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The Best Stuff We Wrote in 2017

Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith

From Jill Stein to Russell Westbrook to LGBTQ separatists.

VICE published a whole bunch of articles in 2017. Thousands of them. In fact, we posted multiple pieces of writing almost every single day of the year, covering everything from politics to entertainment and art, drugs to sex to Bob Dylan's Christmas lights and the world's last Soap Shoes pro. Picking the best out of that sea of good isn't an easy task, but we're going to try anyway. Below you'll find a curated selection of the best things we published on VICE.com in 2017, as judged by myself and the rest of our editorial staff. The list highlights every aspect of our coverage, and when taken together these pieces shape a picture of the issues and stories that mattered most to us over the last year. Of course Donald Trump and politics are well represented—there were times when it seemed like the country couldn't talk about anything else—but there are also touching stories from the LGBTQ community, examinations of identity, stories of women banding together to take down a sexual predator, and an indispensable dispatch from a reality television show about knives.

Here, in no particular order, are the stories we were most proud of in 2017:

Aside from the guy who ended up winning, Green Party candidate Jill Stein was one of the most hated figures in the 2016 presidential election. In Eve Peyser's profile of Stein, she tried to figure out what, exactly, Stein stands for and how it feels to be on the receiving end of a deluge of ire from Republicans and Democrats alike.

In a spectacular essay dissecting the longstanding societal pressures that urge black men to keep their emotions at bay, Wilbert L. Cooper draws on his own personal experience. "Never in my life have I witnessed a man in my family cry," he writes, going on to outline the systemic and longstanding issues that encourage and shame black men who dare express their feelings. Wilbert's journey of self reflection led him to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and the grave of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old lynched in Mississippi in 1955.

One of the standout features of Donald Trump is his ability to lie with impunity. Much has been written about how missteps, gaffes, and outright falsehoods peddled by Trump that would long ago have toppled other politicians seem to bounce off of him. Matthew Callan brought a personal perspective to the issue, connecting Trump to a father who habitually told lies big and small. "If you are operating from the premise that if you catch Trump red-handed in some lie he will have to confess and apologize," he writes, "you will be disappointed every time."

Conversation around free speech became newly relevant in 2017. While the discussions over high-profile speakers on college campuses and what tech companies should do to prevent hate speech were (rightly) explored at length, primary, middle, and high schools were also grappling with the issue. Allie Conti took a look at one high school in California and how administrators there are dealing—or not—with the problem.

If there is a counterbalance to the toxic masculinity exuded by Trump and men like him, it is 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook. Matt Taylor explained how the Oklahoma City Thunder player and the attitude and positivity he projects is more important now than ever. "Westbrook," according to Matt, "showed young men across America that you don't need to be misogynist or cruel to succeed in life."

Steven Fernandez, aka Baby Scumbag, was something of a cult icon in a certain corner of the skateboarding world for a brief moment. A YouTube celebrity with thousands of young female fans, the 15-year-old's life changed drastically when he was charged with sexual contact with a minor and rape. In her profile of Fernandez, Allie Conti discovers a complicated story that calls into question everything from the power of internet celebrity to societal responsibility surrounding young people who find themselves suddenly famous.

The thing about Trump is he shouldn't be alive. The 71-year-old's diet consists largely of fast food, soda, extra scoops of ice cream, ungodly amounts of cable news, and rage. That's an unhealthy way to live even for a 20-something, as Eve Peyser found out when she attempted to recreate the living situation described in a New York Times article about the president's daily ritual.

Amid the wave of sexual harassment scandals that rocked nearly every part of society in 2017 and brought about the "Reckoning," the story of director James Toback's accusers stands out. Dozens of his alleged victims banded together and brought their stories to the LA Times, leading to an explosive article citing 38 women who claimed they were sexually harassed by Toback. Allie Conti met with some of the women, explored how they came together, and wondered if the way they organized online and spoke out together could provide a roadmap for bringing down other powerful men.

On the occasion of a new exhibition of Kara Walker's work at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York, Antwaun Sargent dove into the artist's controversial history. At various times vilified and celebrated, Walker's work often deals in the brutality of slavery in powerfully blunt ways. As Walker herself says, "I don't make subtle work." At a time when police brutality and systemic discrimination toward people of color are receiving much needed attention, her work is especially vital.

In September, two NYPD detectives were charged with rape and kidnapping after arresting an 18-year-old woman for possession of Klonopin and marijuana. The case attracted widespread attention, largely because of the alleged victim's outspoken social media presence. Sonja Sharp's story illustrated the potential power of social media for victims, as well as the baffling laws that allow "consent" to be applicable to those in police custody.

OK, this one isn't an "article" per say, but throughout 2017 we tracked all the laws and executive orders coming out of DC in real-time. We outlined in plain English what each one would do and who would be affected, so if you think you might have missed something or would just like a stroll down memory lane, it's well worth a read.

As a group facing perpetual discrimination, it's not surprising some LGBTQ advocates would like to create a sovereign nation of their own. There have been various discussions about the idea for decades, but perhaps the closest anyone has come is the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom, an archipelago off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Jon Shadel traced the history of the secessionist movement in the LGBTQ community and asked whether these groups might be onto something.

The life of the bladesmith is not an easy one, but people who make knives for a living aren't into "easy." Eve Peyser visited the set of the History channel series Forged in Fire to experience the world of reality TV knife-making and discovered that while the weapons may be deadly, the friendships in the blade community are full of life.

While Bernie Sanders reignited the idea of single-payer healthcare to America at large in 2016, socialized medicine has long been a dream of progressives. Harry Cheadle reported on the people who have been pushing for drastic healthcare reform since the 70s, and explains why it's not just Republicans stopping the dream from becoming a reality.

While the American healthcare system is a disaster for so many people in different ways, it can be especially cruel to transgender people. Sara Oliver Wight documented her genital reassignment surgery through photos and words, painting a heart-wrenching portrait of the unnecessary hurdles and red tape often put upon people seeking trans healthcare.

The return of Twin Peaks was one of, if not the most, talked about cultural events of the year. The reception was decidedly split, with some fans old and new hating it, others loving it, and all confused by it. For Larry Fitzmaurice that confusion and uncertainty is what made the show great. Each week brought new, otherworldly surprises, which given the year we've all had provided a welcome break from reality.

In August, sick of looking at boring old ads on our site, we asked the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan to give us some art to hang on the walls of VICE.com instead. He delivered, and for one glorious day Cattelan, along with his partner on the fantastic magazine Toilet Paper Pierpaolo Ferrari, turned our homepage into a wonderland of cigarettes and dildos and general surreality accented with their trademark pops of color. As a companion to the site takeover and on the occasion of a new documentary about Cattelan called Be Right Back, Wilbert L. Cooper spent the day with the artist at the Guggenheim in Manhattan.