As we near the end of 2018, it’s safe to say this year hasn’t been consistently great, and that’s putting it mildly. But in honor of silver linings and celebration, I’d like to take a moment to look back on some of the pop culture moments that made us feel good instead of heavy.
I’ll start: There was that time Belcalis blessed the world with the release of her first album (which provided the soundtrack to my life for a good three months), the time she blessed our timelines with this first photo of her baby girl, oh and who can forget that time she blessed us all with a very-pregnant Coachella performance? Cardi B throwing her ass back while carrying an as-yet unborn Kulture in the front got me together for a good week — I don’t think I’ve ever seen a greater display of strength or endurance in my life. Truly the kind of inspiration I want and need.
Clearly all of my escape is currently Cardi-related (I’m smiling about the time my boo, without warning, literally ran away from a conversation we were having at a party to hit the dance floor because she heard that single piano-key plunk indicating “Money” was about to play), but the rest of the MR team? Their picks are cut from a wide pop-cultural swath, and you can find them below in a glorious roundup of our 15 favorite moments from 2018. Read on to learn what brought smiles to our faces throughout these dark times.
“While I was tempted to pick the moth meme, or Janelle Monáe’s “Make Me Feel” music video, or the rise and fall of the scrumbro, I had to admit that the hardest I laughed this year was while reading this piece de resistance by Kelly Conaboy entitled: ‘Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Hands and Knees so Their Balls Hit the Water Last?’
I read this piece — which explores in detail the question it poses in the headline, complete with kindergarten-style illustrations — while at work and proceeded to literally cry laughing for the next hour. I immediately sent it to all my important people and posted it on my Instagram, where I received DMs for the rest of the day saying that other people were now cry-laughing. This article did not go viral (although it should have) — and it honestly has nothing to do with anything — but it made me and a lot of other people laugh during a very hard year.” – Haley
2. Tracee Ellis Ross in a massive pink Valentino Haute Couture gown at the Emmys
“‘Magnificent’ is probably an understatement where this look is concerned: the eyeshadow (an on-purpose-clash of orange), the lipstick (magenta), and then the dress, which had these super, super thin accordion pleats cut in cake-slice chunks where the points hit the waist and then fanned out into greatness, and so much fabric falling off the shoulders that if enough wind had blown in the right direction, she would have been able to glide over the carpet instead of walk it. (I think she glided anyway, with or without it.) The color, and the gigantic fluff of it all, was like a pink cloudy sky at sunset. Heavenly.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, this dress, in all its greatness, made me think of those memes where people (sometimes Shaq, specifically) (or kittens) bat away/dance around/dodge the bullshit, because I feel like this dress is a forcefield whose BS-blocking powers extend outward in a protective 14-foot-radius at LEAST. Thank you, Tracee, for bringing this moment to the public consciousness.” – Amelia
3. The Yanny v. Laurel debate
“The Yanny v. Laurel debate was delightful for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it is rare these days for something to go viral purely because it’s fun and kind of silly and speaks to the weird and random thoughts that cross our minds every day (i.e. that cloud kind of looks like Bill Gates on a scooter, what IS baby corn? [actually though], do lizards get stressed out when they lose their tails even though they know it’s going to grow back?, etc.) But also, it’s super fun to take sides on an issue that is so deeply inconsequential to who we are as human beings. I debated it with Edith (she was Team Laurel, I was Team Yanny) at intermittent stages over the course of a multi-hour photo shoot and left feeling a combination of entertained, invigorated and absurd. Can you name a more enjoyable cocktail of emotions than that?” – Harling
4. Drake’s “In My Feelings” Video
“Drake’s ‘In My Feelings’ brought me to the edge of Peak Auntie and STILL gets me through some shitty days. The fact that Phylicia Rashad makes a regal-ass appearance in the first one and a half minutes in full black mama regalia just set the tone for me in terms of this video being just as feel good as the song itself. ‘Don’t forget to go, when you leave’ is a line that reminded me of my Mom, my aunties and almost every other sassy classy southern black woman I’ve ever loved. I was already sold. Cut to shots of beautiful Nola and even more beautiful brown girls doing what us brown country girls do best: THE ABSOLUTE MOST! Candy-colored hair; outfits that would make Phylicia Rashad (and my Mom) blush and cuss all at the same time; and enough rhythm, bouncing and dancing to vibrate heaven’s pearly gates. This video was a love letter to southern girls: golden brown like the skin on fried catfish, spicy like Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce, sweet like a gallon of sun brewed tea. I saw me and I saw girls that weren’t me but that I had admired from afar, equally celebrated in this video and I still smile every time I see it.” – Crystal
