2021 is almost over, and many are using the remaining weeks to look back at some of the best and most memorable things of the past year. Earlier this week, Tumblr launched precisely that, debuting their expansive 2021 Year in Review statistics, chronicling the most popular things on the beloved microblogging platform. These lists covered everything from movies, TV shows, and video games to ships, communities, and more, showcasing some of the surprising and more unexpected trends among Tumblr users.
In celebration of Tumblr’s Year in Review being launched, ComicBook.com spoke with Tumblr Trends Expert Cates Holderness about some of the many highlights from this year’s crop of statistics. We spoke about the wild ride Supernatural and “Destiel” fans have gone on over the past year, the ways the lists (and their entries) have become more inclusive, the trends that could become popular in 2022, and so much more.
Going into 2022, based on early kind of analysis and forecasting, what would you say people are most excited about on Tumblr?
It’s interesting. I’ll be super curious. The two things that strike me that think this are going to be big on Tumblr next year — I think Minecraft is going to continue to grow and evolve. The Dream SMP was the #1 thing on Tumblr this year. Dream SMP and its members made up a full third of the Top 21 of 2021.
We’ve seen similar growth from other Minecraft servers, like Last Life SMP and Third Life SMP. It’s interesting to see lately, there’s been some collaboration between members of different servers. And I’ll be very curious to see how much more of that collaboration happens — if new servers come into existence, and how that community evolves and grows, because it is a relatively younger community.
The other thing that I find really interesting is, with the new COVID variant that everyone is very worried about, I suspect we’re going to see a lot of escapist fantasy again on Tumblr. We’ve got things like the new season of The Witcher coming out. I mentioned Wheel of Time is currently airing. And we’ve got the The Lord of the Rings show that in production. We’ve seen a lot of increase and engagements around The Lord of the Rings film series. I think a lot of people are going to be looking for entertainment properties that allow kind of a pure escapism.
I was really fascinated by the more Tumblr-specific posts on the Year In Review, like “Hellsite Gazing” and “Tumblr in the Wild.” Those were just so well done. It was fascinating seeing what has now permeated into larger internet culture that originated on Tumblr. What do you think it is about Tumblr, where those posts and that type of sense of humor can really only last on Tumblr? Why do you think it endures the way that it does?
It’s so great, because Tumblr is such a vibrant and active community. You’ve got these young people, these Gen-Z people who are carving their own communities on Tumblr. They’re making their own memes, and they’re so wildly creative in their posting formats, and the content they make, the artwork that they make. When those spread to places like Twitter or Instagram, I think people are often very surprised to see, “Oh, wow! This 14-year-old artist drew this. That is incredible.” Or “This 18-year-old kid is so clever. This random text post is hilarious.” It’s really fun to see people recognizing Tumblr as the cultural powerhouse that it is.
Our anime team was very interested in your anime lists, having My Hero Academia be so high up on both the Anime list and the Top 21 and all of that. What has been noticeable within the anime fandom on Tumblr, and what has really risen up over the past year?
Yeah, that’s been really fun. Boku no Hiro Akademia is wildly popular. I believe it’s in its final story arc. And we have seen a lot of big surprises. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who watch the show but have not read the manga, but there have been a lot of surprises over the course of the year. A lot of plot twists. And people get really excited by that. There are a lot of fan theories. A lot of “I want to protect my favorite son” kind of memes.
It was really interesting to see which of those shows that have been around for a while, made it to the top of the list. Haikyuu!!, it’s a classic. But then you have new things like SK8 the Infinity, which premiered and made the Top 5, which is wild to see. That one’s a really fun one. There are a couple really fun ships in that one that also appeared on the ships list.
The top Celebrities list I found really interesting as well. I find it interesting that the Top 15 are all male actors and celebrities. I was wondering if you could speak to Pedro Pascal being at #1, and some of the other highlights of that list.
So this is a fun list, because traditionally, we’ve done separated Actors, Actresses and TV Personalities lists. But this year, we wanted to make the list as inclusive as possible, to include any one of any gender, or of no gender. So we combined it all to just be 100 celebrities. That was really fun. We saw some great feedback from Tumblr users really appreciating having a more inclusive list.
Pedro Pascal, it’s not surprising that he’s number one. He’s had a year. And with The Last of Us coming out, we’ve seen renewed excitement about that. But with the popularity of The Mandalorian, it was kind of inevitable that he was going to top the list.
The one entry on the movie list that really made me laugh was that the new Super Mario Bros. movie is at #41. I know, on the day the cast was announced, that was the most wild day on the internet. How did Tumblr react? I can only imagine the memes that have come out of that.
So many memes. So many jokes about “You wake up in the morning, you open your mouth, you talk, you’re voiced by Chris Pratt.” So many memes. Chris Pratt is a bit of a controversial figure on Tumblr — loved by some, hated by some. So there was a lot of discourse about him being cast as Mario.
Animated movies and TV are so popular on Tumblr, and there was a lot of criticism from people being like, “There are professional voice actors. There are people whose entire job and career it is to voice characters in animated productions. Why are we passing over these wonderfully talented people just to hire a big name actor?”
The other movies on the list are so fascinating too — Luca is at #2, which totally feels like the type of movie that Tumblr would latch onto. And then you have Twilight, as always. And Dead Poets Society, I find very fascinating that that is in the top 10. I was wondering if you could speak to those more surprising entries on the movie list.
