Warning: This piece discusses abuse and harassment, both verbal and sexual.

It’s time for everyone’s favourite annual tradition: I present to you the ten shittiest pop cultural phenomena and events of 2015! Maybe they weren’t objectively the shittiest in a utilitarian sense, but all of them were notably shitty in ways that make them worthy of inclusion on this list.

10. The Academy Awards telecast
After taking last year off from the list, the Academy Awards telecast is back for 2015. We all expected Neil Patrick Harris, usually so affable and comfortable, and a proven host of the Tonys, to do great things. Unfortunately, he seemed completely out of his element. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: can we get Hugh Jackman back, pretty please?

9. Cardboard Computer’s unacceptably ludicrous release schedule for Kentucky Route Zero
I understand the desire to let creators do as they please, because restrictions and meddling often result in subpar art. But some creators abuse that freedom, and Cardboard Computer is one of them. Their episodic adventure began back in 2013, a year which saw the release of two of its five acts. Then, a single act was released in May 2014. Since then? Nothing, aside from a few cryptic teases, and a weird mini-sode that didn’t feel like it had anything to do with the main game. The delay got so bad that Kentucky Route Zero was even temporarily featured on a Steam curator list called the Scam Report. I understand that Cardboard Computer is a small team, and I’m sure they’re working their hardest to make the best experience possible. But this is one instance where a publisher breathing down their necks might have helped matters.

8. Togetherness
HBO dramedy Togetherness started off strong, with an excellent cast and sharp writing. But it quickly devolved into documenting and dramatizing trivialities in the lives of well-off, privileged white folks. (No, I really don’t care about your struggle to send your kid to a “good school.”) Then, it jumped the shark and dove straight into a stupid infidelity plotline. The existential ennui of people who are in a better financial situation than 90% of the American public just isn’t as interesting as Hollywood types seem to think it is.

7. The Batman: Arkham Knight PC version debacle
By now, the details are well-known, so I’ll provide only a short summary. Batman: Arkham Knight’s launch on PC was riddled with issues, including missing settings, choppy performance, and a locked 30 FPS frame rate cap. It was so bad that the publisher, Warner Brothers (WB), took the unprecedented step of pulling the game from sale until the problems could be fixed. It later came out that WB had likely known about the issues but had decided to release the game in its broken state anyway. When the game was finally re-released a few months later, it was barely fixed, and many players still reported performance issues.

There’s no acceptable reason to release such a garbage PC port in 2015. Even Japanese publishers, notorious for half-assing PC ports (or neglecting to do them entirely) have done better in recent years. WB has completely eroded any trust that the gaming public had in them.

(You can read my review of Batman: Arkham Knight here.)

6. The Muppets reboot
Contrary to popular belief, the problem with ABC’s Muppets reboot isn’t its edgy humour or its mockumentary style, it’s the fact that the whole endeavour feels utterly soulless. Watching The Muppets should bring the warm fuzzies. Instead, watching ABC’s reboot feels like drinking lukewarm cocoa or eating chicken soup directly out of the fridge. And on top of that, it just isn’t funny.

5. GamerGate is still a thing, because the Internet is populated by fucking idiots
GamerGate, the shitstorm of a culture war that – let’s be real – is only tangentially related to video games mostly died down this year. (THANK FUCKING GOD.) But traces of it remain, and worse still, nobody seems to have learned a damn thing from it. It looks like nepotism and abuse apologia are going to continue in “progressive” gaming circles, while angry gamers will keep spewing their misogynist fuckwittery all over the Internet for the sake of justice? Revenge? Pleasure? I don’t fucking know. Pretty much everyone involved in this debacle is wrong on some level, and the fact that warring factions have emerged along traditional left/right lines is as predictable as it is sad.

Even Law and Order: SVU got in on the “fun,” with an episode called “Intimidation Game,” an over-the-top display of fearmongering and cynicism that may have been the worst episode of television I’ve ever seen. Seriously, it was that bad. And to make matters worse, the ultimate message of the episode seemed to be: “Women shouldn’t make video games, unless they want to get raped.” What kind of message is that? Good fucking grief. Oh, and for the record, Punjabi is pronounced “puhnJAHbee,” not “poonJABbee.” That latter pronunciation is a pretty awful way to pronounce a rape survivor’s name.

4. Konami continues to be the fucking worst
I don’t really have a dog in this fight, seeing as I’m not a fan of any of Konami’s properties. (I’m sure Silent Hill and Metal Gear are great; I just never got into them.) But still, it’s tragic to see one of the former great Japanese video game publishers fall so far. It’s understandable that they would want to move away from major video game publishing towards more lucrative mobile and entertainment endeavours, but they’re doing so in a way that shows nothing but contempt for both their customers and their staff.

