2019 pop culture trends

Table of Contents

The 19 Pop Culture Moments That Defined 2018

The events that have taken over our pop-culture-leaning psyche this year seem to have been of a more serious nature than defining moments of years past: this is a list usually filled with divorces, marriages and coming out stories, but, in 2018, we’ve also witnessed fights for equal pay, gay rights and, of course, the rise and establishment of the #MeToo movement. The year’s most defining aspect has clearly been the spillover of politics right into the thick of pop culture.

As we actively try to stay away from the Kardashians (we see you, Tristan and Chloe), we must include some sort of Kardashian-related news in here, especially when said news involves some family members officially meeting with the President of the United States of America in the White House.

Without further ado, these are the most memorable pop culture-related moments of the year:

Oprah Winfrey Receives the Cecil B. de Mille Award at the Golden Globes

The first black woman to receive the award, to her presented by Reese Witherspoon, Oprah accepted the honor with a powerful speech that alluded to her career, race and gender issues and the importance of the freedom of the press. “This year, we became the story,” she told the women in the room. “The time is up! I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon and, when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say me too again!”

The #MeToo Movement Takes Over

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With backup singers Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day and Camila Cabello in the background, Kesha sang her hit “Praying” to a teary-eyed audience during the 2018 Grammys. Fighting her own legal battle against producer Dr. Luke, whom she accused of sexual assault and harassment, the artist dedicated her performance to the #MeToo movement. The movement gained even more screen time throughout the year: during the Oscars, Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek, all Harvey Weinstein accusers, appeared together on stage; in July, Olympic gymnast Alexandra Raisman joined dozens of other survivors of disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the 2018 ESPYS.

Obama Portraits are Unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 12: Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama… have their portraits unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery on Monday February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The former President’s portrait was painted by Kehinde Wiley while the former First Lady’s portrait was painted by Amy Sherald. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle handpicked the two African American artists (the first ever black artists to be tasked with the job) to be commissioned with their presidential portraits. The President chose Kehinde Wiley—known for his large-scale depictions of African Americans—and the First Lady opted for Amy Sherald. Fun fact: the first presidential portrait to be commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery was George H.W. Bush’s and the gallery is now home to the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House.

Queer Eye Gets a Revival

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A reboot of the Bravo original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer Eye was revived by Netflix in February. The series features a new “Fab Five” team and debuted to much fanfare—the network picked it up for another season, premiering in 2019. The new cast quickly sprung to success: Antoni Porowski, the gang’s “food expert,” even opened his own restaurant, Village Den, in New York this year.

Frances McDormand Wins an Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winning her second Oscar ever (she won her first for her role on 1997’s Fargo), McDormand took the stage and asked all female nominees in every category to stand up to massive applause. She went on to bring up the inclusion rider, a contract provision that calls for diversity in casting and production staff.

The Roseanne Revival Premieres on ABC and Then Gets Dropped

Roseanne gets rebooted and cancelled

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Back in March, the ‘90s sitcom Roseanne, starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, was revived on ABC and scored massive audiences. The original cast returned and, following the success of the premiere episode, Roseanne was renewed for a second revival season, the eleventh in total for the show. After a mere two months on the air, the network decided to cancel following a seemingly racist tweet by Barr about former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett. In June, ABC announced a spin-off of the show without Barr called The Conners.

Beyoncé Becomes the First African American Woman to Headline Coachella

INDIO, CA – APRIL 21: Michelle Williams, Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child… perform onstage during the 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 21, 2018 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Coachella) for Coachella

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After canceling her appearance at the California musical festival last year given her pregnancy, Beyoncé came back to headline the event in 2018 and wasn’t shy about acknowledging the importance of the moment, which the Internet quickly dubbed “Beychella.” Her former Destiny’s Child bandmates, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland, joined her on stage.

British Prince Harry Weds Meghan Markle and More Royal News

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Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle tied the knot on May 19, 2018 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Still dominating the headlines, the now-pregnant Markle has been bestowed the title of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex while Harry is now referred to as His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex.

In other royal-related happenings: Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Catherine gave birth to their second son, Prince Louis, in April.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain Commit Suicide

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On June 5, fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, was found dead in an apparent suicide by hanging in her apartment in Manhattan. A mere three days later, on June 8, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in France from an apparent suicide at the age of 61. Both deaths rocked the nation and spurred conversations about mental health and suicide prevention.

Melania Trump Wears a Jacket That Says “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” on Her Way to Visiting Migrant Children at the Texas-Mexico Border

FILE – In this June 21, 2018, file photo, First lady Melania Trump arrives at Andrews Air Force… Base, Md., wearing a jacket that reads “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” after visiting a children’s center in McAllen, Texas. A Melania Trump spokeswoman is asking people to boycott Atlanta rapper T.I. because of his promotional album video that shows a woman resembling the first lady stripping in the oval office. WXIA-TV reports the director of communications for Melania Trump, Stephanie Grisham, tweeted Saturday asking how the video was acceptable. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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Igniting conversations in both political and fashion circles, the First Lady wore the $39 Zara jacket to much controversy while getting on board Air Force One, changing upon landing in McAllen, Texas. Of course, the episode spurred fashion retailers to create similar jackets: Clothing brand Wildfang, for example, released its own version of the garment, albeit with a slightly different message on it: “I Really Do Care, Don’t U?”

Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande Get Engaged and Disengaged

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After just a few weeks of dating, SNL performer Pete Davidson and pop star Ariana Grande announced their engagement in June to much surprise. After publicly discussing their courtship and relationship, the couple astounded fans once more by calling off their engagement in October. Davidson made headlines again in December when taking to Instagram with an unsettling post that prompted the New York Police Department to visit NBC headquarters for a “wellness check” on the comedian, who was on premise working at SNL.

Aretha Franklin Dies

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The Queen of Soul passed away at the age of 76 in her home in Detroit back in August. The official cause of death was advanced pancreatic cancer. Among the many celebrities that paid tribute to Franklin were Sir Paul McCartney, who wrote: “Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years.” Former President Barack Obama also tweeted his condolences, writing “Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect.”

Drake’s “In My Feelings” Kicks Off a Dance Challenge

After the release of Drake’s “In My Feelings,” comedian Shoker posted his own homemade version of the music video and tagged it #InMyFeelings and #DoTheShiggy. What followed was a celebrity-driven dance craze with stars like Will Smith, Sterling K. Brown, Ciara and Odell Beckham Jr. taking on the challenge on social media.

