Mizzou in Review: The media we consumed this year

Through the chaos of college during a pandemic, pop culture sustained the MU student body.

Facing a global pandemic in the midst of a chaotic year shocked the MU student body in ways they have never experienced before. A mysterious virus with fatal risks rapidly spreading created a standstill in the world. Promising projects were placed on hold. Events and gatherings were placed on hold. Visiting and communicating face-to-face with loved ones were placed on hold as well. The daunting pause on our society instilled fear at the idea that the world would never be the same.

In a haze where nothing was certain, who would have thought that even a pandemic couldn’t keep the entertainment industry still?

In innovative and unprecedented ways, entertainers, creatives and artists figured out how to entertain at a distance. New music, television shows and films continued to be produced as safely as possible for the sake of audiences everywhere. Creators were determined to be creative and provide the much needed escape of entertainment.

Rather than wallowing in the unsure atmosphere, the industry chose to provide the security and joy only films, music and other entertainment devices gift to us. We at MOVE Angles chose to appreciate and showcase the best of the best in music and film entertainment from the past school year.

Music

For a lot of MU students, the 2020-21 academic year might be forgettable. Days on Zoom classes turned into nights spent in dorm rooms, and weeks often blended together.

But through it all, there was music. It started with the TikTok trends early in the pandemic — remember "Coffee" by beabadoobee and "Chinese New Year" by SALES? By the fall semester, a number of artists had released music inspired by the pandemic. With seemingly endless time on our hands, MU students listened to it all. Let's break it down.

August/September: At the beginning of the year, campus was riding the high of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's cultural phenomenon, "WAP." Despite a pervasive sense of fear of COVID-19, students blasted the song (not to mention Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage") from private spaces like apartment balconies and in residence halls. An honorable mention goes to Ava Max's earworm "Kings and Queens," an upbeat club song that might've played at bars downtown if not for the pandemic.

October/November: Though Taylor Swift's "Ffolklore" came onto the scene in July 2020, it arguably gained popularity as the campus leaves changed colors and Missouri's temperatures fell, matching the folksy, autumnal energy of Swift's eighth studio album. Miley Cyrus' live cover of Blondie's classic "Heart of Glass" took MU by storm after its late September release — a perfect rock anthem for singing along to in the car.

December: Cyrus kept her hold on pop fans through the month of December with her album "Plastic Hearts." And though most students did not return to MU after Thanksgiving break, they continued streaming remixes of old Christmas songs and new ones alike (re: Lil Nas X's "Holiday").

January/February: The Weeknd's 2020 album "After Hours" regained steam just in time for his Super Bowl halftime performance, alongside the Kansas City Chiefs' (albeit disappointing) appearance. During the bitter February cold, we took solace in Olivia Rodrigo's overwhelmingly sad debut single "drivers license."

March/April: As the school year winds down, the music industry gears up for warmer weather. Candidates for song of the summer include Dua Lipa's endlessly catchy "Levitating," Beach Bunny's hit "Cloud 9" or TikTok's wildcard 70s anthem "More Than a Woman" by the Bee Gees.

Through the lowest lows of a school year marred by few social events and activities, popular music (often guided by trends on TikTok) provided an escape for the student body. The unique sound of our campus continues to evolve daily.

Movies While movie theaters took a definitive hit during the pandemic closures, streaming services flourished and movies continued to be released on both fronts. Mainly from the comfort of their own couches, MU students grabbed their microwave popcorn and settled in for Hollywood’s latest creations.

In September, heartthrob Tom Holland took a more gritty role in “The Devil All the Time” with Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Eliza Scanlen and the rest of the star-studded cast. The film debuted on Netflix with a twisted, disturbing storyline of humanity at its worst. The same month, the sci-fi action movie “Tenet'' premiered in theaters, starring John David Washington as a time-manipulating CIA operative alongside Pattinson. Clearly, Pattinson has come a long way since “Twilight.”

September also marked the start of Disney’s domination in the film world, when they pumped out three major movies of this year. The first was a more historically-accurate and live-action remake of “Mulan.” The company then turned back to animation with December’s widely-popular “Soul,” a story about a jazz musician voiced by Jamie Foxx. Later, “Raya and the Last Dragon” gave viewers the first Southeast Asian Disney princess in March 2021, but not without controversy over a lack of Southeast Asian voice actors and a melting-pot view of different cultures, taking a dash of inspiration from each country and shoving it under the same umbrella in the film.

If MU students needed another reason to be anxious in September, the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” explored how technology is controlling the public with an immense amount of influence. The autumn months also saw Eddie Redmayne and Sacha Baron Cohen tell the stories from the 1968 Democratic National Convention uprising in “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

On Christmas, the revenge genre of film decided to get into the holiday spirit with the release of “Promising Young Woman.” Carey Mulligan played a vengeful woman who pretends to be drunk to lure potential rapists into her grasp. Another strong female lead hit the superhero universe as Patty Jenkins returned to direct “Wonder Woman 1984.”

An explosion of movies came out in February 2021, including the haunting documentary “Framing Britney Spears” about the pop singer’s downfall and court battles. Also, “Malcolm and Marie,” in true pandemic fashion, had a two-person cast of Zendaya and John David Washington portray a complicated relationship. Plus, Sia made the horrendous mistake to release her film “Music,” an offensive depiction of autism that achieved a pathetic 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This year came to a close with the 93rd Academy Awards on April 25. Highlights included “Nomadland” winning best picture, Daniel Kaluuya as best supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah” and best lead actor going to Anthony Hopkins, instead of the anticipated winner Chadwick Boseman who died of cancer in 2020.

All things considered, the year was not bad for Hollywood in a pandemic.

Edited by Elise Mulligan | emulligan@themaneater.com

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