I don’t want to be that person who says ‘it’s been a tough year for us all’, because we’ve heard it over and over and over. So I’ll just say ‘bloody hell, it’s been shit, hasn’t it?’ For me, there have been pockets of joy (I started my Masters, got engaged, and my blog started picking up traction), but I am tired of living through life changing events. If you ask a millennial ‘so, what world event defines your generation?’, I can guarantee they’ll start staring into space, and it won’t be long before the eye twitches. Can we just have a few decades of quiet? That would be nice.
To get through this year, as well as using humour as a defence mechanism, I’ve thrown myself into what I call ‘comfort culture’. To me, comfort culture is based around books, films, TV shows, videos, games that make you feel good, that bring you joy! It can be because they bring you back to your childhood, remind you of happy times, serve as a distraction, or are just right up your alley. Goodness knows we’ve needed some of that over the past few months.
As we still have a way to go in these ~unprecedented~ times, I thought I’d compile a list of the ultimate comfort culture that got me through 2020 (and is keeping me going in 2021). Have a read, have a think of what your ultimate comfort culture moments are, and let me know!
Starting with perhaps the greatest film ever made (and I am not joking when I say this) – Legally Blonde. For years this has been my ‘I’ve had a bad – no, the worst – NO, the most awful-est day ever’ film. There’s not a lot flopping on the sofa with a bottle of rosé, a kebab, and Legally Blonde can’t fix. It’s the perfect balance of kitsch, funny, and serious – a trio that not a lot of films can do well. Plus, there’s something about it that makes me want to get changed out of my leggings, slap on a red lip, and take the world by storm. Currently from a laptop, of course…
If I fancy some existentialism and concern over what I am doing with my life, then Lost in Translation is the one. I have to say, it’s one of the most exquisitely shot films I have ever seen. Plus, the soundtrack is a piece of art in itself. It isn’t typically a comforting film; depending on how you look at it, it is particularly melancholy. However, it’s one of my all-time favourite films. I know it inside-out. I know the characters, the story, the themes, the dialogue, the delivery etcetera etcetera etcetera. The familiarity I have with this film feels like a warm blanket getting wrapped around my shoulders. It’s safe and warm and predictable. And we need that sometimes.
Traveling back to the world of the kitsch, we have the most quotable film of all time (or at least of the 1980s). Of course, I am talking about The Princess Bride. As soon as the rolling hills of the opening credits begin, I am swallowed up into a world of make believe and princesses, sword fighters and swash-buckling pirates, evil villains and friendly giants. It is silly, whistleful, and purely fun. When the world is turning as a illness-ridden boiling pot of fear, you simply need to watch a beautiful woman and a handsome farm boy fall in love, one of the best sword fights in history, and wrap yourself in the eighties-ness of it all.
When I tell people that this book is a comforting read for me, I get quite a few raised eyebrows and/or concerned looks. I’m talking about The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Whilst the book itself deals with the darkness of mental illness and does not shy away from brutal moments, it is actually a book full of hope. I first read this book as a teen on the verge of adulthood, just diagnosed with depression, and unsure what it meant or why I was feeling this way. The book guided me through. Even though that time period has thankfully passed, every time I pick up this book I can find something that speaks to me. The Bell Jar is a comforting reminder that things do get better.
My next comfort book is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Ooh we love reading a dystopian novel in a worldwide lockdown and pandemic! As November 2020 started creeping in, along with the winter chill and prospect of a different Christmas, I found myself reaching for this book. Why? Because of the memories I associate with it. I first read this book on a sunlounger by a pool whilst visiting my fiance’s home in Dubai. Not only did I reach for the book, but the smell of the sunscreen, the waves of summer heat, and the feel of the sand under my feet.
Let’s get a little non-traditional here. I know online media isn’t typically seen as a form of ~culture~, but it’s the content and culture that I consume the most! Especially YouTube; there are so many creators out there, all with different specialities and interests. Whilst my feed is full to the brim daily with my subscriptions, there are three content creators who bring me comfort and joy, no matter what the video.
First up, we have fashionista-beauty-guru-foodie-bundle-of-joy Jenn Im. Jenn is a Korean American YouTuber, whose monthly vlogs and videos are always so aesthetically pleasing. Whether she is talking about her clothing line, her favourite meals, meditation, or vlogging a trip to Big Sur, her personality just radiates warmth. Whilst I’m not interested in living the LA life myself, I feel I can live vicariously through Jenn’s eyes.
Then we have the incomparable Helen Anderson; my all-time favourite content creator. Whilst I originally found her on a search for more style based creators, as opposed to just fashion, she’s now become my favourite all-rounder. Personally, my favourite videos of hers are her vlogs, her everyday living – she’s brutally honest, belly-laughing funny, and it almost feels like you are watching a friend walking about her life.
My final favourite channel on YouTube is a little bit more niche. I first came across TheTimTracker when my partner and I were planning our November 2019 trip to Florida. Tim and his wife Jenn make videos on their life in Florida, exploring theme parks, and generally living a dream lifestyle. They post every single day and every video they post either fills me with happy memories of my holiday, or fills me with excitement for when we go on our honeymoon in 2022!
So those have been the films, books, and online content that have been keeping me grounded and bringing me joy in this pandemic; my comfort culture. I do believe that this last year has proven how important the arts, in whatever form, are to the world. It can lift us up, make us think, serve as a distraction, educate – I might be biased as a creative person myself, but the world would not be worth living in without the arts.
Let me know what comfort culture you’ve been indulging in this past year. What’s been keeping you grounded or making you happy? I’m all for recommendations!