1. The Sun Is King: Solar Eclipse Made Astronomers Out of All of Us
It is never easy to name any single event in a particular year as the year’s preeminent pop culture moment. But in 2017, no other single event unified just about everyone in our fractious society quite like the total eclipse of the sun in August. Remember how you felt that day? If not, we’re here to help. The eclipse tops our list of the 10 Biggest Moments in Popular Culture in 2017.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the closest thing we have to a national astronomer, urged Americans to put down their devices during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, when the sun’s path would make this rare solar phenomenon visible to a vast swath of North America. “Experience this one emotionally, psychologically, physically,” Tyson advised. Whether or not millions stowed their smart phones during this once-in-a-lifetime event on that memorable afternoon, tens of millions stopped whatever they were doing in a rare instance where most of the country was focused on having the same universal experience.
2. Beatty, Dunaway Best-Picture Oscar Flub Was One for the Ages
No one who stayed up late enough to see it could remember ever seeing anything quite like it before: Two Hollywood mega-stars – a rare reunion of Bonnie and Clyde co-stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway – teaming up to present the Best-Picture Oscar and flubbing it in spectacular fashion. Indeed, such a thing had never happened before, particularly in the Best-Picture Oscar segment, which is the annual award show’s grand finale.
The real Best-Picture winner at the Oscars held on Feb. 26th was supposed to be Moonlight, but Beatty, who reportedly was handed a wrong envelope, blurted out La La Land. While that film’s producers and stars stormed the stage, the correct winner was announced and chaos ensued – not the way the Motion Picture Academy would have chosen to close an Oscar show.
3. In Year of Sex Harassment Scandals, Women Were on the March
Women around the nation and the world marched by the millions on Jan. 21st, reacting mainly to the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States on the previous day. Many who marched – some wearing the pink knit caps that became the march’s trademark – saw Trump’s successful presidential campaign as a victory for misogyny.
The women who marched would have no inkling that sexual harassment would emerge as the No. 1 recurring news story of the year as dozens of women felt empowered to blow the whistle on a long (and lengthening) list of powerful, high-profile men, including movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, TV news personalities Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, actor Kevin Spacey and the list goes on and on.
4. When Harry Met Meghan: A Royal Engagement
He was the most eligible bachelor in the western world. She was a cast member on a long-running lawyer show on an American TV network literally named USA. And now, like something out of a fairy tale, Meghan Markle, 36, is about to become an English princess. She and Britain’s dashing Prince Harry, 33, son and brother of future English kings, went public with their romance in September, just about the time that her USA Network series Suits was winding up its seventh season.
The show will be back but she will not. Instead, she’s headed to the altar for a spring wedding that is already shaping up as one of the most anticipated events of the new year. The two announced their engagement in late November and recently set the big day for May 19th of next year.
5. Twins Help Beyoncé Makes Social Media History
Beyoncé cemented her position as the reigning Queen of All Media – especially social media – as she kept fans in the loop during her pregnancy with twins this past year. She issued the first photo revealing her celebrated “baby bump” on Feb. 1 on Instagram. The photo had Queen Bey wearing a veil, bra and little else, kneeling in profile but facing the camera, with her hands cradling her pregnant midsection. Within a very short time, the photo garnered more than 11 million likes and more than half a million comments. The twins – a boy (named Sir) and girl (Rumi, named after a 13th century poet) – were born to Beyoncé and husband Jay Z on June 13th. A day later, the couple released a first photo of the twins and social media erupted yet again.
6. Tone-Deaf Pepsi Recruits Kendall Jenner As Resistance Protester
In another misstep for a member of the media savvy Kardashian clan, Kendall Jenner found herself at the center of a media storm after she appeared in a commercial for Pepsi in April in which she was positioned center stage as the face of resistance at a fictional protest rally. Condemnation on social media was swift and effective, and in less than a day, a mortified Pepsi yanked the ad.
Naysayers wouldn’t accept Jenner, then 21 – a 1-percenter and member of a glamorous, famous family – in the role of supermodel turned-protester. In the spot, Jenner was seen at the center of a fashion photo shoot while outside the facility, a protest march was forming that she decides to join – all while drinking a can of Pepsi. Although no actual cause for the march was identified in the ad, critics felt it resembled serious protest marches such as those staged in support of Black Lives Matter and other causes.
7. With White House in Chaos, Melissa McCarthy Takes on Sean Spicer
The fun began in early February, not long after the newly inaugurated President Trump set up shop at the White House. Someone at Saturday Night Live had a million-dollar idea: Why not get Melissa McCarthy, a woman and one of our funniest comic actors, to take up the role of in-house Sean Spicer impersonator? The bit – first introduced on Feb. 6th – was a huge hit, and McCarthy returned several times during the remainder of the season to do it again. In July, Spicer resigned – just one of several high-profile resignations that seemed to indicate that the Trump White House was in chaos. Other White House casualties included original chief of staff Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci, who replaced Spicer as communications director and lasted all of 10 days before he was fired later in July.
8. Cute Kids Disrupt BBC Interview and Steal Our Hearts
It was an interview on a very serious subject – the political turmoil in South Korea following the impeachment of the president last March – Park Geun-hye – who was removed from office. But when two tots suddenly entered the room in which their dad – Prof. Robert Kelly of Pusan National University in Busan, Korea – was in the midst of being interviewed on the BBC via Skype from his home office in Korea, the country’s political problems gave way to the challenges of parenting – something almost everyone could identify with. The resulting video – in which Prof. Kelly is seen trying to wrangle his two children (with some belated help from his wife) while continuing to conduct the interview – became one of the most-watched viral videos of the year.
9. Wonder Woman Gave Boost to Female Empowerment
She was a comic-book heroine who enjoyed her greatest popularity when Lynda Carter played her in the old Wonder Woman TV show of the 1970s. But it took more than 35 years after the TV show ended in 1979 to bring this singular superheroine to the big screen. The result was so successful that you had to wonder what took them so long.
Released in June to almost uniformly rave reviews, the Wonder Woman movie had grossed more than $800 million worldwide as of Dec. 15th. The movie turned a virtual unknown – Israeli actress Gal Gadot – into a global movie star. For a year in which female empowerment was one of the year’s ongoing top stories, the arrival of Wonder Woman was timely indeed.
10. For $450 Million, da Vinci Painting Better Be Authentic
Mystery surrounded the identity of the person or persons who bought a rare Leonardo da Vinci painting at an auction in November for the staggering sum of $450 million. The mystery lasted only a few weeks until the buyer was revealed as a Saudi Arabian prince named Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud. According to reports, the Saudi prince was not even known in the art world as a collector of prized art. The painting is known as Salvator Mundi, which is Latin for Savior of the World. The painting appears to be a portrait of Jesus Christ and it is now widely credited to da Vinci. This was not always the case, however, with various experts over the decades expressing skepticism about its attribution to the Renaissance master. Whatever the case, the painting is headed to the new branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.