Cardi B Throws a Shoe at Nicki Minaj

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – DECEMBER 21: Cardi B performs as part of Electric Holiday Concert at Puerto… Rico Convention Center on December 21, 2018 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Gladys Vega/Getty Images)

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During the Harper’s Bazaar Icons party at the Plaza during New York Fashion Week, Cardi B and Nikki Minaj got into a physical altercation that ended with Cardi B throwing her shoe at Minaj. Cardi B was eventually escorted out of the party by security but, as is the case with just about anything that happened in 2018, several videos that captured the moment were posted online and quickly went viral.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian Visit the White House

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 11: Rapper Kanye West shows President Donald Trump a photo of an airplane… in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C. on October 11, 2018. (Photo by Calla Kessler/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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In separate, much talked about (and photographed) occasions, Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West visited President Trump at the White House. In May, the reality TV star dropped in to chat about prison reform and ask clemency for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old serving a life sentence on drug charges. Johnson’s sentence was commuted by the President shortly after the meeting. Then, in September, Kardashian West returned to the White House in the hopes of reversing another nonviolent drug offender’s sentence. In October, the President welcomed West for a lunch meeting in the Oval Office. Daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner and Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown also joined.

Serena Williams Loses Her Cool at the US Open

2018 US Open Tennis Tournament- Day Thirteen. Serena Williams of the United States awaits the… presentations after her controversial loss to Naomi Osaka of Japan in the Women’s Singles Final on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the 2018 US Open Tennis Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8th, 2018 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

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During her US Open finals against Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams called umpire Carlos Ramos a “thief” and went on to crack her racket and ask Ramos for an apology. Requesting officials to step in, the player eventually lost to Osaka, the first Japanese player to ever win a Grand Slam singles title, in a stunning upset. Following the match, Williams spoke up during a news conference: “I’ve seen other men call other umpires everal things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark.”

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper Star in Oscar-Worthy A Star is Born

The much-anticipated fourth remake of A Star is Born was released to critical acclaim in October, propelling Lady Gaga to Oscar-worthy chatter alongside co-star and director Bradley Cooper.

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Get Married

Indian Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra (L) and US musician Nick Jonas, who were recently married,… pose for a picture during a reception in Mumbai, India, on December 20, 2018. (Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP) (Photo credit should read PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

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After a four-month engagement, actress Priyanka Chopra and singer Nick Jonas tied the knot in Chopra’s home country of India. The festivities took place over four days and included both Indian and Christian ceremonies. The bride, ten years older than Jonas, rocked a striking custom Ralph Lauren wedding gown. The groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen and both families also donned Ralph Lauren outfits.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth Get Married

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – MARCH 04: Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth attend the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party… hosted by Radhika Jones at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

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After a weekend filled with rumors about a possible “secret” wedding at Miley Cyrus’ home in Tennessee, the singer posted three black-and-white photos of her and long-time boyfriend Liam Hemsworth on Instagram on December 26, seemingly confirming the rumors. Donning an ivory dress and captioning one of the images “ten years later,” the now-Hemsworths ended the year on a high note.

Pop culture experts share the film, music and book trends that defined the decade

With the rise of streaming services for movies, television and music, the way people consume media has been turned upside down over the past 10 years.

What we want to watch, hear and read has changed too, thanks in large part to that evolving technology.

As Canadians cap off 2019 and start a fresh decade, Cross Country Checkup is asking for listeners’ best pop culture picks of the 2010s.

Checkup has assembled a panel of pop culture experts to share their thoughts on the trends that defined the decade.

Film with Johanna Schneller

Johanna Schneller, freelance film columnist with the Globe and Mail, says the decade was defined by the diversification of films — largely driven by social movements and the rise of streaming platforms.

“Content has become so polarized,” she said. “You’re either getting super niche things … there’s been a rise in queer cinema, black cinema.”

“Then there’s this stuff that’s for everyone still, but what’s deemed to be for everyone are these big-budget, as I say, Marvel superhero extravaganzas.”

Genres that were once niche, Schneller adds — particularly sci-fi and fantasy — have become mainstream.

Because of social media movements like #OscarsSoWhite and #TimesUp, Schneller says that the studios producing content are now looking to people of colour, women and LGBTQ storytellers to create new films.

“You give people a platform that they didn’t use to have and you’re going to get different stories. You’re going to get different voices. You’re going to get richer exploration. You’re going to get stories that aren’t as clichéd. You’re going to get different stars,” she said.

Films like Black Panther and Get Out proved that films made by diverse storytellers can have a wide appeal, Schneller said.

Music with Carl Wilson

Slate music critic Carl Wilson says music in the past decade can be split into two sections.

“From 2010 to roughly 2015, possibly 2016, the really dominant sound was a kind of dance music-oriented, big pop sound that was kind of inherited from the late years of the 2000s,” he said, pointing to pop divas like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna.

That began to change in the latter half of the 2010s, particularly as music streaming gained traction, by a “low-key, emotional” and “mumbly” hip hop sound.

“It became dominant in the charts and the leading figure in all of that was really Drake,” he added.

In that same shift, Wilson says, music saw a resurgence of women making “big impacts,” with Lizzo among them.

Books and TV with Randy Boyagoda

Author and University of Toronto English professor Randy Boyagoda says that dystopian novels — especially those focused on climate and environmental crises — and first-person non-fiction books have dominated the bestsellers lists since 2010.

“Another one that perhaps we’ve noticed … certainly in Canada, a greater focus on Indigenous experience and exploring that in a variety of new genres, which I think is probably a very good thing,” he said.

Literature finding a home on the small screen has also became a big draw for readers and viewers alike, Boyagoda adds

“Ten years ago we would be talking about novels: we’d be talking about The Handmaid’s Tale, the novel, not The Handmaid’s Tale, the TV series,” he said, adding that the book’s sequel, The Testaments, couldn’t exist without the success of the television series.

Binge-watching shows like Fleabag or Game of Thrones or Westworld seems “to have supplanted, by and large, our reading lives with big, immersive stories and you have a sense of common conversation around them,” he said.

Sunday on Cross Country Checkup, guest host David Common will take your calls on your favourite pop culture moments of the 2010s.

How To Find Pop Culture Events For Content Calendars And Campaign Rollouts

Happy National Blog Post Writing Day!

I’m kidding you – National Blog Post Writing Day isn’t an actual thing. But thanks to the increased need for campaigns to be relevant as well as the need for social content, it seems as though nowadays there’s a holiday for everything, and a brand to capitalize on it.

Used correctly, a timely campaign that is launched in association with a culturally relevant event can earn that campaign even more attention and reach. Subway used National Sandwich Day to launch a sandwich promotion on their social channels and earned PR coverage on major news outlets. On a grander scale, Burger King introduced a “McWhopper” or “Peace Day Burger,” on the UN’s International Day of Peace.

