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9 Pieces (and One Piece) of Pop Culture io9 Is Thankful For

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A few of the things we’re thankful for in 2022.

A few of the things we’re thankful for in 2022.
Image: Various

Thanksgiving is here. A day to sit back, reflect, and think about all the good things in your life. Family, friends, your health—those are all worthy. But what about shows, movies, and comics?

Each year, the io9 staff writes about the pop culture we’re thankful for. The entertainment that has brought us joy over the past 11 months. Things that we’ve not only liked, but that have been so transformative or impactful, we’re actually thankful they exist. So sit back, grab a turkey leg, and see what the io9 staff is thankful for in 2022. (Or, if you want, look back at 2020 and 2021.)

We’re Thankful for Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury

Image for article titled The Pop Culture We're Thankful for Getting Us Through 2022

Image: Sunrise/Crunchyroll

I absolutely love Gundam, but with the first mainline series on the horizon this year since Iron Blooded Orphans, I was still filled with a sense of trepidation about The Witch From Mercury. Very little of the franchise in the 21st century has grokked with the things I love most about Gundam as a concept—and the messages that resonate most clearly throughout the earlier works in ithave existed in entries like SEED, Reconguista in G, or the aforementioned Orphans. Would Witch From Mercury follow suit? Had Gundam forgotten how to be Gundam outside of nostalgic retreads of its original self?

Thankfully, I was blown away from episode 1 of G-Witch, as it’s become affectionately known. Not just for the potential sapphic vibes between its female protagonists Suletta and Miorine, nor the incredible design and action of its primary mecha, the Aerial. Witch From Mercury built out a new Gundam world that explored anime tropes that the franchise has not really touched before—mostly a high school setting—with explorations of transhumanism, bio-tech, the future of capitalism, the military-industrial complex’s relationship with class warfare, and more, with the hallmarks and bite I love about Gundam’s core ideals. Finally, there’s a modern series that feels reverent of what Gundam was when it first began, without just directly aping or rehashing it. While there’s plenty of opportunities for Witch From Mercury to fall apart as it continues, for now, I’m grateful for Suletta Sundays having become the highlight of my week over the past few months. – James Whitbrook

We’re thankful for queer media

Interview with the Vampire.

Interview with the Vampire.
Image: AMC

This year feels like we’ve really turned a corner in queer representation in media. No longer relegated to side stories and three-second editable clips, queer stories are finally getting the limelight. From Our Flag Means Death to Interview With the Vampire, even sprinkling in Guillermo de la Cruz’s coming out story on What We Do in the Shadows and the very lesbian-coded Gundam: Witch from Mercury (see above), I feel like I can finally think to myself, “I want to watch a show focused on messy queers,” and I have a plethora of stories to choose from. There’s under-the-radar shows like The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself and children’s animated shows like The Owl House and Paranormal Park that are also doing an amazing job at delivering fully-rounded characters and deeply queer stories. To say nothing of the books that have come out this year. I might not have cared for Nona the Ninth, but in between Taz Muir’s Locked Tomb sapphics, Freya Marske’s horny witches, the Burning Kingdoms’ magical disaster sequel The Oleander Sword, and the final installment of the orc/sorcerer romance of the century The Thousand Eyes, the lesbians ate well in 2022. At the end of the year I’m just grateful that I can see myself, my stories, my friends, and my romances somewhere on screen, depicted in a way that centers the characters themselves and not just the challenges of being queer. – Linda Codega

We’re thankful for RRR

Image for article titled The Pop Culture We're Thankful for Getting Us Through 2022

Image: DVV Entertainment

I’ve never had a theatergoing experience like RRR. I’ve seen the film five times and each feels like the first. The epic historical fantasy musical and bromance with blockbuster action from director S.S. Rajamouli is a life-changing cinematic experience like no other. The audience gets on their feet, cheers, laughs, quotes along, and even has a dance-off. I’ve been chasing that movie-audience high ever since and no film this year can compare. N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan are instant stars—equally charismatic romantic leads and action heroes. I refuse to watch RRR on Netflix until the streamer offers it in its original Telegu language, but if it’s the only way you can watch, just do it, especially since there is a sequel in the works! Give it all the awards. – Sabina Graves

We’re thankful for weird genre TV that’s not part of a franchise

Severance

Severance
Image: Apple

Nothing against knowing what you like and choosing to stick within those boundaries, whether it’s a show within the Marvel or Star Wars universe, a prequel to a show you once liked but with many more dragons, or a fourth season of a show about raunchy vampires. But 2022 had a particularly high rate of “this show sounds cool, don’t know much about it but guess I’ll take a chance” sorts of genre titles that ended up rather majestically rewarding the viewer. Just to name a few, but Our Flag Means Death, Archive 81, The Resort, and Severance all found their niches quickly with characters we couldn’t stop thinking about, and plots that made us cheer when second seasons were announced (or sigh sadly when the opposite happened). That these sorts of shows exist at all gives us hope that creativity is still alive in Hollywood, and makes the existence of all those freaking streaming services feel a little more justified. – Cheryl Eddy

We’re thankful for the return of the cinematic experience

Prey

Prey
Image: Hulu

When the pandemic first hit in 2020, and through much of 2021, movie studios made the right call in delaying films until such a time when seeing them in the theater would be a safe endeavor, both financially and for moviegoers. Even though we’re far from out of the pandemic woods, plenty of movies have come out this year (for better or worse) with the intonation of “only in theaters.”

