The Top 20 of 2020
When it comes to life itself, sometimes it’s easier to see the road in the rearview mirror. When it comes to public blogging, it’s nice to sometimes take a look back and see what worked best—that is, what got the most traction and feedback. I know it has been popular to joke about how horrible the last year was (this is my favorite 2020 meme), but a lot of good happened too. In my own narrow corner of cyberspace, below are what you might call my Top 20 of 2020: the ten most popular blog posts of the year, and ten notable writing (or related) events that took place last year.
First up, the ten most popular blog posts of 2020, listed in reverse order.
Early in the year, COVID-19 started to dominate the news, as well as our daily lives. As we all were forced to adjust to a new normal, I made a surprising discovery: one particular practice I put into place a few years ago had helped prepare me for responding better to the coronavirus than I otherwise would have.
Maïmouna Doucouré, director of the French film Mignonnes (English: Cuties), is passionate about fighting the hypersexualization of young girls in western culture. Much of what she has publicly stated resonates with my own convictions. In many respects, she and I are on the same page when it comes to our cultural observations. When it comes to solutions, however, we are far removed—as I tried to explain in this open letter to Ms. Doucouré.
Published in 2014, this is one of my first posts highlighting a prominent problem within the entertainment industry. It’s a problem that exists in broad daylight, and yet it often remains ignored, minimized, or dismissed—even in our #MeToo era. Sometimes a cultural problem can be best exposed when we listen to those most directly and egregiously affected. This blog post began my years-long exposé, something which will continue into the future.
My first blog post of 2020 proved to be one of the most popular. The Wolf of Wall Street showed up on several critics’ “Best films of the decade” lists—as did Margot Robbie’s cinematic skin parade. Her example powerfully illustrates the toxic atmosphere within western culture in relation to our view of women.
If you’re not familiar with Michael Ward, you are missing out. He is credited with making a vital discovery about C. S. Lewis’ inspiration behind—and purpose for—writing one of the most beloved fantasy series of all time. Ward’s insights into the foundational elements of the Narnia books are eye-opening—to put it mildly.
With the help of some prominent conservative Christians, my views on the topic of race have changed over the years—but that change took an accelerated rate in 2020, leading to my first public post about the topic. Here, I attempt to lay out the conservative case for treating the topic of societal racism more seriously.
As a Christian cinephile, I am no fan of faith-based filmmaking. Many Christian films rely on caricature building, wish fulfilment, and even outright deception to promote their messages. I explored these problems as exemplified by the film God’s Not Dead in this blog post, originally published in 2016.
When Christians discuss the sexualization of entertainment, the focus is often on how the visual medium affects audiences—with no regard for the actors themselves. While most of my commentary on the subject has focused on the latter, this one highlights the former. Published in 2014, this post remains one of my blog’s most popular reads.
The story of Salma Hayek’s rise to fame poignantly illustrates what many female entertainers experience in the entertainment industry. Her example struck a chord with readers, leading to this piece being shared more extensively on social media than most of my posts.
My favorite television series comes from my least favorite genre: the world of faith-based filmmaking. Director Dallas Jenkins (son of Left Behind’s co-creator Jerry Jenkins) and his team have pulled off a nearly impossible feat: revisiting the story of Christ’s life on earth without simply rehashing all the New Testament biopics that have come before. In fact, The Chosen has broken new ground, and may prove to be the premier depiction of the life of Christ in a visual medium. This blog post, by far the most popular of the year, actually serves as my second review of The Chosen. (You can see my first review below.)
Those are the first ten of twenty highlights from 2020. Below are other happenings from around the internet that afforded me an opportunity to reach a wider audience with messages I’m passionate about. The following list is in (roughly) chronological order.
1. My first Chosen review. Before writing my most popular blog post of 2020, I penned a review of The Chosen for the site Speculative Faith: The Chosen: Speculative Fiction Meets a Factual Savior.
2. Support for my online course. Earlier this year, several bloggers reviewed my online course (which deputed in late 2019), entitled Personal Purity Isn’t Enough: The Long-Forgotten Secret to Making Scriptural Entertainment Choices. Here are a few blurbs:
- “My husband and I have been talking about [entertainment choices] for years, and the fact that this perspective has never crossed our radar blew my mind. Game changer.” (Susan, The Sparrow’s Home)
- “[W]hile I’ve never before seen anything referencing this component in discussions about purity, sex, and media, I now realize it’s needed now more than ever.” (Emily, Table Life Blog)
- “It is eye-opening, to say the least, and I would recommend that you allow your teens to take this course.” (Grace, Grow & Edify)
3. XXXChurch article. A ministry I have long respected agreed to publish an article of mine, entitled Secondhand Porn, in which I discuss the ways pornography has infiltrated many forms of our entertainment in ways we are largely unaware.
4. My first book endorsement! I was privileged to review and endorse the stellar book The Pop Culture Parent. Not only will I be referring to this book for years to come, but its emphasis on incarnational parenting was instrumental in shaping my views that would later become the piece on racism linked to above.
5. The Gospel Coalition article. TGC published an article I submitted to them entitled If You’re Fighting the Culture War, You’re Losing. Its provocative title gained a lot of attention, ultimately pushing it to the number one spot on the site for a couple days. Even though it wasn’t crystal clear from the title, the article critiqued a particular (albeit prevalent) approach to the culture war—not all approaches or uses of the term itself.
6. Shout-out from Bob the Tomato (kind of). My above-mentioned article for The Gospel Coalition garnered the attention of Phil Vischer (best known as the creator of VeggieTales). It was quite an experience hearing my article read in Vischer’s voice. (You can click this link and skip to the 22-minute mark to hear the article discussed.)
7. Radio show guest appearance. I was invited to appear on the radio show The Ride Home with John and Kathy, during which we discussed the Christian’s role in the culture war. You can view the segment by clicking here.
8. The Christian Post articles. I started contributing occasional op-eds to the national news website The Christian Post. I’ve been impressed with this publication’s commitment to print viewpoints from all across the political spectrum, rather than act as an echo chamber for only a narrow segment of the Christian population.
9. Podcast guest appearance. I got to contribute to an episode of the Fantastical Truth podcast, hosted by Zackary Russell and my friend E. Stephen Burnett (one of the co-authors of The Pop Culture Parent). We addressed the topic of boycotting, and if it is an effective tool in cultural engagement. You can listen to the episode here.
10. A second book endorsement! This time, I got to review and promote the excellent book The Best Movies You Never Saw. As much as we like to complain about there being “nothing to watch,” there really are plenty of options. We just need to know where to look. The Best Movies You Never Saw is an excellent resource that will help you do just that.