2011 in Review (Mela Style)

Yes, now that 2011 is on its way out, and all we have to look forward to next year is NBC's piss-poor Olympic coverage & yet another painfully venomous election before Armageddon mercifully hits us all, it's time.  Time, of course, for yet another end-of-year list.  Now, since everyone else is going best/worst of different media, I am taking a different track.  I am listing off different trends, events, and other such things that struck my attention about 2011.

Best DVD Release:  TIE!  MST3k Versus Gamera and Jem: The Complete Series.  Both of these have been personally long-awaited, and they did not disappoint.  My only serious nitpick with either one is that the extra about the fandom on the Jem set, which seemed rather weak compared to the other extras.  But both of these were DVD sets that I actively cheered when I got them, so choosing one over the other would be too damn hard.

Best Web Review Series:  Marzgurl's Don Bluth Retrospective.  (I'd also like to give shout outs to Doug Walker's Disneycember and Jesu Otaku's massive Digimon Tamers Retrospective, but since they're both ongoing, I'll limit them to honorable mentions.)  Marzgurl is a big enough Bluth fan that she suffered through all two-dozen-plus Land Before Time movies, but this series illustrated why being his fan is simultaneously rewarding & frustrating.  When little skits are performed, they're not intrusive (in fact, the "intrusive narrator" skits in the Rock-a-Doodle are downright hilarious), and her reasons for her opinions on each work are logical & well-stated.  Since more & more reviewers are either turning their reviews into attempts to have "funny" rage-outs or build elaborate stories about their alter egos, it's nice to see a series that focused on the works it's supposed to review for a change.

Biggest Surprise Release:  Fortune Street for the Wii.  If you ever told me that a Monopoly-style game starring characters from the Mario stable and from the Dragon Quest series would ever leave Japan, I would not believe you.  Yet, when I saw the ads, I almost did a double take.  I don't know why Nintendo did it other than to appeal to people like me who are total DQ suckers, but seeing such a cool-looking, esoteric game being released on the Wii was quite a pleasant surprise.

Best Smackdown of Bad Behavior:  The AV Club calling out both the video game industry & the video gaming community for its belief that all heavily advertised games should automatically get good reviews and that "offending" parties who don't do that should be punished.  Remember when EGM had all of their ads yanked by 3DO because they wanted to stop the bad reviews?  Remember when people mauled reviewers who pointed out that the newest Final Fantasy game wasn't very good or that weird cognitive dissonance that came with a magazine giving a glowing review one issue & a litany of complaint the next?  The AV Club doesn't, but they saw its latest iteration when they pointed out that Uncharted 3 was passable at best; as they detailed on their podcast, Reasonable Discussions, the reviewers stated that this practice & fandom's acceptance of it was (a) severely stunted & fishing for reasons to "prove" the medium is worthwhile, (b) incredibly unprofessional, and (c) not something that would ever be allowed to slide with any other medium because it's just so slimy a tactic.  It's about time a reviewing arena called the video game industry & community out for its acceptance of a tactic that would get a movie or TV studio shunned.  Maybe, if they collectively outgrow this approach, people will start to see video games as something for people beyond manchildren.

Most Interesting Mixed-Bag Event:  The New 52.  Anyone who expected this to be a sweeping success or a sweeping failure was being naive.  This has proven to be interesting, maybe because of the surprises I found while reading them.  I like Giffen, but I never expected to love OMAC as much as I did or that I'd be the only person enjoying the almost-throwback storytelling of Justice League International.  Nor did I expect that Levitz' Legion of Superheroes would be such a willful continuation of his failures from the previous run or to drop Fury of Firestorm for asking readers to take a speech that would be deemed terribly offensive in the mouth of a white character is somehow intelligent & enlightened when not.  Some stuff, like Frankenstein, came out of left field and is doing its own gloriously strange thing, and other stuff, like Voodoo, was not what I expected at all but turned out to be very intriguing.  It's a success because it (a) boosted sales like crazy and (b) got people talking about DC Comics in mainstream venues again.  But reading personally, the unexpected hits & misses have been a fun road.

Biggest Frustration:  Getting the newer releases in the Monster High doll line.  Maybe Mattel just hates New Jersey, but I cannot find ANY of the newer dolls.  The only reason I got a Ghoulia doll is because I ordered the awesome SDCC exclusive version; I don't think I ever saw a single regular Ghoulia on any shelves.  Newer characters I want like Abbey or Operetta are AWOL as well.  The only people with them available are scalpers selling them for $80 a doll on eBay or Amazon.  There's been some annoying developments with the line (like why the awesome-looking "Dragon Girl" is consigned to the Create-a-Monster set instead of being made into a full character and what should be her slot is filled by the off-topic, outright hideous C.A. Cupid), but I want to support it & would like to find at least one of the ones I want.

Worst Trend, Network Edition:  The History Channel's transformation into the White Trash Manly Jobs Channel.  Used to be that even History's most speculative or fluffy shows had some historical elements - Life After People showed fascinating real-world abandoned places & gave their history, while Pawn Stars deals with the pop culture history behind all sorts of goodies.  But lately, even this connection has been lost.  Every new show that's debuted has been rednecks eking out a living decimating the Everglades (Swamp People), rednecks driving big trucks on narrow roads (Ice Road Truckers & its many mutations), rednecks cutting down trees (Ax Men), and now nigh-unintelligible rednecks in a poor man's Deadliest Catch (Big Shrimpin').  The last straw was shunting what had been their signature series, Modern Marvels, to the reworked sister station H2.  At this point, they should just rename History to something macho & stupid, just like its programming, and call H2 the History Channel, because that's what it's become.  History used to be my go-to network, but anymore, it's up there with TLC for sheer unwatchability.