And you know what? For many of the movies that I’ve seen in theaters this year, it really has felt like Theaters are Back. And it helps that there’s been some films worth seeing in theaters: The Batman, Nope, Ambulance, and The Woman King are all crowdpleasers and Movie-Ass Movies, experiences that absolutely hit on the big screen. Top Gun: Maverick takes the top Movie-Ass Movie experience for the year, with a close second being Prey. Yes, it’s strictly on Hulu and will likely never see a theatrical release in its life, but it feels like it was made to be watched in a theater. For those who are vaccinated and feel safe enough to step into a theater again, here’s hoping we get more of these types of films in 2023. – Justin Carter

We’re thankful for Top Gun: Maverick

Image for article titled The Pop Culture We're Thankful for Getting Us Through 2022

Image: Paramount

I have to jump off Justin’s pick here but for a different reason. First, I want to fully acknowledge that Top Gun: Maverick isn’t an io9 movie. But part of why I love it and am thankful for it does apply to the movies we cover. You see, so often these days sequels are made to films we loved growing up. Sequels we never, ever thought would happen, be it a seventh Star Wars, a third Ghostbusters, you get the idea. And almost always, those movies do not compare to the originals. How could they? At best they’re solid remakes.

But Top Gun: Maverick was different. Over the years of waiting, the team created a movie that’s almost certainly better than the original. A film that works as a pure action movie, but works even better with that icing of nostalgia. I first saw the original Top Gun when it was released in 1986 with my late grandfather so watching this one brings back all the feels. Probably why I’ve watched this new movie almost a dozen times since its release, both in theaters and at home. – Germain Lussier

We’re thankful for Ghosts

Image for article titled The Pop Culture We're Thankful for Getting Us Through 2022

Image: CBS

We’ve spoken about how charming the BBC sitcom Ghosts is before, and you’d be forgiven if you decided to give the American version a try. But it’s such classic TV comfort food that CBS’s Ghosts stands—or at least apparates—just as strongly to its source material. When Samantha (iZombie’s Rose McIver) discovers she’s the owner of a dilapidated Victorian mansion in New England, her excitement to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast with her husband Jay (Pitch Perfect’s Utkarsh Ambudkar) is tempered somewhat when she falls down the stairs, is clinically dead for a minute, and wakes up to find the house is inhabited by a variety of ghosts from different time periods in U.S. history, from an 11th-century Viking to a 1990s finance bro. It’s the sort of show that would have absolutely had a laugh track back in the day, but the classic structure only augments the warmth and heart Ghosts still has under its incorporeal chest. —Robert Bricken

We’re thankful for One Piece

Image for article titled The Pop Culture We're Thankful for Getting Us Through 2022

Image: Shueisha

I’ve been recommending people check out the uber-popular manga One Piece pretty much since it was first published in 1997. It’s a job that’s only gotten harder as it has crept up in length, now running more than 1,000 issues. But I’m not fully insane; the reason I want people to spend one million hours of their lives reading One Piece is because it’s that good, and is better than any other series about rewarding long-term fans. This year saw the epic end of the massive Wano storyarc, followed by an expositional lore dump so massive and mind-blowing it’s made my head spin. Calling One Piece a story about pirates is technically true, but it’s also about history, mythology, science fiction, samurai, dragons, robots, mythical creatures, destiny, monsters, world culture, and so much more. Hey, those 1,000+ issues had to be filled with something. —Robert Bricken

We’re thankful for cinematic television

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Image: Amazon

For going on two decades, television has been getting better and better. And while huge geek shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead brought that to a whole new level, it feels like 2022 has taken that up even another notch. This year we got a show based on Lord of the Rings, a new Game of Thrones in House of the Dragon, an Obi-Wan Kenobi show, soon we’ll get a Willow show, then there’s Andor, She-Hulk, and the list goes on and on. Not only are these all really good genre shows, they almost universally feel like shows that, 20 or 30 years ago, would have been made as movies. And yet, in 2022, we get to watch them in the comfort of our own homes. Massive-scale, big-budget genre movies extended into full TV shows. What a world. (And yes, I do realize this is in opposition to Cheryl’s equally good pick above.) – Germain Lussier


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. 

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