Anecdotally speaking, aligning a campaign with a holiday seems to work best when the subject matter is closely aligned to the day’s theme (Subway and National Sandwich Day) or when the day is a well- publicized date (International Day of Peace).

So how do you find actually interesting, useful days to inspire creative? Here are some tools that I’ve found to be useful.

  • Check an established source for general holidays and events. Sites like Chiff.com have great roundups.
  • Reference Google Trends to find key moments for your brand. Search for your brand or category, and look for major spikes throughout the year or even weekly trends. For example searches for, “easy recipes” spikes after the holidays, meaning that it could be timely to launch a recipe campaign then. Or, because searches for “credit cards” spike on Tuesdays, content posted at that time may be more relevant.
  • Talk to your media or PR agencies. Some outside agencies will already have well-developed cultural calendars that encompass major pop culture events for their other accounts, which make them valuable resources.
  • Go for a manual search. Search for relevant cultural events during your campaign launch- local events, movie launches, game launches, upcoming tv shows, award shows, sports, or concerts.
  • Or, review relevant anniversaries. Landmark events like the moon landing, movie/celebrity birthdays, advent of notable inventions, or even fake dates from movies are all great opportunities to tie your idea to a newsworthy event.
  • Look up specific calendar dates. If you are lucky enough to know your proposed launch timing, you can see a massive list of all the things you could possibly align to on a given day. Wikipedia, BBC on this Day, and NY Times on This Day are all great resources to learn more.

As you go through this process, it’s incredibly helpful to keep a list of the events that you find so that you may share it with your colleagues. Consider developing a collaborative spreadsheet or Google calendar to give yourself an ongoing reference.

Finally, it’s also so helpful to share. I’ve tried to include all I use here, but please share any other resources you have in the comments! It’s National Share Your Pop Culture Event Resources Day, after all.

If you’re a nerd, the last 10 years have been astonishing. Over the last decade, nerds have conquered pop culture. Superheroes dominate theaters and TV networks. We get a new Star Wars movie every year. A show with zombies, dragons, and people having graphic sex is mainstream. It’s been 10 years of victories, losses, good times, bad decisions, things we thought we’d never see, things we never could’ve imagined—and frankly, it’s time to take stock.

As part of our 10th anniversary, io9 is looking back at the most important things that have happened; decisions that were made; the moments, both good and bad, that have led us from January 2nd, 2008, to now. Today, we’re counting down from 100 to 81; tomorrow we’ll have 80-61, and so on until Friday, when we tell you the 20 most important things that have happened in the last 10 years. It’s going to be… momentous.

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100) DC Comics moves to California

Let’s start simply, shall we? In October of 2013, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson sent a memo to the New York City-based staff of DC Comics, telling them to get their butts to California. Exactly how much DC’s output has benefitted or suffered from the move is impossible to tell, but it had one major impact: Once one of the Big Two publishers left town, New York City lost its title as the comic book capital of America, which it had held since the industry began.

99) The great Spider-Woman derrière comic cover controversy

Art by Milo Manara. Image: Marvel Advertisement

The ass that launched a thousand blogs. Marvel hiring erotic illustrator Milo Manara to do a variant cover for its Spider-Woman title was probably a bad call. Approving what was handed in? Really bad call. The sexualized image was incredibly at odds with the publisher’s mission at the time to bring in new readers, especially more women and young girls, to titles exactly like Spider-Woman. The cover got a lot of people thinking and talking, but also served as an outlet for some of the worst in fandom to prove just how offensive they could be. But the ugliness was ultimately a reminder to publishers that other demographics wanted to read their books, if only they weren’t being actively turned away.

98) The X-Men return to television

The X-Men have always been one of Marvel’s most popular properties, but they catapulted to new heights during the ‘90s thanks to Fox’s animated X-Men series. After that, the X-Men all but disappeared from television, save for a handful of series like X-Men: Evolution that never quite got off the ground. But FX’s Legion and Fox’s The Gifted have brought Marvel’s mutants back to television, telling novel, innovative stories that represent the still-untapped potential within the X-Men franchise. At a time when TV shows based on comic books are all too comfortable skewing toward the utterly fantastical, both have zeroed in on what really makes genre series like these work: Humanity and compelling characters.

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97) Disney chills out with Once Upon a Time

Disney is famous for holding a vice-like grip on its beloved animation properties, so fans were a little perplexed when ABC announced Once Upon a Time, a show that would reinterpret classic Disney characters for a modern generation. (Snow White’s Evil Queen, for instance, was reimagined as a dark but complex single mother.) This wasn’t ABC copy-pasting classic Disney tales to TV, it was a weird, fan fic-esque crossover-palooza. It was also the first time Disney really stepped back and let its characters be used in new and interesting ways. It paved the way for looser, live-action remakes like Beauty and the Beast, as well as the highly anticipated Disney Princess cameos in 2018’s Wreck-It Ralph 2.

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96) Dan Slott begins a decade of writing Amazing Spider-Man comics

When Dan Slott was added to the expanding creative team of Amazing Spider-Man in 2008, it was the start of a decade-long relationship that would see him become one of the most influential Spidey writers of all time. Slott had an indelible impact on Peter Parker, and has made the series one of the most successful comics of the modern age. Though his time on Amazing Spider-Man will come to an end this summer, his work will be remembered for years and years to come.

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95) Rick and Morty’s Szechuan Sauce debacle

Rick and Morty has always had very devoted fans—and why not? The Adult Swim show is as hilarious as it is smart and original. Unfortunately, “devoted” doesn’t necessarily mean “reasonable” or “mature.” After a recurring joke in a 2017 episode showered praise on McDonald’s Szechuan sauce, the fast-food chain decided it would bring back the long-gone condiment for a limited time. What was meant to be a fun publicity stunt ended up being anything but fun when demand far exceeded supply. Both social media and the McDonald’s chains then exploded with a whiny outcry from furious fans; the show’s creators, suitably mortified, quickly distanced themselves from the promotion gone awry. But the entire country got a thorough, depressing look at what fan entitlement is, and how awful it can be.

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94) Lexa dies on The 100

Television shows have been pulling the “Bury Your Gays” trope for decades, but the outcry that met this particular character death actually brought about some change. In season three of The 100, Grounder leader Lexa was killed shortly after having sex with series protagonist Clarke. This was mostly because actress Alycia Debnam-Carey had left for a starring role on Fear the Walking Dead, but that didn’t change the fact that it was yet another example of a LGBT character being murdered shortly after finding love. Fan response was immediate and intense, tuning out of the show in protest, unfollowing the creators on Twitter en masse, and raising thousands of dollars for an LGBT suicide prevention organization. Their reaction led showrunner Jason Rothenberg to apologize in a post on Medium, and Lexa was later brought back in the season three finale, giving her and Clarke the reunion fans were hoping for.

