Rhizome asked writers and artists to help us count down the final hours of the year by sharing internet things to remember from 2017, because those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
2017 has oftentimes felt like being in a holding pattern over choleric lava; each rocketing incendiary force keening to fuck us down to hell with the disappointment that our last moments will smell like the sulphurous farts of an elderly dog. Last night some friends and I took shelter in an underground Edinburgh bar in the last country that has not gone insane and suggested that America and England’s daily life is now like walking down a long corridor of endless doors and trying to multitask to agonizing screams; when you open a door a Silicon Valley algorithm firebombs everything you hold precious in front of you while you try not to cry and drop coffee on your shoes.
2017 was also quite funny, if you ignore everything I just wrote.
CORBS AND CANS
For example, the last politician in England who has (for the most part) held steadfast and admirable values for most of his life (despite the New Labour policy of steamrolling every non-neoliberal in town) went out in the 2017 weather to get some Special Brew tins & coffee in something that can only be described as the robbed shell suit of a nineties swamp monster. The overall effect is of a man who has dedicated his life to politics and poor people but has no idea about PR: the exact opposite of Satan’s cheese puff, Trump, and therefore, one of the most soothing men to read news and smile about.
Scotland’s been doing okay despite England forcing it to leave the EU, membership to the EU being the only thing that assured we did not vote for an independent country, which I assume we now deeply, deeply regret with the power of a thousand suns. But something that stern English Daily Mail readers like to whine about is that when Scottish tennis winner Sir Andy Murray is Going About Winning Tennis Things around the world he better be smiling about it, he better be happy to be trotted out the athletic pet of the dead British Empire. Sir Andy Murray (not a fashion model) has been told to smile so often it’s like he’s permanently a pretty teenage girl walking past a building site. But in 2017, Sir Andy Murray proved the frown is his super power: when he tells this complacent reporter that Sam Querrey was the first male US player to reach a semi-final since 2009, it was like the scowl had X-Men-like qualities and it lit up the reporter: if you listen carefully you can hear the man’s flesh sizzling in the background as Murray basks in the simultaneous arousal of thousands of heterosexual women around the country who can’t help but be impressed by baseline male respect. As if you could forget Serena Williams and be a sports journalist.
This year my friend Megan Farokhmanesh noticed that on the 20th anniversary of the best worst Batman movie, Batman And Robin, (which I still maintain has a tie-in novel that is dynamite, a much better rendering if you ask me) Joel Schumacher was talking about nipples on the batsuit again. Megan correctly surmised that this is the most important thing about the film: the objectifying of the male form that the film seemed comfortable with. Schumacher himself said that he hadn’t realised what a firestorm he’d cooked up by erect male headlamp inclusion. The reveal is that when objectification is reflected at men themselves, we start to ask if Batman would be sexualizing his own suit: if yes, that says something very interesting about Bruce Wayne, possibly one of the most interesting things any writer might have said about him. If no, then we must ask exactly why it is most female superheroes in films always create impractical sexualised outfits for themselves without fail and without the audience immediately rupturing with questions about the believability of her character. I guess some might live in a fantasy land where dressing that way does not interrupt the ‘rescue small children from a burning building’ plot with mundane sexual harassment or some dude pestering for a date, but I suspect this world is not like Gotham City. In Batman and Robin, Alfred made his niece a Batgirl suit that in Terry Pratchett’s words might be "six weeks work for an experienced panel beater." But don’t let’s look at Hollywood too closely; we might find a gaping maw of rotten garbage.
Tula Lotay, Wonder Woman, poster drawn for @MondoNews. Source: https://twitter.com/tulalotay/status/870724076062609410
This year the artist Tula Lotay has been tapping her boots and then solidly knocking balls out of the park. Best known for her work in comics, Tula Lotay is someone whose feathery lines, hard-jawed men and voluptuous-lipped femme fatales remind me of the creatures on the front of old golden age Black Mask magazines (only when I look those up, they pale in comparison). Her colors, especially, are the most vibrant palettes and pop art joys to look at, but my favourite scenes of hers are the romantic clinch, or when her characters look meaningfully at each other. There’s something electric in the art she produces, like she vibrates a wild abandon or ecstasy into her characters. Probably the greatest compliment I could give her is that she draws like she is in love with people, and what better reason to wake up in the morning than to see love like that on a page. I have given her all my money.
