21 people, places & things that give us hope for 2021


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When coronavirus shut down the world in March, many of us believed that state of affairs might last a few weeks or a month at most, but nine months later, we’re all still waiting it out, and it’s taken a heavy emotional toll. Indeed, if it weren’t for the recently-approved Covid-19 vaccine, there would be very little to be hopeful for.

Luckily, the year had some bright spots. These came courtesy of certain people, places, and things that gave us reasons to smile, feel good, and most importantly, have hope for the future. And while experts believe it will still be some months before we see any semblance of normalcy, the bits of hope we took from 2020 will, with any luck, be enough to carry us through until then.

Here’s a list of 21 people, places, and things that helped us see the light at the end of the tunnel and gave us reasons to believe that 2021 will be a better year than its predecessor. 

Harvey J. Alter

1. Nobel Prize winners Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice

The Covid-19 vaccine wasn’t the only major medical breakthrough of the year. The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to scientists Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice for discovering the Hepatitis C virus. The Nobel Prize Organization called the discovery “a landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases.”

Fiona Apple

2. Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple emerged from quarantine in 2020 to release Fetch the Bolt Cutters, her fifth studio album and first release in eight years. Anyone who thought she might have lost a step since her last album was pleasantly surprised to find that it was her best effort in a long time, leading Pitchfork to call it to say that “no music has ever sounded quite like it.”

Baby Yoda action figure

3. Baby Yoda

This year, during season two of The Mandalorian, we learned that Baby Yoda has a name, and that name is “Grogu.” All fine and good, but we’re going to keep calling him Baby Yoda just the same, and you probably will too. We include him on this list because of season two’s cliffhanger ending, which you’d better believe has already fully primed us for season three in 2021.

earth and sun

4. Earth

After a couple of months of lockdown, a strange thing happened – the planet became significantly less polluted due to fewer cars on the road and fewer planes in the air. This led to some stunning photos, such as one featuring Los Angeles without its famous smog. While a photo of dolphins swimming in Venice’s canals was sadly debunked, here’s hoping we can continue to reduce pollution when things get back to normal.

European bison
Wikimedia Commons / Talks Presenters 09

5. European bison

2020 brought more ecological good news: The European bison, Europe’s largest land mammal, moved from “Vulnerable” to “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ Red List thanks to continued conservation efforts.

drive-in movie
Kirkikis / iStock

6. Drive-in movie theaters

The drive-in movie era ended decades ago, but with theaters closing due to Covid-19, some people decided we needed to watch at least one film from someplace other than our couches this year. This led to a resurgence of drive-in venues, many of which satisfied our need for comfort viewing by showing such old family favorites as E.T. and Back to the future. While we’re all waiting for traditional theaters to return, we hope this rediscovered pleasure continues after quarantine.

Anthony Fauci
NIAID / Wikimedia Commons

7. Anthony Fauci

Physician and immunologist Anthony Fauci became a regular fixture in our lives as coronavirus took hold, and he’s become a welcome face during task force updates from the White House. With the news that he’ll be joining President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, we have faith that his presence will help guide us out of this era and into better times.

Coronavirus vaccine
licsiren / iStock

8. The Covid-19 vaccines

Yes, this is kind of a no-brainer, but it would be journalistic malpractice not to include the Covid-19 vaccines on our list of things that give us hope for 2021. While medical authorities have said it will take months to get it into enough people’s biceps to make life return to normal, that at least puts “return to normal” within reach. So we’ll take it, thank you very much.

Dolly Parton, 1970
RCA Records / Public Domain

9. Dolly Parton

Just playing a few seconds of a Dolly Parton song can put a smile on anyone’s face. In 2020, however, she really went the extra mile by donating $1 million to research that eventually led to Moderna’s vaccine for Covid-19. So next year, when it’s your turn to go to the doctor and get vaccinated, remember to thank the woman in her Tennessee mountain home.

Gal Gadot

10. Gal Gadot

2020 should have been a banner year for actor Gal Gadot, whose long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984 was initially scheduled to be in movie theaters over the summer. Coronavirus derailed those plans. The movie will now get a limited release on Christmas Day and a simultaneous debut on HBO Max, significantly reducing the revenue this would-be tentpole blockbuster will earn. But Gadot generously said, “Before the pandemic, I would’ve flipped out and had a tantrum and fought super hard… But in pandemic times, you just don’t know.” Here’s hoping she gets to play Wonder Woman again and gets the box-office blockbuster she deserves.

Brian Johnson

11. Brian Johnson

Hard rock veterans AC/DC did the unthinkable in 2020 by releasing the Power Up album. It was unthinkable not just because founding guitarist Malcolm Young had passed away in 2017, but because lead singer Brian Johnson had incurred hearing damage that could have rendered him completely deaf. But with grit, determination, and medical interventions, he returned to the band at age 73. When coronavirus fades away, we’ll be first in line to watch him shriek in the world’s stadiums, as god intended.

