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2020 in Review: The Biggest Cultural Moments of the Year

The year where we stayed home, stayed safe, and watched Netflix…

Pixabay / Ed Zilch

From a global pandemic to raging wildfires to economic recession, it’s safe to say that moments of comfort and distraction have never been more desperately necessary.

While the UK government were encouraging artists and dancers to “reskill” into a new industry, the essential role of the arts was exhibited in this year of crisis and isolation. Despite cancelled gigs and widespread theatre closures, we spent more time consuming culture than ever before in our lives.

From Tiger King to Taylor Swift, this year may have felt like an endless stream of Netflix binges and surprise album drops. As such, here are just a few of the most important cultural moments to remember alongside the pain and anxiety of 2020.

Parasite sweeps the Academy Awards

Yes, this really was this year! It may feel like a lifetime ago at this point but the 2020 Oscars saw Parasite become the first South Korean film to receive Academy Award recognition and the first non-English language film to win Best Picture.

As we saw the world’s billionaires get even richer while the pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, the message of Parasite remains depressingly relevant.

Yet, seeing the film receive the recognition it deserved and watching Bong Joon-ho encouraging audiences to “overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles” was a joyous start to 2020… before everything quickly started sliding downhill.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The highly-anticipated entry to the Animal Crossing franchise was released on March 20th, the week after the WHO declared a pandemic. For the uninitiated, the game lets you set up an alternate life on a deserted island where you can fish, catch bugs, water flowers, and make a perfect home for you and your animal friends.

The simplistic gameplay, soothing repetitive tasks, and the ability to visit each other’s islands brought about arguably the biggest and most inclusive gaming phenomenon since Pokémon GO, with over 13 million copies sold in its first six weeks. It also led to incredible incidents like this:

I May Destroy You

Michaela Coel’s emotionally excruciating, smart, and funny 12-part-comedy drama – in which she plays Arabella, a British-Ghanaian writer trying to recover her blackout memories of being sexually assaulted – was hailed as the “the best drama of the year.”

As well as just being excellent television, the show opened up important conversations about consent and privilege and encompasses much of what we value in art in 2020: stories from diverse creators which tackle perhaps uncomfortable themes with candid vulnerability and sharp wit.

Black Is King

It would simply feel wrong to discuss cultural moments of 2020 without mentioning the queen of pop culture herself: Beyoncé. Her name is synonymous with “flawless” but her second visual album is particularly special:

Indeed, to describe Black is King as a visual album feels like an understatement. From the cinematography to the costumes to the choreography, the film is a sumptuous love letter to Black culture. What is on the surface a reimagining of the Lion King story is really a stunning celebration of the beauty, power, and richness of African heritage.

BTS’ online concert

On the heels of their historic Grammy nomination, Time named BTS – the “biggest band in the world” – as the magazine’s 2020 Entertainer of the Year.

Like many other artists, the South Korean septet had to postpone touring for 2020 but it can be said that the group set a difficult standard to beat for quarantine performances with their two-day, live streamed ‘MAP OF THE SOUL ON:E’ concert in October.

Putting on perhaps the biggest virtual ticketed show of all time, BTS gave a typically epic, intricately detailed, and imaginative concert all through a screen and provided a desperately needed sense of comfort and community. Proving, once again, that nobody in 2020 is doing it quite like them.

Read next: Tweet Announcing Chadwick Boseman’s Death is Most Retweeted of 2020, Most Liked of All Time

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