There are times it feels like you really have to reach to find happiness. There are times it feels like everything around you is angry, dark, and heavy. There are times when it seems like the entire media landscape—from the news to the fiction you turn to when you need to escape the news—is conspiring against your valiant attempt to find reasons to smile and laugh every day.
This seems like one of those times, doesn’t it?
Looking back on posts from previous years, it seems that around this time every year, television decides to get really dark, and this year is certainly no exception. From Jane the Virgin and Nashville to This Is Us, there’s been no shortage of tears shed over fictional characters lately. And even in the world of cinema, this has been a rough patch if you’re looking for some escapist fun and unabashed joy; Oscar season isn’t known for its happy films, but this was a particularly heavy year, where even the film being praised most ardently for its joyful spirit (La La Land) ended on a bittersweet note.
What are we to do when things look dark? We celebrate the light. We appreciate moments of pure good where we find them. And we hold on to happiness like the precious treasure it is.
I watched a lot of Fuller House in the days around the presidential inauguration this year. It’s a show that exists for no other reason than to make people happy, and it does its job well. It’s not Breaking Bad or Orange Is the New Black, and not every show needs to be or should be. Sometimes you just want to watch a silly, simple show where storylines are wrapped up in 30 minutes with a group hug. It’s a throwback to a more innocent, less cynical time, and if you’re looking for some warm, fluffy feelings in your media-consuming life, I highly recommend it.
Another show that has become my antidote to all the death and cynicism on television in recent weeks is Timeless. It’s certainly not on the same level of fluffiness as Fuller House, but it’s about three fundamentally good people working together and becoming a family through trust, respect, and empathy, which is even better than fluff. Plus, it’s a time-traveling adventure with great costumes, impeccable guest stars (Fellow Once Upon a Time fans should check it out if only for Sean Maguire’s almost inhumanly charming turn as James Bond creator Ian Fleming.), and characters you feel good about rooting for—characters who have grown more in one season than some shows allow their characters to grow during an entire run, characters who fight for each other, characters who have big hearts and are big nerds. It also has my favorite developing romance on television right now between Wyatt Logan and Lucy Preston, and there is no happier feeling than watching a fictional relationship progress from initial skepticism to respect to fake engagements to real hugs to “I cannot lose you again!” to opening hearts and taking chances—all in the course of one season.
Beyond the world of television, the happiest media I’ve consumed lately is the movie I am most strongly rooting for during tomorrow’s Oscar ceremony: Hidden Figures. Don’t get me wrong; I loved La La Land and won’t be sad at all if it wins Best Picture, but Hidden Figures was something special. I haven’t loved a movie with the passion I feel for this one since walking out of The Force Awakens over a year ago.
Sometimes you just want to leave a movie theater feeling uplifted and inspired, and that’s exactly what Hidden Figures is all about—spreading joy and hope, even while acknowledging that there are times in our history as a nation where those things have not been easy to come by. Hidden Figures is a movie in which hard work is rewarded, friendship is celebrated, women build each other up and break barriers down, and good things happen to good people. It’s a movie that reminds all of us—especially women (and even more especially women of color)—to hold on to the passions, the work, and the interests that make us happy, even if they aren’t what society thinks we should focus on. It’s a movie that shows women that there is nothing “weird” or “wrong” about being smart and owning your intelligence (especially in STEM fields); in fact, your intelligence and pride in it could change the world. And it’s a movie that provides young women with role models they desperately need; superstar scientists who are intelligent and hardworking but also fun-loving, flirtatious, rebellious, warm, and kindhearted.
I loved Hidden Figures so much that I immediately bought the book it was based on, which is just as inspiring as the film. It’s inspired me to push for this topic—women of color in STEM fields—to be included in a book series the publishing company I work for is creating, and I could not be prouder to continue to share these stories with the young women (and men) who will read the book we’re working on. On days when the world seems oppressively dark and growing darker, that’s where I’m finding the light.
Finally, no post about media that brings me joy should end without including the one medium that always warms my heart: the stage. Last week, I had the pleasure of watching a filmed version of the Broadway musical Newsies with two members of the NGN Family—Mary and Shauna—and it reminded me how much joy I get watching talented people dance in front of a live audience. If you need a quick burst of joy today (or any day), this video should do the trick; it always works for me:
Now it’s your turn to share your current media happy places! What books, movies, TV shows, stage shows, and web series are currently bringing joy into your life?