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93) The Lost finale

Lost was the first modern genre show that had the ability to turn almost anyone who watched it into a fan. People of every age, gender, race, and level of nerdiness could be heard talking together about about smoke monsters, time travel, and frozen donkey wheels over the course of its 2004-2010 broadcast. When the appropriately titled “The End” aired on May 23, 2010, people all over the world were rapt, waiting for the answers they’d been hoping for all along. That… didn’t happen. But the collective discourse about it—the frustration, the confusion, the anger, even enjoyment—was a singular moment in the expansion of nerd culture to the mainstream, and one not truly replicated until Game of Thrones.

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92) Marvel gets a new EIC with an unfortunate past

When a publication appoints a new editor-in-chief, it isn’t just choosing a new person to oversee the execution of its larger vision, it’s choosing one of the most important faces that people will associate with the brand. When Marvel announced that C.B. Cebulski—a white man who admitted that he’d created a fictional Japanese persona in the early ‘00s in order to further his career in comics—was its new EIC, it sent a number of messages to the public. On the one hand, Cebulski’s appointment spoke to the work he’d done to cultivate new talent for Marvel and the company’s desire to keep that momentum going. On the other hand, it communicated that Marvel was entirely comfortable with the fact that one of its highest-ranking employees once engaged in a kind of digital yellowface that outraged many of its fans.

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91) Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary celebration

When Doctor Who turned 50 years old in 2013, it became the longest-running scifi TV show in the world—and it did so with a celebratory TV special that turned out record-breaking audiences worldwide, proof that the show still had plenty of life left in it. “The Day of the Doctor” saw then-incumbent star Matt Smith team up with former Doctor David Tennant, alongside a new, secret incarnation of the Doctor played by John Hurt. It’s since been revealed by former showrunner Steven Moffat that the production process on the special was so stressful he almost attempted to pitch a script that didn’t feature the Doctor at all. To be fair, though, had that happened, it would also have probably ended up somewhere on this list.

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89) The death of the Ultimate Marvel universe

At a time when comics sales were tanking and Marvel had already sold off the film rights to its most popular properties, the Ultimate Marvel universe gave readers a chance to get in on the ground floor of an entirely new line of bold, daring comics. But in 2015, the Ultimate universe was destroyed as part of the latest Secret Wars event that pulled the focus back to its prime continuity. The loss definitely had a powerful emotional heft to it, especially for fans who had grown up with Ultimate as their main Marvel universe. Happily, just last week, Brian Michael Bendis resurrected it with what seems to be a new adventure for Ultimate Spider-Man. Even more promising, though, is the idea that this new Ultimate universe could give rise to the next Miles Morales-esque hero that takes the world by storm.

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89) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows becomes two movies

J.K. Rowling’s eighth and final Harry Potter book ran 759 pages. That’s a long book! Of course, the idea of squeezing an extra movie out of the Harry Potter cash cow couldn’t have been far from anyone’s mind, but it also must have been genuinely easier to have four hours in which to adapt Deathly Hallows than two. Certainly fans weren’t disappointed at Part 1 in 2010, or Part 2 in 2011. But once Warner Bros. did this, the floodgates were open. Suddenly any book could be drawn out into two movies, especially the final volumes of YA series like Twilight and The Hunger Games. But the most egregious example is—well, we’ll talk about it in just a minute.

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88) The Handmaid’s Tale gives streaming services its first major award

Nobody questioned the greenlighting of a series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale—Margaret Atwood’s chilling, eerily timely novel, set in a transformed America where women are enslaved and repressed. But its home on Hulu, a streaming service then viewed variously as a way to catch TV reruns and movies that didn’t make the cut at Netflix, attracted a certain amount of side-eye. All that changed when the show debuted in 2017; it was a top-quality project with an outstanding cast and production values to rival anything on a major network, with an edginess that wouldn’t have been out of place on prestige powerhouse HBO. And it became the first streaming show to win an Emmy for Best Drama—the first of what will inevitably be many, as the inevitable shift from old-school TV to the endless possibilities of streaming continues.

87) My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is genuinely magic

My Little Pony, a 1980s TV series based on a line of Hasbro toys, could be a contender for the most girl-targeted franchise in the universe. However, the 2011 reboot called My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic found an audience no one was expecting: men aged 13 to 35. Calling themselves Bronies, these men flocked to the “tails” of Twilight Sparkle and her pony pals after clips of the show started circulating on online forums. They’ve been responsible for Brony conventions and fan sites that feature art and music inspired by the series. The show may have been intended for young girls and their moms to bond over, but it exploded with this surprising male audience. The creators have embraced this unconventional fanbase, adding nods to Bronies in both the show and its merchandise.

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86) The Hobbit turns into a trilogy

Although some Tolkien purists will inevitably disagree, the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was, basically, perfect. So when director Peter Jackson announced he was returning to Middle-earth to make its prequel, The Hobbit, everyone was incredibly excited. Flush with the success of the splitting of Deathly Hallows, and Warner Bros. announced it would be two movies. The Hobbit is shorter than each of the books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but you could argue—and people did—that two movies made sense with Jackson’ epic filmmaking. But then… it became three. It was such an obvious cash grab that almost instantly all excitement and anticipation for the film(s) cooled off. And instead of getting the perfect movie adaptation of The Hobbit the world wanted, we got a bloated, boring mess in three installments.

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85) Anime director Satoshi Kon dies

If the name Satoshi Kon doesn’t ring as many bells as Hayao Miyazaki does, well, that’s the problem. The anime director died on August 25, 2010, at the age of 46, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He had completed only four films and one TV series, a first foray in what should have been the life’s work of one of the world’s best directors, period. Instead, we got the wonderful, Hitchcockian suspense film Perfect Blue; Millennium Actress, the frenetically visual examination of the thin boundaries between art and reality; Tokyo Godfathers, a heart-warming Capra-esque drama-comedy about three homeless people who discover an abandoned baby; and Paprika, which is essentially a dream turned into a film, in a way animation could be capable of. With every film, his prowess and prestige grew, and it would have kept on growing, too. When we lost Kon, we lost masterpieces.

