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Orlando, Rio, and the Election of Doom: The Summer in Review

summer 2016 in review

Looking back at the eventful, tragic, Pokémon-packed summer that was.



Photo: Danni Siminerio

What should've been an historic Pride--the one year anniversary of nationwide marriage equality and the designation of Stonewall as a national landmark among the reasons to celebrate--turned out to be a reminder of the importance of Pride, community, solidarity, and visibility.



Pride season got off to a tragic start after a gunman mowed down 49 patrons of Orlando's Pulse nightclub in the most deadly mass shooting in American history. The following days saw a shocked nation, a united LGBT community, and a feeble (at times insulting) response from GOP leaders. But out of tragedy, some light emerged, such as the advocacy group Gays Against Guns and House Democrats sit-in protesting Republican inaction on gun control.

The RNC and DNC


The angry white man's SuperSoul Sunday known as the Republican National Convention reminded everyone that the GOP is basically the worst, while the Democratic National Convention took a decidedly less apocalyptic approach to its messaging.

Either way, Donald Trump came out looking worse after both, thanks largely to his penchant for indiscriminately shitting on people with his carelessly-chosen words.

But the undisputed winner of both conventions was Michelle Obama, whose 2008 speech found its way into Melania Trump's mouth during the RNC, and whose epic, empowering, show-stealing, wig-snatching speech at the DNC had many asking, "why isn't she running for president again?"

Songs of the Summer

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The annual race for summer supremacy took off yet again this year with several contenders for "song of the summer" including: Drake's "One Dance," Calvin Harris and Rihanna's "This Is What You Came For," Ariana Grande's "Into You," Beyonce's "Sorry," Desiigner's "Panda," Kanye West's "Famous," Fifth Harmony's "Work from Home," Mike Posner's "I Took a Pill in Ibiza," Sia and Sean Paul's "Cheap Thrills," and The Chainsmokers' "Closer."

On the album front, Frank Ocean made his long-anticipated, oft-delayed return with Blond, while Britney Spears came back with the strongest album she's made in years with Glory.

On the road, Beyonce and Rihanna battled it out for pop dominance with their respective global tours, forcing gays the world over to choose sides, or at the very least, to choose on whom to spend an exorbitant amount of money.

Summer TV Heats Up, Summer Blockbusters Busted

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Summer TV is usually where bad shows go to die, but not this year, thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and their buzzworthy shows like BoJack Horseman, Lady Dynamite, The Get Down, Difficult People, Casual, and the bona fide phenomenon Stranger Things.

With the end of GoT, HBO flatlined with Vinyl, then saw hits in The Night Of and Vice Principals; while basic cable was anything but basic with the critically-acclaimed docuseries OJ: Made in America, as well as returning critical faves Mr. Robot and Unreal. Even the barren wasteland that is network TV had a few bright spots, such as ABC's Match Game and CBS's BrainDead.

Also, a special shout-out to Full Frontal's Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight's John Oliver. Though Trevor Noah is growing on me, these Daily Show alums consistently proved the true heirs to Jon Stewart with a series of though-provoking segments and the best election coverage on TV.

The summer box office was perhaps the least memorable in years, with a number of flops and failures, from the unfairly maligned Ghostbusters reboot to the fairly maligned Independence Day and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboots, proving that Hollywood is not necessarily out of ideas, it's just got a surplus of really boring, tired ideas we've already seen.

Black Lives Matter?

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The shocking deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile caught on video galvanized the nation and lent new energy to the Black Lives Matter movement. But as progress was tentatively made, the assassination of five police officers in Dallas led to criticism of BLM and the spawn of Blue Lives Matter as a diametrically opposed movement, obscuring the conversation on racial profiling and downplaying the systematic injustice of America's police system.

Rio Olympics


What promised to be a shitshow of Olympian proportions turned out to be pretty all right, unless you're Ryan Lochte. Or that straight journalist who thought Grindr was the last news frontier. Still, this year's games saw a record number of out athletes

Black American women, in particular, proved that #blackgirlmagic extends to the Olympic arena. Pint-sized powerhouse Simone Biles was the undisputed star of the Games, raking in four gold medals and one bronze, while swimmer Simone Manuel and the US track and field team led by Allyson Felix made history--and looked fierce AF while doing it.

Even while denied equity at home--Gabby Douglas being shaded for not putting her hand over her chest during the national anthem as one glaring example--these women shined for their country and made Americans proud to be American in a time when it's not so easy to feel that kind of pride in this country.

Trophy Snatching

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Speaking of snatching metals, the Tonys, BET Awards, and the VMAs shone brightly, to varying degrees.

Falling just hours after the Orlando shooting, the Tonys had a difficult job--celebrating art in the wake of tragedy--but host James Corden and Broadway's best did an admirable job while still remaining respectful and tasteful.

The BET Awards, perennially the best awards show on TV, gifted us a life-giving performance by Beyonce and a life-affirming speech from actor/activist Jesse Williams.

The VMAs gifted us with yet another life-giving Beyonce performance; Rihanna doing the most work, work, work we've seen her do...ever; as well as the triumphant-enough return of VMA all-star Britney Spears.

Revenge of the Gay Nerds

pokemon go

The summer of 2016 may well be remembered as the summer of Pokemon Go, with the insanely popular mobile game taking over, ruining, and occasionally ending lives.

Elsewhere, Comic Con and its queer sis Flame Con invited geeks to let their inner hotties come out of the closet with some truly inspired cosplay outfits.

The Summer Shade

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Probably-evil billionaire Peter Thiel finally got his revenge on questionably-evil media conglomerate Gawker, which closed its virtual doors for good in August after a protracted legal battle stemming from Gawker's 2007 outing of Thiel.

After making a to-do about not approving Kanye's braggadocio about making her "Famous," Taylor Swift was the victim of a drive-by Snapchat receipting by America's moral center, Kim Kardashian-West.

But the gold for shade goes to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who perfectly encapsulated how at least half the country feels about Donald Trump in three simple words:

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