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2017 in entertainment and pop culture: the good, the great, the weird

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The year is over, and we're taking stock of what we watched and read and played and heard, what we missed, what we loved and hated and didn’t understand. It’s list-making time, and this is our look back on the season.

  • Jan 2, 2018

    Verge Staff

    The Verge's favorite TV episodes of 2017

    Image: HBO

    The problem with great TV in 2017 was that there was so much of it. These days, there are so many TV recommendations and must-sees that leisure starts to feel like homework. (“You absolutely have to watch this! And you have to see it from the beginning! There are five seasons so far!”) That’s why we’re wrapping up our 2017 year-end summary coverage by trying to boil down our favorite 2017 television experiences into something approachable: a single episode that summed up why we love our favorite shows.

    Spoilers ahead for these specific episodes.

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  • Dec 31, 2017

    Tasha Robinson, Julia Alexander and 3 more

    The movies that transported and troubled us in 2017

    The Shape of Water
    The Shape of Water

    Throughout the final week of 2017, culture writers from across Vox Media will be chatting about the best works of the year. In this installment, Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff, Alissa Wilkinson, and Genevieve Koski; The Verge’s Tasha Robinson; and Polygon’s Julia Alexander talk about the movies of 2017.

    Todd VanDerWerff: My favorite movies in 2017 weren’t escapism, not precisely, but they did take me so thoroughly out of my own point of view that reentering reality afterward could feel a little like resurfacing after a deep-sea dive. From the intimate details of Lady Bird to the bleakly comedic terror of Get Out, from the cat’s-eye-view shots of Kedi to the sudden plunge into the vastness of infinity in A Ghost Story, movies often felt like a great way to remove myself, for a little while, from life as I was living it.

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  • Dec 29, 2017

    Andrew Liptak

    The best science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels of 2017

    Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

    2017 was a hard year for a lot of people. With climate change, haywire politics, and tech companies running amok, there are lots of reasons to put the year in the rearview mirror. But through it all, a run of great books shined a light in the darkness. They built off and commented on the issues that dominated the year, going beyond mere escapism to provide thoughtful, damning, and entertaining reads to keep us sane.

    Here are the best books of 2017.

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  • Kaitlyn Tiffany

    Dec 28, 2017

    Kaitlyn Tiffany

    The year we wanted the internet to be smaller

    Tumblr / lovingletter

    Americans got tired of big social media in 2017. Or at least, we stopped wanting to look at it, and we stopped pretending to like it.

    This feels true to me as someone who uses the internet every day, but I also know it’s true because when The Verge partnered with Reticle Research to conduct a representative survey of Americans’ attitudes towards tech’s biggest power players, 15.4 percent of Facebook users said they “greatly” or “somewhat” disliked using the product, while 17 percent of Twitter users said the same. That made them the most disliked of the six companies in question, which also included Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. More than 10 percent of respondents described Facebook’s effect on society as “very negative,” and 10.5 percent said the same about Twitter — in both cases a higher number than the other four companies combined.

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  • Dec 28, 2017

    Verge Staff

    The weirdest pop culture of 2017


    2017 was, to put it lightly, a weird year, so there are a lot of runners-up for the strangest cultural moments it produced. In no particular order: the short-lived fad for licking Nintendo Switch cartridges to see if they really do taste bad (and licking other technology for comparison). The day white supremacists and Insane Clown Posse fans both marched on Washington, prompting widespread calls on social media for a Juggalo vs. Nazi deathmatch. The trend toward ads cheerfully acknowledging that millennials should expect miserable working conditions and unsatisfying lives, and buy stuff to compensate. Yes, all of these were strange indeed, and in another year they might have made the list. But 2017 was pretty competitive in the bizarro department, thanks to all the entertainers — amateur, professional and unintentional — working overtime to surprise and baffle us with their work. From David Lynch somehow making Twin Peaks weirder to songs about the callipygian delights of the Babadook, here are the cultural moments that left our jaws hanging open in delight or confusion (or both).

