Dolly Parton

("Dolly Parton" by Timothy Wildey is licensed with a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

2020 was a year like no other in the spheres of arts and culture — just like every other year. The following is a list of moments from the past year that are worth revisiting if you need anything from a dance break to a history lesson. 

The Return of Spike Lee

Spike Lee hadn’t made a movie since the stunning “BlacKkKlansman” in 2018, and his return was no disappointment. The way that Lee told the story of Black Vietnam vets in his Netflix film “Da 5 Bloods'' reminded us how powerful his voice can be as he tells of aspects of our national history which are all too often left out by mainstream media. 

Miley Cyrus’ Cover of “Zombie”

Lindsay Zoladz beautifully wrote in the New York Times that Cyrus’ version of the Cranberries’ 90s classic expressed “such a reverent understanding of the song’s melodic leaps and emotional pull that one doesn’t even question what the former Hannah Montana is doing singing a ’90s alternative-rock classic about post-traumatic stress and decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.” Music writing doesn’t get better than that, and neither does Cyrus’ voice. With her version of “Zombie,” Cyrus leans into her rock and roll talent, reminding  us why we should never have underestimated her in the first place. In one way, Cyrus came out of nowhere with this release, but in another way, she was hiding in plain sight. 

AOC’s Video Gaming

Politicians are known for many things. Video gaming is not historically one of them, but in October, gaming proved to be just another tool New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has in her endless toolbelt. AOC’s debut Twitch stream drew over 400,000 viewers, putting her in the top 20 most watched streams ever. The stream showed that the realm of politics is no longer confined to old White guys. It is common knowledge that the future is in the hands of the young, but examples like this show that the future is in the hands of those online. 

Removal of Native American Team Names

In July, the NFL team based in Washington, D.C. announced they would drop the “Redskins” name. The team had been known as such since the early 1930s. More recently, Cleveland’s MLB team followed suit. While these changes are both long overdue and only the beginning of righting wrongs against Native folks, they are certainly steps in the right direction.

Dolly Parton 

Dolly Parton never exactly left, but she felt more present in 2020 than she has in a while. A new book was written about Parton. She released another Christmas album and explicitly voiced her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Parton also helped fund the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which is almost too good to be true, especially for 2020. Dolly Parton has been great for a while, and we were reminded of that time and again in 2020.

Biden’s Big Win

This may feel more political than cultural, but to pretend that those two realms exist in isolation would be impractical, especially given the havoc Trump wreaked across America’s cultural landscape. For instance, Biden has already shown he is going to take climate change seriously — as everyone should. Biden’s sense of gravity towards macro-issues such as the climate crisis remind us how the responsibilities of a leader transcend the political sphere, into and beyond arts and culture.