December is officially upon us, meaning that it's time to look back on the truly unprecedented year that was 2020. A global pandemic changed a lot of how we lived our everyday lives, causing many to spend more time expressing themselves and uniting with others online. That was certainly no exception for the beloved micro-blogging website Tumblr, which released its annual Year in Review feature on Monday morning, chronicling a pretty wide swath of content that its users were talking about in 2020. The posts highlight the most popular content on Tumblr for a full 365 days, from October 21, 2019, to October 20, 2020. The topics highlighted in there range from the best shows, movies, and ships of the year, to more esoteric topics like aesthetics, memes, and food. There are even special acknowledgments for properties that were specifically noteworthy this year, from The Witcher to Twilight to Avatar: The Last Airbender to, yes, even Supernatural's Destiel.
In celebration of the launch of Tumblr's Year in Review 2020, ComicBook.com sat down with Tumblr Trends Expert and "Meme Librarian" Amanda Brennan to discuss it all. Keep reading to find out how exactly the Year in Review data is collected, what the most surprising elements of this year's findings are, and where Tumblr seems to be headed going into 2021.
ComicBook.com: What is the process like for compiling the top stats at the end of every year?
Amanda Brennan: Beginning last year, we started using October to October data. So we're able to include December and to look at a full 365 days. So midway through October, there's a day where I do nothing but look at numbers. We analyzed tens of thousands of lines of tags, and we weigh them based on the same structure that Fandometrics has. So each action you can take - which is a search, original post, a reblog, and a like - they're all weighted a little differently. So an original post is worth more than a like. And then it works all its number magic with the volume of all the tags used in the year, and then some more number magic compared to where it was last year. So we look at the whole ecosystem, categorize it into over 200 categories, and boil it down to about sixty.prevnext
Animal Crossing has a huge presence all over all of the various lists. I know you talked to us earlier this year at the peak of the fandom for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, so I'm really curious about how the fandom has evolved in the second half of the year, especially from a statistical standpoint. What has it been like as people are continuing to play the game beyond the initial window of when it came out?
People have been so hype about all the new releases. I know, right now, all anyone can talk about is sitting [in the game]. So Animal Crossing has continued to become a place where people keep iterating on their islands. We've seen so many QR codes and seasonal QR codes. During fall - Tumblr's power season - there were so many cute outfits and paths for the ground. People were so excited about updating their island to have pumpkins and organizing pumpkin patches. So I anticipate that that will continue into December, as the snow starts to fall.
Also, sharing dream addresses. That is something that came out since we last spoke. And some of the islands that people share, I saw a horror island earlier this week. I saw a video where someone has made an Italian city out of their islands. So it's just creativity, pushing the limits on what you can do in the game, and at the end of the day, also sharing your love for your favorite characters.prevnext
Another game that was on the list a lot was Among Us, which I know has skyrocketed to be a household name this year. What has the fandom been like for that on Tumblr? It feels like, even though the game is relatively simple, there's a lot of potential for fan expression there.
Yeah, there have been so many silly memes about being sus and being the imposter. But my personal favorite Tumblr fan experience about Among Us, I have to scroll up because I have the link open, a user named crimson-chains has been doing a Love Among As AU, where they have personified Pink and White and given them complete backstories. There's a whole comic series about how the two are in love, and it is a wonderful ship. But that's the magic of Tumblr, taking this game that is very simple, very flat, and adding that level of backstory to it.
But yeah, the rest of the fandom, there's tons of fan art, tons of overlapping fan art too, with YouTubers and streamers. Among Us is just so easy to pick up and such a great way to stay connected to people in our not-as-connected world right now.prevnext
I was also really fascinated by how prominent Star Wars was on the list. Obviously, Rise of Skywalker came out at the end of last year, and so I'm sure it accounts for the stats as the movie opened. But it's interesting seeing Reylo and a bunch of other things tied to the film be near the top of their respective categories. What has it been like to see that? Star Wars feels like the kind of thing that's always being talked about on Tumblr, but I'm curious what that's been like.
It's interesting. Specifically, I think about this a lot in the Ships list, because seeing Reylo as the top ship, there was so much discourse. And it, again, goes back to how we pull our, data October to October. So I think the discourse leading up to the release [of The Rise of Skywalker], the release, and then all the discourse afterwards, that's all got to be accounted for. And realizing that Destiel going canon [on Supernatural] happened on November 5th, so that was not accounted for in our data. So a part of me is like, "Do I just redo the whole campaign?" But we will have a Destiel post to talk about the events of November 5th.
I think with Reylo, and Reylo specifically, so there's just so many levels of nuance to that conversation. The discourse will continue to go on, and I think as more people, as time moves on from its release, people are going to continue to think critically about it and still have that conversation on Tumblr.
I didn't even think about the fact that Destiel would technically count for next year's data. That has to be very interesting from a statistics standpoint, because it felt like something that bled over into Twitter and all other corners of the Internet as well the night it happened.
I was online on my personal computer, scrolling through Tumblr, because that's what I do with my free time, and I saw this post, "Destiel is canon", and I was like, "Oh my God." I texted my team, I was like, "Everyone, get on your work computers. We have to go see what's going on." Looking at the data, looking at everything happening in the Tumblr ecosystem was wild. It just had this energy - no matter what fandom you were in, you were coming to Tumblr to see what was happening, because of all the election stuff and then all of the rumors that got caught up in it. The hashtag was #SuperPutinElection, as a call back to #SuperWhoLock. There are only so many nights on the internet that are like that, and I'm glad we had one of those this year.prevnext
Are there any titles this year, across any fandom, that you feel have jumped really far in the list over the course of 2020 or skyrocketed in popularity?
