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Commencement 2020: Four years in review

and | Friday, May 15, 2020

Diane Park

It’s time to turn the clock back to what, in retrospect, seems like a simpler time: late summer 2016. The class of 2020 first arrived on campus via an “Ultralight Beam,” looking forward to four years of academic and faith “Formation” and dreaming of staying up “All Night” with friends. Not yet Destroyed by Hippie Powers,” their arrival was marked with optimism. 

Then came a particularly tumultuous election, four years of personal and societal ups and downs and an ending no one could have predicted back in 2016.

As the class of 2020 graduates, they stare uncertainty in the face. But the fact that they even made it this far, through struggles and strife, is a testament to their resilience. When the time is right, they’ll “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” exit the “Door Less Open” and take on the world.


Diane Park


Aug. 20, 2016 –– “Blonde”

At the peak of 2016’s glorious musical explosion, as the class of 2020 arrives on campus, Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” delivers 17 songs so painfully beautiful, they could imbue a robot with actual human emotions. Always conscious of genre but never restrained by it, Ocean’s tracks pave an inroad to the lover’s unwieldy insecurities and make peace with them.

Oct. 21, 2016 –– “Moonlight”

Barry Jenkins devotes his directorial debut to Chiron’s bildungsroman, illuminating the darkness and beauty of a black man’s Miami experience with delicacy and grace. The popularity of the phrase, “Have you seen ’Moonlight’ yet?” skyrockets.


Diane Park


Jan. 27, 2017 –– “Culture”

The best things come in threes. Quavo, Offset and Takeoff of Migos know this well. The number three, embodied in the musical triplet, gives “Culture” its teeth. With every “ba-da-da / ba-da-da / ba-da-da,” Migos indoctrinate its listeners into the mindset of a cultural revolution.

Feb. 24, 2017 –– “Get Out”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut dares the Academy to take genre films seriously with its brilliant fusion of horror, comedy and social awareness.

Feb. 27, 2017 –– An envelope fiasco at The Oscars

The envelope proves to be a far more complicated device than previously anticipated. Some poor soul’s inability to use it properly dupes the world, for just a moment, into thinking that “La La Land” — a dreary musical about zany white people who play jazz music — received Best Picture over Barry Jenkins’ incisive opus “Moonlight.”

Spring 2017 –– Notre Lame Memes for Straight Edge Teens

The student body’s official meme page breaks 4,000 members (mostly normies). The new membership demonstrates an inability to distinguish between “is a meme” and “not a meme,” often gravitating towards the latter.

April 14, 2017 –– “DAMN.”

Kendrick Lamar returns with the highly-anticipated “DAMN.” The album draws faith, fame, fear and systemic racism into its broad lens. The album emanates kingship and preaches humility, all the while managing to suspend the inherent contradiction in a self-aware solution. Critics and fans, again, reach the heretical consensus that Kendrick is a god among men.

Fall 2017 –– Male consequence and the #MeToo movement

The fall of Harvey Weinstein in October sets off a domino effect, uncovering decades of abuse in the entertainment industry. The ensuing #MeToo movement offers survivors a platform on which to expose the wrongdoings of seminal entertainers (Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey), cult heroes (Evan Stevens Hall and Jesse Lacey) and politicians (Al Franken and Roy Moore) and initiate a change in the industry culture.

Nov. 3, 2017 –– “Lady Bird”

Greta Gerwig directs Catholic school angst. There may not be a film more suited to the Notre Dame student’s unique sensibilities.

Jan. to Dec. 2017 –– Comedy off the beat

Deeming traditional comedic avenues stale, 2017 television repurposes its medium in less than orthodox regions. “The Good Place” finds a riotous sweet spot in the cracks of serious moral philosophy; “Nathan for You’s” fourth season continues to uncover the hilarity of American business’ tragic condition with increasing ambitions; “Rick and Morty” fills its nihilistic, selfish and dysfunctional quantum travelers with a warm, gooey and relatable center; and “Bojack Horseman” paints the distraught image of existential despair on the face of an acerbic horse. All contribute to the era of “peak television.”

