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The Best Media of 2022

A totally "objective" list of the best content this year

By Alex Mell-TaylorPublished about a month ago 11 min read
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If there's one thing I have, it's opinions. I can sometimes come across as a sourpuss, but there have been a lot of shows, movies, and games that I have loved this year. Whether we were transported to a galaxy far, far away, or a land of magic and dragons, it was a great year to sit on your ass and watch stuff.

Now being the Alex with Opinions, my opinions are, of course, the correct ones, so check out the list below to see if your preferences align with reality.

Peacemaker

Peacemaker leaves where James Gunn's 2021 The Suicide Squad left off. Christopher Smith, AKA the Peacemaker (played by John Cena), becomes part of an undercover unit trying to stop alien "Butterflies" from conquering the world. These aliens are insects that burrow into people's skulls and take them over a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

What I wrote:

“With Peacemaker, we see a window into what modern superhero shows and movies could be. Although fictional, this show doesn’t stray from the emotional reality of what America is and has always been. It does not pull punches when discussing systemic issues such as racism and capitalism.

It’s been clear for some time that Disney’s MCU is more interested in delivering a sanitized fantasy that does not challenge our larger problems, but with Peacemaker, I see a world of possibility wrapped up in an American flag and a ridiculous-looking helmet.”

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's dimension-hopping epic centers on an aimless woman named Evelyn Quan Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh) who runs a laundromat. Evelyn is unhappy with how her life has ended up — a life that seems to be bursting at the seams until she stumbles into a vast conspiracy about a multiversal war. As Evelyn hops between dimensions, she learns more about the sides fighting this war and how they pertain to her life and her choices, both in this dimension and in all of them at once.

What I wrote:

“There is much to enjoy about this movie. Michelle Yeoh plays the various iterations of Evelyn effortlessly. It was breathtaking to see Yeoh morph from a small business owner to a martial arts film superstar to a chef and back again. Overall, the cast of this movie does a great job selling you its multiverse premise. I loved most of the elements of this film: the direction, the editing, and the score. There was hardly a misused piece.”

Severance

The corporate dystopia Severance has been a critical darling of Apple TV+. It tells the story of a group of employees from the company Lumon who have undergone a surgery called "severance," which separates their work and life selves. Their outside selves or "outies" retain no memories of what they experience at work, and vice versa for their "innies," creating two separate people coexisting in the same body at different times.

What I wrote:

“There’s a lot to like about this series. The acting is superb, ranging from the quiet, understatedness of employee Burt Goodman (played by Christopher Walken) to the religious fervor of middle manager Harmony Cobel (Patricia Arquette), who worships both the company and its founding family, the Eagans. Everything from the music to the over-stylized 1980s aesthetic creates a show that places the viewer constantly on edge.

Ultimately, it’s the concept that keeps people talking. This premise is horrifying to some, but to others, it’s merely a natural conclusion of the current American workplace. “That sounds like such a good idea,” said one friend after I explained the show’s premise. “If you hate your job, wouldn’t you want to hit the skip button?”

We are so normalized to the pervasiveness of corporate culture that even satire like Severance can fly over the heads of many of us. We worship our places of work. They have become blind cults where we are willing to give our corporate owners anything they ask of us, even our minds.”

Horizon Forbidden West

The Horizon series is a fun romp set in the distant future. It's ultimately about a lot of things: a post-apocalyptic adventure where you slay robot dinosaurs with bows and arrows; a narrative about the nature of humanity and AI; a feminist tale about a kickass warrior named Aloy (voiced by Ashly Burch) that goes against over a half a century of misogynistic video game tropes.

What I wrote:

“…at this series’ core has always been a story criticizing the rich. In the first game (Horizon Zero Dawn), we learn that the reason the apocalypse even happened is that one wealthy man named Ted Faro (Lloyd Owen) recklessly experimented with nanotechnology for the military. The resulting “Faro plague” began converting all biomatter, including humans, into fuel, making life on the planet unlivable. Within 16 months, humanity had become extinct.

The cruelty of this rich man is further emphasized by the fact that he sabotages the Horizon Zero Dawn project — and the namesake of the first game — which was an effort to restart human civilization once the Faro plague succeeded in wiping out all life. He deleted the APOLLO protocol, a repository of all human knowledge, because he didn’t want future humans to know that he caused the apocalypse, rationalizing it as a kindness. Our lead Aloy exists in a hunter-gather society because of this one rich man’s ego.

We do not walk away with favorable opinions of the rich by the time the first game comes to a close, and the sequel takes this sentiment and heightens it. The rich become responsible for not only the problems of the past but also the present and future.”

Teaching A Robot To Love

This off off off Broadway musical came into being because of a fundraiser by the indie band The Doubleclicks. Teaching a Robot to Love (TARTL) is a story about a group of programmers in a company town building an AI. With themes of overthrowing capitalism, transhumanism, and queer love, this musical manages to straddle the line between not being too tragic or painful while still packing a punch, the way only a queer creator can deliver.

What I wrote:

“TARTL is excellent on many levels. For one, the characters are adorable. Singer Laser Webber did a great job writing this play with a lot of great comedic moments. We have everything from a funny slacker named Billie Pepper to the evil tech CEO Mr. Norton Norton. These may be archetypes we’ve seen before, but they are written well, with great comedic timing. Building a robot out of a human brain may sound like a horrifying plot, but coming out of the lips of standout Faun Terra (played by Jessica Reiner-Harris in the Fringe showing), they were an absolute delight.

