One of the fun and unique things about being a pop culture columnist is the challenge of taking an entire year and summing it up in about 1,000 words.
At a glance, the Baby Shark song went viral, we had a Royal Wedding, power couples like Jay-Z and Beyonce flooded the tabloids, everyone was pretty much offended by everything, Roseanne was cancelled, Bill Cosby was sentenced to life in prison for sexual assault, California wildfires devastated, Red Sox won the World Series, Labron James became a Laker, Colin Kaepernick signed a deal to be the new spokesperson for Nike, romaine lettuce killed 3 people ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a rogue MPR Raccoon scaled a building in downtown St. Paul making national news, America debated whether Die Hard was in fact a Christmas movie and it seemed like every kid was playing the video game Fortnite.
Things started off with a bang in the world of sports with the “Minneapolis Miracle” when our hopes to win an NFC Championship game were almost thwarted once again in a game against the New Orleans Saints. Then, in the final seconds of the game, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum completed a throw to wide receiver Stefon Diggs that he ran along the sidelines for a shocking touchdown. The entire country was talking about this play. This was our shot to finally play a Super Bowl conveniently hosted at US Bank Stadium! But, in Vikings fashion, those dreams were crushed the next week in Philadephia. The Eagles advanced and went on to beat the Patriots and become Super Bowl LII Champions. During his halftime performance, Justin Timberlake paid tribute to our late superstar, Prince.
Naturally there were some carry over from 2017 including the “Black Lives Matter” and “Me Too” movements and unfortunately mass shootings. The first highly publicized mass shooting of the year took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February with 17 casualties. It was a tragic start to the year. There would be several more, including a bar in Thousand Oaks California and a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Naturally, this prompted national discussion about gun laws in a very polarized time and amidst a midterm election season. I pray that this theme does not continue in 2019.
Marvel ruled the box office again in 2018. Black Panther was a record crushing machine! It was the highest grossing solo super hero film ever, highest grossing film by a black director, highest opening weekend gross for a predominately black cast ($370.8 million), highest grossing February release and more. It out preformed Titanic becoming the 3rd highest grossing film of all time and the 2nd highest grossing film of 2018…only because a few months later Marvel released Avengers Infinity War. Infinity War was the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Josh Brolin debuted among a star studded cast as the villain, Thanos. More super heroes die in this one than ever before, it was enough to make the toughest of comic book nerds cry.
We had a Royal Wedding! The world watched as the second son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Whales, Harry, was married to American actress Meghan Markle. The Royal Wedding was held on May 19th at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor castle. Of course, it was televised. One hymn that was sung by the congregation was Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer. I watched as Prince Harry wiped a tear from his eye as that song was a favorite of his mother and sung at her funeral in 1997.It was also the opening Hymn to Prince William’s wedding in 2011. .In addition to more traditional numbers by the Choir of St. George’s chapel, the Kingdom Choir, a gospel group, sang “Stand By Me.” Markle is the first person of mixed race to marry into the Royal family. It was quite a powerful moment. And if that wasn’t fodder enough for you Royal family followers, she and Harry have announced a baby coming in the Spring of 2019!
Politics continued to be both exciting and divisive in 2018. Mueller’s Russia investigation continued, mid-term elections took center stage and we had the controversial Kavanaugh hearings as we swore in a new Supreme Court Justice amid sexual assault allegations. Saturday Night Live ran with the numerous political of the year. Rachel Dratch even impersonated our own Senator Amy Klobuchar! After President Trump and Kim Jong Un’s Twitter “war” in 2017, it stunned the world when the North Korea-United States summit occurred in June. It was the first ever meeting between leaders of these two countries in which they signed a joint statement agreeing to new peaceful relations, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, among other things. This was one of the more positive political moments of 2018. Relations between Trump and the press, however, remained pretty hostile.
A less hostile topic: The internet debate that divided America in the form of a sound clip! Remember the black and blue/ yellow and white dress? The new version of the “dress” debate took us by storm with an audio clip that half of us heard as “Laurel,” while the other heard as “Yanny.” Like many internet phenomenon, the audio was first released on Reddit. It took off from there. For a good week, you could not log onto a social media platform or turn on a television or radio station without hearing this sound clip of Laurel/Yanny. Several websites made a tool where you could change the frequency so you could hear both. A poll revealed that 53% of America hear Laurel, while 47% hear Yanny. For the record, I first heard Yanny, now all I can hear is Laurel. Mind boggling.
Some of the most notable celebrity deaths of 2018 included the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, comic book icon Stan Lee, creator of Marvel, iconic actor Burt Reynolds and Verne Troyer (Austin Powers’ “Mini Me”). We lost celebrity chef Anthony Bordain and fashion designer Kate Spade to suicide and a couple young musicians lost their battles with addiction including DJ/Producer Avicci and rapper Mac Miller. We also lost Senator and former Presidential candidate, “Maverick” John McCain and two figures we grew to love, former First Lady Barbara Bush followed by her husband and 41st President of the United States, George H. W. Bush.
As we enter a new year I want to wish all of our readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019. I look forward to seeing the new dance moves the kids will be doing and hope that they retire “flossing” and “the shoot” as well as that Baby Shark song. Please, no more. Thank you for reading!
By Molly Penny