Worst Trend, Animation Edition:  Failing to learn anything from the success of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic other than the word "brony".  FiM showed that you could get a wide audience to watch a "girls' show", that you could do female characters who had more on their minds than boys or clothes in animation, that you could have more than just the MoA troika of female characterizations (shrews, screws, & Mommy), and that you could still create an interesting world for heroes that aren't superpowered (unicorns notwithstanding).  But animation has continued its Bataan Death March of Asshole Heroes instead, and no one has actively tried to emulate Lauren Faust's success with FiM.  This makes me afraid that people will write it off as a freakish anomaly instead of what should be the wave of animation's future.

Worst Trend, Web Review Edition:  Derailing or delaying your reviews for the sake of a storyline.  I purely & totally blame Linkara for this; I stopped watching his videos when every single one had a new chapter in his alter ego's ongoing story.  I don't care if he tried to structure stuff so that it didn't intrude into the reviews - when you sit down to watch a twenty-minute review, that's what you should get, not ten minutes of review & ten minutes of him pretending to be a Power Ranger.  But at least he had the courtesy to not let it intrude into his reviews.  Others who have tried to do their own storylines - I'm thinking of the Nostalgia Chick and Spoony - have let it cut in & out of their reviews to the point that it's distracting & frustrating.  After a while, it feels completely self-indulgent and a test of all but the most adoring fan's patience to have your funny review derailed to make your online 'verse look cooler.  About the only ones that don't hurt me are Brad Jones' 80s Dan series, since the cheesy Miller-Boyett sitcom structure is a deliberate choice & makes the critiquing of 80s pop culture that much sharper, and Paw's Top 9 Video Game Music reviews, since it was probably one of the best-produced series out there & never lost sight of its goals.  But others?  Not so well done.

Worst Trend, Video Game Edition:  Letting the Wii deteriorate into the "shovelware console" that all of the "hardcore" gamers always dismissed it for being.  Ever since the Wii debuted, the manchildren who are doing their darnedest to ruin video games for the rest of us have tried to bury it; apparently, to them, expanding your audience to people other than 18-35 year old men who want to be violent thugs is a bad thing.  There were at least a few games that, if they weren't quite killer apps, were still headliners.  But this year, until this past month, there was nearly NOTHING.  There was a new Zelda game, but the hardcore cretins ignored it for not being dark & broody like Twilight Princess.  There's Fortune Street, but that one's too quirky to be a headliner, and there's the new Spyro game that requires you to buy extra swag to play as different characters, thus further making the Wii look like a novelty system.  I chose the Wii because it offered games besides "photorealistic sandbox game with FPS levels & realistic violence", but this year it didn't offer anything.  Of course, the only games for other systems that looked remotely playable to me were Portal 2 and Marvel V. Capcom 3, so it might just be my oddball tastes.  (PS - Spyro owners, my mother is very disappointed that you chose to make him look "mean".  You just lost her once-loyal business with your design choice.)

Worst Trend, Comics Edition:  Marvel's state of perpetual crossovering.  Contrary to appearances, I don't hate Marvel.  I'm into comics because of Marvel.  I am thrilled that there is finally an X-book that I can read again with Wolverine & the X-Men.  But I keep waiting for another crossover to derail it.  Every single crossover feeds into the next with Marvel now, which was always the charge leveled at DC.  But ever since "Civil War", we've had one crossover or another of some sort, and at the end, there's no stakes to any of them.  Hell, the latest one made it clear that Odin can & will magically reverse all the bad stuff, but that will somehow lead into fighting the X-Men or something (who, being a sub-universe, are usually stuck in their own perpetual crossovers).  I am not that dedicated, and frankly, when every single title has to be shoe-horned into some big event, it creates a feeling that all of the titles are the same in tone.  About the only one that peaked my curiosity is Waid's Daredevil, which I'd like to read, but I'm afraid it'll be two issues into a trade & then a crossover chapter.  It's gone from logical from a narrative standpoint to ridiculous from a reader & narrative one.

Finally, let's end this on one last thing, a recent one, that made me laugh out loud - but not because that was its goal.

Most Unintentionally Funny Plot Twist:  Terra Nova is apparently set in Altrusia of The Land of the Lost.  Like most skin-crawlingly-awful genre shows on the Big Four, my mother has tried to will Terra Nova to be the next Lost, but it's far too shallow, ill-thought-out, badly characterized, & badly written to hope to be the next Homeboys in Outer Space.  The finale (which I sincerely hope is a series finale) had her excited because it (*gasp*) introduced a mystery with a never-before-seen new villain and a decrepit old 1800s sailing ship!  That last one should sound veeeeerrrrrrry familiar to Lost viewers.  But it all hinted that maybe, just maybe, to make sense of the blatant time paradox they're creating, the colony might not be on Earth at all.  And the first word out of my mouth was "Altrusia".  The world out of time, nestled between dimensions, pulling in all things that somehow get wrenched from their own timelines to fend for themselves under its three moons.  No sign of three moons yet, but the whole set-up was instantly familiar to someone whose first exposure to the concept was as a kid watching SatAM reruns.  It now gives us the great summary of Terra Nova as better when Sid & Marty Krofft did it, because they were willing to hire good writers.

So, that's 2011.  It certainly was a year.  I can't say I'll be nostalgic for it, but it's not so bad that I'm glad it's over.  It's just another year.

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