For those of you who haven't read the book or watched the movie, The Hunger Games is a dystopian-future sci-fi story about the world's Battle Royalesiest reality show, where 24 children are forced to compete against each other in a televised death match. If you tossed The Lord of the Flies, the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur and Gladiator into your make-out closet and locked the door, The Hunger Games would be the make-out baby that emerged eight months later. (Make-out babies are always premature.)
Was it the best movie of 2012? No, Moonrise Kingdom will probably win the Best Picture Kristi in the Academy Award ceremony that I stage in my basement in February. But THG is 2012's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, assuming we're now talking in A Christmas Carol metaphors and you've already figured out that the United States is Ebenezer Scrooge. That was a convoluted way of saying "The Hunger Games is the most appropriate movie of the year, because look how much Nicki Minaj resembles a Capitol Citizen."
Or a transvestite Shredder.
It also raises the issue of reality TV, and wonders aloud with the rest of us if "Maybe we should cool it with watching the emotional and physical breakdowns of real people as a form of entertainment? Just a little bit?" It's bad enough that we're all laughing while Honey Boo Boo eats cheese balls that will definitely give her diabetes in 10 years. It's only a matter of time before we're straight up sticking babies and three-legged rabid dogs in an arena for Sweeps Week. Maybe 2012 wasn't the year we hit our reality television disgust threshold, but The Hunger Games certainly called us out on the direction we're heading.
At least The Hunger Games uses teenagers, not human beings.
That's the only real parallel to our world -- unless you live under a bona fide authoritarian regime, in which case you saw lots of your own life in the fictional country Panem. Of course, if you have the freedom to watch The Hunger Games, you do not live under a totalitarian dictatorship. Which is why it's hilarious that conservative Americans used the movie to say "See what will happen if Obama gets his way?" And that liberal Americans used the movie to say "See what will happen if the rich and the poor get farther apart?" And that actual racists used the movie to say "Why is Rue black? This ruins everything! UGGGGGH!" The Hunger Games was the perfect movie for 2012 because it had something for everybody, like a stupidity Rorschach test for the different flavors of stupidity that defined our year.
How do you even live with yourself?
If you had told me four years ago that people would one day declare their stance on gay marriage by eating or not eating at the fast food restaurant best known for their chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and illiterate mascots, I would have spit-taked my beverage all over your neck. (I'm short and my aim is bad.) But if you had told me that Sarah Palin would use that opportunity to claw her way into one more day in the media spotlight, I would have said "Sounds about right." Lady can't help herself.
In June 2012, the CEO of Chick-fil-A used a talk show to reinforce his support for "traditional" marriages. Religious conservatives seized the moment to support Chick-fil-A by purchasing what I will always consider delicious chicken, liberals staged boycotts, and gays kissed each other at the restaurants.
We're used to people losing their minds every election season. That's fine. We get it. The Chick-fil-A drama was unnerving because citizens mobilized over a private businessman's widely known religious beliefs ... at a fast food franchise. I still can't get over how stupid this sounds. We can't get volunteers to give enough blood to keep us out of a national blood shortage crisis, but by all means -- take a picture of yourself ordering or not ordering a fried chicken sandwich.
Everything and everyone is secretly great if you look hard enough. That might not be Louis C.K.'s actual message, but you can find it if you read between the lines. Somewhere between all the self-loathing, masturbation anecdotes and deconstruction of the absurd minutiae of everyday life, Louis C.K. has become the comedian who reminds us to calm down and play nice because we're lucky to be here together.
Sometimes that message needs to be shouted via bullhorn.
Like when Louis accidentally tweeted support to Daniel Tosh amid the infamous rape joke controversy. If you've already put the story out of your mind, Daniel Tosh was doing a stand-up routine and made some jokes about rape. And when he got heckled by a female audience member, he said "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now?" Maybe that makes you laugh. Maybe it makes you angry. Louis C.K. responded like this:
"To the men I say listen to what the women are saying about this. To the women I say now that we've heard you, you know, shut the fuck up for a minute. And let's all get back together and, you know, kill the Jews."
Kevork Djansezian / Getty
Louis C.K., Emmy-winning anti-Semite and rape apologist.
How do you top a rape joke controversy? With a joke about the Holocaust. And a quick reminder that comedy is a two-way street. The best comedians can show us the darkest corners of life and relieve the tension we confront every day. But the best comedians also approach those subjects thoughtfully and evolve and grow with time. Some performers want the right to joke about anything and everything. But C.K. is the rare performer who can straddle the line between offensive and endearing without being a complete jackass about it. His whole comedy philosophy was summed up in his reaction to Tig Notaro's set about her cancer diagnosis:
"The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying 'Wow. Right?' She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example. So generous."
Michael Schwartz / Getty
Tig's prognosis is good. Proof that other people's laughter is the best medicine.
Everything is funny. It has to be. But not everyone can pull humor out of 9/11 and cancer and child abuse. That's thankfully rare. It's so rare that most people who do it end up looking like idiots. Louis C.K. is at a point in his career where he can get us to pay him directly to make us laugh about the most horrible things in the world.
I'm trying to create the profile of someone who made it through 2012 and never once heard Carly Rae Jepsen's song "Call Me Maybe." This would be someone who doesn't listen to the radio, never looks at online memes, doesn't watch TV and rarely interacts with other human beings outside his or her own household in any capacity whatsoever. The best I could come up with was a sketch of a kangaroo that lived in the Outback during the 1920s. Because "Call Me Maybe" made it EVERYWHERE this year. Like Afghanistan.
And in the skies over the Atlantic Ocean as the U.S. swimming team flew to the Olympics:
On T-shirts you probably never saw in the real world but were clever nonetheless:
This shirt is about 400 percent creepier if you've never seen Arrested Development.
Not to mention on Sesame Street, at NPR studios and in the White House, kind of. "Call Me Maybe" is just a really good pop song. I can't speak for the billions of you reading this, but I've had this song in a loop in my head for a week now. And that's about the third time that's happened this year. Music experts think "Call Me Maybe" struck a chord because of its catchy hook, infectious beat and "lyrical incongruity," something one musical savant noticed way back in June.
They rhyme if you're eating peanut butter or someone cut the roof of your mouth out, but otherwise, not so much. Neither does the Lord's Prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance, and we still let people say them every day. God and Carly Rae must know what they're doing, huh?
Enjoy the rest of your day with this song in your head, suckers.