It started with a slap and ended with a dance – 2022 was filled with pop culture moments we will be talking about for years to come.
There were scandals – from cheating to liver-related, hotly anticipated albums and a Hollywood icon’s dress was the star of the Met Gala.
It has been a whirlwind, so here are some of the most iconic moments from this year.
It was the slap heard around the world and it cast a shadow on the Oscars.
Comedian Chris Rock took to the stage and was cracking jokes about the nominees and then his attention turned to Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, I can’t wait to see it,” Rock said.
Her husband Will Smith was seen laughing at first, while Pinkett Smith looks uncomfortable and then rolls her eyes.
It was a reference to Pinkett Smith’s bald head and even before the Oscars, she had opened up about her struggle with alopecia.
The audience awkwardly laughed, then Smith made his way up to the stage while the crowd cheered and then he slapped Rock.
“Oh wow,” Rock said, while Smith walked back to his seat.
“Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me.”
At this point, the audience and those watching at home probably weren’t sure what to make of it, but soon it became apparent the slap was not part of the show.
“Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth,” Smith said. The crowd cooed as Rock tried to downplay the GI Jane “joke”.
But the crowd went silent after Smith once again yelled from his seat for Rock to keep Pinkett Smith’s name out of his mouth.
Soon after, Smith went on to win his first Oscar, for his performance in King Richard.
He apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees in a tearful acceptance speech. The conversation surrounding the slap lingered for months.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in trial of the century
The defamation trial resulted in a frenzy, with the masses picking sides and dissecting courtroom moments.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard divorced in 2017 and a year later, Heard wrote a feature in The Washington Post that described her surviving an abusive relationship.
Depp was not named in the piece. However, he sued Heard for $50 million in damages.
The two battled it out in court for weeks on end, people picked their sides and analysed the behaviour of the stars as they took the stand.
It was a case about libel; however, much of the trial was about whether or not Heard was abused by Depp.
Heard alleged her ex assaulted and sexually abused her, claims that Depp denied. He claimed she was abusive to him.
Incidents were recalled during the trial, like when Depp’s finger was severed amid an argument in Australia in 2015 and when faeces ended up on Depp’s side of the bed following an argument.
Heard alleged the dogs were to blame for the mess.
There was plenty of evidence that suggested the two were involved in a very volatile relationship, each sharing photos of injuries. Text messages from Depp suggested he wanted to hurt Heard.
Both actors claimed their careers and reputations had been damaged and in the end, the jury determined Heard had defamed Depp.
However, the decision from the jury was split and they also ruled that Depp’s lawyer defamed her by saying her allegations were false.
Kim K wears Marilyn’s iconic gown
Kim Kardashian is no stranger to stirring up controversy.
But her look at the 2022 Met Gala may have been her most controversial yet.
Kardashian stepped out in Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Happy Birthday dress, making it the gown’s first outing since Monroe wore it in 1962.
The dress was loaned by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum, which purchased the gown in 2016.
But the decision to allow Kardashian to wear the gown was branded as “irresponsible and unnecessary”, and fashion sleuths claim the reality star has damaged the fragile dress beyond repair.
A damning side-by-side photo published on social media by a Marilyn Monroe fan account claimed to show pictures of the gown before and after it was worn by Kardashian.
The photos appeared to show crystal beads missing from the back, with the fabric appearing weathered and damaged along the zipper and seams.
The move was also panned by Bob Mackie, who originally sketched the gown while working for designer Jean Louis. He called it a “big mistake”.
Ripley’s came out to deny that Kardashian had damaged the dress.
But Kardashian’s camp appears unbothered. As they say in the biz’, all publicity is good publicity.
Louis Theroux becomes a viral meme
After decades in the entertainment industry, the last thing Louis Theroux probably expected was becoming a major meme.
Well, that he did, and it’s all thanks to his appearance on Amelia Dimoldenberg’s YouTube show, Chicken Shop Date.