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84) The revival of Squirrel Girl

There is only one truly unbeatable superhero, and it’s not Superman, Wonder Woman, or Spider-Man. It’s Doreen Green, a.k.a. Squirrel Girl, a young woman blessed with the power to talk to squirrels and do computer coding. She was created as a silly character, with her power to actually beat toughies like Doctor Doom being part of the joke. But when Ryan North and Erica Henderson grabbed her in 2015 and rechristened her The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, they made that rarest of all comics: One that people of all ages can enjoy. Like its title character, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a fun, positive comic that teaches the importance of tolerance, diversity, and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, too. It’s led to a huge renaissance for the nut-eater/butt-kicker, who made her animated debut on the recent Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, and is due to be the lead in the upcoming New Warriors TV series.

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83) Twilight fan fic becomes the bestselling erotica 50 Shades of Grey

Fan fiction—especially erotic fan fiction—is a bit of an odd duck. But when E.L. James wrote her tale of Twilight’s Bella and Edward taking their relationship to a more… arduous level, she wasn’t alone. In fact, we bet there were hundreds of erotic Twilight fan fics that made Edward (or Jacob, or both) and Bella specifically into BDSM. Things only took a turn for the unusual when James removed the Twilight part of her story, renamed her characters, released the result as an ebook from a no-budget publisher—and then sailed from the virtual bargain bin to a series with 125 million copies sold. The only change this may have wrought on the industry is publishers forcing their employees to constantly parse through erotic fan fic sites, but that doesn’t change the fact that what happened is bizarre.

82) The Big Bang Theory mentions a fantastic, acclaimed, progressive non-Marvel/DC comic book… to make a boob joke

The February 5, 2016 episode of The Big Bang Theory had 15.7 million viewers. Interestingly, that’s the same number of people who should be buying and reading every issue of Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ just unbelievably great scifi-fantasy drama about family, war, sex, parenting, and more. To be more precise, it’s the type of comic that when the cover of its first issue—which included a woman breastfeeding her baby—was seen as controversial, Vaughan and Staples responded by making the cover of the first Saga anthology a close-up of that same baby, suckling on that same breast. It’s a comic that’s smart and progressive, and 15+ million people should know this. Instead, it was used for TBBT’s presumably 15 zillionth “nerds sure do like to masturbate to comics!” joke. You can hear it in the video above, although god knows why you’d want to.

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81) Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl again, but Oracle is no more

In 2011, DC Comics made some bold moves to invigorate its publishing lineup with the New 52. No change was as controversial as returning its genius, wheelchair-using badass Oracle to her previous moniker—Batgirl. It wasn’t just a name change; Barbara Gordon would also be leaving her wheelchair behind 20 years after having been paralyzed by the Joker. It was a disheartening move from DC, which already had very little disability representation in its comics. But just as importantly, Oracle held her own special place in the DC universe. After all, there have been several other heroes that have gone by the Batgirl moniker, but there’s only ever been one Oracle—and her loss has been felt keenly by fans.

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Best and worst of 2019: The most memorable pop culture moments

What a year in pop culture it was. This was the year of Fat Thor in the movies, the weird Hollywood sex cult and the Jussie Smollett hoax. The year rapper A$AP Rocky spawned an international incident and some people paid $120K for a banana and duct tape. As 2019 draws to a close, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable — and/or entertaining — moments of the past 12 months.

Biggest twists

“Avengers: Endgame”

The conclusion to the “Infinity Saga” shocked audiences — stunned by turning half the heroes to dust in “Infinity War” — by killing big baddie Thanos right at the top of the movie. He returned, of course, but it was a nice device to keep the audience off balance.

Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Endgame.”Film Frame/Marvel Studios 2019

Andy King

The producer of the Fyre Festival had jaws dropping when, in Netflix’s January documentary “Fyre,” he admitted that he was prepared to, er, please a customs official in order to procure Evian water for the disastrous festival. Man, what would he do for sparkling?

Kanye West

The rapper pivoted to becoming a gospel star with an album called “Jesus Is King” in October. It was the first time he’s put someone else first.

Best villains

“The Joker”

Who’d have thought that a gritty, grimy, dirty, R-rated film about a Batman foe would become one of the top-grossing movies of the year? Next up for Joaquin Phoenix: a potential Oscar nod. Or at least a shower.

Felicity Huffman

The “Desperate Housewives” star got ensnared in the infamous college-admissions scandal after she was charged in March with paying someone to inflate her daughter’s SAT score. She should have just done it the old-fashioned way and paid for a university library.

Fleabag

She’s selfish, screwed-up in the head and really unlucky in love, yet there’s something really likable about Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character — so much so that Season 2 of the Amazon comedy had viewers rooting hard for her to sexually corrupt a priest.

Best performances

The cast of “The Ferryman”

The riveting Broadway show about an Irish family caught up with the IRA earned four Tonys back in June, including Best Play and Best Director. Aye.

BTS

The boy band, who became the first Korean act to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, took over Central Park on a rainy May day for a free show. Not surprisingly, the artists didn’t crack jokes about buying joints, as Simon and Garfunkel did back in 1981.

The members of BTS perform in LA on Dec. 6.Getty Images

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

The leads of “A Star Is Born” reunited at the Oscars in February for an intimate performance of “Shallow.” In light of the obvious chemistry, their greatest performance was convincing the world they weren’t an item.

Most unnecessary franchise extensions

“Terminator: Dark Fate”

At this point, even the cold, unfeeling machines must be getting tired of all these unnecessary “Terminator” flicks.

“Men in Black: International”

Here’s hoping the international box office at least was strong for this still-born reboot.

Baby Archie Mountbatten-Windsor

Harry and Meghan’s child, born in May, is seventh in line to the throne. If you’re counting, that’s the heir-spare-spare-spare-spare-spare-spare.

Splashiest arrivals

Popeyes chicken sandwich

The Cajun chain introduced the crispy-fried item in August, and it was so popular it led to runs on the restaurants and one literal murder. Wonder what the suspect is going to order for his last meal?

Harry Styles

The singer hit May’s Met Gala red carpet dressed in a lacy black, see-through top, pearl earrings and high heels. His one direction is toward androgyny.

Jennifer Aniston

The actress joined Instagram in October and immediately set a world record for followers by posting a candid selfie hanging with the “Friends” cast. It’s Jen’s day, week, month and year.

Highest profile disasters

“Chernobyl”

The HBO miniseries about the 1986 nuclear meltdown was among the bleakest series ever to hit TV. It was also among the best. Well-researched, perfectly acted and with themes about truth in government that resonate as much today as then.

“Crisis on Infinite Earths”

The December crossover through the CW’s “Arrowverse” series found the heroes trying to stave off the destruction of the entire universe. It had the stakes and ambition (if not the budget) of theatrical superhero fare, as well as an Ace the Bat-Hound cameo to boot.