FOOTBALL-THEMED INTERACTIVE FICTION
Welcome to the section of the article where I tell you that you are in love with Jon Bois. It’s true; I am in love with Jon Bois too. I have never met Jon Bois. But his interactive fiction masterpiece 17776 is one of the most important pieces of internet art I’ve ever been exposed to. He would probably laugh derisively at this; this is why I am in love with Jon Bois. That, and I too love American football as romantically as he does. Please read this. It is wonderful. It is hilarious, exuberant, and it is also as beautifully paced as any TV show you will watch.
FRANKIE BOYLE ON CONSERVATIVES
The fact that Frankie Boyle can make me laugh about the terrible political situation we are in, and still preserve the anger I need to get things done, is probably the only thing making me feel generally jovial any more:
BIG NEV'S TWITTER
Him and Big Nev Southall, the gentle giant of Twitter, who looks down sternly upon racists and bigots, and succinctly inquires as to why they might be such twats to strangers, and who listens intently to when he is given new information about how to be kinder:
CLIFFE LIVES ON
Since The Toast died I’ve been bereft, but Nicole Cliffe is still around to teach me things. For example, the phrase “cum gutters” is now firmly a part of my vocabulary, and Joe Mangianello’s golden retriever-like insistence on wolfing down blocks of cheese is now something I’m aware of thanks to her:
CLIMB OVER THEM
Where I am in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a place beset by climbing and bouldering walls - we have Europe’s largest indoor climbing wall, situated in an old quarry, as well as a wealth of actual massive motherfucking mountains surrounding us. There was much laughing and rejoicing at my local bouldering wall when this rebuttal of a GQ mess about climbing was published, which sees women climbers pictured in their natural state: actually climbing. With clothes on.
I read Carrie Fisher’s Princess Diarist this year, and it broke my heart in two. Harrison Ford treated her very cruelly, and it occurred to me that he probably didn’t know that he was abusing his power - it is common of men to think that because women have ‘power’ over them sexually that that somehow puts mouthy nineteen year old girls on an equal footing with married male co-stars 14 years older than them. Perhaps male sexuality is invisible to male heterosexuals. But she also knew that she was in love with him and he wasn’t in love with her (I assume, from his actions), and it’s always hard to read about that sort of thing. I loved this interview with Mark Hamill, where he says that he and Carrie made out and gambolled around like teenagers more on an equal footing, and I think it shows an extraordinary amount of respect and fondness for her, something I think her memory deserves. Though I don’t believe Mark Hamill is a good kisser, so, there is perhaps one false claim to be considered.
I assume that many people will recommend this read on millennials to be worth your time, but I consider this next article the most valuable Serious piece of 2017: Brit Marling on the Economics of Consent. A woman may say nothing and a powerful monied man has still decided whether he will give her work based on how likely it is she will say yes to him on any subject. If she starts to say no, even to sex (one of the worst abuses of power) it is no longer a disagreement on professional values. He wrongly interprets her as her rejecting him as a person. And sometimes the woman said yes once, and then has used up her ‘professional’ value after that: she deserves no politeness or courtesy any more. And this has egregious effects on the ability of men and women to work together, to co-exist together. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be fixed.
If 2018 doesn’t continue to hit the “enable all disasters” button on its SimCity 2000 game, I’ll see you next year for more ways you can prevent yourself from doing any work. Until then, death to the bum rag The Daily Mail.
Cara Ellison is a writer and narrative designer for videogames. She is currently working on the game Dreams for PS4. She has made a corner of the utopian internet here: http://caraellison.co.uk/