In the episode, Theroux performs a rendition of his amateur rap, Jiggle Jiggle.
Theroux first debuted the infectious rap in an episode of his Weird Weekends BBC documentary series in 2000.
But after his Chicken Shop ‘date’, Theroux’s verse was given a Gen-Z boost after a DJ duo added some autotune and low-fi vibes.
That audio then caught on on TikTok, where it has been used in more than six million videos.
And a creative dance duo even pioneered some corresponding choreography for the tune, which only added to its popularity.
Theroux is very much a fan of his meme. He caught up with the DJ duo to re-record his vocals for official release across major streaming platforms.
Running Up That Hill renaissance
Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill was released in the 1980s, but it experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2022.
After the song was featured in the highly anticipated fourth season of Stranger Things, the song was charting all over the world and even reached the No.1 spot in Australia.
The song clearly resonated with a younger audience thanks to the popularity of Stranger Things and it was impossible to escape Bush’s chilling vocals and lyrics even on TikTok for a time.
Bush is now in her 60s, but she was stoked that a whole new generation was appreciating her art, although she never expected the song’s resurgence of popularity.
“It’s such a great series, so I thought that the track would get some attention,” she told BBC radio.
“But I just never imagined that it would be anything like this. It’s so exciting but it’s quite shocking really – the whole world’s gone mad.”
Tweet from @BBCWomansHour
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were romantically linked in the early 2000s after meeting on set of the movie Gigli.
Lopez divorced her first husband, and she and Affleck became engaged.
However, the pair never made it down the aisle the first time round.
The two broke up in 2004 and both moved on, with Lopez eventually marrying Marc Anthony and Affleck marrying Jennifer Garner.
Back in 2021, the couple rekindled their love and eventually the two married this year in July.
Don’t Worry Darling drama
It was probably one of the most anticipated films of 2022, with Olivia Wilde at the helm and a star-studded cast, but rumours on and off set completely engulfed Don’t Worry Darling.
Filming wrapped up in 2021 but rumours started to swirl in June thanks to “sources” on set.
There were allegations Florence Pugh was not happy with Wilde’s relationship with Harry Styles, who also starred in the film.
It was alleged Wilde started a relationship with Styles while she was still with her fiancé and father of her children, Jason Sudeikis.
However, there were other sources saying Wilde and Sudeikis were done long before filming started for the movie.
In August, Pugh gave an interview in which she indicated she was not happy with the sex scenes in the movie. Just a few days later, the cracks became very apparent when Wilde did an interview and explained why Shia LaBeouf left the movie.
She claimed LaBeouf’s process sometimes required a “combative energy” that she didn’t like on her set. LaBeouf fired back with proof – saying he quit the film because of other actors and him not being able to find the time to rehearse.
About a month later, Wilde claimed LaBeouf gave her an ultimatum and she chose Pugh over him.
Sources started coming out of the woodwork and claimed Pugh and Wilde had several disagreements on the set and then it was announced Pugh, the movie’s star, would be doing limited press for it.
There was also intel from one source that claimed Pugh and Wilde had a screaming match on set.
Although Pugh did walk the red carpet, she missed the first day of press at the Venice Film Festival.
Then, the nanny came forward. In October, the nanny who looked after Wilde and Sudeikis’ children made explosive allegations in an interview with The Daily Mail.
There were claims that Sudeikis found out about Wilde’s affair with Styles through her Apple Watch and that he was mad about her salad dressing.
Sudeikis and Wilde released a statement, condemning the nanny and claimed she had been harassing them for months on end.
Wilde did release the famed salad recipe on her Instagram though, after everyone lost their minds about the whole ordeal.
Elon Musk’s Twitter shenanigans
Elon Musk has certainly been one of the biggest newsmakers of the year.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO made an offer to buy Twitter in April for a whopping $55 billion.
