Looking back at 2015: a map for the future

After a month’s worth of ‘Best of 14’ blogs on people’s Facebook profiles, 2015 is finally here. As we go back to school for a new semester, the biggest question is : what will be the first huge trend, fad or tragedy of 2015 to distract us from our studies and lead us to going crazy on social media?

But on a more serious note, what did we learn from the entertainment world in 2014, and societies reactions to these stories, that can show us what to expect in 2015?

I do not know if this is really the case, but a quick look back to 2014 seems to recall more large societal events than usual, at least in the areas of social justice. There is always something that stands out, be it a revolution in Egypt, Kony 2012, or Rob Ford, but this year seems to have taken the cake.

There was the death of Robin Williams, and the outpouring of grief and love in his wake, leading to a huge, positive discussion about depression and suicide. Further showcasing the hope and love society can make when they come together is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge trend that took off near the end of the summer. Millenials everywhere joined to voice their opinions in support of those struggling with disease, be it physical or mental.

Then of course there was the increase of feminism in the everyday conversation. With first the Ray Rice incident, in which he punched his then fiancé in the face in an elevator, and then the alleged sexual assaults committed by Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby. These stories brought the issues of domestic abuse, sexual consent, rape culture and victim blaming to the forefront in a way never matched before.

But no discussion of 2014 would be complete without mentioning the shooting of Michael Brown by a Missouri police officer and the subsequent riots that broke out in the suburb of Ferguson. The story gained more exposure and backlash once the Grand Jury in the case chose not to indict the officer, and two New York police officers, both minorities, were shot dead in their car in a separate, later situation.

There were other memorable stories, such as the recent Sony hocking scandal that led to The Interview not being released. And this is not considered a scandal per se, but the fact that the top selling album of 2014 was Taylor Swift’s “1989” is absolutely outrageous.

So what can we expect to see in 2015? While we surely can’t anticipate what stories will break, we can see if the arts and entertainment world will pick up on these issues.

Already in 2015 we have the impending release of “Selma”, the critically acclaimed Martin Luther King Jr movie.  As well, former R&B star D’Angelo just released is first album in 15 years, titled “Black Messiah.” D’Angelo described it as being, “about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen.” We can be certain to see more of a stance against racism and racial tensions in 2015, whether it be from musicians, movies or literature.

The criticism of the NFL’s handling of Ray Rice’s discipline did a bit to overcrowd the discussion of domestic abuse. Specifically, does an employer have the right to fire someone for something that he was not found guilty of in the courts, and does an employer, or in this case, professional sports league, have an obligation to be a frontrunner in social change. The NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, were heralded for the action they took in suspending Ray Rice for the season, until it came out that Goodell probably knew about the video of the altercation months before it was released to the public, and that maybe he was just reacting to public outrage instead of taking a strong social stance.

Whatever the other storylines that muddle the issue, you can be sure that the conversation of abuse and rape will continue in 2015. Perhaps you will see women artists follow Beyonce’s lead and write more feminism-inspired songs (even if she isn’t really a feminist). The cases of Gomeshi and Cosby show us that we really are not united in what is abuse, what is rape, and who is really at fault in these situations. It will take some time to sort this out, but the issues are real and they will not go away in 2015. Art imitates life, as they say, and I think there is no issue that will be more presented in the New Year than those of domestic abuse, rape culture and victim blaming.

While the specifics of the news stories that will break, and the art that will make waves, are yet unknown, we can see the increase of people, especially millennials, taking to social media to discuss these important social issues. We take it for granted now, but it is a trend that continues to grow, with 2014 having the most social media activity yet.  And although the internet can be a very negative place, its potential for good is unmatched. We see that in the continuing of the social conversation on mental health, and it is exciting to think of the possibilities that social media will spread hope in 2015.

There has been no huge stories in 2015 yet, but it won’t be long before this year produces its first major news event. And If it is anything like last year, there will be hopeful times for society, controversial times, and opportunities for art and entertainment to contribute to social change. I can’t wait to see where this year will take us.

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