have gotten so bad, sometimes you just had to find joy in the most unexpected of places. Family, friends, a new book or video game. It’s different for everyone.

So with Thanksgiving around the corner in the United States, the Gizmodo team has come together to discuss some of the unexpected, weird, and even personal things we’re thankful for in 2020. Hopefully, you can do the same in the comments below.

A scene from season two of What We Do in the Shadows. (Image: FX) A scene from season two of What We Do in the Shadows. (Image: FX)

Things Just Actually Being Released

In a year when so many things we were looking forward to (movies and comics conventions, but also vacations, parties and gatherings, and other life-in-general type stuff) got postponed or outright cancelled, I’m thankful for the stuff that DID happen: TV shows like What We Do in the Shadows, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Unsolved Mysteries, Lovecraft Country, Archer, and The Mandalorian, and movies that recognised that jumping to streaming can actually be a good thing, like Bill & Ted Face the Music.

No doubt the pop culture that did make it to the streams this year didn’t come without some scrambling behind the scenes — whether in production, post-production, trying to market the thing in the era of “Zoom junkets,” or all of the above. But in a year where there wasn’t always much for fans to look forward to, these nuggets of escapism helped make a big difference. – Cheryl Eddy

Cloud likes big swords. That's kind of his thing. (Image: Square Enix) Cloud likes big swords. That’s kind of his thing. (Image: Square Enix)

The Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII is one of the most fundamentally transformative pieces of media of my young life. I was six when the game came out, watching it play out over my brother’s shoulder well before I got to play it, wrapping myself up in the experience of Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and the rest of the gang’s quest to save the planet. I was that kid you always hear about, the one whose mind and heart was shattered when Sephiroth plunged his distressingly long sword through Aerith’s chest and ended her life, the one who, in that moment, understood the kinds of stories games could tell.

So in a year as earth-shattering as this one, I greatly valued the chance to be with those characters, to be in the spaces of Midgar again, in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Released pretty early in the stages of the coronavirus pandemic’s lockdown sprees about eight million years ago, Remake did more than sweep me up in the histories of these characters I’ve known and loved for most of my life: It recontextualized them, boldly dared to lay the groundwork for a fundamentally different re-examination of VII’s wider story in which these characters took hold of their fates as their own, beyond your memory of what was told before. It provided the comfort I craved in the nostalgia of my past, but at the same time revitalized what I loved about those memories of watching Final Fantasy VII as a child and made something new with them.

Remake was exactly the thing I needed most at a dark time during this miserable year. It was great seeing its cast again, my eyes slick with tears at each evocation of their past. But it also pointed to a path where their futures were theirs, and not my recollections — taking a thing I thought I knew and transforming into something new and exciting. Thank god for its boundless, terrifying freedom in a year of anything but. – James Whitbrook

Another Vanessa Hudgens clone appears. (Image: Netflix) Another Vanessa Hudgens clone appears. (Image: Netflix)

The Netflix Holiday Movie Universe (NHMU)

It’s been a long, tough year for movie fans. So many of the films I was stoked to see in 2020 — like Wonder Woman 1984, Candyman, and especially Dune — kept getting pushed back because of the pandemic. There’s small comfort in the movies you love that still managed to come out during this hellscape of a year. One of them is The Princess Switch: Switched Again, which came out on Netflix earlier this month. I am a dedicated fan of the Netflix Holiday Movie Universe, starting with A Christmas Prince and The Holiday Calendar all the way through the bizarre time-travelling adventure about a knight who falls in love with a human clone. It’s uncertain times like these that we can be thankful for consistency wherever we can find it. The Netflix Holiday Movie Universe — full of magic, weird science, and countries that run on a Christmas economy — will always be there when I need it. – Beth Elderkin

The Artwork of Scott C

I’ve admired and collected the artwork of Scott C for years. No matter what movie or show he’s painting or drawing, the characters always have a huge smile on their faces. They just make you happy, which is something we could all use in our lives, and our art, at anytime. In 2020 in particular though, his art impacted me in a whole new way.