    For me, nothing this year was weirder than watching Kyle MacLachlan burble around Twin Peaks: The Return with a tie on his head. Most of David Lynch and Marc Frost’s return to Twin Peaks featured former series protagonist Dale Cooper as a supernaturally lobotomized shell of his previous self, cooing at slot machines, repeating random noises, and making gotta-potty pain-faces until someone literally shows him how to pee. For hours on end. On a heavily hyped prestige series fans waited 25 years to see. This is some epic-level trolling. Imagine if Rian Johnson had subjected Star Wars fans to 14 straight hours of green-milk-smeared creepy-grinning weird hermit Luke. That’s basically what happened here. —Tasha Robinson

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  • Dec 27, 2017

    Verge Staff

    The worst pop culture of 2017

    rick and morty
    Cartoon Network

    As we head into the final weeks of 2017, the inevitable nostalgia for six to 11 months ago is engulfing the pop culture universe. But amid all the best-of lists and greatest-moments roundups, we tend to forget the other side of the coin — the “how did this get made, and why did we suffer through it?” memes, moments, and movies that made our jobs harder and our lives sadder. Here, we asked our staff: what in the cultural world made you question humanity in 2017?

    Is there a word for the peculiar synesthesia that makes a written phrase sound like nails on a chalkboard? "Fake news" was that phrase in 2017. It was originally, and somewhat reasonably, used to describe amoral pseudo-news sites that fabricated stories for viral social media appeal. But it spread to cover ideologically skewed or misleading coverage, shallow "clickbait" content, good-faith journalistic errors, and eventually covert Russian meme warfare, another of the year’s absurd cultural artifacts. It was useless even before the Trump administration turned it into a grammatically flexible and redundant term for "reporter" — when all critical news is fake by definition, you don't really need a modifier. The most annoying part of the Trumpian "fake news" framework might be how touchy it makes legitimate (or even lighthearted) media critique — which lots of outlets and stories still deserve. Remember when you could make fun of CNN for airing 24/7 coverage of a missing airplane, without signaling support for crypto-fascists who want to actually murder journalists? Good times. —Adi Robertson, Senior Reporter

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  • Dec 26, 2017

    Verge Staff

    The pre-2017 entertainment that got us through 2017

    Fallout 4

    Once again, the year is winding down, and everybody under the sun is looking back at the past year’s news and culture as if the world began on January 1st, 2017. But while the hype cycle operates in tidy annual waves, our lives don’t. As part of our usual look back at our favorite things of the year, we’re acknowledging the things we loved in 2017 that didn’t come out in 2017, and talking about how those new-to-us discoveries and late-arrival favorites got us through another tumultuous year.

    I tend to stockpile video games I’m interested in, only jumping in later when the impulse (and free time) strikes. The downside is that I’m years behind any cultural conversation about a title. The upside is that playing a game after the world has moved feels like more of a unique, personal experience, simply because it’s not something everybody is doing at that exact same time. That feeling fit in perfectly with the bleak, post-apocalyptic landscape of Fallout 4, which I found myself visiting repeatedly over 2017.

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  • Ben Popper

    Dec 22, 2017

    Ben Popper

    2017 was YouTube’s best year ever. It was also its worst.

    2017 was a wild year for YouTube. It continued to extend its dominance as the world’s biggest video platform: in June it announced that 1.5 billion people now log in each month, a user base second only to Facebook’s and one that can earn successful creators a substantial windfall. According to recent analysis by Forbes, the top ten channels on YouTube earned $127 million in 2017, an increase of 80 percent from the year before.

    But in terms of its public image, 2017 was also the worst year YouTube has ever had. It began with the downfall of the platform’s biggest star, PewDiePie. After a Wall Street Journal report about his use of Nazi imagery and anti-semitic humor, the Swedish vlogger lost his deal with Disney and YouTube cancelled his original series. Just one month later, big brands threatened a full scale boycott of YouTube after learning that their advertising was being played alongside racist and offensive videos.

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  • Dec 22, 2017

    Juliet Kahn

    The 10 best comics of 2017

    DC Comics, Supergirl: Being Super
    DC Comics, Supergirl: Being Super
    Image: DC Comics

    2017 was a good year for comics. Creators young and old sent green shoots up through desiccated genres — everything from memoir to textbook to all-ages fantasy burst with talent this year. Kids continued to storm bookstores, libraries, and specialty comic shops for gems like Ru Xu’s NewsPrints and Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School. Superhero aficionados enjoyed thoughtful beat-em-ups courtesy of Christopher Priest and Carlo Pagulayan’s Deathstroke. Nonfiction readers were stirred by Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do and Roz Chast’s Going Into Town.

