Rethinking Year-In-Review Lists


It’s that time of year, when all of us are forced — via that deceptively celebratory title of “Year’s Best” — to realize how poorly we’ve spent the last eleven months. No one cares that you made it through 928 pages of Murakami’s latest in just a week (or built an impressive 2% of bicep muscle from holding it up), It’s December, pal, so you if you haven’t already listened to every album released in 2011, and previewed a few coming out in 2012, just move to the back, like Stone-Ages back, because you’ve lost your right to participate in the modern human race. Talk about a Homo Neaderthalensis.

“Best of” Lists are to December what mosquitoes are to August, but unlike the panic-inducing insect, no one wants to get rid of the “Best of.” Instead, they feed them, passing them around to their friends, acting aghast when the most fringe author/ artist/ television show has been left out, but smiling in smug recognition at any item that matches up to a notch on their own belt.

I can say this because I do it every year. For a former yearbook editor and perpetual sentimentalist, an annual pass to let my gaze linger backwards long enough to read a 10-point list is better than any gift that could be shoved at me this month. Suddenly my personal mantra to never forget about anything has a culturally-sanctioned purpose. Hallelujiah, indeed.

Perhaps it’s time we stop letting our self-worth be so easily bought and realize what these lists are actually doing. Because they’re not just another page in the adults’ arts and culture yearbook, open for drawing hearts or a million arrows with the word “Hot!” in neon markers. Not anymore. They are cleverly packaged, taste-monopolizing guilt trips that, when properly delivered, make you wonder why you even bothered with trying to seem cultured this year.

I thought we were supposed to be busy gazing at our own navels and adding a lowercase “i” in front of every device we use. Since when did we let other people start deciding what’s best for us?

I’d like to reclaim the year-end best-of lists to give equal weight to everything that could have been important to someone this year. Lists that are as much about the best books we’ve read as they’re about the best books we read halfway, but pretended like we’d read all the way through when people ask us at parties. Just because you missed all of the films Roger Ebert believes were humanly impossible to miss, you must have done some things this year that are worth thoughtfully piling into a ranked list.
Why not stick your heel into authoritarianism and start thinking for yourself? To start, here are some lists you might want to think about:

The Best Tumblrs to make you feel like you’re doing something better with your life than the person who started them

The Best Photos taken on days you called in sick to work and made your friends jealous because you actually went to the movies and ate ice cream instead

The Best Horrifying Craigslist Ads you responded to

The Best Meltdowns to occur after responding to horrifying Craigslist ads

The Best TV Episodes that hinted at, nay, begged to be rewritten by you in your journal

The Best Concerts you would have gone to had you not fallen asleep and slept through your friend’s phone calls

The Best Friends you lost after buying a book they recommended, hating it, and telling them you hated it

Of course, I’d be wrong not to mention the other purpose of these ”‘Best of’ lists, which is to leave future generations with a time capsule of what could be considered some of the highest artistic achievements of the year, to perpetuate any fragment of collective consciousness that may exist, for our own narcissistic posterity. See, I knew that navel-gazing would find its way back in here.

So someday, inquiring young minds spelunking the deepest hidden layers of the Internet will be able to discover the top nipple slips of 2011 as well as the best fiction published that year. That’s some deep King-Tut’s-tomb sh-t.

Crap. Just got an email about the Top Ryan Gosling Moments of this year. Yeah, I’m gonna feel bad missing that one. Who’s up for choosing favesies from that list and calling it a year?

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image – Terren in Virginia