This year marked Scott C’s first Great Showdowns gallery show in six years. It was something I’d been anticipating for, well, six years, so I took time off work to camp out for it. This happened the first weekend in March. After two evenings of sleeping in a car outside the gallery, the night was a smashing success. I got the art I wanted, my friends got the art they wanted, it just was fantastic. Five days later the world changed. I, and everyone else, were told we needed to stay mostly inside our homes for months. But, thanks to Scott C’s artwork, not only did I have some new, happy paintings to enjoy, it turned out that on the last weekend of normalcy, I had unknowingly snuck in an unforgettable experience. One I took for granted at the time, but haven’t since — the chance to hang out with a bunch of friends. – Germain Lussier

Digimon = Digital Monsters. (Image: Toei Animation) Digimon = Digital Monsters. (Image: Toei Animation)

Digimon Adventure in 2020

Between the Digimon Adventure reboot and Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, the franchise’s original story about a group of kids being transported to the digital world to save the “real world” from destruction is simultaneously coming to an end and being reborn as something fresh and fitting for 2020. It’s incredible that Toei’s managed to pull both of these projects off in a way that feels reflective of Digimon’s themes of rebirth and evolution being key elements of the sort of growth it takes to be a heroic person, and even more impressive still that both the reboot and Kizuna are some of the most visually stunning, dynamic stories in the franchise’s history. At a time when many of us were understandably looking back at things in order to feel comforted by nostalgia, Digimon instead encouraged us to keep our focus on the future while understanding that keeping the past in mind is also an invaluable asset. – Charles Pulliam-Moore

It's a good time to be a nerdy parent. (Image: Pottery Barn) It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent. (Image: Pottery Barn)

Nerdy Baby Stuff

It’s not easy shopping during a pandemic — sometimes it downright sucks. I haven’t bought a good bra in so long. But there’s one consumer joy I’ve discovered, something I’m truly thankful for: nerdy baby stuff. I’m currently pregnant and due in March 2021, which means I’ve spent the past few weeks prepping my baby registry so I can guilt family members I never see into buying me shit. Some of it is the boring, necessary noise, like a bassinet or diaper pail. But I’ve also managed to sneak in some truly adorable geeky stuff. The Child baby toys, Star Trek hoodies with little Spock ears on them, wall art of dinosaurs in space helmets hanging out with Wall-E. It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent!

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This has been a hard year. My husband and I went through a lot to become pregnant, only to finally have it happen during a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis. Preparing for a child during a pandemic is a challenge, to say the least, but the love, excitement, and anticipation we feel toward this little person-to-be makes everything worth it. It’s why I’m not guilting myself over putting a $50 Star Wars swaddler set on my gift registry, even if I end up having to buy it myself. We’ve been through so much — just as I’m sure you have — but we also have so many good, beautiful things to be thankful for in 2020. Make sure you find ways to thank yourself too, for everything amazing you’ve done. – Beth Elderkin

Gotta catch 'em all!  (Image: Topps) Gotta catch ’em all! (Image: Topps)

Star Wars Card Trader

So much of 2020 has been spent on our phones — what better way to spend that time with an app that not only has its own unique, built-in community but valuable collectibles to boot? Though I originally got into Star Wars Card Trader by Topps in 2015, I fell off for most of 2019. In 2020 though, I was lured back and it saved me. It gave me something to engage with, collect, and have fun with on an hourly basis. Something to fill in the spare time that was not just fun but exciting and engaging. I’ve met a bunch of new friends on social media who were also into it; we all help each other out and feel great when someone gets a much-desired card. Plus it’s Star Wars and art, all things I love. Are digital trading cards about the nerdiest thing in the entire world? Absolutely. But that nerdy thing has helped me forget about the horrors of the world for a few hours a week. – Germain Lussier

The Gizmodo Staff

I’m forever thankful for my wonderful Gizmodo team and I will never get tired of telling everyone about them. They are truly some of the best in the business and they impress me every day with their thoughtful critiques and interviews, unique ideas, and ridiculous shitposting. The pandemic had me worried for all of us this year and while it was never easy, I’m so glad I had them on my side. – Jill Pantozzi