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Jill’s Top 20 Things of 2020
December 19, 2020

This is my 10th year creating a Top Things list. It’s really too bad my list-aversary had to land on such a garbage year.

Lists from the past, from years better than this one:
2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019

To make this list easier on myself, I keep a running list of items that are great throughout the year. It’s mid-December when I’m preparing this post now and I can’t even believe half of these things are from 2020. Crikey. (My favorite books of the year will be its own post, coming soon.)

Let’s get this thing started, shall we?

 

20. The Running Javelina

For a couple of days in early 2020, the video of the running javelina took over Twitter. For a brief moment, we were all united as one, all of us hoping that that speedy little hog would make it to wherever the heck it was getting to.


19. The Rotterdam Whale Sculpture

Beautiful. Majestic. Saver of trains?


18. Billie Eilish – “No Time to Die”

Although I don’t particularly enjoy James Bond films, this James Bond theme blew my socks off. No matter how many times I listen to it, I can’t help but get goosebumps.


17. Guy Fieri

I know. I KNOW. But hear me out.

When the pandemic hit, he raised more than $21.5 million in 7 weeks for unemployed restaurant workers. He regularly cooks food for firefighters battling forest fire blazes, gives a TON of money to charity on the regular, cooks for frontline workers and so much more. We respect Guy Fieri in this house, frosted tips and all.


16. Taika Waititi Winning an Oscar

♥ ♥ ♥


15. Upload

This Amazon Prime show is pretty good! Set in a future where death is a much simpler step in life, this sci-fi comedy is a unique take on the sitcom/dramedy genre. When people die, what is effectively their “soul” gets uploaded to an afterlife realm thing. If you’re rich, you get to live in the really nice and fancy world with UNLIMITED DATA. None of it is real, of course, but just a programmed virtual reality that allows people to live on forever and also keep in touch with loved ones who are still alive. It’s a smart and cute show and I’m excited to see where they take it.


14. Hamilton on Disney+

The recording of the Broadway smash Hamilton wasn’t supposed to be available until next year at the earliest. But when the pandemic hit and it was evident that it was going to be a shit time for everyone, we were gifted with Hamilton‘s glorious presence from the comfort of our homes.


13. Birds of Prey

Yes, this movie came out in 2020. Shocking, I know. It was fun and colorful and flashy and I adored it. Also, the soundtrack slaps. (Also, you didn’t need to see Suicide Squad to enjoy it. Extra bonus.)


12. Les Deuxluxes

This band rules. Their 2020 album, Lighter Fluid, is so much fun. Very retro rock with a French-Canadian flair.


11. My Octopus Teacher

Me: “Oh, nice. An octopus documentary. I’ll put that on in the background.”
Me at the end of it:


10. Donating for Spite

Speaking of generous folks, I’d be a fool if I didn’t mention a local fundraising effort that occurred in my home province quite recently.

So, a bit of backstory: I live in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. When we bought our house 4.5 years ago, it cost $X. Our next-door neighbor’s house is a replica of ours with minor upgrades. He just sold his house for about double that. In those few short years, housing availability has basically evaporated and a lot of people feel that the massive jump in AirBNB units for rent (full houses, apartments, etc.) is certainly related. Charlottetown is not unique in this unfortunate predicament.

A group of short-term rental owners got together and, looking for a bit of good publicity, gave a check for about $2200 to the Food Bank. It was a nice thing to do. However, this particular group donating to a food bank is like if an oil company donated to clean up an oil spill.

Several locals took to Twitter to express their disgust at the transparency of this act. One user posted that people who are opposed to short-term rentals should send a message by matching their donation. Within about 24 hours, $13,000 had been raised for the local food bank. UNREAL AND AMAZING.

Learn more.

EDIT:

A related story recently came to my attention. Joe Quinn‘s right-leaning uncle, knowing his nephew’s more progressive views and beliefs, donated $250 to an anti-abortion lobby group in his nephew’s name as a Christmas gift. To send a message back to his uncle, Quinn raised money to donate to Planned Parenthood, asking some followers on Twitter to chip in. As of December 22nd, 2020, his Go Fund Me has raised over $1200 for Planned Parenthood. SUCK IT, JOE’S UNCLE!


9. I Am So Not Okay With This

Ya know what’s cool? The announcement that a cool show is getting a second season.

Ya know what’s not cool? The announcement that the show that was previously renewed for a second season is NO LONGER getting a second season.

WHAT IS THAT EVEN?

Netflix made me rage-quit this year when they released and then cancelled I Am So Not Okay With This, a cool little coming-of-age show starring a pissed off teenage girl who can’t figure out what is happening to her. Loved it. And then Netflix was like “Yes, it’s getting a second season!” and then the pandemic hit and then they were like “PSYCHE!”

You could say I was so not okay with that.


8. Queen’s Gambit

Chess has suddenly exploded in popularity after Netflix’s limited series, Queen’s Gambit. I really liked the character of Beth Harmon because it was nice seeing a story about a woman with ambition that wasn’t like “BUT CAN SHE HAVE IT ALL?” Anya Taylor-Joy appears twice on this list and I adored her in both royals, as different as they were.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a visually stunning, stylized 1960s series with bitchin’ clothes and music.

