The serious-minded have long suggested that the popular arts play the same role in our society that jesters played in a king’s court — they can amuse, instruct, and even uplift, but as a rule, they remain at a distance from worldly affairs. That’s a notion that 1990 did a great deal to eradicate. This year, entertainment was news. Record dealers and musicians went on trial, jurors dissected photos and parsed rap lyrics, the X rating was attacked in court (and finally banished), and the National Endowment for the Arts had noisier budget fights than the Pentagon. Of course, it wasn’t all serious — no year in which Laura Palmer and M.C. Hammer vied for the spotlight could be — but it wasn’t all frivolous. Even Madonna schooled her listeners in AIDS prevention and urged them to vote. ”Dr. King, Malcolm X — freedom of speech is as good as sex,” she chanted. Politics and art, strange bedfellows? Not in her book, or ours.
In the 10 months since Entertainment Weekly’s first issue, we’ve surveyed a pop-culture landscape whose horizons are infinite. In our reviews and features, it has been our goal to keep readers abreast of subjects as vast as 35 years of rock & roll and as specific as a single scorching video banned by MTV, as avant-garde as Twin Peaks and as retrospective as The Civil War, as elusive as the workings of entertainment’s power brokers and as up-front as the one-liners from a hydrant-high wiseguy named Bart Simpson. The year hasn’t been without its bumps, and readers haven’t been shy about letting us know when they’ve disagreed with us — for which we’re grateful. Your support, whether enthusiastic or critical, made this journey all the more exhilarating. In this double issue, we look at 1990’s best entertainments, most memorable moments, and brightest stars. Next year promises to be even richer and more varied. We hope you’ll be there with us. Happy holidays to you all, from all of us at Entertainment Weekly.
James W. Seymore Jr., Managing Editor