Author’s note: I realize it’s already February so it seems a bit late for an article about December, but here are two things to consider:
I am a very slow writer
Enjoy the article!
One of the great traditions at holiday parties is the year-in-review; the world comes together to discuss how we feel about the last four months. Friends watch one-another project their personal experiences onto the entire planet, saying things like, “yeah, I really feel like this has been a tough year for everybody,” even though whenever anybody since 1901 has said that sentence, there were minimum five people that year who won the Nobel Prize. Still think it’s been a tough one all around, Erica? Bet that bunch would say it’s been a pretty fun time, even if they did know that Shannon broke up with you in August.
The same topics show up a lot in these conversations, since often we’re all pulling from loosely the same cultural basket (well, except rich folks - they probably just talk about how well money burns in combustion engines and which city’s poor people taste the best). It’s the holidays though, so it’s considered inappropriate to deal with any really heavy stuff; not one conversation about what 2015 was like opened with, “So how about ISIS, hey? Man are we ever fucked!” Despite a year of French people, black people and Cecil the Lions being tragically gunned down, the most difficult topic anyone raised this year was Skymall filing for bankruptcy. The resultant shortage of palm tree-shaped cat litter boxes felt vital, but ultimately failed to garner much conversational interest. By contrast, here are this year’s nominees for the best conversations we all had at holiday parties in 2015:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The discussion of the year’s best music is a favourite with the hipsters that I assume we all hang out with a lot. This December Adele and Drake provided strong openers; Adele with her soaring vocals, Drake by letting us all say his album is great even though clearly no one had actually heard anything off it that wasn’t playing during the Hotline Bling video. At any parties with many parents of young children, the consensus was that the soundtrack to Minions was getting heavy rotation, and Raffi’s 2015 tour was totally bitchin’. Also, apparently a lot of people across the board think that The Weeknd is some kind of new app for cottage sharing.
The eventual conclusion in all groups surveyed was that the best album of the year was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Kendrick’s brilliant work explored the social history of black music in America, while letting us use obviously made up, hyphenated terms like “afro-political realities” “socio-musical,” and “vis-a-vis.” As a bonus, any time a black person casually mentioned preferring Grimes’ Art Angels to Kendrick’s album, the party was treated to a delightfully uncomfortable show of embarrassingly well-meaning intellectuals cluelessly white-splaining hip hop.
Podcasts were the dark horse in 2015’s race, winning out the coveted ‘thing all the pretentious people seem to be pretty into’ spot. The position was nearly taken by literature, until it was determined that listening to books on Audible still technically counts as a vote for podcasts. Similarly, a controversial ruling deemed that this category also includes eavesdropping on strangers, and half-listening to your mom on speakerphone while you do more important things.
Partygoers energetically engaged in long, rich conversations, working hard to tell each other about awesome podcasts they love which everyone should totally listen to, while simultaneously pretending to pay attention to the recommendations given by others. Interest only waned occasionally, whenever someone brought up a sports podcast. The number one most used opening line of 2015 year-in-review conversations was “Oh my god have you heard the new Serial yet?” That phrase also won out for ‘nerdiest line that still sounds like something a popular high school girl would say,’ and ‘top sentence that Rice Krispies marketing executives wish people were saying about their product.’
The Force Awakens was such a dominant force in 2015 that I kept thinking a trailer would play before we could pull the turkey out of the oven. Kidding! I’m Jewish, we didn’t have turkey. The trailer played before we lit the menorah, which was actually just eight Rey bobbleheads with a BB8 for the shamash.
No one was surprised that Star Wars was the huge movie topic of the holidays; we weren’t going to just sit around talking about how Mad Max was incredible, or how Spectre sucked, or how Jurassic World needed less motorcycles and more Goldblum, or how Mockingjay Part 2 needed less shallow political commentary and more Goldblum, or how Age of Ultron should lead to a Netflix sitcom made up entirely of Thor’s hammer jokes, or how Fifty Shades of Grey was like a weird opposite-porn-parody that that turned porn less sexy, or how a Tomorrowland prequel could be called either Yesterdayland or Todayland, or how if Sicario rhymed a bit more with ‘Figaro’ then Weird Al could finally write that opera, or how much easier it is to write jokes about lots of other movies instead of only about Star Wars.
A big part of this nomination for Star Wars came from the fun of finally getting to talk about The Force Awakens’ big twist. That being, of course (spoiler alert!), the fact that your shitty, nitpicking friends are even worse than you realized at just relaxing and enjoying an adventure movie for what it is. Also, the Planet of the Wookies WAS EARTH ALL ALONG.
“OH MY GOD, WHAT DID YOU PUT IN THIS FUCKING STUFFING? IS THAT SAGE? THIS SHIT IS INCREDIBLE!”
The stuffing was really great this year.
AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
The ongoing US Presidential candidacy races were the only 2015 holiday topics remotely approaching real news. Unsurprisingly, there was the obvious game of chicken to see who would be the first to say out loud that Trump somehow has a serious shot at winning - an experience similar to playing actual chicken on a narrow bridge over a deep canyon. However, the Republican race also yielded other exciting discussions, such as if Ben Carson has literally been sleepwalking for 8 months and will be pretty confused when he wakes up, how much Ted Cruz probably underpays the people who play his family, and if it says more about the other candidates or Marco Rubio that no one ever picks ‘marry’ or ‘kill’ for him.
Eager followers of the 2015 conversational topic race will know that, in an unexpected turn, the Democratic ticket almost cost this conversation its spot in this final five. Little interest popped up regarding Hillary v Sanders, since calling that one feels like guessing which of your grandparents is going to die first; it’s significant, and someone is definitely going to win, but taking bets always feels heartless somehow.
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That wraps up our list of the Best 2015 Holiday Party Conversational Topic nominees - an exciting bunch and a heated contest. Join us again next January, when we once again round up the best of the best conversations we all had at the holidays. Early projections for 2016’s front-runners include ‘too bad about California’, ‘I can’t wait to marathon all of next year’s news when Netflix puts it out in January’, ‘hey, remember the Euro?’, ‘isn't is weird how they never declared a winner out of those conversation topic nominees?’, and ‘Star Wars’.
See you next year!