A disclaimer: The spirit of this piece isn't about picking "the best" or "the worst" of the year; it's about finding which photo, song, person, etc. best captured the essence of 2011. However, this has been kind of a bullshit year for me, and as a consequence, I can't help but view the world through bullshit-colored glasses. So if you ask me what the last 12 months have really been about, you're going to get one of two answers, depending on how much whiskey I've had:
1. "A bunch of bullshit."
2. "I'll fight all of you. EVERYBODY. I'm the best. Arooounnnd. And nuthinevergunnakeepmedowwww --"
With that being said, let's get this bullshit started.
The last decade or so has undeniably been the epoch of the nerd. We went from unwashed basement trolls to trendsetters, and all it took was spending all of our money on things we liked anyway. We got what we wanted, everybody made money hand over fist and it finally became acceptable to admit to a few of our more easily digestible hobbies (you still have to closet those miniatures and write that fan fiction under a pseudonym, Narutophiliac243). It has, in short, been a paradise. We really had a good thing going there.
And then Sucker Punch came out.
That movie should have been everything to everybody: Schoolgirls for the horny, mechs for the Warhammer freaks, magic for the D&D nerds, zombies for the Romero fiends and slow motion for the slow kids(?).
But it wasn't. Sucker Punch flopped tremendously, and it was only marginally due to the fact that it was a god-awful film. No, Sucker Punch's failure wasn't about admittedly inferior quality, it was just the inevitable ebb of the nerd flood. To borrow from Hunter S. Thompson:
"There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ...
And that, I think, was the handle -- that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ..."
So now, less than 10 years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Cyrodiil and look West, and with the right kind of Alteration Spell you can almost see the high-water mark -- that place where the nerd wave finally broke and rolled back.
2011 was the year "bro" woke up under the Ping-Pong table, stumbled into the kitchen, threw up in the sink, grabbed a breakfast brew, slipped on some 'flops and shuffled bleary-eyed to the front porch only to discover that it had been crowned king sometime in its drunken stupor, and now all the peasants were waiting on the lawn to swear their fealty.
It's not just a term for people who take Beer Pong seriously anymore.
Somehow "bro" went from a chief identifier of frat boys to netspeak, and it did so almost instantly. One day you could play Date Rapist Marco Polo at any party and shout, "What's up, bro?" into a crowd, knowing that anybody who answered back could legally be detained for semen samples. And the next day Reddit powerusers have more "bros" in their submission history than Pi Kappa Gamma's in-house dominatrix.
I'm not sure exactly why this sudden adoption took place (though I suspect it's meme-related). But regardless of why, 2011 has been all about this kind of bullshit: co-opting things that should be shunned, idolizing people who should be institutionalized and proudly saying things that should get your mouth scrubbed out with old bong Jaeger.
The first two seasons of Community were fantastic, experimental and optimistic. But above all, they were fun: You got a real sense that everybody truly enjoyed what they were doing, and even if it didn't always work, they acknowledged the failure with a charming smile, an enigmatic shrug and a shot of some Alison Brie cleavage, so all was forgiven.
A strategy we've shamelessly stolen.
There were some rumors that this abrupt, jarring change in both tone and quality was due to Dan Harmon suffering some personal setbacks, and even though you should never let that affect your work (you can't just flip out and start calling everything bullshit; that's unprofessional), we all know that these things happen. Luckily, the show started to regain some footing around episode 6, and was back in fighting form by episode 8 ... which was when the network execs announced that it was going on mid-season hiatus. That's TV-polite for "canceled, but we're sort of sorry about it."
That seems to be a trend this year: People suffer their usual setbacks and are staggered, but just as they finally, slowly start to recover, they get royally screwed again.
So I guess what I'm trying to say here is: I'm totally fired, aren't I?
Yes, but here's a charming smile, an enigmatic shrug and ...
In keeping with my theme of bullshit and the bulls that shit them, here's a bullshit move on my part: I pick Anonymous as my person of the year. Hey, Time magazine did it back in 2006. You're not holding me to a higher standard than Time, are you?
Yes, I know that Anonymous is a group, not a person, but in all fairness, they do present one public persona, one face and one mission statement.
That persona is "dangerous, irreverent asshole."
That face is this:
And that mission statement is: "I don't know ... fuck you?"
Anonymous fucks shit up because they can't think of anything better to do. And like so much of this year, that's as respectably badass as it is total bullshit. LulzSec were the most prominent aspect of Anonymous this year (even if they were only tangentially connected to Anonymous, the media still considered them one and the same), and their exploits, for better or worse, finally put some teeth in that irksome smiley face.
Among other things, LulzSec hacked Sony and released user account information, leaked contestant info from Fox and even crashed the goddamn CIA's website. They were perhaps the most effective, and certainly the most publicized, terrorist force of the year, and if you asked them toward what end they did all of it, they'd tell you it was "for the lulz."
And then they'd probably say something about mudkips.
That's apathetic, incomprehensible and borderline sociopathic. In short, it is a damned appropriate statement for this bullshit year. 2011 was the year the world asked:
"Why'd you burn that house down, son?"
And we all answered:
"Because it needed burning, sir."