Yes, People Blame 2016 on Their Grief, and That’s Okay

It’s been a near-universal constant that 2016 has been a difficult year.  Between the deaths of high-profile celebrities and entertainers, as well as political upheavals, it pretty much goes without saying that 2016 was fraught with many an infamous moment. Heck, 2016 may be a hurtful year to you if you’re a rabid enough White Sox fan (something I say with authority–I’ve seen some appalling words and behavior from White Sox fans directed at Cubs enthusiasts).

It’s gotten to the point that people blaming the year itself has become the default response whenever we hear about another celebrity death.  It’s as if 2016 has become the personification of death and despair itself:

  • “Damn you 2016, don’t you DARE take Carrie Fisher from us!”
  • “I’m done with you, 2016.  WHY did you take Anton Yelchin from us?!”
  • “Omg, 2016, how could you allow a giant Oompa-Loompa to take the White House?”
These are certainly not the most rational of responses, but as most of them are fueled by grief, they make a certain amount of sense.  2016 is certainly the common denominator for a number of grief-inducing events, from the deaths of beloved entertainers such as David Bowie and Alan Rickman to the Brexit decision and the 2016 US election, depending on how you view your politics. A lot of people had a lot of emotional capital invested in these people or situations, and when they imploded or expired, it’s natural that a grief response would follow.
But perhaps inevitably, there is an emerging backlash rearing its head online.
I’ve lately been seeing a lot of posts denigrating people for “blaming 2016” for the terrible things that have happened over the last 12 months.  These sentiments are typically coached in terms of pedantic rationalism, with posters bemoaning people’s lack of self-awareness and sense of accountability; or in a simple grumpiness that “things happen” and that people blaming a year makes said poster sick.  I’m now just waiting for someone to swoop in with the “time is a social construct, and doesn’t really exist, and by blaming a unit of time for your problems you are showing how small you are,” argument.
Such posts may give their originators a temporary sense of superiority, or allow them to think themselves smarter than the average bear, but all it really does is show them to be far too concerned with how others grieve.  I think it’s a reasonable assumption that most of the people cursing 2016 don’t actually think it’s a person or entity capable of deliberately wreaking havoc on the things and people we love.  It’s an obviously irrational act, born from an emotion that is typically not known for inducing calm deliberation in those afflicted with it.
Step off and let people feel what they feel, for crying out loud.
 
2016 HAS been an unusually turbulent year, and some people choose to grieve by collectively blaming the year, much the same way they celebrate the fandoms they love. Just because one doesn’t see the appeal of Star Wars, Star Trek, or Doctor Who doesn’t mean that person should make fun of others for liking them.  By the same measure, someone doesn’t respond to these events the same way as others should not try to browbeat people into thinking and feeling the way they do.
better_than_youIf you’re one of those folks who feels the need to make these snarky response posts, take my advice and just let people grieve in the way that most fits them.  I know it may be a little annoying, but it’s not like it isn’t coming from a genuine place.  Trying to put people in their “place” for their venting only makes you come off as douchey, elitist, and far too concerned with others’s responses to things that don’t concern you. You’re just a half step removed from being a bully.

Star Trek Is Losing Its Luster With Me Lately

I’m a man of many fandoms, some of which are popularly considered diametrically opposed to one another.  I’ve been a Trekkie for the larger part of my life, when I started watching Star Trek: the Next Generation in high school, though my association with the franchise goes back even further due to my mother being an old school Trekkie.  I can remember her emotional reaction to Wrath of Khan back when I couldn’t have been much older than a toddler.

I’ve enjoyed Star Trek on and off over the years.  TNG was great, Deep Space Nine would go on to become my favorite Star Trek of all time, and even Voyager and Enterprise would have (very) occasional episodes that made me happy.  The movies were of varying qualities, particularly the ones featuring the TNG cast, though I thought the 2009 reboot was a refreshing take on the franchise.  Into Darkness… let’s not go into that one right now.

Lately though, there have been developments that have really given me pause about whether I want to continue calling myself a Trekkie.  The first of these is the upcoming 2017 series that was recently announced.  The big drawback for me at this point is that it will only be accessible if you pony up the $5.99 per month for CBS’s video-on-demand streaming service, which at this point they’re calling CBS All-Access.  Call it whatever you want, it’s basically a Netflix streaming clone that they’re trying to force Trekkies to subscribe to by making the show exclusive to this service.

Annoying as such an obvious and cynical money-grab is, I at least understand it.  I can understand wanting to try to make money on a potentially very lucrative delivery service like streaming.  But it’s the next issue that really sharpens my bat’leth.

The new fan film guidelines that CBS and Paramount have issued have been met with criticism and open hostility in some cases, and it’s really hard for me to think the rancor isn’t well deserved.  It seems that, in order to avoid legal action from CBS and Paramount when you make a Star Trek fan film, you have to follow their list of (mostly) insane rules, such as restrictions on film length and number of episodes, purchase of officially licensed props or clothing in films, and the inability to use any professionals or former Star Trek cast or crew on fan productions.

Fan backlash has been immediate and loud, and while there’s been some effort to explain or defend these guidelines, it’s hard to argue that they don’t leave a pretty bitter taste in the mouths of fans who have for years labored on these projects out of love for the franchise.  I myself am not involved in fan films, but I can sympathize with the resentment that comes with being creatively shackled by corporate “guidelines” from on high.

How they’ll play out remains to be seen, though I wouldn’t expect to see much effort from fans to hide their contempt.  If I’ve learned anything about Trekkies over the years, it’s that we’re a passionate, outspoken, and resourceful bunch, and when we feel screwed over we’ll fight back.

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At present I have no plans to subscribe to CBS All-Access for this new series, though I’ll admit that could change as more information becomes available.  The only reason I’m going to see Star Trek Beyond in theaters at this point is my sympathy and respect for Anton Yelchin and his recent tragic end.  But at this point it seems the corporate entity in charge of Star Trek doesn’t have the decency to even pretend to respect its fans, and that comes through prominently in these most recent developments.

I haven’t turned in my Trekkie badge yet, but if things like this continue, it’s only a matter of time.