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The Culture From 2019 That Will Help You Forget That the World is a Garbage Place

  • Culture
Indigo Lilburn-Quick, BA History and Politics 

2019 was not a good year by all accounts: the world is on fire, Boris Johnson has control of the country and we are turbulently heading towards Brexit. But in amongst the chaos we can find moments of release. For me, when I want to get away from the disaster of global politics I indulge in cultural pursuits that allow me to forget what a terrible place the world is. And as the SOAS Spirit Culture editor, I am officially SOAS’ arbiter of taste, and evidently you want to hear what I deemed great culture in 2019? Don’t you? Don’t you? …Anyone…? 


Marriage Story – Netflix 

So here’s the thing, I am in love with Adam Driver. I don’t know what it is about him but he just makes me feel things… Luckily, he is also a great actor so you can watch pretty much any film that he’s in and it will be enjoyable. But marriage story is a whole other level of good. It’s both funny and heartbreaking and it feels incredibly real. As a child of divorced parents what I really recognised in the film was the purgatory of the divorce process, all the happy memories, habits and emotions you have with the person you once loved don’t just disappear and in many ways that is the hardest part. The acting and the writing oscillate between skillfully subtle and powerfully impassioned providing a rich tableau of human emotion. The two most affecting scenes, for me at least, were the (extremely meme-able) tear-filled screaming match which is the film’s emotional peak, and the quiet slip back into old habits during a power outage when Charlie (Adam Driver) drives across L.A. to help Nicole (Scarlett Johanson) close her gate and she notices his hair is getting shaggy so gives him a haircut. As it’s available on Netflix there really is no excuse to miss it.


Cuz I Love You – Lizzo

Lizzo’s music is literally free therapy. No one is as positivity-boosting or life-affirming as Lizzo. ‘Soulmate’ is basically an affirmation of self-love. ‘Truth Hurts’ is a certified banger which epitomises the “I don’t need no man attitude” that the world needs more of – in the music video Lizzo marries herself! She is a Goddess and singing along helps you absorb some of her magical self-confidence. So listen to her album, then look into the mirror and repeat after me “I am 100% that bitch.” 


I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson – Netflix

In this ‘golden age’ of streaming, it’s easy to feel paralysed by the sheer volume of high quality ‘must-see’ television which is constantly being added to. This made choosing my top television show extremely difficult, no least because the overwhelming quantity of shows often leads me to a state of inertia where I simply watch The Office again. I could easily list plenty of shows that have reached such critical acclaim and popularity that it feels every man and his dog has seen them. Fleabag, Chernobyl, Top Boy, The Crown, When They See Us… the list goes on. That being said, a show that may have gone under the radar for many of our readers is I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. This sketch show, created by and starring former SNL cast member Tim Robinson, is completely bizarre and absolutely hilarious. I can honestly say I cried from laughter at least three times watching the series. The episodes are short enough to be greedily gobbled up in one sitting – a gluttonous act I highly recommend, but the sketches can also be enjoyed separately – the perfect remedy for when you’re in the library crying over your dissertation (which is a purely hypothetical thing that I have never done).


In Real Life – Olafur Eliason at the Tate Modern

Once in a blue moon, an art exhibition comes along and everyone can agree it’s great. Olafur Eliason’s In Real Life was one of those rare exhibitions. I had seen snapshots of the show across social media, although it looked interesting the ‘instagrammable’ aspect of the art put me off – I felt like it had been staged for people to engage in art in a performative way to show their followers they too were cultured. Reluctantly I bought myself and my boyfriend (who likes to repeatedly declare that he does not “get art”) tickets, it may not be great art but it did look fun. However, I was surprised to find the exhibition was fascinating, insightful, and well-curated, as well as being extremely fun. It was a truly immersive experience for every sense, that inspired child-like wonder in most of the visitors. People audibly ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and reached their hands out to touch the dazzling mist of Beauty (1993); giggles were heard as we collectively made our way through the dense tunnel of colourful fog in Your blind passenger (2010). Despite my grandma-esque disapproval of people whipping out their phones to document the experience for their Instagram stories, in response to which you are totally allowed to say “okay boomer”, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Eliason’s work was a wonderful balance between political commentary, for example, The glacier melt series (1999/2019), and joyful interactive work. It certainly made me get off my high-horse and realise that art everyone can simply enjoy is a good thing. 

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