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The Varsity

The University of Toronto's Student Newspaper Since 1880

Good riddance, 2016

TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

Good riddance, 2016

Our contributors reflect on what shaped the year in culture, and what’s next for 2017

As we ring in the new year, we cannot help but reflect on the developments in the worlds of music, movies, and the arts over the course of 2016. Most notably, 2016 saw a staggering number of deaths of iconic artists that defined and profoundly altered their respective industries.

David Bowie and Prince, two prodigal musical talents, passed away in 2016. Bowie, an artist known for constant reinvention and experimentation, released his final album Blackstar only two days before his passing in January, ending a career that spanned over five decades.

Before his death in May, Prince had revolutionized pop culture by defying categorization, frequently making use of dazzling costumes and a wide vocal range. Hits like “1999,” “When the Doves Cry,” and “Kiss,” allowed Prince to sell over 100 million records during his lifetime.

We also learned that Gord Downie, lead singer of the definitional Canadian band, The Tragically Hip, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The Tragically Hip’s music has ingrained itself in Canadian culture and attained nearly mythic status. In August, the band’s closing tour performance was streamed across national media outlets, where fans were able to hear favourites like “Bobcaygeon” and “New Orleans is Sinking” among huge, enthusiastic crowds.

Hollywood also lost iconic members of film history. Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series, passed away, as well as Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. Both series played formative roles in the childhoods of many. What may have started as seemingly “nerdy” series soon engrossed the world in wonder and enchantment. These actors represented movements bigger than themselves that engaged the power of the imagination and allowed us to escape into fantasy.

Television, movies, and music are not just mindless entertainment, but culture that becomes integrated into a person’s life. When people look back on 2016, they will reminisce about the effects these deceased icons had on their lives, whether it was seeing their favourite fictional character brought to life, or listening to a song that represents a specific time in their lives.

Even though we have lost many great artists, 2017 is a time for growth in the arts. It’s time to look forward to a new culture, one that can build on what these icons gave us as we move forward into a new era of creative excellence.

Nicole Sciulli

Last year was full of events that inspired uncertainty and brought unsettling change. While I do not believe that the arts helped us understand the events that took place this year, I do believe that they helped us heal and reflect. Culture is not created in a vacuum, but reflects human needs and desires. The role of the artist is to interpret these human feelings by reflecting them back to us in a tangible way, whether through film, music, or literature. This year, I believe hip hop and nostalgia played a vital role in reflecting how we wrestled with the issues that arose in 2016.

Each year, one genre of music shines brighter than others. In 2009, it was pop, and in 2013 it was rock. In 2016, it was hip hop. From Beyoncé to Kanye West to Chance the Rapper, hip hop showcased the ability to encapsulate both our feelings of uneasiness and a desire to be carefree and place them in the common language of music.

Beyoncé and Solange taught us that the greatest defiance can come through your vulnerability. Chance the Rapper told us: when in doubt of the world around you, dance. Though hip hop has recently steered towards an urban goth tone, Chance showed that no matter who is President or what the state of the union is, beauty can be found everywhere.

Meanwhile, Kanye showed us that sometimes the greatest constant is inconsistency, and we should always be prepared for the unexpected. From his schizophrenic release of The Life of Pablo to his meeting with President-elect Donald Trump – Kanye has shown us that nothing in 2016 was certain.

2016 was also a year when nostalgia was cherished and analyzed. Surrounded by a plethora of celebrity deaths in addition to tumultuous international affairs, people looked to the past for salvation, or answers about the present. In the recent release of Rogue One, filmmakers worked painstakingly to recreate deceased characters, to reclaim a past moment, while in music, Childish Gambino’s Awaken! My Love mimicked the sounds of George Clinton and the fathers of funk.

In television, Stranger Things made use of a constant stream of nostalgic references, while Fuller House and the Gilmore Girls revival showed us that sometimes, the past doesn’t translate to the present. Only time will tell if our nostalgic meditation in 2016 will teach us how to be better in 2017.

Gabrielle Warren

Though many saw the past year as one gone rogue, there was much to be appreciated in the arts, including many great albums, movies, and books. Still, 2017 is shaping up to be even more impressive, especially in the worlds of cinema, political art, and Toronto’s own local art scene.

After the divisive outcome of the American presidential election, one must wonder what impact will the arrival of President-elect Trump have on the art of 2017. Will art be more politically charged? Will the memes and niche Internet cultures that thrived off the election continue to do so? What will artists have to say about the new status quo, and how will the new President react to them? It truly is a time of speculation.

Rebirth, and more specifically, reboots are trending in film this year, with Colin Firth returning from the dead in the upcoming sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle. We’ll see a darker spin on our childhood heroes in March’s Power Rangers, and the return of the great ape to haunt our screens once more in Kong: Skull Island.

Movie magic will also continue in the realm of nerdom, with a multitude of films coming from both the Marvel and DC camps. LEGO will aim to score its second cinematic hit with The LEGO Batman Movie, female empowerment will continue to take centre stage with Wonder Woman, and everyone’s favourite creepy-crawly will gets his first solo outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Let us not forget, the world will also return to a galaxy far, far away in Star Wars: Episode VIII.

Culture is a result of the landscape in which it grows, and Toronto in 2017 will be a wonderful example of that. This year, the city will receive a massive infrastructure addition in Copeland Transformer Station. Situated underground near the Rogers Centre, the transformer array will gift urban-dwellers with both an influx of power and a picturesque new plaza on the surface, adding to the existing Roundhouse Park. 

Additionally, The Bentway, a developing public space underneath the Gardiner Expressway, is set to open partially in June 2017, aiming to be an exciting new haunt for tourists and locals alike. Stretching 1.75 km, The Bentway will play many roles, aiming to serve as a connection point between Exhibition Place, Fort York, and Bathurst Quay. It also could act as a new cradle of art for Toronto, featuring everything from open art exhibits to theatrical and musical performances.

2017 appears to be a year that will both glue you to your seat with engrossing pop culture, and encourage you to explore, be it in your own thoughts or the surrounding city. It remains to be seen in what direction this exploration will take us.

Sarim Irfan