THERE were a lot of real things going on in the real world in 2012. Meanwhile, in the bizarro universe of pop culture, we have breakups and breakdowns, career mistakes and personal disasters, unfortunate photo ops and drunken tweets.
Here’s an arbitrary look at the pop culture year that was, from the silly to the super-silly.
SAY WHAT? PART 1: In a January interview, Mark Wahlberg confidently declares that had he been on one of the 9/11 planes, he would have managed to land it safely. (Imaginative commentators immediately insert Marky Mark into major historical events, using his South Boston brand of street-smarts to prevent everything from the Irish potato famine to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.)
VIRAL VIDEOS GONE WILD, PART 1: YouTube is the virtual place to be in 2012, for the hummable ( Call Me Maybe), the danceable ( Gangnam Style), and the funny (mostly spinoff imitators of the danceable and hummable).
There are also dubious parenting tips (a dad shooting his daughter’s laptop with a .45) and some questionable politics (KONY 2012, a massively well-intentioned plea to stop a Ugandan warlord that somehow makes east African strife into a white-person problem).
(Warning: some strong language in this video):
UNEXPECTED BOOK SPINOFFS: The popularity of 50 Shades of Grey whips up new interest in mainstream "Mommy porn." Meanwhile, the bazillion-selling bit of S/M erotica is linked to increased sales of lingerie, sex toys, rope and… Elizabethan motets by Thomas Tallis.
(The 16th-century composer’s work figures in one of the novel’s, um, climactic scenes.)
SAY WHAT, PART 2: Stylish head-on-a-stick Karl Lagerfeld decides that Adele is "a little too fat." Famed musical mopester Morrissey expertly diagnoses the Duchess of Cambridge’s hyperemesis gravidarum ("so much hoohaw"). Lindsay Lohan offers a junior high take on her legal troubles by dragging in fellow former child star and hot mess Amanda Bynes. ("Why did I get put in jail and a Nickelodeon star has had NO punishment(s) so far?")
VIRAL VIDEOS GONE WILD, PART 2: Awwwww. Who wouldn’t cheer up looking at footage of the baby and dog/dog and owl/deer and duck/tiger and piglets/hippo and tortoise that become unlikely best friends?
But the real feel-good video of 2012 is a super-entitled Ferrari driver being brought down a peg by an irate New York parking cop. Deeply satisfying entertainment for the 99 per cent.
(Warning: some strong language in this video, at the beginning):
ECCE HOMO, OR, BEHOLD THE BOTCHED ARTWORK: An elderly amateur art restorer turns a 19th-century Spanish fresco into an esthetic wreck that is immediately dubbed the Potato Jesus.
Terrible restoration. Fantastic Internet meme. Pretty good Halloween costume.
WHY SO SERIOUS?: Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises aim to bring new emotional realism and moral weight to the blockbuster flick, as James Bond broodingly presides over the end of the British Empire and Batman faces down existential despair.
Now, if only the movies’ villains and their ridiculously complicated, convoluted plans didn’t resemble Dr. Evil and his "unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism."
AFFAIRS, HIS: Faced with the juicy spectacle of the Petraeus scandal, some commentators blame Paula Broadwell and her grasping velociraptor arms. Some blame Jill Kelley and her greedy, social-climbing ambitions. Some even go after Holly Petraeus for "letting herself go." Very few commentators blame Petraeus himself, though presumably as a decorated military man he’s known for making decisions and acting on them.
AFFAIRS, HERS: Meanwhile, 22-year-old Kristen Stewart gets caught making out with a guy who is not her eternal, undead boyfriend Robert Pattinson. Furious Twihards brand her as an adulteress, a whore, a slut and a "trampire." Jeesh.
BEST RUMOUR THAT WAS TRUE: Katie Holmes makes a break for it, tunnelling out of her prison of privilege and divorcing Tom Cruise.
BEST RUMOUR THAT WASN’T TRUE: Some websites report that Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny — who played fabulously unconsummated friends and partners on The X-Files — are finally getting together. The gossip turns out to be false, but, oh, we want to believe!
HEY, GIRL, WATCH OUT FOR THAT TAXI: Ryan Gosling saves a woman from walking into traffic into NYC. The woman next to her says, "You lucky bitch."
IT MUST BE GOOD BECAUSE IT’S BRITISH: While pretending to be a posh historical drama, Downton Abbey jumps the Edwardian shark with an episode that somehow involves both double amnesia and the alternative ending of Fatal Attraction. We keep watching anyway.
CIRCLE OF LIFE, PART 1: This year we lost Dave Brubeck, Larry Hagman, Michael Clarke Duncan, Phyllis Diller, Tony Scott, Helen Gurley Brown, Ernest Borgnine, Maurice Sendak, Ray Bradbury, Whitney Houston, Nora Ephron and many more.
CIRCLE OF LIFE, PART 2: In keeping with the tradition of "very special" celebrity baby names, little Tennessee, Exton, Rocky, Maple, Lion and Halcyon are welcomed into the world by their famous parents.
BEST CELEB HEADLINES: "Lindsay Lohan ‘Scary Movie 5’: Star Reportedly Clogs Toilet On Set!" Or how about, "One Direction in Chlamydia Scare after Handling Koalas Down Under." The hell?
CELEBRITIES, THEY’RE JUST LIKE US, EXCEPT NOT REALLY: Scarlett Johansson tells People magazine that she worries about her body, too. Thanks, Scar-Jo. We feel better now.