2019 - the year of saying goodbyes
As the end of the calendar year draws near, the internet is once again flooded with countless number of 'best of' lists. In 2019, however, most of these lists have endeavoured to cover the past decade, as opposed to the past singular year. I'm usually not a huge fan of lists, but I do appreciate how they can serve as a welcoming reminder of how lucky we are as audience members. For cinema, in particular, this past decade has been pretty damn spectacular. And to be honest, any list, regardless of year (or decade, or century, for that matter), seems to generate the same sentiment. If you look far enough, quality cinema and television is never too hard to find.
Reflecting on 2019 myself, I've come to realize what a monumental year this has been. This past summer, both Game of Thrones and the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to an epic end. And this weekend, the world will be graced with the final chapter of Star Wars. Three of the biggest franchises in modern day popular culture, all ending in the same year. Now, I can already hear the loud interjections criticizing my misdefining of the 'end' to each of these franchises. I'm astutely aware that there will (most likely) be spinoffs of Game of Thrones and that fans are still eagerly awaiting the final 2 books in the series. I'm also aware that the MCU will continue pumping out 2-3 films a year (along with its television spinoffs), and that additional Star Wars trilogies will eventually come our way (also with its branded television spinoffs).
In short, I'm very aware that these properties have no intention of actually leaving us. Game of Thrones might slowly fade away depending on the quality of its spinoff series (if they actually get made), but the MCU and Star Wars universe will surely continue to cement its place as fixtures of popular culture. But for me, and I'm sure for many others, these 3 titanic-level franchises will have effectively concluded in 2019. No matter how much additional material HBO and Disney plan to produce, I'm a firm believer that endings are important, and for reasons that are primarily personal, here's why I consider 2019 to be a year for saying goodbyes.
When it comes to popular culture and mainstream media, we all have our roles within this vast entity of consumerism. To simplify things, most people either work within the industry or are simply consumers of said industry's work. In many cases, people might do both of these things. And even though I have this website and do a bit of writing on the side, if I had to choose, I would identify most with being a consumer. To be more specific, I'd consider myself to be a fan of popular culture content. It's what I feel most comfortable doing, and it's what I've been doing my whole life.
And as a fan and consumer of everything that popular culture has to offer, there is no denying that certain properties capture the world in ways that are simply unmeasurable. Sure, there's always the numbers game, and this metric seems to correspond with the 'unmeasurable' phenomenon that I'm trying to describe, but I think you know what I mean. Certain properties just have the ability to put the world on pause, and they are few and far between in recent memory. Star Wars, the MCU and Game of Thrones certainly fall into this category. And to be honest, they're really the only ones that I can think of to put on this list. Certain films and television series have had major spikes in popularity and social relevance, but the level and intensity of fandom is certainly not on the same level.
And personally, my affection for these 3 properties in particular is something that I doubt will be recreated in the future. Being in my early 30s now, I just don't know if I'm capable of developing the same level of fandom anymore. That's not to say I won't get overly excited about specific films or shows, because I most certainly will. But to be at a level of excitement where watching something feels like a milestone life event? I'm not sure that happens to people when they get 'older'.
I say this because although I wasn't alive when the original Star Wars trilogy initially came out, it was something I grew up watching before becoming the target demographic for the much hated kid-friendly Episode 1. With the MCU, I was at the opening weekend of the first Iron Man movie and essentially every opening weekend thereafter (with a few exceptions). Despite my qualms about the episodic nature of certain entries, I was present during the MCU's phenomenal evolution as a stronghold on pop culture relevance. And finally, with Game of Thrones, I rode the fluctuating waves of discourse right from the very first season.
I've been a huge fan of other things in the past, but over the past decade, these 3 franchises were really what defined my peak level of fandom. Reflecting on the notion that 2019 marks the end to each one brings forth emotions of both melancholy and appreciation. It's sad to realize that I might never have the same level of anticipation and excitement for attending a preview night screening for a film. And that there might not be another instance where I have no choice but to watch a trailer repeatedly for weeks, because it's the only way to tame my excitement for the product in question.
But I'm also appreciative that I've had the opportunity to be a fan in this way. I'm thankful to have been a part of the demographic for which these properties were created, and knowing that I'll always be a fan at heart. And who knows, maybe I'm wrong, and there will be something in the near future that captivates my attention to a similar degree. But that's certainly just wishful thinking on my part, which is okay. I suppose this kind of awakening is something that probably happens to everyone as they get older. On a personal level, 2019 simply punctuated this point in the clearest way possible. For anyone who takes fandom seriously, saying goodbye to something is always tough. Having to do it 3 times in a year, to these 3 franchises in particular, seems both poetic and cruel. But hey, I guess "part of the journey is the end"?