    Winnowing down this embarrassment of riches is no small feat — but the people demand their end-of-the-year lists, and I am here to provide. The following is one comic creator, critic, and retailer’s idea of what constitutes the best comics of 2017. That it was such a difficult task is a testimony to the talent currently deluging the industry, and a tantalizing look at what’s coming next.

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  • Dec 21, 2017

    Noel Murray

    The 20 best TV shows of 2017


    Picking the best television shows of any given year used to be relatively easy, back when the major networks and a few powerful cable channels dominated the cultural conversation. These days, though, making any list of must-see TV is a downright Sisyphean. It’s impossible to keep up with everything worthy of consideration in television, so best-of lists inevitably become idiosyncratic, determined in large part by whatever limited pool of series a critic regularly watches.

    But a handful of dramas and sitcoms clearly stood out this year, demonstrating levels of aesthetic, narrative, and thematic ambition that would’ve been hard for anyone paying attention to dismiss. There are so many projects that deserve kudos, though, and only so much space. So before you scroll through this list, one note: Don’t grumble about what’s missing without searching the page for whatever you’re hoping to find. A lot of this year’s best TV still gets an enthusiastic mention below, if not a slot in the Top 20. 

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  • Dec 15, 2017

    Verge Staff

    The 15 best video games of 2017

    Super Mario Odyssey

    A decade from now, there’s a good chance we’ll look back at 2017 as one of the best years ever for new game releases. Just think about it: some of the medium’s most iconic names — like Zelda, Mario, and Resident Evil — came roaring back to prominence, while new names like Horizon Zero Dawn and Cuphead forced their way into the spotlight.

    From blockbuster to indie games, console and PC to mobile, the wealth of experiences on offer has been incredible. And narrowing down our favorites has been a lengthy task. But after a series of votes — and maybe a few arguments — we’ve settled on a list of the 15 best games of the year.

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  • Tasha Robinson

    Dec 14, 2017

    Tasha Robinson

    The 15 best movies of 2017

    Universal Pictures

    The year-end list-making urge is powerful. It’s like a nesting instinct — a drive to put things in order, to organize the world into something comfortable and manageable and orderly by assembling the best of everything in one place. For critics, it’s also a rare chance to remind themselves and their readers why they most likely got into this industry — to see amazing movies, to think about them in depth, and to try to call more attention to the industry’s most exceptional, affecting, and sometimes overlooked work. Every year-end best-of list is subjective, and this one is too. Personally, I’m a big fan of ambition, innovation, daring, and beauty in movies, and a film that tries something radical and mostly succeeds is always going to get a higher rating from me than a film that does something conventional and predictable, even if it does it perfectly. With that in mind, here are my favorites from 2017:  

    Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a riff on Ira Levin’s 1972 novel The Stepford Wives, but with a new twist: just as he often did in the well-loved Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele, he draws on familiar genre beats, then injects racial tensions. The script is brilliant, with layer upon layer of nuance and subtle connections. It’s a puzzle that fits together perfectly, as Peele highlights the unspoken social currents in interracial reactions, and makes them uncomfortable and subversively funny at the same time. Get Out is an over-the-top horror movie about a black photographer (played by Daniel Kaluuya) squirming through his first meeting with the rich, liberal family of his white girlfriend, but it’s also an endlessly surprising and beautifully fine-tuned story about microaggressions and racial discomfort, code-switching and coded language, and how the relationships between black and white people have — and haven’t — changed over generations. Get Out includes a terrific cast, some of the cinematic year’s most startling imagery, one of its strongest and most useful metaphors in the Sunken Place, and an ending that feels not just earned, but urgently necessary in 2017.

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  • The music videos from 2017 that we most need you to watch

    Welcome to a very special installment of the beloved Verge column One Video, with Kaitlyn and Lizzie. Every week of 2017 — or, technically, since February 3rd, when we had the idea — we’ve been sifting through the slew of music videos that hit the web and selecting the one (or occasionally two, or occasionally zero) that we absolutely need you to watch. Now the year is over, so we’re looking back at dozens of weeks of our own picks, and scraping the sides of the pan for whatever we may have missed along the way. It’s the season of reflection, so we’re complimenting ourselves on a sifting job well done, and we’re making plans to get better in the New Year.

