The year in pop culture

The big butt, the ice bucket, and "ok siehbi" - if you have lost out on 2014's major happenings, this digest will set you straight

Every year there are trends, catchphrases, songs and concepts which sweep across the nation (and sometimes globally) for no explicable reason other than that they capture the public’s collective imagination. Here is my list for 2014:

1. The Big Butt
As women, we have gone about worrying from “does my butt look big in this?” to worrying that our butt isn’t of the awesome proportions of Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez.  This year it seemed that every music video was shoving alarmingly large derrieres in our faces. Twerking became the new singing.

2. Ice Buckets
This summer, people were pouring ice cubes over their heads, filming it, posting it on Facebook and publicly challenging others to do the same. Apart from getting a glimpse of people’s roofs/balconies/swimming pool decks, it was also a fascinating insight into the power of social media to perpetuate group behaviour. Thank God for Patrick Stewart who made a
telling statement simply by writing a cheque for charity, dropping ice into a glass of booze and raising his glass in a silent toast.

3. Frozen
Not to be confused with the Ice Bucket Challenge, this Disney animated film has probably had one of the most lucrative merchandising campaigns ever. Every little girl I know wanted to be Elsa, and thousands of bedrooms have been decorated with the obligatory Frozen-themed curtains, bedspreads and pillows. But it’s the song Let It Go which really went viral as it was lip synched by Moms, Dads and kids in their cars all over the world, and turned into a parody countless times over.  If you never heard this song, you must have been in a coma.

4. All About that Bass
Another song which was hijacked by parodies (and with yet more references to the inevitable booty). The infectious, catchy melody meant it could be adapted to all sorts of subjects and lyrics but the original version remains the best, as newcomer Megan Trainor sang about embracing one’s body image while wiggling in style. The song still got flak from feminists for referring to “skinny bitches” and “boys like a little more booty to hold at night”.   But it topped the national charts of 58 countries, so I doubt Megan is that worried.

Having fun at the Mandela funeral with a selfie...
Having fun at the Mandela funeral with a selfie...

5. Selfies
2014 was the year that everyone really got into selfies as the phenomenon exploded.  We had the “no make up selfie” (again, supposedly to raise money for charity), the celebrity selfie (with Ellen Degeneres breaking all Twitter records by cramming Hollywood stars into one photo during the Oscars), and then predictably enough, the naked selfie.  What started as a harmless enough trend, has now even been studied by academics who have found that an unhealthy obsession with uploading selfies points to issues of mental health. Of course, we hardly need to be told that constantly posing and pouting at one’s smart phone, at every opportunity, oblivious of our surroundings, smacks of narcissism.  Then again, maybe we do…

Jennifer Lawrence, professional photo-bomber...
Jennifer Lawrence, professional photo-bomber...

6. Photo bombing
You know when you’ve taken a selfie and afterwards realize that in the background there is someone you don’t know grinning or grimacing at the camera and becoming part of the photo? That’s a photo bomb. Some celebrities have made a habit of doing it, most famously Jennifer Lawrence at any red carpet event.  

7. Celebrity Tributes
Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and most recently Joe Cocker. Cyber space has made it possible for us to instantly share our memories and stories about our favourite celebrities when they die suddenly. Of course, it is not the same as grieving for a loved one, but the sense of inexplicable loss is still there. For all the criticism that it encourages isolation, in times like this the Internet is capable of connecting us like never before with those who feel the same way.  

8. Happy
Pharrell Williams made everyone happy with this great tune, although he couldn’t quite believe how many people the song had touched until the Oprah Winfrey interview when she showed him how viral videos of everyone dancing to the tune had spread all over the world. Understandably,  it is now one of the most popular songs played at weddings. If you are not smiling, moving or dancing by the end of it, something is seriously wrong with you.

9. Memes
From bickering over the Eurovision to Kim Kardashian’s attempt to break the Internet (yes, we had more of her big butt), there were many photos and catchphrases which were turned into memes, highlighting the ridiculous and absurd of the original.  The thing with memes is that they have the ability to deflate the biggest ego, proof that satire and irony are the only way to burst the bubble of self-importance. “OK siehbi?

10. The Interview
Was this the best marketing ploy to disguise a bad movie ever? Or did North Korea seriously threaten the US over a film?  We will never know. But maybe someone should make a movie about it.