DEATH TO 2020 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DEATH TO 2020 Review

Alexander Wallace remembers 2020. Why would anyone want to do that?

That year.

That god-damned year.

A war scare, a pandemic, riots, the ugliest election I can remember, wildfires, assassinations, and so many other miserable things. It’s the fury of being ripped away from all that I hold dear: dancing and friends and live music and DND sessions and other things of that nature. It really does feel like we’re living in a long, slow apocalypse (and, depending on how the world manages climate change, there are good odds that we indeed are), like the Parables duology or The Ministry for the Future or any number of Hollywood disaster movies.

At the beginning of Death To 2020, the interviewer asks a jaded New York newspaperman portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson to remember what happened in 2020. His response, paraphrased, boils down to “why would you WANT to?” I’d imagine a lot of us right now feel that way. A year where we had to remain in our homes and watched as the world burned around us.

Death To 2020 remembers that year so we don’t have to (to borrow a line from Doug Walker). In just one hour and ten minutes, the team behind Black Mirror (Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones) give us a whirlwind tour through the twelve-month dumpster fire (an image very much exploited by Netflix in its advertising) that we all had to endure.

The 'comedy event' film, overall, is quite funny, but the humor is not the most original. The jokes here are things that have become rather quotidian as we spend our lockdowns on various websites where we can scream at each other for brief bouts of catharsis. There are jokes about Trump being, well, Trump, there are jokes about Biden being centuries old (there’s a really good one involving Queen Elizabeth), and there are jokes about Boris Johnson being, well, Boris Johnson and Brexit being an unmitigated disaster (but, and it’s somewhat painful to say, far from the only unmitigated disaster this year). Those who want daringly new interpretations of the news will be disappointed.

But where it fails in originality, it succeeds in character. The narrator is voiced by Laurence Fishburn who delivers a healthy dose of snark; in these times, sometimes all you can do is laugh. Samuel L. Jackson shines as a burnt-out, exhausted news reporter. Hugh Grant portrays a historian who provides a historically-informed humor that many who frequent the same history buff circles I do will appreciate. The standouts to me were Cristin Milioti, who encapsulates the ‘Karen’ personality we have all come to loathe, and Leslie Jones who portrays a psychologist trying heroically to make sense of the lunacy our species has promulgated.

The greatest strength of Death To 2020 lies in its uncanny ability to capture a certain emotion that has afflicted all of us in one way or another: a sense of all-consuming hopelessness, of turning on the news and expecting a trainwreck in slow motion. It’s the feeling that the most powerful people on the planet are running eagerly to the deluge like lemmings, hauling us along with them as we cannot do anything to stop them. It’s the fury of seeing so many with influence choose to do nothing productive with it, who’d rather gain social media clout than help anyone concretely. It’s a raw despair that I think will capture a lot of the zeitgeist of the pandemic years as history marches on.

Ultimately, this mockumentary is about about how our entire world is ‘restructuring its feelings,’ to quote Kim Stanley Robinson quoting Raymond Williams. This is about how we were thrown into a bizarre science fiction story that all of us are writing in one way or another, traipsing to an ending that we cannot foresee. Death To 2020 tells us to stop worrying and learn to love the dumpster fire.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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