The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2021

The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2021
Thank you, chosen one boys, mecha boys, complicated grandpa relationship boys, godlike progenitor being boys, and... Tina, lover of One Boy in Particular. (Image: Sunrise, Warner Bros., Fox, The Pokémon Company, and Adult Swim)

Being thankful doesn’t only have to apply to the big stuff. Each day we’re all thankful for our health, friends, family, and more. As we should be. But sometimes it’s just fun to think about the less obvious stuff we’re thankful for and there’s no better time to do that than Thanksgiving. That’s why each year, Gizmodo writes about pop culture creations we’re thankful for. The things that, during 2021, helped make us a little happier, a little wiser, a little better considering… everything.

That doesn’t necessarily mean these are the best things we’ve seen or done. Nor do they have to be new or even that exciting. They just have to be personal, from the heart, and have resonated in a way that makes us want to say “Thanks.” You can look at our 2020 picks here and, below, read the 2021 edition.

We’re Thankful For: Bob’s Burgers

You're thankful for what? (Image: Fox) You’re thankful for what? (Image: Fox)

I can’t remember where it was but I saw somebody the other day say that Bob’s Burgers isn’t funny anymore and I actually said out loud: “How DARE you.” Suffice to say, I’m still very much enjoying the animated series which is now in its — checks notes — 12th season! This ridiculous family brings me so much comfort and joy; I turn on old episodes regularly to relive the gags which somehow never get tired. Bob’s love of talking to food. Linda’s impromptu songs. Tina’s obsession with butts. Gene’s completely inappropriate behaviour in any situation. Louise’s everything. The best are the holiday specials which you can run through during the season. I’ll be watching a lot of weird turkey action this week, you can bet your sweet puns. – Jill Pantozzi

We’re Thankful For: Dune

Who doesn't love this bunch? (Image: Warner Bros.) Who doesn’t love this bunch? (Image: Warner Bros.)

When Warner Bros. first announced it was making a new version of Dune, my first instinct was to buy the book. And so I did. I got about 30 pages into it, stopped, and put it down for several years. Dune’s density made it both a great paperweight and all but impossible for me to get into without some context. Sure, I could’ve watched the David Lynch movie, but I decided I’d wait a few years for Denis Villeneuve to finish his movie so I could learn all about Paul Atreides and sandworms.

Fast-forward to 2021. I saw Denis Villeneuve’s movie, I loved it, and like many of you, I wanted to know what was next. So I dusted off my copy of Dune and was instantly transported to Arrakis. I finished that book, I finished the second book, and I’m currently reading the third. Frank Herbert’s imagination has become my go-to place to escape in the past few months and even though it’s been available to me literally my whole life, that I’m just now discovering it fully has been a blessing. – Germain Lussier

We’re Thankful For: Rick and Morty

Always something with these two. (Image: Adult Swim) Always something with these two. (Image: Adult Swim)

Rick and Morty aired its Thanksgiving episode (or rather, “Thanksploitation Spectacular”) back in July, odd timing that works with the show’s irreverent attitude but also gives fans a convenient excuse to re-watch the episode — in which a plan to sneakily obtain a Presidential pardon backfires in a riot of grotesque human-turkey hybrids — or even the whole dang fifth season. For a show that often gives off the impression of being overhyped and, even worse, over-commercialized, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s animated sensation continues to deliver consistently clever snark while dreaming up adventures both intergalactic and intimate for Rick, Morty, and the rest of the cast to get tangled up in. Not bad for a show that’s been on the air, albeit sporadically, since 2008. – Cheryl Eddy

We’re Thankful For: Mobile Suit Gundam

I believe in the sign of zeta, baby (Image: Sunrise) I believe in the sign of zeta, baby (Image: Sunrise)

Last year’s still ongoing, still terrible global pandemic brought me well back into the Gundam fold thanks to a legion of plastic model kits I spent my free time building. While I did dip back into the anime last year — mostly Gundam Wing, which I discovered does not hold up as it did when I was a tween first seeing it decades ago — it wasn’t until 2021, and the release of Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway on Netflix, that I really decided to re-examine one of my favourite animated series of all time. Starting from the very beginning, I’ve plowed through familiar shows and films like 0079, Zeta, ZZ, Char’s Counterattack, Unicorn, and The Origin in my free time so far this year, watched OVAs I’d never seen before like F91, and started old favourites again in Victory and Turn A. Revisiting them for the first time in years, especially alongside the excellent watch along/analysis podcast series The Great Gundam Project, rekindled what I love most about Gundam, from its incisive views of not just war but the imperialist and capitalist forces that drive conflict, what it has to say about humanity’s future, and perhaps one of my favourite sci-fi concepts around: the evolved spacenoids that are Gundam’s Newtypes, empaths forced to use their powers as tools of battle instead of universal connection. And yeah, the robots are pretty cool too. – James Whitbrook

We’re Thankful For: Modern Pokémon Cards

A Gigantamax Gengar featured on the packaging for Fusion Strike. (Image: The Pokémon Company) A Gigantamax Gengar featured on the packaging for Fusion Strike. (Image: The Pokémon Company)

Something that hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention in the ongoing coverage of the Pokémon Trading Card Game’s renewed popularity is how much of an emphasis recent sets have put on turning chase cards into intricate little pieces of art. When Pokémon cards first hit the streets back in the ‘90s, a card’s rarity symbol and whether or not it was holographic were two big metrics that most folks used to determine whether or not a card was valuable. While assessing cards that way might make sense from strictly Collecting™ and economic perspectives, it’s never been one that lent itself to an appreciation for the illustrations themselves.

Over the past 25 years, as the game’s mechanics have changed and evolved, the cards too have taken on new forms that put less emphasis on text and more on the dynamic scenes of the monsters they feature. There’s something distinctly thrilling about ripping into a pack of cards and catching sight of a full-bleed image peeking out of the stack of cardboard. It’s not just that there’s a rare card inside, but that often, these cards depict scenes meant to evoke the idea of stumbling across a wildly magnificent, unexpected creature, and being so taken aback that all you can do is stare at it. It’s a cool way of translating an element of the Pokémon video game experience to a physical medium, and one of the better ideas that the Pokémon Company’s had in recent years. – Charles Pulliam-Moore