    As you know, here at One Video, we’ve never cared much about “good,” best, or most important, and we’ve only ever been concerned with what you need. Or more importantly, what we need — which was for you to watch the videos we cared the most about. It usually meant a creative video, a weird video, a strangely-formatted video, or a video that made us feel nice when we were not at our best. Sometimes it meant all four. “I need you to watch this” is a non-specific compliment on a piece of art, but it is also a very sincere one.

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  • Casey Newton

    Dec 14, 2017

    Casey Newton

    Why Horizon Zero Dawn is my game of the year

    Horizon Zero Dawn

    It’s been a shockingly packed year for great new video games. Over the course of the last 12 months, it seemed like there was never really a pause, or a moment when there wasn’t something interesting to play. To celebrate, this week Verge staff will be publishing essays on their favorite releases of the year, the games that spoke to us personally. Expect to see a new one each morning, culminating in a list of our collective 15 favorite games of 2017 on Friday. You can keep up with it all right here.

    Playing Horizon Zero Dawn for the first time was a good reminder that I'm an idiot.

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  • Sam Byford

    Dec 13, 2017

    Sam Byford

    Why The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my game of the year

    Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

    It’s been a shockingly packed year for great new video games. Over the course of the last 12 months, it seemed like there was never really a pause, or a moment when there wasn’t something interesting to play. To celebrate, this week Verge staff will be publishing essays on their favorite releases of the year, the games that spoke to us personally. Expect to see a new one each morning, culminating in a list of our collective 15 favorite games of 2017 on Friday. You can keep up with it all right here.

    What more is there to say about Breath of the Wild? The latest Legend of Zelda title is the most acclaimed game to come out in a year of extremely acclaimed games. It will surprise absolutely no one reading this that it’s my personal favorite game of 2017 — no one, that is, except me.

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  • Kaitlyn Tiffany

    Dec 12, 2017

    Kaitlyn Tiffany

    How witches took over Tumblr in 2017

    Image: Polydor

    In February, Lana Del Rey decided to put a hex on the president.

    This was a month before she debuted the trailer for her album Lust for Life — a two-and-a-half-minute short film about how she recedes into her home (in the middle of the H in the Hollywood sign) to practice witchcraft and figure out what her “contribution to the world should be in these dark times.” Fans on Tumblr had long considered Lana a witch, mostly just based on her general aesthetic and some garden-variety pop-culture conspiracy theories. But she spent the early part of the year embracing the idea, and being welcomed with open arms.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Dec 12, 2017

    Adi Robertson

    Why Prey is my game of the year


    It’s been a shockingly packed year for great new video games. Over the course of the last 12 months, it seemed like there was never really a pause, or a moment when there wasn’t something interesting to play. To celebrate, this week Verge staff will be publishing essays on their favorite releases of the year, the games that spoke to us personally. Expect to see a new one each morning, culminating in a list of our collective 15 favorite games of 2017 on Friday. You can keep up with it all right here.

    It took me a long time to get to know Prey.

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  • Dec 11, 2017

    Megan Farokhmanesh

    Why Persona 5 is my game of the year

    Persona 5

    It’s been a shockingly packed year for great new video games. Over the course of the last 12 months, it seemed like there was never really a pause, or a moment when there wasn’t something interesting to play. To celebrate, this week Verge staff will be publishing essays on their favorite releases of the year, the games that spoke to us personally. Expect to see a new one each morning, culminating in a list of our collective 15 favorite games of 2017 on Friday. You can keep up with it all right here.

    I knew it was love just shy of the 10-hour mark. In that time, I’d befriended a handful of troubled students, discovered my alter ego as a masked vigilante, and infiltrated the psyche of an evil man: a teacher abusing his students. His darkest desires, laid out in a literal dungeon, were now mine to plunder and change for the better. As I made my final play, the stakes shifted. Sneaking had given way to an all-out sprint as I raced past enemies on high alert. Even the game’s music had changed from a steady background hum to an exhilarating vocal track.

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