5. The Breakout #InMyFeelingsChallenge
“For those of you who don’t know, the #InMyFeelingsChallenge was a viral dance sensation set to, you guessed it, Drake’s hit song ‘In My Feelings.’ It all started when Queens-native comedian Shiggy posted a video of him enthusiastically busting some very New York dance moves, (i.e. getting lite and the Harlem Shake — the real one, not that dubstep foolishness), on Instagram back in June. Shiggy’s moves were so hype and joyful that they inspired thousands of people — including Odell Beckham Jr., Will Smith, and Leslie Jones — to follow suit. Getting to see so many black people collectively indulge in a moment of levity and untethered expression was so delightful. To me, ‘In My Feelings’ became synonymous with feeling oneself. And I couldn’t get enough! Seriously, I used to watch at least three renditions of the #InMyFeelingsChallenge before bed, causing me to fall asleep with a smile on my face for a solid month.” – Imani
6. Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s Wedding
“Everyone thinks Priyanka and Nick Jonas had the best Indian wedding of the year but actually it was Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh — I mean LOOK, JUST LOOK! For me, images like this are a form of escapism in itself — seeing such beautiful, jaw-dropping photos of two people who are both incredibly good-looking and very much in love. They are truly WOW. Indian weddings are generally over the top to the point where it becomes hard for one to standout, but this one in particular really grabbed my attention on IG to the point where I would just stare at the images and smile. I love that it felt very traditional, regal and elegant almost like it happened in another time.” – Jasmin
7. ‘Blue Planet II’ & ‘Planet Earth II’
“This year was the year Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II came to Netflix, both of which rocked me. Current state of affairs got you down? Watch the ever resilient Nubian ibex escape predators from sheer cliff faces! Or how about the baby spider monkey who is saved by her father from imminent death and the camera captures her EMBRACING HIM in gratitude? I cry every episode. Every single one.
As I know it was for many, 2018 was a very hard year for me personally and politically. Watching this show provided me a beautiful visual escape, but also reminded me that this Earth we’re lucky enough to inhabit has a vast range of resilient creatures who face impossible odds of survival every day. And they persevere! We have so much to learn and remember about our inherent nature from the animal kingdom. The animal kingdom is incredible and mesmerizing and we are lucky to live on this damn Earth with all these creatures.” – Amalie
8. ‘Random Acts of Flyness’
“Random Acts of Flyness is a show that I randomly stumbled upon and after five minutes of watching I rabidly searched for more episodes to ensure the amazingness would continue for at least a season. Writer, director and producer Terence Nance is a brilliant observer of life and what it’s really like to live in the United States in 2018. His ability to artfully speak a visceral truth to culture, race, sexuality, history and financial disparity is, in my opinion, the first of its kind. Not only is it engaging from a artist/designer perspective, this show has taught me about my own race and cultural history that, sadly, I was never taught elsewhere. It’s unapologetically black in the most beautiful way, and was definitely a beacon of light this year. I highly recommend it.” – Celia
9. The Hot Duck
“The Hot Duck — a male Mandarin duck which inexplicably turned up in a Central Park pond this past fall, said to have escaped from either a zoo or an owner — became the Where’s Waldo of New York City for a month straight. In an unexpected but delightful way, he became the most sought out bachelor in town, as everyone collectively lost their minds and seemingly fell in love with a duck. I appreciated the absurd wonderment of the whole thing, given the cultural temperature these days.” – Emily
10. Mason Ramsey Yodeling
“Two things I’m a big fan of are 1. viral memes that take Twitter by storm and 2. wholesome content, which is why the absurdly cute video of this boy singing in Walmart that became a pure form of hilarious online fun is my pick. This going viral is a testament to how quickly the internet reacts to anything and how witty people are. It felt like the world was joining in on an almost irrational reason to laugh and kept it going so far the damn kid got famous! No shade though — I’m in no way upset about this kid’s success. He deserves recognition for being brave (who has the courage to bust out a yodel in Walmart?!), doing what he loves and making people smile! 2018 was shitty, but this kid and his success did provide a glimmer of hope.” – Simedar