I was so surprised at Dead Poets Society. It went up 27 spots, and it’s in the top 10. It’s been consistently pretty popular over the years, but I think it’s a combination of a feeling of nostalgia, and I think it overlaps a lot with certain academia aesthetics. We saw a huge spike in academia aesthetics in our aesthetics list this year. There were six of them, I believe. Everything from dark and light academia, but we saw things like chaos academia, and soft academia. I think a movie like Dead Poets Society — it’s New England, boarding school, sweaters, and old buildings. I think it really leans into that kind of academic aesthetic.
I did want to ask about the Movies list. I love that Venom: Let There Be Carnage is at the top spot, that feels incredibly on brand. I was wondering if you could speak to Tumblr‘s love of Venom — particularly this year, now that the sequel is out.
We fully expected it to trend. And then of course, it did. We’ve seen spikes throughout the year. Every time a trailer was released or anything like that. It was no surprise that Venom was at the top of our list this year. The engagements around it, once the film came out, were just astronomical. And the fact that the director and Tom Hardy both kind of leaned into the ship-y aspect of Venom the symbiote and Eddie Brock — fans just loved it. They really felt rewarded for their passion, I think.
I loved the Year in Review’s breakdown of Shadow and Bone, and how popular that’s been on Tumblr. I loved that show, and I think they did such a great job of adapting the source material. What can you say about how Tumblr has been engaging with the fact that there’s now a live action adaptation?
They absolutely love it. A lot of people who have books that they love deeply are very nervous about adaptations. I personally am going through that right now with Wheel of Time. So I think the book fans are really happy with how the show has been adapted. They absolutely love the casting, and they really like that The Crows from the Six of Crows series have been introduced early on. They’re curious to see how those two distinct stories are going to be woven together. We just saw another spike around Shadow and Bone just last week, because there was a convention, I believe in Germany, where the cast did a Q and A. We got some wonderful pictures out of it, and fans just were so thrilled.
Aside from Destiel, I was really fascinated by the larger Top Ships list. What were the most surprising or biggest spikes throughout this year in terms of certain ships? What skyrocketed in popularity?
Lumity from The Owl House absolutely skyrocketed. It did go canon in this most recent season, and fans were so thrilled to have a queer canon relationship in a very popular cartoon. They loved the representation of that. They just love it all. Another ship from that is between a female character and a non-binary character. And fans are really, really excited to see non cisgendered characters represented on the list. There are actually two. There was the one from The Owl House, and there was one from Attack on Titan as well.
I also noticed that Hannigram from Hannibal made its way back onto the ships list, and in a pretty prominent place, too, within the Top 10. Why do you think Hannibal, and Hannigram as a ship, are still enduring years after the show ended?
There’s a lot of nostalgia. I think a lot of it is nostalgia. We saw, around the time of Destiel going canon — what we like to refer to as #SuperPutinElection — there was also a rumor that Hannibal was going to be getting a fourth season. So we saw a huge spike in engagement around Hannibal and around the ship Hannigram. It went up 27 spots on the ships list to make the Top #10, which is wild for a show that ended years ago.
First and foremost, when I spoke to Amanda [Brennan, Tumblr’s former Trends Expert] last year, Destiel had just become canon [on Supernatural] and it couldn’t be counted in that year’s Year In Review. For this year, now taking that into consideration, what has it been like for the past 13 or so months of Destiel being canon?
This the time that really pays off for Supernatural fans. They felt very, very seen by this year’s Year In Review. Supernatural is the #2 topic on Tumblr for our data set, which runs late October to late October. So Supernatural was #2, Destiel was #3. And then Castiel was also on the Top 21 of 2021, which you just love to see. People were so excited. I believe it was the #1 TV show for the entire year, which is hilarious. And of course, it was the number one ship.
What has the fan engagement been like, both when that episode aired and afterwards. There was the whole thing with the Spanish translation of the episode that came out a few months later. How has Tumblr reacted to the past year of revelations?
I’ve seen so many versions of memes basically being like “Supernatural is never going to be over.” The show may have ended, but we’re still breaking news. We’ve seen similarly, throughout this year, a lot of those jokes on those memes, and a lot of the discussion continue with all of the cons that have been happening, now that IRL cons are happening again. We saw spikes around, of course, the Spanish translation, which kind of reinforced that it was a mutual relationship, not one-sided. The Italian dub also did a similar thing, which Misha Collins called out on his Instagram, and fans lost it at that. It’s been really fun to see this sustained discussion around this super popular TV show, even though it ended a year ago.
ComicBook.com: For my readers who might not be as familiar with the whole process — how do you guys put together your Year in Review?
Cates Holderness: It’s a really interesting process. A lot of it involves very technical backend stuff. But basically, we use an algorithm that weighs certain measurements on Tumblr — certain actions around tags, number of posts created, how many times that tag was searched for, how many times a post using that tag was re-blogged, and how many times a post using that tag was liked. And then we categorized tags, and then weighed those actions and spit out a ranking of the top things.
We do this, very similarly, every week with Fandometrics, but Year In Review is a massively bigger project. We do a ton of other different categories that we don’t cover weekly, and we really deep dive into the most popular, the most niche parts of Tumblr.
from Ultimate Comic Blog