2014 was an unpredictable year in pop culture fads: big butts, emojis become lingua franca, using pretentious language to announce your breakup is now a thing, and carefully crafted attempts to break the internet only made us cringe *insert disappointed emoji here.
Some of these moments were in bad taste, and controversial conversation starters that opened a wider dialogue around race and appropriation, while others just made us stabby. Yet, once again the usual suspects appear again on our lists, will they ever learn?
Herewith are the Top 5 Pop Culture #fails of 2014:
1. The Booty That Broke the Internet – Let’s preface our ire saying we didn’t mind the booty fever from Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ video to Sir Mix-a-Lot admitting that his famous song had J-Lo in mind, but Kim Kardashian’s Paper Magazine cover was a racist mess. The magazine succeeded in breaking the internet and launching an online outcry, but at what cost? Kardashian ventured that she wanted to work with photographer, Jean-Paul Goude, who has a history of racially problematic photography including a volatile relationship with Grace Jones. Goude released the infamous book, Jungle Fever, in which Jones is photographed in a cage, and bearing her teeth, but that got a free pass because they were lovers and it was art’s sake right? Goude’s work for Paper is just another iteration of his racist imagery, whereby his photoshopping enhanced Kardashian’s butt in a way that recalls Saartje Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus.” Baartman was a 19th century South African woman with large buttocks, who was put on display at freakshows in France. This reductive photo by Goude recycles the same grotesque imagery of the exotic black woman in colonialist and early American media , with Kardashian’s hair, pearls, and butt. The entire photoshoot was appalling, and riddled with racist imagery that makes you wish Kardashian would sit inside and read some cultural studies textbooks instead!
2. Igloo Australia’s Career – Rapper, Azealia Banks, is a pro at hip-hop Twitter beefs, especially with her rows with T.I., Angel Haze, and countless more, but she had a sharp critique of Iggy Azalea’s career that had people thinking again about cultural appropriation in hip-hop. Banks called out Azalea for her silence around the Eric Garner verdict earlier in the day, and it was an impassioned screed on Azalea’s appropriation of black culture for her music and aesthetics. It was a huge moment on Twitter, with #IglooAustralia trending for most of the night, which made it one of the more accessible beefs that Banks has started. Azalea has co-opted black culture to repackage her image by putting on a Southern “blaccent” as a white rapper from Australia, which feels like a low denominator to reach success. Yes, “Fancy” is a catchy song, but it’s just so problematic to see Azalea’s runaway success due to appropriating and posturing. We can only thank Banks for calling this problem out at such a pivotal moment in our culture.
3. Shame on Times of India – 2014 was a hugely controversial year for hacking scandals and the policing of women’s bodies via the nude-photo hack this summer. The problem also reached Bollywood, when the Times of India published tweets and a story on Deepika Padukone’s “cleavage show.” The whole reasoning in posting this clip was just lazy and uncalled for, especially since the clip was from 2013 and their response, “It’s a compliment! You look so great that we want to make sure everyone knew! :).” Soon after, Padukone issued an open letter on her Facebook page, decrying the media’s blurring of what’s “real and reel” from her bold roles and off-screen persona. The incident did spark a debate around Padukone’s hypocrisy, but even that is an incredulous line of thinking that she didn’t have the right to feel objectified despite her profession. It was gratifying to see her speak out against this, because it’s just lazy and disrespectful journalism to reduce her to her body parts just to sell a story.
4. Ughh, the Sony Saga – If there was one thing we learnt in 2014, it was to keep it out ‘the cloud’ and conduct email etiquette properly. The Sony scandal emerged three weeks ago when hackers named Guardians of Peace leaked early copies of Annie, Still Alice, Mr Turner, and Fury; then it got more dicey as emails emerged from studio heads Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin. The emails – which castigate Angelina Jolie as a “minimally talented spoilt brat,” Kevin Hart as a greedy “whore,” and the melodrama surrounding the Steve Jobs biopic – are unfortunately not surprising as Hollywood is already an unequal business with racist and sexist attitudes, but we didn’t expect it to be so brazen and vicious. Pascal, Rudin, and other producers also snickered over what films President Barack Obama might watch by listing off 12 Years A Slave, Django Unchained, and Ride Along. It’s disheartening to see the heads of studios behave like this, because there are such insurmountable odds for non-white directors and actors in getting ahead in the industry, if the people in charge aren’t even willing to take them seriously. Of course, their privacy was invaded and perhaps they aren’t the ignorant asshats they come off as in the emails, but seriously don’t be sending vitriolic hate over email just pick up the phone and scream!
5. Grieve Gracefully, Robin – We’ve already expressed our disdain for Robin Thicke last year, but he’s a repeat offender especially when his life and marriage went to shit this year. The only cure in his warped view was to be a creepo and release the song “Paula” to win back his wife Paula Patton after cheating rumours emerged. I saved you all the trouble of listening to the album (it’s ridiculously earnest, creepy, and an #epicfail), but apparently only a few fans turned out to buy it with total sales of a paltry 24,000. Yup, that’s only 530 copies in the UK, 54 in Australia, and the rest in North America. His music video for the first single, “Get Her Back” is just downright stalkery, with messages likely from the real Paula popping up around the screen as Thicke, bloodied and bruised, prays for her to come back. The responses are just painful: Him – “I wrote an album about you” Her: “I don’t care” “You embarrassed me” “U drink too much” “You ruined everything.” If I’m having too much fun with his predicament, then please just take Thicke away from a studio.