First, there was Konami’s shuttering of Kojima Productions, the studio helmed by the legendary Hideo Kojima. Not only did they close the studio, they also removed all Kojima branding from the Metal Gear Solid V. Weirdly enough, though, they kept insisting that Kojima was still employed by the company, despite being “on vacation.”

The shuttering of Kojima’s studio also led to the cancellation of a collaboration between him and Guillermo del Toro, titled Silent Hills. Games get cancelled all the time, so this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but Konami took the additional step of deleting the playable teaser for the game, P.T., from the PlayStation store. It was a giant “fuck you” to the entire Silent Hill fan base.

Then came the reports that Konami was treating its employees like prisoners, even going as far as to set employee e-mail addresses to strings of letters and numbers that would randomly change every few months. And just before those reports, of course, was the EROTIC VIOLENCE.

Finally, as one giant “fuck you” to the entire gaming community, Konami’s lawyers forbade Hideo Kojima from attending the 2015 Game Awards to accept an award for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. There’s no other way to react to Konami’s avalanche of shittiness – come on everyone, say it with me:

Fuck Konami.

3. Gawker outs an executive at a rival media firm
Back in July, Jordan Sargent of Gawker posted a story about a married executive at a rival media firm who corresponded with a gay escort, thereby possibly outing him in the process. The story (rightfully) sparked outrage from readers, who pointed out that the story was about a relatively unimportant person’s personal life, and as such, was not of interest to Gawker’s readership. This prompted Gawker’s management to remove the story, without editorial’s consent, thereby causing a massive internal conflict in the company. Editors Tommy Craggs and Max Read announced their resignations, and more staff followed suit afterward.

The worst part, though, was that Gawker’s writers basically threw a temper tantrum when management interfered. They didn’t seem concerned about the fact that they had potentially ruined a man’s life. No, they were far more concerned about their precious editorial independence, thereby demonstrating that they didn’t possess the level of maturity required to have editorial independence in the first place.

2. The rise of Donald Trump
To some, this might stretch the definition of pop culture, but Donald Trump’s rise is best understood as a pop cultural event, because let’s face it: Donald Trump isn’t a serious politician. Donald Trump is the capitalist excess of America reified. Donald Trump is Trump Tower and Miss Universe and The Apprentice and WWE and Trump Mortgage and Donald Trump’s Real Estate Tycoon, which is an actual video game that you could play on Windows XP.

Donald Trump has been elevated from pop cultural figure to politician by the American public, and he has dragged his bigotry, brashness, and boorishness along with him. He is a national disgrace, and with any luck, America will not be inaugurating President Trump in 2017.

1. Jake Mcelfresh is allowed to play a Warped Tour date
Back in 2014, musician Jake Mcelfresh, who performs under the moniker Front Porch Step, was accused of sexually harassing several minors. (He reportedly sent nude pictures of himself to them, among other things.) When the allegations came out, he was dropped from the Warped Tour, and everything went quiet for a while.

But then, on July 1st, 2015, Mcelfresh was permitted by Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman to perform at the Nashville stop, because it was part of his “therapy.” This was despite the fact that Mcelfresh met many of the girls he sexually harassed at festivals! The next day, Mcelfresh’s ex-girlfriend, Autumn Lavis, released a lengthy story about the emotionally abusive relationship she had with him. A few weeks later, this resulted in Mcelfresh trying to take Lavis to court.

As usual, abusers are allowed to run rampant, while victims are punished for speaking out. This would be angering, but it’s so typical that it’s just depressing. So I’ll just say this: Fuck Jake Mcelfresh, fuck Kevin Lyman, fuck the Warped Tour, and fuck Konami, because I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this were all somehow Konami’s doing.

(Dis)honourable mentions:

  • Season 1 of The Last Man on Earth (Season 2 has been a vast improvement.)
  • The death of Scott Weiland (No hope for a proper Stone Temple Pilots reunion now.)
  • Marvel’s Ant-Man
  • Supergirl
  • Jon Stewart leaves The Daily Show
  • Season 3 of Orphan Black (It was so boring and confusing that I gave up halfway through.)
  • Parks and Recreation and Cougar Town ended
  • Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly
  • Forward to the Sky
  • Sunset
  • Numerous video games delayed until 2016
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (It wasn’t terrible; it just didn’t live up to the hype.)
  • Evolve’s ridiculous DLC

Well, that’s it for 2015: the year in shit. I’d say that we should hope for a better 2016, but you and I both know it’s going to be equally shitty. Rejoice!

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