The cast of “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”CW Network/Everett Collection

Maroon 5 at the Super Bowl halftime show

The LA Rams, who only scored three points in February’s big game, had more success.

Biggest time wasters

Baby Yoda

The adorable little green guy from Disney+’s “Star Wars: The Mandalorian” quickly became an online sensation, as fans created dozens of funny social-media memes. Five years until he gets his own trilogy.

TikTok

The short-form video app exploded in popularity this year, reaching more than 500 million monthly active users, according to DataReportal. Still no idea what it is.

“Señorita”

Spotify listeners streamed the Shawn Mendes-Camila Cabello song more than 1 billion times, making it one of the service’s most popular tracks. That’s more than 50 million hours, or the time it takes for 10 crosstown bus rides.

Biggest botched endings

“Game of Thrones”

One of TV’s greatest epics fizzled last spring with a hastily thrown together, nonsensical final season that left viewers saying, “Maybe I’ll give “His Dark Materials” a shot after all.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Some fanboys and girls pushed back against this uneven December finale, which was left to tie up endless plot points and character arcs — all the while attempting to nod to everything that had come before. And they still couldn’t squeeze in Jar Jar? Boycott.

Jamie Foxx and Katie Holmes

The two reportedly parted ways in May after dating for six years, during which they never officially acknowledged they were together. For actors, they really don’t understand how story arcs work.

Top Tributes

Alex Trebek

The longtime “Jeopardy” host announced in March that he was suffering from stage IV pancreatic cancer. Well wishes immediately poured in, occasionally from contestants during the show. What is hang in there, Alex?

Alex TrebekABC

Nipsey Hussle

The Grammy-nominated rapper was shot and killed, at age 33, in March outside his LA clothing store. The death led to a barrage of tributes, including in the NBA, where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and others honored the artist with special shirts and marked-up sneakers.

Luke Perry

The former “90210” heartthrob died unexpectedly in March at age 52, leading to memorials on the rebooted “BH902010” and on “Riverdale.”

The 100 Best Moments in Culture in 2019, Pt. 4

Welcome to The Ringer’s 100 Best Moments in Culture in 2019 So Far, an exhaustive ranking of everything good that has happened this year in film, TV, celebrity news, and memedom. This is a list that seeks to capture the tiny moments that made a giant impact—the things from the first half of this year that brought us immense joy, that made us feel alive, and that will live on in our hearts and minds for years to come. Over the next week we’ll unveil our favorite moments, putting them in context, reminiscing on their importance, all while counting down to the best moment of the year. The first six months of 2019 have been a long, content-filled journey; now that we’re on the other side of it, it’s time to celebrate. (Click here to see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

25. “I love you, alive girl.” (January 10)

24. “And you know that, Ken”: Ariana Grande’s stock continues to rise (February 8)

i’ve kept my mouth shut but now you’re lying about me. i can pull together a performance over night and you know that, Ken. it was when my creativity & self expression was stifled by you, that i decided not to attend. i hope the show is exactly what you want it to be and more.

— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) February 7, 2019

Rob Harvilla: Ariana Grande has an iconic high ponytail, a startling four-octave range, two no. 1 singles in the past three months, a genuinely distressing amount of public trauma and grief to process (publicly) for someone who is only 25, a convincing claim to being the biggest pop star in the world at exactly this moment, an active feud with the Grammys that only underscores her popularity, a raging cultural-appropriation controversy, a six-month-old and tremendously well-received album with a song called “Pete Davidson,” a brand-new album that is arguably better than that other album and is in part about getting over Pete Davidson, and a Japanese-language wrist tattoo that at press time still mistakenly reads “small charcoal grill, finger ♡.”

The commotion around her is getting louder, and messier, and faster as her music gets bigger, and often better. That is not a coincidence, and even if some balance eventually tips and it gets to be a real problem, it’s hardly a problem she invented. The boys, after all, do it all the time.

23. The Metallica needle drop in Triple Frontier (March 6)

22. The Anjelica Huston interview—and subsequent beef with Jacki Weaver (May 3)

Lindsay Zoladz: 67-year-old Anjelica Huston gave an instantly legendary interview to Vulture in which she candidly discussed her filmmaker father, her ex Jack Nicholson, and the limited roles offered to older actors in Hollywood. Reflecting on why she’s been scarce on the big screen for the past decade or so, she said, “I’m looking for movies that impress me in some way, that aren’t apologetically humble or humiliating like, ‘Band of cheerleaders gets back together for one last hurrah,’ you know. An old-lady cheerleader movie. I don’t like that kind of thing. If I’m going to be an old lady—and I’m sort of touching old lady these days—at least I want to be a special old lady. I don’t want to be relegated to some has-been making a comeback.”

Incidentally, “band of cheerleaders gets back together for one last hurrah” was not a hypothetical plotline. It is the story of Poms, a real, feel-good comedy about a retirement-community cheer squad starring Diane Keaton and Jacki Weaver that opens this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day. The day after Huston’s interview was published, Vanity Fair asked Weaver what she thought of Huston’s remarks. Although Weaver had several colorful retorts (my favorite being “Didn’t she grow up in a castle in Ireland?”), the one that got the most attention was the most direct: “Well, she can go fuck herself.” And so the unlikeliest celebrity feud of 2019 was born.

21. Andy King does whatever it takes for Fyre Festival, instantly becomes a meme (January 18)

Job Interviewer: Describe a situation when you went above and beyond for a customer?
Me: pic.twitter.com/TR6fWAUzC8

— Zach Ball (@RealZachBall) January 25, 2019

Just when you thought the Fyre memes were done… pic.twitter.com/pQFFrq9M6k

— Anthony Borthwick (@dirtypawsNJ) January 28, 2019

20. The Masked Singer’s reign of terror begins (January 2)

Miles Surrey: It’s not always easy to know what’s going to be a hit on TV. Even so, you’d have safety ticked off “masked celebrities hide under lurid costumes in a singing competition” as a surreal but forgettable slice of network programming. Instead, well, Fox’s The Masked Singer became the unlikely breakout hit to begin 2019—and the stuff of my unwavering night terrors.

Easily decipherable clues, an underwhelming judges panel headlined by an anti-vaxxer, and some awful performances from the likes of Terry Bradshaw did not dissuade audiences from gobbling up The Masked Singer. Who doesn’t love a good gimmick? Ultimately, in a sentence I never would have expected to type, T-Pain in a monster costume soundly defeated Gladys Knight (a bee) and Donny Osmond (a sparkly peacock) in the final round. And as T-Pain celebrates a genuinely well-deserved win, we as a society must prepare for a second season of The Masked Singer—and, if the stellar freshman ratings are any indication, many more in the years to follow. The night terrors will be back.