I also appreciated the inclusion of the 1960s psychedelic rock band Shocking Blue, a band I got into earlier this year.


7. What We Do in the Shadows – Season 2

I usually don’t include second seasons of shows on this list but not only was the second season of What We Do in the Shadows just really fun and great, it was, much like #6 on this list, something that I got to look forward to during part of this weird and bizarre year.

I’m pretty sure everyone who watches this show is in agreement that the standout episode of this season was “On The Run” where Laszlo (Matt Berry) takes on his now beloved Jackie Daytona persona.

Another highlight of this season was the episode where Colin Robinson becomes an internet troll before meeting an actual troll. Faaaaantastic.


6. The Beef & Dairy Network Podcast

This podcast has been around for quite a while now. No, they didn’t do anything specific to this year and I began listening to it a couple years ago. I just wanted to include it because it’s honestly been something consistently great that helped me get through this monotonous-but-also-bonkers-intense year.

For an hour or so every month, I just get to hear silly farm humor and I don’t have to think about a pandemic, horrible people having power or an election between good and evil. Some things to know about this podcast:

  • you need to listen from the beginning
  • it’s very British
  • it’s very funny – surreal, dry, a bit satirical, silly, extremely weird, and delightful
  • yes, it really is about beef and dairy

Check it out here.


5. The Great

Huzzah! The Great on Hulu/Amazon Prime is not your average costume drama. It’s kind of extraordinary in that it is exceedingly open with its lack of accuracy. The Great specifically goes out of its way to be fun and silly and so pretty and extravagantly wasteful in drinkware props.

Young Catherine joins the Russian court to marry the ruling czar, Peter III, son of Peter the Great. She soon befriends a couple courtiers and they start planning their overthrow of her idiot husband, all while everyone is saying f*** a lot and dressing in the most glorious gowns and hanging out on 18th century furniture in rooms decorated with the most amazing wallpaper I’ve ever seen. Who knew a coup could be so much fun?

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult are DYNAMITE together — surprisingly hilarious and so much fun to watch.


4 (tie). Scotland / Polish Women Protesting Abortion Laws

Photo by Łukasz Konieczka

Scotland just became the first nation to provide free menstrual products.

Meanwhile, over to the east a bit, Polish women are going all out for their abortion law protests. 


Mrs. America

So, I was on Twitter one day and I saw someone mention the new episode of a show I had never heard of. I looked it up and, in record time, I had bought the season on iTunes. It checked so many boxes for me and oh my gawwwwwwd, it was great.

Like… Cate Blanchett as American conservative she-devil  Phyllis Schlafly? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? And Rose Byrne as feminist icon Gloria Steinem?! *swoons* Uzo Aduba?! Elizabeth Banks?! Tracey Ullman?! Sarah Paulson?! Beloved character actress Margo Martindale?! SO GOOD.

Boiled down to its most simple definition, Mrs. America is about the feminist fight in the 1970s to get the Equal Rights Amendment added to the US Constitution, guaranteeing equal rights for all, no matter the person’s sex. It was originally a simple political move with bipartisan support. Buuuut then conservative activists from the religious right tore it down, brick by brick, in the name of keeping families together and tradition alive.

*massive eye roll*

The show covers other related historical events and debates and developments but the struggle for the ERA is the thread that carries the viewer from feminist icon to icon.

It made me so mad though. And sad. So much of it felt so very… familiar. Disgustingly so. But then the amazing outfits and the 1970s soundtrack made me feel better again.

(Spoiler: As of December 2020, the ERA has still not been ratified in 38 states, the magic number of getting the amendment added.)


2. Emma.

This was the last movie I saw in theatres soon before the pandemic closed everything down. I love Jane Austen adaptations so much and Emma is my favorite Austen novel. This movie is so wonderful. It makes my heart sing. For one, it’s GORGEOUS. The set and costume designers must have had so much fun making a film that basically looks like a box of pastel macarons in motion.

Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as the matchmaking Emma Woodhouse was sublime. So, so good. She played her as a spoiled brat which I especially enjoyed because Emma is, at her core, a generally spoiled and oblivious young woman before her character development hits.

And Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. Oh my god, Bill Nighy. (I mean, I could watch him just, like, sit and watch TV and I’d be like, “The man is a genius.”)

Miranda Hart is a delight to watch, no matter what, and Josh O’Connor looked like he had a blast flexing his comedy chops as the ridiculous Mr. Elton. Johnny Flynn is so charming and lovely… buuuut Jeremy Northam is still my favorite Mr. Knightley. Sorry!

As for that one thing that was added to the end of the story that definitely did not happen in the book… I even loved it too.


1 (tie). Black Lives Matter and People Who Wear Masks, Wash Their Hands, and Follow COVID-19 Regulations Set By Medical Professionals

Photo by Clay Banks

I think it’s fitting that the Black Lives Matter movement and people who follow recommended health procedures are tied because both come from a very simple and very similar place: they are there to try to keep people safe. To keep people from dying for absolutely no reason. To get to the point where people can just live their lives—safely.


What was your favorite thing of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

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Jillianne Hamilton is the author of the Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire trilogy and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. Learn more.

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