Musk wasted no time once taking over, firing CEO Parag Agrawal, among other top executives and the entire Twitter board.
And after posting a strongly worded ultimatum, Twitter staff also departed the company in droves.
Musk has also grappled with being a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” and bringing “comedy” back to Twitter, all while cracking down on parody accounts.
But the whole thing blew up in his face when countless accounts began mocking Musk.
Remarkably, despite speculation from users and former staff that Twitter would “break” under Musk’s rule, the platform is yet to collapse. *knock wood*
September was certainly the month of the ‘cheater’, with three massive cheating scandals rocking the internet.
Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine kicked off the insanity when Instagram model Sumner Stroh claimed she had an affair with the singer for “about a year”.
Levine later came out to admit to his “poor judgment” in flirting with someone other than his supermodel wife of eight years, Behati Prinsloo.
“I did not have an affair. Nevertheless, I crossed the line during a regrettable period in life.”
To make things even more bizarre, Stroh claimed that Levine asked her permission to call his unborn child ‘Sumner’.
The second cheating scandal came when news broke that Ned Fulmer, one-quarter of YouTube collective ‘The Try Guys’ had cheated on his wife with one of their employees.
The cheating was exposed after a number of internet sleuth fans pieced together the puzzle after photos were taken of Fulmer and his employee interacting at a Vegas bar.
The remaining three Try Guys eventually addressed the drama in a YouTube video, which was later mocked as a skit on Saturday Night Live.
And to conclude the cheating trifecta, of course, was the bizarre chess cheating scandal involving Magnus Carlsen and up-and-comer Hans Niemann.
After little-known Niemann unexpectedly beat grandmaster Carlsen in a tournament, rumours began swirling that Niemann had perhaps used devious cheating tactics to beat his opponent.
Specifically, anal beads, which the internet speculated he had used to receive morse code, which would inform him of the best move to make.
This theory was not helped by a bombshell report by Chess.com which alleged that Niemann had “likely cheated” in more than 100 games throughout his career.
Carlsen stirred the pot further when he said cheating was “a big deal and an existential threat to the game”.
As for where the feud currently stands, Niemann is seeking $160 million in damages from Carlsen and his company, Chess.com and its boss, and streamer Hikaru Nakamura.
Death of the Queen
There was no story bigger this year than the death of the Queen.
The monarch passed away on September 8 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96.
After spending 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II leaves behind a lasting legacy.
As well as being the longest-reigning monarch in British history, the Queen was also the world’s most photographed woman.
She was also considered the most influential. The Queen was widely credited for preserving and reinforcing ties between the nations of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth grew enormously during her reign, expanding from just eight nations to 54 members, representing two billion people.
She was also a reassuring constant for many across the world.
An astonishing 5.1 billion people reportedly tuned in to watch the Queen’s funeral on September 19.
The Queen was taken around the streets of London one last time, before being driven to Windsor Castle, where she was buried in the King George VI Memorial Chapel alongside her husband, the late Prince Philip.
Albums that got people talking
The year was packed with incredible music, with several of the biggest stars dropping new albums.
Harry Styles released Harry’s House, his third studio album. The songs were written mainly in 2020 and 2021 and the album enjoyed success throughout the year.
Many of the songs were viral sensations on TikTok and the body of work was met with critical acclaim.
Beyonce’s highly anticipated solo album, the first in more than five years, was released in 2022.
Renaissance was widely praised upon its release and some critics hailed it as the album of the year. The album was a dance record that paid homage to Black and queer dance culture.
Break My Soul was the album’s lead single. There was a bit of controversy surrounding the song Heated where an ableist slur was used, however, that was quickly rectified.
Lizzo also had quite the year. The singer and rapper released her fourth studio album, Special, and special it was.
Her lead single About Damn Time was released months ahead of the album and the upbeat song was everywhere.
The album was also well received by critics. But some of Lizzo’s best moments were directly linked to the album.
