Amy Brenneman
Amy Brenneman

December 14, 2014

That List-y Time of Year

Oh boy do I loathe it, this time of year.


Not the holidays – I am a big booster of those. Lights, prezzies, treats loaded with sugar and white flour? Big fan.


No what I’m talking about are the endless articles in every newspaper, article, blog and bubble gum wrapper in existence. You know what I’m talking about. You loathe it too.


“The Ten Best Movies of the Year!!
“The Top TV Shows!!”
“The Best Dressed!!”
“Winners! Losers!”
“Something you thought was good was really bad (according to everyone else)!”
“Something you thought was bad is going to win the Oscar!”
“Whatever exists in the world we will judge it and PUT IN ON SOME LIST!”


I can’t deal.


I read recently that Janice Min, now an editor of “The Hollywood Reporter” pushed the “100 Most Powerful Women in Hollywood” thing because lists sell, as they did at “Us Magazine” where she formerly worked. Lists are easy to read, easy to comprehend. Lists feed into our high school, reptilian amygdala brain. Am I “in”? And if I’m not, is my team?


I don’t write this from a position of sour grapes. I have been nominated for things and have been on lists. There is of course a jolt of euphoria, followed by anxiety about all the tasks that have to be accomplished before going to an awards show. (You already know how I feel about waxing …)


But the problem is the same as the problem with reading reviews. If you believe the good ones, you must believe the bad. So if your spirits rise excessively when you are nominated, they are necessarily crushed when you are not. Live by the sword, die by the sword, baby.


I teach my children (and myself) that there is no good or bad when it comes to humanity and art. Every offering is beautiful, valuable and unique. It is not like a track race where there is a clear winner based on a clock. Art is not like that. Yet every year, publications put out their Definitive List of The Year’s 10 Best. Egos are crushed like ants under an unconscious, drunken picnicker’s shoe.


An orgy of judgment.


They keep it in check all year, then editors bombard us with these lists and we can’t help but be affected. (I can’t anyway.) It’s like saying to an alcoholic who has been sober all year, “Ah, it’s the holidays! Drink a gallon of spiked egg nog!” We emerge the day after the Oscars, hung over from the final, orgiastic red carpet, unable to remember the last two months, much less who won even yesterday.