The Year in Arts: Taking Our Minds Off the Recession

The year 2009 was one of recuperation and recovery. The country was climbing its way out of economic recession but the crawl was slow and unsteady. The year was marked by several momentous events that showed promise of a brighter 2010 — the inaugaration of Barack Obama, the Dow closing above 10,000 points in October, and finally the markets closing on a good note in December. The S&P500 was up by 24.71 percent for the year and a 2.2 percent GDP growth in the third quarter. Despite all these signs of recovery, 2009’s entertainment scene was split between escaping reality and making the best of it.

Lady Gaga caused an uproar in the music scene. Channelling the glam rock of David Bowie’s days, Lady Gaga never failed to shock and impress with her fierce gaudy style, throaty voice, and unabashed sex appeal. The Black-Eyed Peas made a comeback with an electric pop take on their usual R&B. A new slew of teen idols including toothachingly-sweet Taylor Swift and Disney’s trouble child Miley Cyrus rounded off the pop scene. The artists that took 2009’s pop music scene by the storm either offered surrealistic performances or the regurgitated forms of comfortingly familiar pop songs.

Films continued the trend, flip-flopping between fantastic, bigger-than-life productions like Avatar and subtle but beautiful films like Up in the Air and An Education. Other big-budget blockbusters included Transformers 2, New Moon, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. All had faithful followings and were anticipated well in advance. Crowd pleasers also included the vulgar but hilarious Hangover. The Blindside tapped into audiences’ consciences and philanthropic natures, delivering a heart-warming family movie. Despite the cutbacks on luxuries, Americans did not skimp on movies, opting for either films that provided temporary sanctuary from reality or films that tapped into the human conscience.

The year of 2009 was the parting farewell to the last decade and (hopefully) the economic downturn for good. The 2000s were happily free to extreme fashion faux-pas like iced-tip highlights (oh, the Backstreet Boys days) — lacking the fluffy popness of the 90s. The 2000s saw a revival of the punk phase, but with a school-girl makeover and tailored more to mainstream culture. The latter part of the decade channeled the 80s. In came the skinny jeans, footless leggings, everything reminisicent of the past but with an edgier, darker spin. Even when American Apparel made neon bandage skirts “hip” again, the neon was a bit more in-your-face and fierce than the original. 2009 ended the decade in entertainment and fashion on a decently high note. 2009 showed that under the most dire circumstances, the entertainment industry can still manage to engage their audience — through lighthearted distractions, CGI and wow-factors, or a spin on things from the past.

Maggie Liu, Associate Arts Editor