This year, she made history by playing a former president’s 209-year-old flute. On Instagram she rightfully said it was an “iconic” moment and admitted she would not be getting over it any time soon.
There was constant chatter on the internet about Taylor Swift releasing more music, whether it be a re-recording of a previous album, or completely new music.
Midnights dropped in October, after Swift played a game with her followers where she revealed a track name after spinning a bingo wheel.
It was a game all were invited to take part in on social media and it definitely got people talking. When the album was released, Swifties rejoiced and the album was a hit.
Following its release, Swift’s new songs dominated the US Billboard top 10. It was the first time in history, the top 1o spots were occupied by a single artist and for the spots to feature no men.
She swept up awards at the American Music Awards and when she announced the Eras Tour, the internet was buzzing.
However, the tour was marred by controversy – Ticketmaster crashed during the presale and the public sale was subsequently cancelled, but more on that later.
Goncharov : The fake Scorsese film
The internet caused plenty of nuisance this year.
But the internet’s dreaming up of a fictional Martin Scorsese film definitely takes the cake.
Back in November, Tumblr users were busy creating characters and storylines for Goncharov (1973), a fake mafia film supposedly made by the legendary director.
The fake film starred Robert de Niro as Goncharov – mafia boss running a gang of mobsters in Naples, Italy.
Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepherd, Sophia Loren and Al Pacino also ‘star’ in the fake film.
Netizens ran wild with the idea, creating countless memes, posters and even scripts for the fictional movie.
To give you an idea of the extent of this meme, Goncharov has even surpassed Avatar levels of popularity.
On fan fiction site Archive of Our Own, there are now more story entries for Goncharov than there are dedicated to James Cameron’s Avatar, the fourth-highest grossing film in history.
And to fans’ delight, Scorsese has even acknowledged the ginormous gag, even playing along himself.
To get a better understanding of Goncharov and how the meme kicked off, click here.
James Corden’s fall from grace
US talk show host James Corden didn’t exactly have the greatest year.
Corden struggled to outrun rumours about his alleged bad behaviour on set, his attitude towards members of the public, and even his family.
A New York celebrity chef got the ball rolling when he announced on Instagram that he had banned Corden from his restaurant over his unpleasant behaviour towards staff.
Then people began to find instances where Corden had stolen jokes from Ricky Gervais.
To make matters worse, a Reddit thread created by Corden’s team intended for interaction with fans has become somewhat of a ‘town square’ for acquaintances and former fans to share their Corden stories.
From stories about Corden ignoring his wife and crying child on long-haul flights, to Corden acting like a “massively entitled c—” while out for dinner with Harry Styles, the stories kept coming.
And, really, it didn’t matter if they had any proof or not. People believed these stories, and Corden’s reputation was up in flames.
Corden will film the final season of his Late Late Show in September.
If James Corden fell from grace, well, Kanye West absolutely nosedived.
The once-revered rapper, who has now changed his name to simply ‘Ye’, lost pretty much everything this year.
Just over a year after separating from his wife Kim Kardashian, Ye (who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder) began to spiral – and very publicly.
Already known for holding far-right views, even at one point endorsing former president Donald Trump, Ye appeared alongside conservative commentator Candace Owens at Paris Fashion Week.
The pair wore ‘White Lives Matter’ shirts, which caused a stir on social media.
The controversy caused him to be dropped by Balenciaga and Adidas, reportedly costing him his billionaire status.
But the fallout only caused Ye to unravel even more.
He then declared on Twitter he would be going “death con 3 on Jewish people”, followed by more hatred-filled antisemitic rants online.
He didn’t stop there. He proceeded to appear on several online shows and podcasts to double down on his views.
Most recently, he told Sandy Hook conspiracist Alex Jones on his Infowars show that he had “love” for Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
Now, his once-devoted fans are doing what they can to distance themselves from Ye and his horrific views.
One London tattoo removal studio even began offering free treatment for former fans wishing to remove their Kanye-inspired ink.
Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber end feud
Selena Gomez and Hailey Baldwin fans have been at each other’s throats since Baldwin wed pop singer Justin Bieber in 2019.
Of course, Gomez famously dated the pop star for several years in the 2010s, their on-and-off romance providing much inspiration to both of their music.
But they parted ways for the final time in 2018, just months before Baldwin and Bieber got back together.
But there was barely a honeymoon period for the newlyweds. They were constantly bothered by rumours that Baldwin was jealous of Gomez, or had purposely stolen Bieber away from her.
It reached the point where both stars had to publicly ask their followers to “be kind” and stop pitting them against each other.
Nonetheless, the ongoing harassment continued for years on end.
That was until Gomez and Baldwin posed for a photo together at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ second annual gala.
Both with bright smiles on their faces, Gomez and Baldwin sent a strong message to their fans.
And thus, peace between the fandoms was restored.
Taylor Swift and the Ticketmaster drama
Taylor Swift has had a massive year – from becoming a doctor, to breaking records with her latest album Midnights, it has been hard to escape Tay Tay in the headlines.
But no news was larger than her disastrous pre-sale for tickets for her Eras stadium world tour.
Millions of Swifties tried to claim tickets via Ticketmaster on November 15.
But Ticketmaster crashed minutes before the sale even officially began, leaving many fans in the lurch.
Millions of tickets were eventually sold, but many fans said the site crashed while they were processing their sales, or even once they had reached the checkout.
The ticket merchant eventually cancelled the public sale, saying there were too few tickets left.
Meanwhile, tickets to the tour were being listed elsewhere for up to $40,000 a pop.
It has since been confirmed that a hearing will be held to investigate the monopoly that Ticketmaster, under Live Nation Entertainment, has on the industry in the US.
Some of Swift’s fans have also launched legal action over the disastrous sale.
According to Deadline, they have alleged “fraud, price fixing and antitrust violations”.
With this fiasco now reaching the legal system and being discussed by US political figures, it’s easy to assume that this will continue to be a big story in the New Year.
Liver King steroid admission
Since rising to fame last year, Brian Johnson, also known as the ‘Liver King’, had been plagued by accusations he was taking steroids.
The fitness influencer with thousands of followers across several social media platforms denied such allegations and claimed his buff physique was all thanks to his diet of raw organs.
He also had his business, Ancestral Supplements, where he sold capsules selling organs, bone marrow and other animal products. He preached to the masses about following the nine tenets of ancestral living.
However, in December, the truth came out when he was exposed by another fitness influencer and YouTuber.
He was called a “fitness charlatan” by the YouTuber, who goes by Derek.
Derek also had receipts: Emails, where it seems as though Johnson was after a lot of steroids. The emails were sent from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jenna Ortega dance scene from Wednesday
Netflix’s new Wednesday series has been a huge success.
Directed by ghoulish icon Tim Burton, the series follows Wednesday of the Addams Family as starts at a new boarding school.
Wednesday smashed Netflix’s record for the most hours viewed in a week for an English-language series, which was last set just months before by Stranger Things.
And it’s no wonder, thanks to viral scenes like this.
Fans have been fawning over Jenna Ortega’s portrayal of Wednesday, particularly in one dance scene at her school’s prom.
Tweet from @Joongi__
Maintaining a dead-eyed glare at her dancing partner, Wednesday circles around the dance floor in a Frankenstein-like fashion to the tune of The Cramps’ Goo Goo Muck.
This one scene alone, fans argue, is award-worthy in itself, with many already calling her portrayal “iconic”.
The dance itself is a callback to dance scenes in previous Addams Family projects, like when Wednesday taught Lurch how to do ‘The Drew’ in the 1960s sitcom adaptation.
With Wednesday perfecting the art of callbacks and cultural zeitgeist, it’s a fitting finale for our collection of pop culture moments.