My 50 Fave Music, Movies, TV, and Books of 2021
Okay, it's not all "queer" but it is definitely gay.
In lieu of your usual letter, I’m wrapping up with a “Best Of” list to concretize some thinking on the culture I ate up this year. Rose and I talk about some of these faves extensively on today’s episode of Like a Virgin, so if you’re thirsty for more, drink up!
See you on the other side! Thank you to all the folks who’ve spent a whole year with me on this letter and helping me create a slightly more equitable line of work.
Until next time, I shall monstrously rank my 2021 faves!
some TV that brought me joy in 2021
16. The Other Two A solid follow-up to the very perfect S1. Molly Shannon single-handedly ate this season up tho! More from me here.
15. Squid Game felt completely original while still catering to the mass appeal of dystopian franchises we love to devour. It’s performances (esp the sapphic ones) injected some soul into what otherwise would’ve seemed like a vacuous Netflix play for global streams.
14. Schmigadoon! We practice Ariana DeBose supremacy in this house! Wrote more here.
13. Drag Race S13 A rare season where you kinda root for everyone (yes, even Joey Jay). Picked this above all other franchises from the year for its soaring performances; Gottmik (deserve a double crowning more than Monet & Trinity imo), Denali (had “100% Pure Love” on for weeks), LaLa (those bags, girl!), and Utica (problematic king!). Production brought good drama that was elevated by Kandy and Tamisha. And of course, Symone is one of the best Drag Race crownings in eons. Thank you, gay Jesus! More here.
11. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills S11 Before this season, Erika was my all-time favorite housewife, and, well, now she’s not. The power of TV! More here.
10. Hacks For the ensemble of emerging queer actors + fucking good jokes! More here.
8. White Lotus The definition of appointment television. Wrote more about Jennifer Coolidge, and only Jennifer Coolidge, here.
7. Fuckboy Island Unforch this show is not queer at all, but I include it in this roundup because I think it is a profound meditation on the prison of heterosexuality that we can all learn from. More here.
6. Search Party Cole Escola will EGOT.
5. RHOSLC Decided to include even though the season isn’t over because, well, it’s already one of the greatest RH seasons of all time. Dedicated a F4T ep to it here.
4. Sort Of Cannot stop thinking about this singular, phenomenal, totally enrapturing show that I *need* to pop off so we can make seven hundred more shows like it. Wrote a lot more here.
3. Wandavision A captivating experience to watch Marvel try something completely form-breaking for the first time in its decades-long year career of putting the MCU on screen (discluding maybe Into the Spiderverse, which one could argue was also novel and completely its own entity). Though not explicitly queer, Kathryn Hahn gave a performance that is socioculturally gay. Sorry! The franchise did also introduce one of the MCU’s first gay superheroes with Billy Maximoff.
2. Legendary I’m honestly not sure how it crept up to the No.2 slot, but I will say I rewatched most episodes and found myself laughing, crying, shrieking at every turn. Viewing party at mine for S3? More here.
1. Sex Education Another (sorry to use this word) perfect season of television that possesses the gargantuan ability to make you fall madly in love with every single character, however minor, while healing your body and mind with “representation” — in the best iteration of the word — containing nuance, irreverence, joy, messiness, and some of the best storytelling I’ve seen in ages.
Tina Mabry’s astounding direction deserves a shout-out for this super intentional character-building around Elektra in E3 of Pose — easily the best of the series.
Let’s just say I have talked about Euphoria’s special episode: “Jules” in therapy… multiple times.
Silky Nutmeg Ganache in Drag Race All Stars S6 is a moment I shall never forget. More here.
I… haven’t finished PEN15 but I would bet it’s on the list somewhere if I had.
some movies that brought me joy in 2021
8. Raya and the Last Dragon Though I’ve ranked it under Encanto, I would love for this gorgeous lesson on trust and perseverance to win the Oscar.
7. Tina The retrospective Miss Turner deserved!
6. Zola Though it didn’t stick the landing, I was totally addicted to the direction and performances. Would gladly have watched 10 more hours of it!
5. Black Widow A completely absurd action movie, but the family drama between Florence, Rachel, and the Stranger Things guy was an unexpected delight.
4. Encanto The music what not it, but that is the only reason Encanto isn’t my No. 1. A world I wanted to live in for a long time with characters rich, beautiful, reflective, and deep. I loved the lesson it taught about investing in yourself and learning how to build empathy for others instead of holding them to a perfect standard. Compelling animation style too, and the most tears I’ve shed during a movie since… Coco?
3. West Side Story I have a lot of conflicting thoughts on this that will soon be released to the world, but I can’t really deny that this film — during many moments — left me completely breathless. Again, Ariana DeBose supremacy! But Rita gets a nom too, or we riot.
2. Shang Chi I hate that there are so many Marvel movies on my list but to give myself some credit there were two years of MCU franchises compressed into 2021 because of the pandemmy in an otherwise flop year for movies. Anyway, Shang Chi wins its spot because of Michelle Yeoh’s fight scenes alone.
