11 Cultural Resolutions for 2011


You know the New Year’s drill: once we’re done sucking down egg nog and Christmas cookies, as we recover from the night of a thousand bubbly toasts, it feels appropriate to repent and promise ourselves we’ll behave better in the year ahead. Despite our low success rate with personal resolutions, here at Flavorpill we’ve decided to make some cultural resolutions for next year. From artistic freedom and literary diversity to the end of critical hegemony and a reawakened youth culture, here are 11 changes we hope 2011 will bring.

1. Art-censorship battles will become a thing of the past.

The culture wars of the ’80s came back this fall, when the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery removed David Wojnarowicz’s video, “Fire in My Belly” from an exhibition after the increasingly grating John Boehner demanded that “Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January.”

Now, these controversies seem to spring up a few times every decade. Usually, it’s because some right-wing politician thinks that a particular exhibition or work of art is too explicit or blasphemous. But last we checked, the US Constitution guarantees all citizens freedom of expression — and a country that actively encourages its artists to push the envelope and create discussion is bound to be stronger and smarter than one that represses them.

2. Networks will give good TV shows a chance to find their audience before canceling them.

Starz abruptly canned the wonderful Party Down after only two seasons. Despite great reviews, Terriers had bitten the dust by the time its debut season was out. Many critics pegged Lone Star as one of the best new series of the 2010-11 season — but that didn’t stop it from being taken off the air after only two episodes. As for Snooki? She’s not going anywhere.

TV networks need to get their priorities straight. Sure, some shows may not be lucrative or popular right off the bat. But if you know you’ve got something good, you have to invest in it. Cult audiences will be good to you: they’ll form a community, they’ll buy your merch, and they will evangelize. Just give them a minute to get started.

3. No one will have a monopoly on music criticism.

Hey, look. We all read Pitchfork. Over the years, they have pointed us towards some great music. But we find it unsettling that they’ve become such a monolith, sucking up tastemaking blogs, monopolizing mp3 and video premieres, and hijacking other people’s festivals. We could argue forever about the quality of the site’s reviews, its almost entirely male writing staff, and its shepherding of questionable subgenres to the forefront of indie consciousness. The point, though, is this: music criticism should be a debate, not a monologue. There should be room for other, newer voices that don’t fall under the Pitchfork umbrella.

4. The media will care about more than one literary novel.

Did y’all hear about that new Jonathan Franzen book, Freedom? What’s that you say? You didn’t stop hearing about it for months on end? Don’t we know it! After the novel’s publication, Franzen showed up everywhere from the cover of Time to Oprah . It was wonderful to see a serious book of fiction get so much media coverage — but it made us think about how marginal serious novels have become in popular culture. This is a damn shame, considering that we can list at least a dozen books from 2010 that deserved at least as much renown.

5. The 3D craze will end.

In the midst of a recession, what’s Hollywood to do but embrace the newest piece of crap technology? Now that 3D movies are easier to make than ever, it seems like every action film and kids flick is popping out of the screen. There are a few problems with this: for one thing, most of the cut-rate, post-production 3D we’ve seen hasn’t been particularly effective — plus, it gives us headaches. The real issue is that filmmakers are sacrificing story and characters for shit that looks cool, and that makes for a depressingly empty, disposable experience for the viewer.

6. Chillwave and witch house will die.

Prime examples of what happens when Pitchfork is allowed to be music’s sole gatekeeper, chillwave and witch house were the two-headed monsters of indie music in 2010. While the former stole Animal Collective’s least interesting elements without adding anything but boredom and apathy to the mix, witch house was southern hip-hop slowed down and set to a gothy dance beat, with the cough syrup influence turned up to 11. Whenever you can distill the sound and aesthetic of a huge group of bands down to a few key gimmicks, that is a bad sign. In 2011, let’s see young musicians trying to do their own thing rather than stealing someone else’s.

7. Hollywood will stop remaking movies that were perfect in their original language.

Do you know what we learned from the flop that was Let Me In, this year’s well-intentioned, actually quite good American remake of Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In? The people who were interested in the film saw it when it came out, two years ago, in its original language. These movies always lose something in translation — which is why we don’t have very high hopes for David Fincher’s take on the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

8. James Franco will give someone else a turn.

Franco, we love you, but you’re bringing us down. When you’re always, always doing something to get our attention, the stuff that you’re doing stops being clever and starts being tiresome. We put up with it — okay, actually, we enjoyed it — this year, even if your book and art exhibit weren’t as great as your acting. But sooner or later, your manic creativity is going to launch you into overexposure, and we really don’t want to see that happen.

9. The art world establishment will finally make up its mind about street art.

As evidenced by the recent scandal in which Jeffrey Deitch painted over a mural Blu had just finished — as a result of Deitch’s commission, no less — the art world still doesn’t know what to do with street art. They know it’s cool and edgy, that big names like Banksy and Shepard Fairey can draw a crowd. But they don’t know what to do when street artists — who are, after all, outsiders and outlaws — cause controversy.

Here’s the thing, though: street art will continue to happen without our, your, or Jeffrey Deitch’s permission. If the establishment wants a piece of that, they’ll have to learn to suck up their snobbery and embrace the chaos.

10. Lady rappers will be allowed to rap.

We spent most of this year gearing up for the release of Nicki Minaj’s debut album. She teased us with stellar verses on other artists’ records — most notably her show-stealing turn on Kanye West’s “Monster” — and talked a big game. But when we finally heard Pink Friday, we were disappointed. Who was this mediocre pop singer, and what had she done with the tough, ballsy rapper we wanted so badly to love?

Just because we don’t see many successful female rappers doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a place in mainstream hip hop. We’re hoping that this year, Minaj will go back to spitting killer verses. We’d also like to see legends like Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott release the new material they’ve been promising us for so long. And there’s always room for new faces, too.

11. Young artists will find a positive way to describe their culture.

At the beginning of 2010, the word “hipster” was everywhere — and we have been as guilty of using and abusing it as anyone. This fall, though, the conversation turned to the end of the hipster era. While we don’t believe things are as clear-cut as all that, we are sick of seeing young, creative people lumped in with do-nothing trustafarians and yuppies with ironic mustaches. After a year when 20-somethings constantly under attack — as many of us struggled to find jobs and make lives for ourselves amid an economic disaster our parents’ generation caused — we need to find better ways to celebrate our art and culture so that we aren’t ashamed to defend it.