Content warnings for discussions of mass violence and sexual misconduct.

I really don’t want to do this.

When I first started this feature, my list of pop cultural disappointments at least included some creative works that failed to live up to my expectations. But with each year, it seems like scandals and disasters occupied more and more of my attention. Well this year, it’s all scandals, and I just don’t have the energy to go in depth on each one, find source links, and write a compelling mini-essay.

But I’m nothing if not a traditionalist, and this is one of my blog’s annual traditions. So reluctantly, I bring you 2019: The Year in Shit.

10. Rooster Teeth Animation’s Labour Fiasco
In June of 2019, allegations emerged that Rooster Teeth had put its animators through excessive crunch and falsely promised to make its contract employees full time. This led to the resignation of animation head Gray Haddock, and high-profile layoffs at the company a few months later tarnished the image of the company in its fans’ eyes. Corporations are not your friends, people.

9. Media outlets practically foaming at the mouth for Joker to cause a mass shooting
By now you’ve probably heard every ridiculous take about how Joker is a pro-incel movie designed to start an uprising of sexually frustrated males. I’m not going to dignify that kind of gross, horrific bullshit with a response. Fuck every media outlet that put out that kind of clickbait.

8. Glumberland and the Epic Games Store
Glumberland, the indie devs behind the upcoming charming-looking Ooblets went Epic-exclusive after initially promising to list on Steam. This isn’t the place to unpack the whole Epic Games Store controversy. However, the tl;dr of my opinion is that major publishers that make games Epic-exclusive on PC are just being greedy fucks, but I won’t fault any indie dev that chooses to do so in order ensure financial security. Anyway, that’s not really the heart of this controversy. A developer at Glumberland put up a condescending blog post about exclusivity, and gamers responded by respectfully pointing out the condescension and telling him to get off his high horse… hahaha, no. Gamers got furious, started a harassment campaign against him, and tried to frame him as anti-semite. This whole thing is just such dumb fucking bullshit. It’s never enough to express one’s annoyance and move on; one has to declare anything bad the worst fucking thing in existence and then attempt to eradicate it. And no, Glumberland isn’t innocent in this fiasco either. People who create self-fulfilling prophecies and then act like poor victims deserve the world’s tiniest violin.

Also, the Epic Games client is still shit. So fuck Epic too.

7. “I Stand with Vic”
In late 2018 and early 2019, sexual harassment allegations against prolific anime voice actor Vic Mignogna started surfacing, some dating back to the ’90s. Soon, there were dozens of allegations, productions started firing him, and he was disinvited from multiple conventions. He tried to sue for defamation and wrongful termination. He lost. Meanwhile, his fans tried to discredit his accusers, harassing them over social media and starting a campaign called “I Stand with Vic.” Once again, the ugly, misogynist side of fandom has reared its head.

6. The Maho Yamaguchi Scandal
I kind of have to cover this one in some depth, because I think a bunch of Western commentators really missed the point of what happened here. Back in December 2018, member of Japanese idol group NGT48 Maho Yamaguchi was assaulted by three men outside her home. After reporting the incident to group management and being frustrated that nothing was being done, she alleged a month later in now-deleted social media posts that other members of the group had leaked her personal information to these men. She was then forced to apologize for these comments publicly at a concert. Then things got messy. The Internet exploded with support for Yamaguchi and rage against NGT48’s management, several of her fellow group members removed “NGT48” from their social media profiles in solidarity, NGT48 went into full damage control mode, and eventually, Yamaguchi left the group to sign with a talent agency.

What Western commentators got wrong about this fiasco was that they framed Yamaguchi’s apology as an attempt to placate the group’s fans, probably based on negative stereotypes about the kinds of people who would be super into idols. That may have been management’s intent, but if so, it backfired spectacularly. The backlash was in fact led by the group’s fans, who called out the apology for the management-mandated bullshit it was. There seems to be a bizarre, kind of racist assumption in Western commentary that Japanese people aren’t aware of their cultural norms of excessive official apologies and accept these kinds of things with open arms, like they can’t see a circus act for a circus act. This incident proved those commentators wrong on that point, but somehow I doubt they’ll actually learn from their mistakes.

5. The Overwatch Ellie fiasco
Another disappointment that made it onto the list both for the scandal itself and the subsequent media coverage. In late 2018, Overwatch Contenders team Second Wind signed Ellie, a female Overwatch player who had rapidly risen through the ranks. The only problem? Ellie didn’t actually exist. She was a creation of male player Punisher as part of a bizarre sexist stunt. Second Wind royally embarrassed themselves by not even doing a basic check on who Ellie was, and that would be bad enough, but this fiasco has layers. You see, people immediately suspected that Ellie wasn’t who she said she was, based on the erratic quality of her play and delays in comms that sounded Cyrano-esque. And of course, people used this as an excuse to launch sexist harassment at this player (who didn’t even exist). But then gaming news sites made an ugly situation worse by only reporting on the harassment and not investigating any of the suspicious circumstances surrounding it. So when it came out in early 2019 that Ellie didn’t actually exist, they too had egg on their faces. Nobody comes out of this fiasco looking good.

4. Blizzard Caves to China
Short summary: Hearthstone player and tournament winner Blitzchung said “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time!” on an official stream, and Blizzard rescinded his prize money and suspended him for a year, in addition to firing the two commentators on the stream. (They later gave Blitzchung back his prize money and halved his suspension in response to the backlash.) It was pretty clear that Blizzard did this because they didn’t want to piss off their Chinese partners, which in this case is implicitly condoning the Hong Kong administration’s Beijing-mandated crackdown on the city’s protests. Later, at BlizzCon, Blizzard head J. Allen Brack gave the world’s shallowest and least substantial “apology” for the incident, referring to it as a “tough Hearthstone esports moment.” Blizzard can go fuck itself, and so can the Chinese Communist Party.

3. The Jussie Smollett scandal
Making up a fake hate crime to garner public sympathy might be one of the most repulsive non-sexual-misconduct-related things a celebrity did in 2019. Fuck this asshole.

2. The Burning Sun scandal
The scandal that rocked the Korean entertainment industry is too big and all-encompassing to summarize here, but it involves sexual harassment, creepshots, and rape committed by K-pop stars, illicit drugs, police corruption, illegal business practices at Seoul nightclubs, and much, much more sordid business. Adding to the shitshow, deranged fans supported some of the scandal’s biggest players throughout this mess. In the end, not much seems to have changed in the Korean entertainment industry, and I suspect the most significant consequence is that bad actors will just get better at covering their tracks.

1. The Kyoto Animation arson attack
On July 18th, 2019, a man deliberately started a fire at one of Kyoto Animation’s buildings, killing 36 and injuring almost as many more. This crippled the work of one of Japan’s best (and most labour-friendly) animation studios, and it caused an immeasurable loss of talent. My heart goes out to the victims.

(Dis)honourable mentions: Failures in Western anime distribution (e.g. the failure to license Business Fish or the Psycho-Pass films); Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice; Captain Marvel; My Husband Won’t Fit; Anthem; Untitled Goose Game; Fallout 76‘s continued woes; Fire Force

Yeah, writing this up was demoralizing. I don’t even want to make jokes right now. Fuck all the bad shit in the world.