What a wonderful world: why 2018 wasn't all bad
Let’s face it – it’s been another muvva-fudger of a year, with enough human misery and ecological horror to send even the most optimistic of us into an existential tailspin. But before you smash a handful of Valium and head for the bunker, take heart, dear reader: 2018 wasn’t all bad. Here are a few uplifting reasons why it was a glass-half-full kinda year.
Remember back in December 2016, when we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief and thought, ‘Well, thank fuck that year from hell is over. Phew! It’s gonna be nothin’ but plain sailing from here on out, you guys…’ Oh, what poor damn fools we were.
Between escalating climate change, white supremacists, Manus and Naru, #MeToo, the alt-right, ScumMo, and the endless sushi-train of steaming demagoguery that is Trump’s White House, 2018 has kept up the trend of soul-crushing FML that’s been the idee fixe of the past three years. But as earth completes another lap around the sun, we at The Music are refusing to give in to the dread. We've scoured the year's feel-good stories so you can see out 2018 with a just lil' bit of hope.
The spider-man of Paris
In late May, a sunny afternoon in Paris took a nearly-disastrous turn when a four-year-old child managed to scramble over the railing of a balcony on the fourth story of an apartment building. The toddler dangled high above the concrete paving slabs below, as horrified bystanders looked on expecting a tragedy to unfold. But then, something miraculous happened. 22-year-old Mamoudou Gassama sprang into action, scaling the outside of the building in mere seconds to rescue the child from what would have been an almost certainly fatal fall. The incredible incident was captured by multiple mobile phones, and stories of the man dubbed "the spider-man of Paris" quickly made headlines around the world. Following the rescue, Gassama left the scene, with no expectation of reward or accolade. However, once tracked down by the media a few days later, the Malian immigrant was granted French citizenship by President Emmanuel Macron in recognition of his extraordinary act of heroism.
Hannah Gadsby conquered the globe
In March 2017, Hannah Gadsby announced her intention to retire from stand-up comedy with a swan-song show enigmatically titled Nanette. Those who saw it during its premiere season at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival left the show shell-shocked. After a typically joke-laden intro, Gadsby took her final show in an extraordinary direction, unleashing a furious rebuke to toxic masculinity and the patriarchal discrimination that has impacted the lives of women, LGBTQIA+ folk and other minorities for decades. The show was immediately declared a masterpiece, picking up the coveted Barry Award at MICF, followed by the Best Comedy Show Award at Edinburgh Festival. A massive New York season followed, released by Netflix as a comedy special, sending the kudos of Nanette into the stratosphere. For many, Gadsby's words were an expression of unflinching defiance in a climate when many people are living in fear and uncertainty. There are many extraordinary moments in Nanette, but one quote that perhaps best captures its ferocious spirit is this: "There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself." Here here.
A year of marriage equality in Australia
There has never been a more nail-biting use of boring data analysis than during the eternity-seeming five minutes David Kalish of the Australian Bureau of Statistics kept the nation on the edge of its seat before finally revealing the landslide victory for same-sex marriage equality in November last year. The right for same-sex couples to marry was made law by December and in the past year, scores of couples have tied the knot, finally given the equal dignity to have their relationships recognised. And because we're a tiny bit partial to the odd soupcon of schadenfreude here at The Music, it was also satisfying to see the backlash against former PM Malcolm Turnbull, who despite putting the LGBTQIA+ community through the humiliation of the NO campaign, attempted to take credit for marriage equality on Twitter on the anniversary of the result. Sorry, not sorry Mal.
Ethnic, cultural and gender victories in the American Midterms
While we may not be directly involved with American politics, the globally reaching consequences of Donald Trump's chaotic term in office has had the world on tenterhooks. So the Midterm Elections, which were viewed by many political commentators as a crucial referendum on Trump's ability to lead the land of the free, still had many of us Down Under rapt with anticipation. The results were not just a partisan victory for the Democrats, who not only took back the House of Representatives but also several key Governorships, they were also a stunning victory for women of colour and minorities. Several historic, defiantly progressive firsts were achieved, including the youngest woman and the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress, and the first openly gay Governor.