An added benefit of being written by a queer writer is that the play manages to have a lot of diverse, queer representation. There is a lesbian romance, multiple nonbinary characters, and the central plot has a transparent trans metaphor about an AI realizing they are not in “the right body.”

At one point, the AI character MARSH sings a song titled Why Aren’t You Happy? which reflects on the feeling of not being accepted after transitioning. It was devastating in all the best ways. Lyrics like “I’m finally shaped like my mind says I should be. My parts are all fitting in the right place. Why aren’t you happy”?” brought me to tears as I reflected on my own nonbinary journey, and I am sure many queer fans will be able to relate.”

Dead End: Paranormal Park

Dead End: Paranormal Park is a young adult supernatural thriller based on the comic DeadEndia by Hamish Steele. It's about a neurodiverse Pakistani woman named Norma Khan (Kody Kavitha) and a trans man named Barney Guttman (Zach Barack) having adventures in the demonic-infested theme park, Phoenix Parks — a cross between Disneyworld and Dollywood. Norma and Barney battle demons, perform exorcisms, and along the way, become more confident versions of themselves — a staple of Young Adult (YA) media.

What I wrote:

“I think there are a lot of good moments here, and we need content like this now more than ever. We are currently undergoing a moral panic where the mere portrayal of queerness is being depicted as evil. Conservatives have labeled queer people pedophiles and groomers for simply being themselves.

In these dark times, it is nice to see a positive piece of queer representation that does not flinch from celebrating human difference. Barney is an out and proud trans man. Norma is a neurodiverse, brown woman who is strong and fearless. Children deserve to see characters like this — characters like them — reflected on the screen.”

Stray

BlueTwelve Studio's Stray is a charming game about a cat navigating a mysterious walled city governed by sentient robots. You play as an orange feline, effortlessly parkouring on top of railings, old air conditioning units, and signs. You can sleep in the laps of workers and musicians and headbutt cute robot denizens while simultaneously dodging deadly creatures.

What I wrote:

“…your cute cat is there for all these scary and sad moments, weaving through robot legs and sleeping on top of pillows in chill, rundown apartments. This adds tension, as a cat is a vulnerable creature that cannot kill a Zurk infestation in the same way as your stereotypical gun-toting protagonist. There is a certain terror in controlling a creature this fragile and helpless.

Yet our furry critter also momentarily diffuses the greater existential dread running through the game. Whenever the idea that humanity spent its final years fading away underground becomes too heavy, you can always have your cat sleep on a cute pillow, scratch up an art deco wall, or knock over a precariously positioned can of paint. Where some games have a dedicated dodge or swing button, Stray literally has a button dedicated to meowing.”

The House of The Dragon

This Westerosian prequel is set over a hundred years before The Game of Thrones show that became an international sensation, back when the Targaryen's still controlled the continent and dragons roamed the land. The House of the Dragon is about a feud between Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen and Queen Alicent Hightower and the men pushing them toward a civil war that will ravage the continent.

What I wrote:

“HBO’s Game of Thrones spinoff, The House of the Dragon (sometimes referred to online as House of Dragons), knew what it wanted to talk about in the very first episode. After it’s revealed that between two contenders to the throne — the cowardly Viserys I Targaryen and the wiser Rhaenys Targaryen — Viserys is given the Iron Throne because he is a man, we know that patriarchy is going to be a throughline in this story.

Westeros is a misogynistic society. Protagonist Rhaenyra Targaryen is repeatedly told that she cannot succeed her father — even after he has named her his successor — because he has also fathered a son. While both Rhaenyra and her gay husband (played by snack John Macmillan) fool around on the side, she’s the one who is scrutinized for it. She sires children outside of wedlock, and people talk openly about it in a way that would get them straight-up executed if she were a man. Hand of the King, Ser Otto Hightower, is so confident in his grandson’s succession that he undermines Rhaenyra’s legitimacy and treasonously plans for how he can ascend to the throne after Viserys’s death.

Yet more than the unfair expectations that women who want power must deal with to vie for it, The House of the Dragon is about how men use women to get what they want. It’s not simply that women are barred from positions of power and must work harder for less, but how they are so thoroughly groomed from an early age to follow the whims of men that resisting them becomes nearly impossible.”

Andor

This show is the best piece of Star Wars content out there right now. It's a prequel to the Rogue One movie, focusing on the character Cassian Andor and the radicalization that lead him to be a central figure in the Rebel Alliance. Filled with a diverse set of characters, Andor is a genuine exploration of fascism and what it takes to resist it.

What I wrote:

“It’s hard to understate how shocked and happy I am that Andor exists. I have been banging a drum for years that Disney has been putting out programming that often appropriates the aesthetic of social change and revolution while advancing pretty regressive narratives (see my take on Black Panther and She-Hulk as examples).

Yet with Andor, we have a show that is saying something explicit about the need for direct action in fighting fascism without pulling any punches. It is an earnest text that covers a lot of ground, and like every commenter with half a brain, the fact that the Disney corporation greenlit it is shocking to me. We get a show that depicts fascism as it actually is, and that is sadly too rare in pop culture.”

Conclusion

And now you know the best content of 2022. If you want to stay in the loop with other cool media takes, you know where to find me.

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About the Creator

Alex Mell-Taylor

I write long-form pieces on timely themes inside entertainment, pop culture, video games, gender, sexuality, race and politics. My writing currently reaches a growing audience of over 10,000 people every month across various publications.

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