Our Year in Culture

Letter from the Editor | Steven Norwalk, Editor-in-chief

The brain is a wonderful thing. It’s unfathomably complex and extremely powerful, singlehandedly rendering all aspects of the human experience meaningful in one way or another. It’s a beautiful feat of nature, infinitely impressive, etc. - we all know that.

But, of course, the brain is by no means perfect. It’s got its quirks, just like the rest of us. And in 2018, one quirk of our intricately engineered friend proved to be particularly vexing. 

The brain has never been known to play fair when processing events; research has long indicated that negative events have a greater effect on one’s psychological state than neutral or positive events. This “negativity bias” renders us significantly more sensitive to unpleasant news. And thanks to the 24-hour new cycle, our phones’ unrelenting stream of push notifications, and the general state of American politics, there can be a lot of unpleasant news these days. Unfortunately, our brain’s magnification of these unwelcome events can make the world seem hopeless, keeping us from celebrating the incredible strides being made in global health improvement or poverty reduction, and inclining us to wallow in the onslaught of negativity.

And yet, wallowing in negativity has never been the most productive response to bad news. Great artists know that. In years like 2018, the best art is often the most resilient art, grappling with the challenges of the present without ever falling victim to them. Indeed, much of the best work from this past year did just that. Whether it was The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s unwavering sense of optimism, Ariana Grande’s resilience in the wake of tragedy, or Black Panther’s unbridled celebration of identity in the face of oppression, the best art in 2018 refused to succumb to the tides of despair that repeatedly swept across the country. And as these artists strove to rise above the stream of negativity permeating our lives, they gave us the strength to do the same. These lists are a token of our appreciation for all of the art that helped us process this past year, and an expression of our gratitude for the readers who’ve shared it with us. 

As always, thank you for reading.

CHoosing our Design | AUDrey valbuena, managing editor

2018 was a year of confusion. A lot of questioning went on – about our world, what we believe and who we are as humans. Our world was shaken by blatantly violent politics and attacks on communities close to us in the same year that we saw the election of the most women to Congress and the release of movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians (see more good things here). It’s a lot to process. So we turn to the basics – red, yellow and blue – to show how we feel in the midst of this chaos. We tried to capture the anger, joy, confusion and progress, and how they created the art, music, TV and movies we loved in 2018. We hope you enjoy the chaos.