19. HBO’s Chernobyl (May 6)

18. Lupita Nyong’o’s faceoff with herself at the end of Us (March 22)

Megan Schuster: The violin-heavy score swells as Us reaches its climactic moment: Adelaide and Red, both played by the stunningly talented Lupita Nyong’o, square off in an abandoned subterranean shelter, battling for the right to exist in a plane defined by fresh air and free will, not tethers and raw rabbit meat. The bleak setting—a cavernous, poorly-lit hallway, the adjacent bunker-like classrooms and living quarters—and interspersed flashbacks of the two characters performing in ballet recitals when they were young are wonderful cinematic touches from director Jordan Peele, but the true star of this scene is Nyong’o.

Imagine not only having to act in a fight scene, but having to fight yourself. And then add on the fact that you have to portray a duality of emotions and intentions while doing so. And then consider that neither character is who the audience actually thinks she is, and you’re responsible for slyly conveying that. Us is truly a mindfuck of a movie, but the only reason we were so enthralled by the result is because of the convincing performance Nyong’o gives, throughout the film but especially in this last fight. As Red and Adelaide danced/cage-matched their way through the world of the Tethered, I couldn’t avert my eyes—not just so that I wouldn’t miss a pivotal blow, but so that I could see what Lupita would do next.

17. Arya and Gendry’s hookup in Game of Thrones—and Sophie Turner’s subsequent reaction to it (April 21)

Kate Knibbs: A girl has no V-card.

why is no one on my tl talking about miss sophie referring to gendry as an easter bunny hop hop hopping into that PUSSAY? pic.twitter.com/aA9budFhwz

— maia (@maia419) April 22, 2019

16. Horse fights, knife fights, Boban fights, dog-aided fights, Mark Dacascos fights: John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum hits theaters (May 17)

Andrew Gruttadaro: Keanu Reeves has, give or take, 20 lines of dialogue in John Wick 3? You can’t waste time talking when you’ve got to: break Boban Marjanovic’s neck with a book in the New York Public Library (and then replace the book ever so gently); have an elaborate knife fight in a Chinatown building that is for some reason SO FULL OF KNIVES; slap horses just so, so that they kick their hind legs into the heads of anonymous assassins; ride one of those horses across the Manhattan Bridge while killing more assassins on motorcycles; meet up with Halle Berry and her tactical dogs in Morocco, and then kill approximately 400 bad guys; return to New York City to have an ultimate showdown with the host of Iron Chef. God, John Wick 3 is so good.

15. The emergence of Megan Thee Stallion (May 17)

Lindsay Zoladz: From its blazing, take-no-prisoners opening track “Realer,” Fever leaves the ground scorched in its wake. Megan’s quick, barbed bars stab her haters before they even register that they’re bleeding: “Bitch keep talking that shit FROM YOUR HONDA,” she raps with enough venom to make an entire car company’s stock plummet. One of the record’s most playful moments, though, is the club-ready “Simon Says,” which features a cameo from Juicy J. (It’s also one of three songs he produced on Fever.) Breathlessly dextrous, Megan almost always raps like she’s got something to prove—and because she’s still working within the confines of a male-dominated industry, the unfortunate fact is that she usually does.

14. Fleabag’s Hot Priest (May 17)

Alison Herman: Fleabag has walled herself off. What it takes to break her open is an act of blasphemy so extreme it qualifies as divine intervention: She falls in love with a priest. Specifically, The Priest, who—like Fleabag or Colman’s Godmother—is known only by his title, never his proper name. Such designations suggest an allegory, and Fleabag does deal in weighty, universal themes like sin, forgiveness, love, and God. Yet Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott share a volcanic chemistry that can only exist between two flesh-and-blood individuals. Their attraction is Fleabag’s sine qua non; for their unlikely romance to work, you need to believe Fleabag and the Priest have the kind of connection that would make them both question their most bedrock beliefs. His conflict is clear enough: “I can’t have sex with you because I’ll fall in love with you,” he says. “And if I fall in love with you, I won’t burst into flames, but my life will be fucked.” But so, in a way, is hers: “Don’t make me an optimist,” she half-jokes, half-warns. “You’ll ruin my life.”

13. The chaotic, triumphant, star-filled end of Avengers: Endgame (April 26)

12. Bran the Brok—er, Bran the Meme Machine (April 14)

Bran every episode #GOT pic.twitter.com/o7RvSLwz6s

— Shannon Penn (@Shannon_Penn) April 15, 2019

Nobody:
Bran: pic.twitter.com/Zu0uWryTI9

— Dad (@fivefifths) April 15, 2019

Drogon destroyed the iron throne because it knew bran had a new seat#GameofThrones pic.twitter.com/oyc0jUxKUr

— Pentecost (@tobofre) May 20, 2019

ABSOLUTELY NO ONE:
SANSA: BRAN’S DICK DOESNT WORK #GameOfThrones pic.twitter.com/fGauKf7Mxe

— sami (@samjk17) May 20, 2019

Loving these #BranStark memes, keep em coming #ForTheThrone

— Isaac.H.Wright (@Isaac_H_Wright) April 16, 2019

11. The hilarious madness of Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave (April 23)

Knibbs: Tim Robinson’s snappy, viscerally weird Netflix show is a perfect collection of sketches about how far people will go to avoid embarrassment, to win the approval of strangers, or to feel comfortable in their skin. By my estimation, it’s the funniest thing on television all year by a lead of about a million slices of toilet paper. I can’t imagine that it’s going to land for everyone; most of the sketches have one to a thousand poop or fart references, and nearly all of them can credibly be described as “breathtakingly stupid.” But I mean that as a compliment. Robinson, an SNL alum with sensibilities closer to Tim and Eric, has created something extremely rare: a sketch show that feels cohesive and completely unpredictable at the same time. Nearly every sketch centers on a social transgression, but they blow straight past cringe comedy into a trascendental, absurdly dumb galaxy, where the bones are their money.

10. Sally Rooney Fever (April 16)

Jane Hu: “Sally Rooney gets in your head,” goes the title of Lauren Collins’s New Yorker profile of the author. Reading Conversations With Friends, Meaghan O’Connell experienced what she describes as “the slow-burning dread of recognition.” Alexandra Schwartz’s review of the novel concludes that “Rooney’s natural power is as a psychological portraitist,” and especially her portrayal of “Frances’s defensive, deceived self-awareness, her painful errors in emotional judgment, feel so vividly truthful that the reader sympathetically braces for her comeuppance.” Citing Schwartz’s review, Ratajkowski’s recent Instagram stories provide further annotations on the power of these psychological portraits: “This part struck me as deeply relatable in the same way. I’m always trying to argue both sides within myself to a paralyzing extent.” In all these reflections, women readers are responding not to Frances’s likability and charisma, or even her typicality as a middle-class single white college-aged female. What makes Frances relatable is precisely how she constantly seems to exceed her categorical boundaries. She is both an ex-lesbian and current “other woman,” communist and conventional romance heroine, stubborn and sentimental. No wonder it took a novel-length work to figure it all out.

