By Saher Gole
“Change is the only constant,” wrote the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Change is the natural state of things as the world isn’t a static block but an ever-transforming, ever-adapting structure. As we embark on a new year, our hearts filled with an indescribable mix of nervous anticipation, fear, joy, and uncertainty, let us have a final glimpse of the past year.
2023 was a lot of things. It was the hottest year in human history, but it was also the year of women-dominated art, the year of artists demanding fair compensation, and the year when the pandemic finally seemed to end. It was a year as messy and complex as humanity itself - with its lows and highs, failures and triumphs, let-downs, and hurrahs.
The summer of 2023 was dominated by the global phenomenon of Barbenheimer. The clashing of these two diametrically opposite movies led to the creation of innumerable “memes, merchandise, and memorabilia” by amused internet users. Both movies were greeted with glowing critical praise, hefty box-office collections, and unending critiques and analyses by media outlets, academicians, and film analysts.
The Writers’ Guild of America and the SAG-AFTRA strikes, organized to protest against the increasing use of AI in Hollywood and to fight for the rightful dues of writers and actors, was a significant highlight of this year. The first combined strike of its kind in almost 60 years, the collective impact cost the economy of California over 6 billion dollars and sparked a conversation in the mainstream media about the crucial issues it strived to tackle.
The “tradwife” trend was a major internet and cultural event this year. Although it seemed like a yearning for a return to ‘simpler times,’ it was actually a deeply insidious reinstatement of hardened gender roles. Influencers cherry-picked the convenient elements from 50s culture - the appealing aesthetics, the white-picket fence, images of families with doting husbands and loving children - they created a world where women felt valued, appreciated, respected, and happy. The reality of those times as portrayed in classic feminist texts such as The Feminine Mystique is starkly different. While the 1950s are depicted as an era of stability, morality, and prosperity, it was the age of the fear of woefully inadequate means to protect women’s rights and international fragmentation. What is even more ironic is that these supposedly docile and subservient women on the internet who call for the imposition of a traditional lifestyle don’t follow their own dictums. With a significant following on social media, numerous brand endorsements, and an independent means of livelihood, they are technically savvy businesswomen capitalizing on their identity as conservatives.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that 2023 was Taylor Swift’s annus mirabilis, with her record-smashing Eras Tour, the history-making concert film accompanying it, and her notable Time’s Person of the Year Award. The spectacularly successful re-release of 1989 is yet another example of nostalgia being all-pervasive; the original 1989 was an ode to 80s pop while 1989 (Taylor’s Version) revokes memories of the idyllic 2010s.
The nostalgia for the good ol’ days is an image that we chase, a constructed idea that lends a false sense of security that a better life is in our grasp - that it was possible once, and it is possible once more. Instead of embracing a shadow, let us be courageous enough to explore the world in all its glory and gore, to discover and create without inhibitions, to live freely - not shackled by illusions of a fictitious and idealized past but by the hope of a healing world.