Paul McCartney

12. Paul McCartney

Like Fiona Apple and AC/DC, Paul McCartney made 2020 a little less drab by releasing his McCartney III album. One of the benefits of lockdown was that it allowed the former Beatle to play every instrument on the album, and it got great reviews from critics and fans alike. Maybe this means that McCartney IV is not a long way off?

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Gage Skidmore

13. Lin-Manuel Miranda

In the period known as the Before Time, the hottest ticket in town was Hamilton: An American Musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Theatergoers would spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to see it, but when theaters closed in March, that was the end of that. Rather than grouse about all the money potentially left on the table, Miranda announced that the musical would premiere on the Disney+ streaming service over the July 4 weekend, so people who couldn’t go to theaters could enjoy the show.

Catherine O'Hara

14. Catherine O’Hara

All good things come to an end, and sadly that includes Schitt’s Creek, which concluded this year. While the show excelled in every respect, special mention must be made of Catherine O’Hara, who played ex-soap-star Moira Rose. From the outfits she wore to her pronunciation of the word “baby,” every single thing that she did was absolute comedic genius. We eagerly await whatever she does next.

Catherine Oxenberg

15. Catherine Oxenberg

Actor Catherine Oxenberg was a cast member on Dynasty during the 1980s. She returned in a big way in 2020 by appearing in two separate documentaries, The Vow and Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, both of which focused in part on her attempts to rescue her daughter India from the NXIVM cult. While the details of what happened in the cult are pretty salacious, her determination to save her daughter is incredibly inspiring. It shows what one determined mother can accomplish, even against long odds.

Sister Norma Pimentel
Facebook / Alliance for Catholic Education

16. Sister Norma Pimentel

It’s not unusual for nuns to work with disadvantaged people, but it is unusual for them to land on the Time list of 100 Most Influential People of 2020, which is precisely what happened to Sister Norma Pimentel. For three decades, she’s worked to help Mexican migrants seeking refuge in the U.S., and Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, singled out her “boundless hope and fearless compassion,” which he said had made her “the Pope’s favorite nun.”

MacKenzie Scott
Facebook / MacKenzie Scott Foundation

17. MacKenzie Scott

Another person who landed on the Time list of 100 Most Influential People of 2020 is MacKenzie Scott, known to some as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife. The divorce settlement was worth $35 billion (with a “B”), and it made her the third-richest person in the world, but rather than stuff it under her mattress, she began donating it to various charitable causes. So far, she’s donated $1.7 billion to 116 organizations, all of whom focus on racial, gender, and LGBTQ+ equity.

Lizzie Smith
Lizzie Smith / @makeshift.macaroni / TikTok

18. Lizzie Smith

In April, many of us started to figure out that quarantine wasn’t going to end anytime soon, and the less-than-smooth transition to doing everything on Zoom was here until further notice. If you were Texas music teacher Lizzie Smith, that was not great news, so she went on TikTok, where she is known as @makeshift.macaroni, strummed her ukulele, and began shrieking. We predict that her video will be a more accurate summation of the Covid-19 era than any scholarly article.

Jennie Stejna
Gunn Family Photo

19. Jennie Stejna

The rapid FDA approval of the Covid-19 vaccine has given us all hope, but back in May, hope was hard to come by. Indeed, we all had to make do with the stories of people such as Jennie Stejna, a 103-year-old resident of Easton, Massachusetts, who tested positive for the virus. For people of her vintage, that was potentially fatal news, but she defied the odds and recovered on her own. That alone would be enough reason to hope, but she went the extra mile and celebrated her recovery by asking for a Bud Light, which she drank in her hospital bed. Inspiring!

Anya Taylor-Joy
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

20. Anya Taylor-Joy

If the coronavirus outbreak had taken place before the streaming era, we probably would have gotten a lot more reading done. Instead, we streamed and streamed and streamed, and luckily the content was often good enough to keep us going for another day. One show that resonated was The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a chess prodigy. Her performance carried the show, and we’re looking forward to seeing her in Furiosa, a spinoff of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Phoebe Waller Bridge

21. Phoebe Waller-Bridge

 Anyone who’s watched Fleabag knows that Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a great comic actor and writer. They may not know that No Time to Die, the forthcoming James Bond movie, is notable for her contributions to the screenplay. It was initially scheduled to open in April, but it’s been postponed until 2021, so we’ll have to wait until then to see her effect on this beloved franchise. But if it’s anything like what she’s contributed as a writer to Killing Eve, then it will show that she’s more than up to the challenge of writing convincing espionage with a sharp wit.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org