The Wentworth by-election
After being ousted by his own party, former PM Malcolm Turnbull resigned from parliament precipitating a by-election in his constituency of Wentworth. Formerly a steadfastly safe seat for the Liberals, the local election became a litmus test for the nation's political yen, denied the chance to elect the newly installed PM Scott Morrison after an internal coup that saw yet another leadership spill. Despite some uncertainty in the immediate wake of election day, as postal and absentee votes were hurriedly collated, independent candidate Kerryn Phelps was declared the new member for Wentworth, joining the Lower House crossbench in the largest official by-election swing against a government in Australian political history. The significance of the win has been seen as a microcosm of the same anti-right backlash witnessed in the US, offering a reassuring sign that public sensibilities have not succumbed to the populism that has seemed such a conspicuous force in recent geopolitics.
New Zealand's First Baby's debut at the UN
We don't think it would be hyperbole to say that Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is one of the most inspiring political figures in the world today. Not content with being the first world leader to give birth while in office (not to mention her progressive politics and the unparalleled diversity of her cabinet), she also made history in September by being the first leader to bring their baby, Neve Te Aroha, to the United Nations General Assembly. Ardern appeared with her three-month-old daughter in the New York-based hub for global diplomacy before giving a wonderful speech at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.
Ezra Miller's Playboy shoot
With the shocking revelations of the scale of sexual abuse being wielded by Hollywood's power brokers, most notably by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, a dark secret of the entertainment elite was brought to public light. But as the patriarchal status quo was toppled, we saw a shift in the previously entrenched culture of discrimination that not only empowered women but also those existing outside the heteronormative. While Ezra Miller, star of Justice League and Fantastic Beasts, is by no means the first actor to openly discuss sexuality, the 26-year-old became a symbol of a change in the movie industry by posing for the cover of Playboy magazine, with an accompanying interview discussing gender-fluidity and polyamory. Given recent attacks on the trans community, from both President Trump and closer to home Aus PM Scott Morrison, Miller offers an A-list level rallying cry for tolerance and open-mindedness when it comes to gender identity and sexuality.
They may be just three little letters, but they represent something of a very much larger scale: big dick energy. The social media phenom began in late June when Ariana Grande tweeted (and then quickly deleted) about former fiance Pete Davidson's substantial dong. Now, in the year of #MeToo, a story about male genitals sounds a little tone-deaf. But BDE is not merely a matter of anatomy, but rather a state of mind. It describes someone with confidence without cockiness, charisma without self-centeredness, and animal magnetism without sexual entitlement. Best of all though, BDE has nothing to do with gender - or in fact the size of a penis. Twitter was abuzz with suggestions of women with lashings of BDE, including the likes of Serena Williams, Rihanna, and Australia's own Cate Blanchett. It might seem strange that the male appendage could be used as a feminist totem, but for many, it was an appropriation that really captured the empowerment and defiance of a post #MeToo world.
The Trump Blimp
As demagogues go, Donald Trump has given satirists plenty to work with. The tangerine skin, the pursed sphincter of a mouth, the fairy-floss combover, the teeny-tiny hands – there's plenty for caricaturists to ham-up. But one unignorable piece of protest art emerged in 2018 that perfectly captured another of Trump's most odious qualities: his childlike penchant for temper tantrums. The giant inflatable blimp in the shape of a baby-Trump, complete with diaper, first took to the skies over London, when the American president made his first official state visit to the UK. But it has since floated around the world, drifting above protest marches across America and beyond. Expect to see a lot more of the Trump baby blimp in 2019.
Elon Musk sends his car into space
It's been far from a flawless year for ol' mate Elon Musk. The man who might well be humanity's best hope for becoming a multi-planet species has made a few questionable choices in 2018, from smoking the whacky-tobaccy on camera with Joe Rogan to starting several wincing scandals with a trigger-happy Twitter finger. But this is a feature about the good stuff of 2018, so we're going to focus on what could arguably be the most perfect balancing act between being a baller and nerd ever accomplished. In February, as a demonstration of the launch capacity of Space X's Falcon Heavy rocket, Musk launched his very own Tesla Roadster into a billion-year orbit around Mars. With a mannequin in the driving seat wearing one of Space X's cool AF space suits, live footage of the car beginning its epic journey was relayed around the world (literally). Not only was this a feat of amazing engineering, it was also done with such whimsy and dorky humour it will ever be simultaneous one of the cleverest and dumbest things every accomplished by humankind.
First published 1 Dec 2018, for The Music.