Jan. to Dec. 2017 –– Girls who rock

Rock isn’t dead. It’s just not “for the boys” anymore. Sheer Mag’s stadium rock raging on “Need to Feel Your Love,” Priests’ punk ponderings on “Nothing Feels Natural,” Alvvays’ surrealist dream-swings on “Antisocialites,” Vagabon’s electric intimacy on “Infinite Worlds,” Waxahatchee’s anthemic accents on “Out in the Storm” and Charly Bliss’s candy-coated chaos on “Guppy” drive this point home.


Diane Park


Feb. 16, 2018 –– “Black Panther”

Ryan Coogler teams up with Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger) and Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) to bring an unapologetically black depiction of heroism to the big screen. The resulting film exceeds everyone’s already-lofty expectations.

Spring 2018 –– A music scene appears at Notre Dame

For the first time in far too long, student musicians proliferate and collaborate on Notre Dame’s campus. In a series of house shows and guerrilla performances, these musicians (epitomized by talents like Ninjoi, Felix Rabito and LadiBree) and their supporters strive to make Notre Dame cool.

Spring 2018 –– Fortnite

100 enter. One leaves. Beware of the storm. Have at it.

March 30, 2018 –– “Golden Hour”

Leaving the strict country music space — populated with its delusional cowboys — Kacey Musgraves goes the way of the “Space Cowboy,” a path that drops the traditional parameters of genre and replaces them with the infectious pop melodies and pulsing disco beats of a woman free to roam the cosmos as she pleases.

April 6, 2018 –– “Invasion of Privacy”

Cardi B’s music has one volume (loud) and one direction (in your face). Consequently, “Invasion of Privacy” comes off as both loud and in your face. Her empowered speech shakes the listener into a frenzy until he or she starts buzzing on her wavelength, and it does so without shying away from any of the glitz, glam or grit associated with the hip-hop lifestyle.

April 27, 2018 –– “Dirty Computer”

Janelle Monae’s cutting lyricism, unparalleled melodic sensibility and razor-sharp production confidently voice a version of black femininity for a world on a fast track to fully automated luxury communism. “Dirty Computer” bursts out of the margins, asserting its unapologetically human aspirations against a code-centric cultural artifice.

April 27, 2018 –– “Lift Yourself”

“Poopy-di scoop / Scoop-diddy-woop / Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop / Poop-di-scoopty,” Kanye preaches. “We are both dragon energy,” Kanye tweets of Trump. Scene needs some time to process this, reflect a bit. It’s a confusing time for all of us.

 May 5, 2018 –– “This is America”

Childish Gambino condenses black culture’s domination of the mainstream and several years’ worth of turmoil into four minutes and four seconds to pose the question: Does black entertainment empower the black community, or does it simply distract consumers from the violence and racism persisting in the background?

Aug. 15, 2018 –– “Crazy Rich Asians”

Jon M. Chu’s romantic comedy digs into issues of interfamily cultural rifts with the palatable tools of a familiar formula. The first of its kind to feature a predominantly Asian and Asian American cast, “Crazy Rich Asians” refuses temptations of the archetype, instead opting for a multidimensional cast of characters.

Fall 2018 –– “Mo Bamba” vs. “Sicko Mode”

“Alexa! Play ‘Mo Bamba.’”

“No Alexa! Play ‘Sicko Mode!’”

“Alexa stop! Play ‘Mo Bamba!’”

“Grrr. Alexa!”

Oct. 5, 2018 –– ”A Star is Born“ 

“A Star is Born” — the fourth time around — raises questions. Can this movie actually work in 2018? Will the story’s age show? Can Lady Gaga act? Can Bradley Cooper sing? Gaga’s caterwaul, mid-“Shallow,” drowns these questions in a sea of beautiful noise, muffling Cooper’s voice cracks and filling plot divots with her saccharine melodies. Yes, the film may be “Shallow” at points, but it’s worth watching.


