The results of the 2016 presidential election have been a boon for certain kinds of news stories: visits to Rust Belt diners, chronicles of the journeys of self-dubbed Never Trumpers, and explorations of the dynamics of newly tense Thanksgiving dinners. The latter gave every publication an angle. The Economist explored political science research about whether polarization was driving down the length of family Thanksgiving dinners. Quartz consulted an honest-to-God hostage negotiator. The Guardian published a moderately satirical look at the plight of "Good White People" attending Thanksgiving with Trump-supporting relatives.
However useful or informative these pieces may be, they inevitably contribute to the impression that politics have eaten our collective brains. So this Thanksgiving, let's remind ourselves that there are plenty of other subjects to discuss around the dinner table. Here are five to get you started.
1. If you want to feel patriotic without getting into the nitty-gritty of the stories we tell about the first Thanksgiving:
Peter Morgan's "The Crown" and Prince Andrew are Britain's gift to you this holiday season. You can gush over the opulent Netflix series while delighting in the fact that we don't have to pay to keep the House of Windsor in the style to which its members have become accustomed. You can dissect Prince Andrew's disastrous BBC interview about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and feel mildly reassured that however insane American politics have become, at least we're not stuck with a permanent aristocracy this stupid.
2. If you want to talk ethics without talking politics:
The Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal is another blight on America's diminished national pastime, but it's also a perfect opportunity to debate the difference between cleverness and cheating. And once you've got that established, you can pivot to discussing the voting for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, or to how to consider New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's career in light of the controversies that have dogged his team. The recently departed staff at Deadspin were right that you can't separate politics and sports, but there are sports questions that aren't inherently political. Be thankful for them.
3. If you can't decide what movie to go see over the holiday weekend:
The answer to your actual conundrum is actually quite easy: watch "The Irishman" on Netflix if everyone is old enough for R-rated movies and sufficiently awake post-meal to watch a 3½-hour movie; go to "Frozen II" if there are kiddos involved; and hit up "Knives Out" if you're feeling arch. But if you want to debate the actual principles that animate your decision about what to see, get the dinner table going by posing this fall's hot entertainment question: Marvel vs. Marty. Is Martin Scorsese right that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not, despite its name, actual cinema? Or is the director just drawing a false distinction, pretending that aging Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci up and down with fancy visual technology is art while doing the same thing to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is mere commerce?
4. If one of your relatives is definitely going to ask you to help them set up their television for streaming:
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to debate a question that's inconsequential in the scheme of things, but that feels genuinely baffling to even those of us who cover this landscape for a living: Which streaming services should you actually subscribe to? Shared bafflement is the inverse of partisan rancor, and this is a subject that gives everyone the opportunity to tell everyone else at the table about something they genuinely love and want to be able to watch. I'm not sure that we should be grateful that the entertainment industry is in a state of such profound upheaval, but, hey, at least it's given us Baby Yoda.
5. And finally, even if you have to work for it:
Yeah, yeah, I'm an unforgivable cornball. But the intense focus on the Thanksgiving argument has eclipsed the reason for the holiday that's right smack there in the game. Figure out what you're thankful for, even if it's small, even if it's something you have to build on for the year ahead, even if it's just the support you've received when things were very hard. Honing your arguments is necessary work. But fighting isn't the only way to persuade, and it's certainly not the only way to connect with other people, including the ones you're sharing a meal with. Talk about what you're thankful for. A positive vision of the world can be as persuasive as a grimly drawn apocalypse.