When Fear Turns Into a Collective Defiance
The rather dire prediction for 2017 was that it could in no way be worse than 2016. By December of that tumultuous and harrowing year, we had all had enough. We had lost enough beloved celebrities, been through enough political turmoil, and all seemed to have our own personal struggles. We longed for what we hoped would be the magical stroke of midnight that heralded 1st January 2017, a moment that was fun to dramatise as when all that had become wrong with the world would be righted, and we could happily continue like the hellish year behind us had never happened. Of course, that didn’t happen. 2017 was gruelling and, at times, hard to get through. But, as we slogged through the year gone by, there were flares of light in the darkness, something I wish to carry into this brand new year of 2018.
In the dreary days after the New Year, something that I always look forward to is the awards season with all of its glitz and glamour, the tensions, and the tearful acceptance speeches. The main topic of 2017’s award season was the industry romantic musical La La Land competing against the powerful, highly poignant Moonlight for the highest honours. An uncomfortably white representation of LA and jazz musicians in the former and the powerful message of acceptance and Black, male tenderness in the latter, made for a highly charged final night at the Academy Awards in late February. As you may well remember, the (in my opinion incredibly staged, and tasteless) blunder of announcing La La Land as the winner before crediting Moonlight as the actual winner made for days of fun headlines and – of course – memes. Disappointingly, Moonlight will always be forced to share a narrative with another film, one that can barely touch it in terms of craft, emotion, and raw talent. On the bright side, this superb film had its moment, and it was the first shocking thing to happen in the mainstream media that had made many of us truly happy in a long time.
As awards season picked its way along the red carpet, Donald Trump was made President of the United States. You may remember the dire scenes of the Obamas being miraculously courteous to a man that is as courteous as a bull in a china shop. Or the damp stretches of grass where Americans failed to show up to the inauguration. And my favourite: Kellyanne Conway coining the phrase ‘alternative facts’. Something that brought hope to those dark days after President Trump became official was women all around the world marching for a better future. At my own march in London, I will never forget the atmosphere, the celebrities that turned out in their droves, and the wonderful sense of comradery that happens when fear turns into a collective defiance. As the executive orders started to be dished out from the President’s office, it sparked a fairly solid period of protest from what I can remember in London, in the USA, and across the world. The willingness to be open and visible in a world that constantly seems to be trying to shut down our voices was a wonderful thing to experience.
As the year moved ahead, the world was rocked again by tragedies. In March, London suffered an attack right next to the Houses of Parliament on Westminster Bridge. A terrorist bombed an Ariana Grande concert in my home city of Manchester. Mere weeks later in June, a group of terrorists drove a van into London Bridge while I was five minutes down the road in my first year student accommodation. They murdered eight people. In June, the Grenfell Tower in west London killed seventy people and caused numerous injuries. The shocking proximity of these incidents to myself has changed my perspective on the world. I can only imagine and empathise with the families of those who died, and those who experienced the attacks first hand, but each event has had its impact on me. I will never forget the outpouring of love, strength, and the feeling of community that I witnessed after each fresh tragedy. But, of course, the horrors of the world are not just limited to my perspective. In March, April, and May, Afghanistan suffered terrorist attacks where the number of fatalities exceeded one hundred. Syria continues to hurt from the pain of multiple Islamic State attacks. In October, a gunman opened fire on thousands of festival-goers in Las Vegas, leaving over five hundred people injured. Most recently, the city of Bir al-Abed in Egypt lost three hundred and eleven people to a bombing and subsequent shooting in a Mosque. The outpouring of international grief this year has been chilling to experience, particularly for myself in places so close to home. We can only hope that these communities, so grief-torn and damaged, can pick themselves up again, and that we continue to fight the forces that intend to divide us.
As the year dwindled down to the final months of the year, the case of Harvey Weinstein brought what many considered a new tone to the entertainment industry. But, as Saturday Night Live so musically put it: the world has always been this way, in and out of the industry. While realising the scope of sexual harassment across the world was horrifying, the empowerment that came with saying #MeToo brought a sense of solidarity. Women’s voices who had been silenced for years, even decades were suddenly being heard. TIME Magazine’s illustrious Person of the Year Award could not have gone to a more deserving candidate: The Silence Breakers. I have infinite respect for the men and women that stood up and used their platform to speak out against their assaulters. We can only hope that this energy is taken into 2018. People that seek to prey on the vulnerable have no place in our society, no matter how powerful they are (that includes you, Trump).
So, 2017 was a rollercoaster. The pain, the suffering, the anger felt across the world has been hard to cope with. However, our increasing insistence to battle and overcome that is what I hope will carry us into 2018. The world is a scary place, but it is a good place, filled with strong and wonderful people. Let’s see what 2018 has in store for us.