I feel like The Witcher, but that is also new this year. Even though the gaming fandom existed on Tumblr, having it go to Netflix, having it be as accessible and as female gaze-y as it is, I think that really opened up the game and the book series to a brand new world of fans. All the sh-tposts about Geralt and Jaskier. My partner, after we watched the show twice, has since played all of the games and I'm pretty sure is almost done with the book series.
I love it when a TV show or a movie or something comes out, and you see all the fans head back and be like, "Okay, now I'm going to go into this whole world." Avatar: The Last Airbender being released on Netflix was a huge game-changer for that fandom. It introduced the show to new, younger fans, and also reignited that love for older fans.prevnext
I'm glad you brought up Avatar, because I was amazed by the content on the lists that didn't actually come out this year, but is still experiencing a really fervent fandom, like Avatar and Good Omens. I find it funny with Avatar that Zuko has his own place on the Top 20 of 2020. If you had told me when Avatar came out the first time, that in 2020, Zuko discourse would still be a huge part of the internet, I would have found that incredible. So what has it been like to see the more archival, not immediately new content, still find a following on Tumblr?
Yeah, it's been interesting because this year has been such a year unlike anything [we've seen before]. Stuff's not being released. I was going over the Top Ships of 2020 predictions I had sent you earlier this year, and half of those things didn't come out. I think a lot of people turn to these nostalgic pieces of content for comfort throughout the pandemic. That's why Avatar is something a lot of people have fond memories of, can return to, and there's so much content to dive into. It's a good discourse, you hit the nail on the head there.
We've seen that too with Twilight. Twilight had all of its moments. Doctor Who is way up this year. And even thinking about Good Omens, it's just this thing that you can watch, and it's comforting. It's there for you. They're your friends, you're hanging out. So I think a lot of this year, it was focused on the stuff in your life that makes you feel cozy. And that's why we saw the resurgence of all these nostalgic things.prevnext
What fandoms or new interests have you seen pop up at the tail end of this year's data?
Among Us is a great example. I was shocked to see it so high with how late in the game it came to the table. Same thing with The Owl House. The Owl House was one that I did not see coming. And then they had Lumity, the ship, go canon and that opened up the door. I think when shows like that have ships that people can dive into, and a lot of like material to work through, something will happen and you'll see the fandom open their arms lovingly to the new fandom and all will start watching the show.
Criminal Minds, oddly enough. But again, that goes back to the idea of nostalgia and it's one of those shows that's in syndication, so whenever you watch it, you know what's going to happen. Also, The Magnus Archives, which is a podcast, again, that all ties back to a ship. I've been meaning to get into that show and it's on my to-do list.prevnext
From a personal standpoint, what has surprised you the most out of all of the statistics for this year? Just in terms of things that you might not have expected to have such a fervent fandom, or things that - like we said with Zuko - it's surreal that this is still something people are talking about in 2020.
I feel like it's hard to be surprised, because I've been doing this for so long and I'm so close to the data. It's like, "Oh yes. I finally have the data to justify my thoughts." One thing that I was really excited about is, actually, our Tumblr communities list. Cats of Tumblr has jumped up to number three and Dogblr is, I think, number seven. It's because we're at home so much with our animals, so more people are making content and wanting to participate in the community about their pets. So those skyrocketed this year. Half-Life VR but the AI is Self-Aware, that's another one that blew my mind for its existence.
That seems almost too specific, but also I know nothing is too specific for Tumblr.
I tried to watch it. I think it's the YouTube series or a webcomic, I forget because all of what I see are comics based on it. It's just not for me. And that's okay. Not everything is meant for everyone.
I'm trying to think if there's anything else [surprising]. I was excited to see [Tiger King's] Joe Exotic on our television personalities list.
It's so interesting to think about how larger pop culture and Tumblr co-exist, but also are different. This one's perfect. For our food posts, we looked at the top meals on Tumblr and brunch is the least popular. Just looking at the way that people talk about food on Tumblr, it's just so different. Even our recipes post is just like, you scroll through and look at the top recipes, and it's like, witches making herbal teas and herbal lemonades. And then someone made the Animal Crossing ice pop, that you always see the villagers eating. It's just so magical what people think about. The thing that surprises me the most about Tumblr is the types of content that people make and how creative they are.prevnext
At this point last year, we were looking into 2020, and the predictions for things were very different from what actually happened in reality. So obviously, anything can change, but looking into 2021, is there anything that is on your radar of something like, "Oh, this might be the next big thing on Tumblr."
I've been thinking about this a lot. I'm thinking more of this at a theme level than a specific thing level. I think we're moving into a place where cringe culture is over. People are fully ready to embrace the things that they love because they love them. It's all about flipping your perspective on things, and I think 2020 taught us all how to look at our core and realize what we value and actually put our hearts there.
And I think, when we talk about things that are going to be popular, Cyberpunk is going to kill it. I think people are going to continue to push the envelope about how they produce media. I think we'll see a lot of ... When I think about Unus Annus, I think we're going to see a lot more stunty, YouTube experiences. People trying something out and not being afraid to fail. I think we're moving towards an Internet that's okay to be raw again, and okay to shut off sometimes.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity and length.prev