11. ‘Crazy Rich Asians’
“While my favorite films are usually documentaries that will make me sob in the darkness of a plush theater seat, this year I wanted fluff. More specifically, I wanted mind-numbing extravagant fluff containing bedazzled outfits and a killer soundtrack. Crazy Rich Asians scratched that itch. For two blissful hours, I was distracted by a fresh rom-com plot to the point of forgetting about the news alerts pinging up on my silenced phone. Not only did the movie make history for being the first majority Asian cast in a Hollywood film since 1993, but it raked in the laughter, tears, and box office sales. Despite being a history-making visually stunning cinematic escape, there will still lines I cringed at and reviews (like this one) that opened my eyes to further problematic aspects of the film. Still, it served as a good reminder that celebrating the progressive improvements to the film industry (and the world) and acknowledging all the work that still needs to be done are not mutually exclusive endeavors.” – Starling
12. Will Smith’s Instagram presence
“Will Smith’s presence on Instagram is so over-the-top that all of his posts are more like short Instagram films. His HIGHLY PRODUCED (did he get an airplane to film him????) ‘In My Feelings’ rendition, the memes of his family, his #TBTs, the videos of him dancing at social events, his 50th birthday skydiving excursion, his self-deprecating humor — it’s all great. He’s posted over 300 times since starting his Instagram at the very end of 2017 — a lot for a celebrity. So thank you, Will, for bringing joy to my feed all of 2018.” –Eliz
“Season 1 of Pose was and is the brightest and truest creative expression on television in 2018. I found myself cutting nights out short so I could go home and watch it. It’s a show about the ballroom culture of the 80s and the lives of the trans women of color and gay men of color who created it and lived it during the decade that gave rise to Trump. Per FX’s website it featured ‘the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles as well as the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series.’ The ballroom scenes are so FUN and glamorous and dazzling and dramatic, it felt wonderful to be swallowed up by it, but it’s not an escapist show. I felt both grounded and uplifted by it because of the truth of the full experiences shared, and am so thankful for the reminder to pay attention to the resilience of the human spirit and the forces that threaten it. Cannot wait for season 2.” – Patty
14. The Well-Guarded Secret of Ezra Koenig and Rashida Jones’ Partnership and Offspring
“In August 2018, US Weekly revealed that Rashida Jones had had a child, and that her boyfriend Ezra Koenig was the father. This was news to many, who had no idea that Jones (a comedian/actor perhaps best known for her role on Parks & Recreation) and Koenig (lead singer of Vampire Weekend) were an item of indie darlings. (Since hindsight’s 20/20, you can track here how this seemingly clandestine love bloomed.) Many of us who didn’t keep up with the times were surprised that Jones was not still attached to SNL’s Weekend Update host Colin Jost (who is actually involved with Scarlett Johansson these days — but all everyone ever talked about was the Davidson-Grande relationship as if ScarJo wasn’t high profile enough!). All of this leads me to a question format you may find yourself asking from time to time as well — where does Colin Jost meet Scarlett Johansson? Where does Ezra Koenig meet Rashida Jones? While fascinating to consider the wide swath of options there, finding out about these unexpected pairings and considering the ways in which they might have chemistry together buoyed my spirits the most in 2018. And imagine the possibilities for 2019: will the next Vampire Weekend album take the form of one long serenade aimed in Rashida Jones’ general direction?” – Edith
15. Lady Gaga’s primal “ahhh ahhh ahhh ah aaaaah” run from “Shallow” in ‘A Star is Born.’
“There were many charming and fleeting pop culture delights this year, but as I look back on these extra-trying 12 months, one moment truly stands out, a moment that I’m still turning to for comfort, strength and entertainment: My top moment of 2018 is Lady Gaga’s 17 second primal run in ‘Shallow‘ from A Star is Born. It is so powerful, so unexpected in the song that it really just jolts me out of whatever stupor I’m in (and I was in many a stupor). My fervor for the movie itself has calmed down, as has my love of ‘Shallow’ (I’m a ‘Hair, Body, Face’ girl now) but I still cue up that run when I need something to remind me that life is for the bold or something.” – Nora
Collage by Edith Young.