Cultural Icons of 2020

Source: Pixabay

Written by Megan Evans

As soon as we entered a new decade, it is safe to say we were not expecting the year to unfold how it has. During these uncertain and troubling times, we have been relying so much more on popular culture and beacons of hope through inspirational figures that have kept us somewhat sane to tackle an ever-changing world.

We have seen a surge of change through mediums such as TikTok, that has grown profusely over the past year, and social media platforms being used to promote a lot more positivity during the pandemic, through the Black Lives Matter movement, to public figures discussing mental health more openly.

We have had a lot of icons that have emerged out of the year, and some that have transformed the way we think even in this new decade from decades previous. 

Greta Thunberg

This young activist has continued throughout 2020, to advocate her thoughts on the most devastating environmental impacts. She argued that the COVID-19 crisis had been particularly interesting as she reflected on the dependency we have on science and is consistently disputing the campaigns that have been made by particular countries such as China to reach net-zero by 2060.

She has taken her activism around the globe, to places such as the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York and the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, where she delivered such an embodied, and passionate speech that put some of the greatest leaders in their place, by stating that a 100 companies alone are responsible for 71% of global emissions.

Continually through her digital activism, she has pledged through holding mass video calls and events, and online campaigns to increase participation during the US elections.

A further 350 young activists from around the world gathered for a two-week virtual climate summit in November, which elevated the voices of young people on the front lines of the crisis.

There is no doubt that she has continued to force pressure on the EU leaders, calling for more action on carbon budgets and fossil-fuel divestment, which has made her a very important icon.

Ann Sullivan

This incredible lady, who, unfortunately, passed away during the year 2020, worked on some most popular classic Disney children’s films, including The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.

Her artistry transformed these studio titles and hosts a bursting resume of credits including ‘Oliver & Company’, ‘Peter Pan’, ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Lilo & Stitch’, and ‘Hercules‘.

She is also credited for having worked as a cel painted on 1994’s ‘The Pagemaster‘ and painting on 2004’s ‘Home on the Range‘.

Her legacy will continue to inspire generations of young creatives, even though many probably don’t ever know her name.

She joined Walt Disney Studios in the 1950s in the ink-and-department, which mirrored that of many women within that generation. They had the excruciating job of painting individual animation cels that make up the feature films within the studio, a time way before computers.

The Disney movie company has continued to capture the hearts of each young person, to budding adult, by pushing boundaries and setting new standards. ‘The Little Mermaid‘ was a particular hit, as it was the start of the Disney Renaissance, which helped continue the success of other films within the Disney family.

Megan Thee Stallion

After a horrendous public scrutiny between herself and Tory Lanez, this successful black singer had multiple viral songs, that emphasize her influence within the music industry.

Not only being an artist, she is a business woman and an environmental activist. Female rappers have found it particularly difficult to make an impact within the industry that is hugely dominated by men.

Her rise to the response to decades of misogyny and through a thriving feminist culture, she has continued the legacy of self-sexualization. She has successfully displayed female sexuality without centering around men.

She managed to make it to the Time magazine’s most influential people of 2020, as a pioneer which is described as ‘recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the world by ‘harnessing power of influence to forge genuine progress’.

When dropping her amazing album, she promoted her empowering single ‘Body‘, which honours diverse body types. ‘Shorts Fired‘ confronts the horrendous incident with Lanez, by transforming her experience into a spectacular discussion on the lack of justice that Black women receive in harmful situations.

Breonna Taylor

The shooting of Breonna Taylor stands out as one of the most horrific events to have occurred last year, which ignited and stemmed a lot of the Black Lives Matter movements, due to her story being overlooked and ignored by the media, and the brutality of the black community being killed due to law enforcement. The killing of this black woman, resonated with people around the world, with protestors demanding the public to say her name.

Kimberle Crenshaw, Director of Colombia Law School for Intersectionality and Social Policy stated ‘black women are routinely killed, raped and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality’.

Crimes against black women are quite commonly forgotten about, with black women having to deal with not only the oppressive system that occurs with the white patriarchy, but also the injustice of gender.

Kamala Harris

She is the first Black woman and Indian American to be nominated for Vice President by a major political party. Being raised by a strong woman, allowed her to continue this strong womanhood for the rest of her life and career.

In response to crises that have occurred within 2020 from COVID-19, to economic inequality and systematic racism, Kamala has advocated through her passion and dedication by making a tremendous mark on history within the US Senate.

She also represents the millions of women that are overlooked, underrepresented and systematically ignored by a new position of power that hasn’t been seen before.

During her first speech as vice president-elect, Harris stated ‘While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last’.

‘Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities, and to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.”

Chase Strangio

This American lawyer and transgender rights activist managed to aid with the succession of the most important legal moments within LGBTQ+ history by a conservative-majority Supreme Court ruling the protection of LGBTQ+ people within the workplace and public spaces by federal anti-discrimination laws.

A case was brought forward by a transgender woman named Aimee Stephens, with Chase Strangio being ACLU’s deputy director for trans justice, who is a transgender male himself. Stephens was fired from her job at a funeral home, after informing her employer that she was transitioning.

His legal work and selfless activism towards the LGBTQ+ community continues to inspire generations of people.

He has even written about his own painful struggles throughout his life and continues to help those convicted unfairly, and won many awards for his outstanding contributions for the trans community.

Micheala Coel

Coel’s work of ‘I May Not Destroy You’ became one of the most talked-about TV shows of 2020, and an amazing cultural achievement. She has become such an icon on screen through her compelling performances, including her award-winning comedy ‘Chewing Gum’. She wrote an immense 191 drafts of I May Not Destroy You’, which fictionalizes the tragic story of her sexual assault.

She portrays her consciousness so well through her writing and creative flair advocates her brilliancy and her own attempt of making sense of the senseless, and by allowing the message of sex, race, and trauma so apparent in her work, which are difficult topics to express in its truest form.

The Atlantic stated ‘A writer less volcanically talented than Coel might struggle to weave one of these themes into a 12-part series’.

It is particularly great that this show deals with racism, as considering the horrendous experiences that Coel had to endure to get to the position she is in.

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