1. Spider-man: No Way Home This ranking is heavily influenced by the fact Spidey has been my favorite superhero of all time since childhood, but No Way Home employed fan service, nostalgia, on-the-nose jokes, and the some very satiating performances (that I would detail but it’d be a spoiler!). Zendaya and Tom will probably be the best Peter and MJ for decades to come. Ugh, god this movie wasn’t queer at all I’m such a scammer — he’s cum-flinging twink, leave me alone!
Aaron Sorkin dug his own grave over this extremely average film Being the Ricardos, but I do love the way he wrote Lucille, even if it is a completely fabricated imagination of who Lucille Balle was as a businesswoman. Nicole gave us everything she had and it worked, but additional points were docked for those blocked brows.
Lady Gaga gave my favorite performance of the year in House of Gucci, and it’s a shame the rest of the film did not really deliver. Have spoken about this at length on LAV.
some music that brought me joy in 2021
20. “Dealer” When Lana Del Rey screamed “I don’t wanna liiiiiiiiive,” I felt that.
19. “Hookup Scene” Though the album didn’t live up to its hype, I had this sad girl anthem on repeat.
18. “Fuck Him All Night” I am a fool for hoping Ms. Banks will release another mixtape but come on, we are begging for it.
17. Still Over It (album) The follow-up to Summer Walker’s meditation on closure Over It, this album is a sexy curation of angry breakup vibes.
16. “Up” Cardi started the year right with this bonafide banger that is honestly one of her best songs. I miss when Cardi made music (and I pretend I do not hear that Lizzo collab).
15. “Silk Chiffon (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)” This single was such an earworm, I wonder if we as queer people will ever hear the word “silk” again without shrieking “CHIFFON!”
14. Solar Power (album) Lorde earned her spot by doing something completely unexpected with this long-anticipated release — and the bonus tracks made it an even better compilation.
13. “Into the Kunt of It” & 12. “Wanda’s Cunty Vision” These two Ocean Kelly tracks (remixing that one Backyardigans song and the Wandavision theme respectively) are the best trolly TikTok culture has to offer.
11. “That Funny Feeling” I never otherwise would have listened to a Bo Hurnham song if it weren’t for Phoebe Bridgers and for that I commend her.
10. Red (Taylor’s Version) (album) A maximalist bombshell and moment in culture.
9. “Bunny is a Rider” Is this song about masturbation? I guess all Caroline Paloucheck songs are about masturbation, but this one especially.
8. What’s Your Pleasure (Platinum Edition) (album) I honestly would have been satisfied with just the release of “Please” but Jessie Ware gave us a whole B Side to my favorite album of 2020, much to the dismay of my neighbors who frequently file noise complaints.
7. “Brutal” & 6. “Jealousy Jealousy” Though she really kinda was the artist of the year, I do not think Sour as an album was as good as everyone said it was. But these two songs brought me to hell and back again.
5. “Gasoline feat. Taylor Swift” The HAIM collab was one of my most-repeated songs of the year, a track that hit me in waves and bestowed upon the world one of our most precious cultural entities: Taylor Swift screaming “I get saaaaad!”
4. Heaux Tales (album) When I say “masterpiece,” I mean it! I don’t think anyone saw Jazmine coming when she pulled up with this MacArthur-worthy album more than a decade after “Bust Your Windows,” but she did! And this time the world will be ready for whatever she does next.
3. “Happier Than Ever” Though the album of the same title was middling, this track absolutely blew my whole head off, and queers around the world stood in their kitchens thrashing their hair around to the best of their ability as this track blasted.
2. “Joni” SZA leaking her own song on Soundcloud is the reason we love her. If Soundcloud could be in my Spotify Wrapped it may have been my number one. The whistletone!
1. 30 (album) Not sure I have much else to say outside of the essay I dedicated to the album a few letters ago, but I wish I could relive the moment I listened to 30 for the first time stoned in my bathtub. :)
some books that brought me joy in 2021
Ashamed to say I was especially illiterate this year, so I’ve resolved to read more in 2022. (Follow me on my resurrected Goodreads account!) That said, these stuck out to me, in no particular order.
Little Devil In America Though Hanif isn’t queer, he uncovers Blackness at all its intersections with this gorgeous series of poetic culture history vignettes.
Cleanness what a BOOK with some good ass sex scenes. Adore Garth so much I literally took a class from him last year learning how to write erotica.
Detransition, Baby I’m praying that the deserved hype over this book translates to a real-world shift in how we think about “representation,” but beyond that Torrey is an incredible writer of plot and prose. She devastated me in the first two pages and didn’t stop.
this week’s action
If you’ve made it this far, brava! This week’s action is to buy or donate to N95 project — a necessary resource considering the majority of “N95 masks” avail for purchase aren’t even real. Stay safe out there, and no more cloth masks! Your pores will thank you.