The Pop Culture Year in Review
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Friday, December 7, 2012 02:12
While some might still believe that this is the year of the apocalypse, we really hope that Honey Boo Boo won’t be the last cultural mark we leave behind if we’re ever discovered by extraterrestrials. Just in case, The Hoya staff got together to pin down the best and worst of popular culture in a year filled with courage on the court, the movie screen and even on Mars.
Musically, the year was at times lackluster. Maroon 5, once a stalwart of inventive music, proved that they’ll never match the ingenuity of Songs About Jane, their perfect original release. Lana Del Rey was amusing mostly because of the backlash to her autotuned singles, not because they were very good. Mumford & Son’s provided more of the same — which was great, but not legendary.
But there are two songs that defined the year — Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” The latter was remarkable primarily because it’s one of the first songs that’s not in English, except for the “Hey sexy lady” line sung on every chorus and a few other fragments, to dominate American and European airwaves. Of course, its fun music video, funny dance and addictive beats also helped.
Yet despite the ubiquity of “Gangnam Style,” 2012 will always be the year of “Call Me Maybe.” On the surface, this song isn’t special — it’s just another over-produced pop song. But it’s one of the best-selling digital singles of all time, so there has to be something else there.
Call us crazy, but we believe the popularity of “Call Me Maybe” can be attributed to our desire to be like Carly Rae Jepsen. “Call Me Maybe” isn’t about playing hard to get. It’s the opposite of a mixed message. It’s the bold declaration of the person we all want to be: the one who’s open with his emotions, knows what he wants and tries to get it. This new year, let’s resolve to be like CRJ — and not just because we want to be rich and famous and star in a music video with an incredibly attractive man.
The other artist who defined this year in music was Macklemore. With his breakout hit “Thrift Shop,” he appealed to both hipsters and hip-hop fans with his ode to the Salvation Army. In his song “Same Love,” he preached the gospel of marriage equality in a year that saw unprecendented gains for the cause.
“It’s Thanksgiving,” the worst song of November and ode to a holiday associated solely with pie, helped close out an otherwise mediocre year with some humor. Too bad we were laughing at, not with, young Nicole Westbrook.
MOVIES: A TIME FOR HEROES
The odds were certainly in our favor this year at the movie theater, starting with the adaptation of The Hunger Games, the smash hit dystopian novel by Suzanne Collins. We were cheering for Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen from the very first time she strung her bow, and watching the violent brutality of the arena and the other tributes play out on the big screen brought our favorite book to life. Not only was this a popular movie, but it left was a smart one, leaving us with questions to consider about poverty, government and courage.
The Dark Knight Rises was a dark and emotionally trying masterpiece that more surpassed its lofty expectations. Christian Bale’s broken and reclusive hero is drawn back into the fight against crime by Tom Hardy’s well-spoken masked mercenary Bane, whose quest to free the citizens of Gotham from freedom itself leaves no life untouched. Anne Hathaway’s knife-stiletto-wearing Catwoman was pretty fabulous, too, as was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stellar performance.
The Avengers was in many ways 2012’s ultimate superhero movie, combining the protagonists from Marvel’s last five movies in one jam-packed slugfest. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow make this movie colorful, loud and chock-full of unrealistic violence — so much so that it pretty much establishes itself as the opposite of the dark and brooding Dark Knight Rises.
This year, audiences were given a true cinematic treat with the superb Skyfall. The newest entry into the Bond franchise sends our favorite operative out to discover the mastermind behind the theft of a hard drive containing vital British intelligence secrets. The movie has all the aspects of a great Bond classic — the glamorous Bond girl, the disarmingly charismatic villain and the dramatic chases through exotic locales ranging from the slums of Turkey to Macau to the London underground. This movie makes every viewer reconsider her decision not to become a secret agent.
TV: AMERICA'S TRUE PASTIME
Even though this year has brought the beginnings of the final seasons of well-known series like “The Office” and “Gossip Girl,” the new TV shows of 2012 have proven that they can fill the voids that those old shows will leave. The year saw the rise of female comedians, medieval fantasies and interesting — to say the least — reality television.
“Girls” and “The Mindy Project” were the big comedies of this year. Created by and starring Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling, respectively, these comedies explore the personal and professional lives of two radically different women. While in HBO’s “Girls,” Hannah Horvath, an aspiring writer played by Dunham, struggles to get her life together in New York City, single physician Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) searches for the perfect guy and attempts to jump-start her career in FOX’s “The Mindy Project.” “Girls” was a cultural moment — a dirtier, rawer and more controversial “Sex and the City.” We also saw Lena Dunham naked a lot more than we might have wanted to and were scarred by her character’s creepy boyfriend Adam. “The Mindy Project” has yet to match its potential, but hopefully 2013 will treat it well.