Diane Park


Spring 2019 –– Leggings: The Meme

When inflammatory Letters to the Editor destroy the floodgates, memes stream into the collective consciousness from all angles, sweeping up the tri-campus community in a referential whirlpool surrounding a popular piece of apparel and a certain angry mother.

Dec. 3, 2018 (Released), Spring 2019 (Goes Viral) –– “Old Town Road”

Lil Nas X makes huge strides for the yeehaw Agenda, resurrects Billy Ray Cyrus and coins the term “Country Trap” with his viral sensation “Old Town Road” — a track tailored to a meme-oriented and mash-obsessed listener base. Despite pushback from the Billboard Hot Country charts, the general populace welcomes the strange novelty of “Old Town Road” with open arms and loose feet.

April 2019 to May 2019 –– “Game of Thrones” Season 8

The final season of television’s biggest show tyrannizes the Sunday night Twitter feeds. No fan favorite can escape the writers’ wrath, and no viewer can hide from rogue spoilers as they materialize in cyberspace without warning, ready to assassinate everyone’s enjoyment Arya-style.

April 15, 2019 –– Notre-Dame Cathedral Fire

The Parisian symbol of art and culture goes up in flames. The world mourns its loss.

April 26, 2019 –– “Avengers: Endgame”

The final installment of Marvel Studios’ gargantuan cinematic project delivers a satisfying conclusion to the 22 films that, beginning with 2008’s “Iron Man,” reimagined the superhero for the 21st century. Please snap.

May 3, 2019 –– “Father of the Bride”

Six years after “Modern Vampires of the City,” Vampire Weekend returns (minus Rostam). Unlike the localized collegiate (“Vampire Weekend”), east-coastal (“Contra”) and urbanite (“Modern Vampires of the City”) personalities of their previous efforts, “Father of the Bride” assumes a global scope, connecting a deeply intimate exploration of familial love to an overarching, exceedingly positive vision of world peace.

Summer 2019 –– Hot girl summer

Following the example of Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion, everyone is encouraged to go out and live their best life under the sun. Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” originally released in 2017, becomes the song of the summer.

July 29, 2019 –– “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” 

Quentin Tarantino returns with help from veteran actors Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt as well as Margot Robbie. The film is steeped in nostalgia for the tail end of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Margot goes to the theater, Brad takes off his shirt and Leo points at the screen.

Summer & Fall 2019 –– HBO still wins

“Game of Thrones” ends but HBO is eternal. “Chernobyl” mixes history and fiction to tell a cautionary tale, “Euphoria” paints a dark picture of the iGen and “Succession” goes into the world of the uber-rich and powerful.

August 23, 2019 – “Lover”

Taylor Swift proves that she’s still got it.

Fall 2019 –– The music scene rages on

In backyards, basements and living rooms, students gather to rock out. Bands like Felix Rabito (later St. Dismas), Basement Boxers, The Shifties, and Almighty Loaf put on shows that we won’t forget. To any non-seniors, come join the scene next semester.

Oct. 5, 2019 –– “Parasite”

South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho creates a gripping thriller that offers tense comedy, suburban terror and social commentary. It’s the first foreign-language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and deserves every award it won.

Oct. 25, 2019 –– “Jesus Is King” 

Kanye West loves God. Some people love Kanye, other people do not. 

Dec. 25, 2019 –– “Little Women”

Great Gerwig writes and directs an adaptation of Louis May Alcott’s classic novel. Timothee Chalamet tries to hang with an all-star cast of actresses — Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep.


Diane Park


Spring 2020 – Tik Tok

It’s not the Ke$ha song and it’s not Vine, but everyone’s doing it, so maybe it’s time to try the renegade and join the crowd.

March & April 2020 – S— hits the fan

Things are not great. We miss our friends. Nevertheless, pop stars The Weeknd and Dua Lipa provide upbeat escapism, Fiona Apple returns with “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” and there are tigers on Netflix. We’ll get through this somehow.

May 17, 2020 — Commencement


Check out Scene’s Commencement 2020 playlists below:

The Hits:

Scene’s Favorites:

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Former Scene Editor (2020-2021). He is currently washed up. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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