9. Greta Lee steals Russian Doll with one line reading (February 1)

8. The terrifyingly dangerous child in Barry’s “ronny/lily” (April 28)

Alan Siegel: For Season 1, the creators of Barry considered a self-contained, real-time half hour about Barry botching a hit. “He’s on one side of the wall and the guy he’s trying to kill is on the other and they both have guns,” Berg said. “And they’re just sort of stuck there.” The show’s staff, however, never quite figured out where the episode would fit.

But this year, “ronny/lily” worked as a midseason surprise. “That was like the halftime show,” Berg said. Hader said that while watching the episode he and his editor, Jeff Buchanan, thought that it felt kind of like “Pine Barrens.” In the Sopranos classic, Christopher and Paulie spend the night in the snowy woods bickering after losing track of a seemingly indestructible Russian. Like him, Lily may be lost forever. Or maybe not. Feral mongooses do have excellent survival skills.

7. Kacey Musgraves makes it known: “I didn’t say fuckin’ yee!” (April 13)

i didn’t say- pic.twitter.com/aZQ5k4QnpB

— K A C E Y M U S G R A V E S (@KaceyMusgraves) April 13, 2019

6. The Jordyn Woods episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” (March 1)

5. Operation Varsity Blues (March 12)

Claire McNear: My favorite part of the still-unfurling college admissions bribery caper—a.k.a. the Great Scantron Scammer Scandal, a.k.a. the 2019 Cheater Charade—is this: “Aw.”

According to a federal indictment, that is what the actress Felicity Huffman said upon learning that the man who was allegedly supposed to help boost her youngest daughter’s SAT score had just had a baby, and so needed some extra notice to prepare. Aw. A baby! How sweet! The bad news—for both Huffman and for the test taker/baby haver, who is now in (legal term incoming) A Lot Of Trouble—is that the person she allegedly discussed the scheme with happened to be a cooperating witness for the government, which, alas, does not seem to think that wealthy parents’ bribing their children’s way into elite colleges or high test scores is the stuff of pleasant chitchat.

THIS EXCHANGE… between Felicity Huffman and witness who’s helping the feds pic.twitter.com/N5kYHl9t7J

— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) March 12, 2019

4. Colton Underwood jumps the fence on The Bachelor (March 4)

3. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga perform “Shallow” at the Oscars (February 24)

Michael Baumann: Four months later, now that we’ve had some time to breathe, the actual live Oscars rendition of “Shallow” seems a little underwhelming. Neither Lady Gaga nor Bradley Cooper truly accessed their singing voices from A Star Is Born, and outside the sweaty, emotionally maximalist context of the film, the whole performance lacked the no-holds-barred quality of, say, Gaga’s 2011 “You and I” duet with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.

Alternatively, this was the capstone performance by two people who were slightly mortified to be seen eyefucking each other, onscreen and off, for the previous six months, who dialed it back so people wouldn’t talk. Because at the time, within the context of A Star Is Born, the leadup to this award show performance was about Gaga and B-Coop’s knee-wobbling chemistry. Chemistry that good could be faked, I suppose, by two talented actors, but I’m pretty sure no actors have ever looked at each other the way those two did.

As someone who suffered from the much-derided epidemic of ASIB-related brainworms this past winter (that was possibly contained within this company’s walls), I will admit that the ongoing fascination with Gaga and B-Coop was weird and slightly voyeuristic, and perhaps even undignified. But also, what made A Star Is Born special was its ability to capture the unrepentant intensity of falling in love, and every frame-by-frame breakdown of the pair’s impromptu duet in Las Vegas, and every headline about both of them breaking off their previous relationships was on some level an extension of that captive emotional intensity.

So on the one hand, obsessing over this (very likely fictitious) love affair between two real people is a little like making one’s dolls kiss. But on the other hand, they are totally in love. I know it in my soul.

2. Keanu Reeves owns 2019 in every way

Miles Surrey: Even when he isn’t making great movies (shout-out 47 Ronin!) there’s an enduring appeal to watching Keanu Reeves do his thing. Whether it’s his choices on screen or the dank memes he inspires, Keanu has a unique authenticity. None other than The New Yorker suggested he’s so perfect that we might not deserve his presence, and scrolling through news feeds daily I’m inclined to agree!

Keanu always rules, but 2019 has been a Keanussaince because his status has been heightened by not just one great project, but several. In John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum, he goes from avenging dogs to fighting alongside them; in Ali Wong’s Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe, he plays himself as a superficial asshole who cries while eating venison; he voices a Canadian stuntman toy in Toy Story 4, making the small role bigger than it had any right to be; it was just recently revealed that he’s starring in a massive, open-world cyberpunk video game in 2020.

With more time in the spotlight, we’ve also been afforded more great moments offscreen: Keanu playing with puppies, Keanu uttering profound statements in late-night interviews, Keanu posing with the Toy Story toys, someone calling Keanu breathtaking (hard agree). Perhaps we, as a society, don’t deserve Keanu Reeves. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t savor every wholesome moment and execution by book of a Serbian basketball player.

1. Billy Ray Cyrus hops on Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” birthing the song of the year (April 5)

Lindsay Zoladz: Unto us a gift was born: An “Old Town Road” remix featuring the Achy Breaky One himself. Although we live in an increasingly surreal world—one in which, say, Aunt Becky from Full House might go to jail—this was the point at which the tale of “Old Town Road” had become absurd enough to draw the world’s undivided attention. The Texas Tech basketball team sang it while celebrating in their locker room last week; just a few days later it had reached whatever the level of ubiquity something reaches when Mark Ruffalo tweets about it. Suffice it to say there is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Lil Nas X.

Even stranger: The remix is somehow … good? Billy Ray Cyrus brings an admirable level of conviction to what some people might have dismissed as a novelty single. His soulfully croaked “yeeeaaaahhh” blows across the intro like a tumbleweed, and later in the song he drops heaters like “Baby’s got a habit, diamond rings and Fendi sports bras.” Hilariously, the powers that be at Billboard have now been backed into a corner from which they will have to declare a song that contains Cyrus crooning his achy-breaky heart out “not country.” But it doesn’t even matter anymore; Lil Nas X has won this showdown.