9 Stories That Were Huge (And Immediately Forgotten) In 2016
The presidential election may have dominated our social media feeds this year, but that didn't stop us from occasionally being distracted by other, less important events. Compelling enough to grab our attention for a few fleeting moments in time, these are the shiny dangling keys of 2016.
Becky With The Good Hair
It was a year full of burning questions. Will the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series title in 6,000 years? Did the Russians actually manage to hack the 2016 election? Who the fuck is "Becky with the good hair"? Beyonce set the witch hunt in motion when she challenged her husband "You better call Becky with the good hair" in the song "Sorry" from her album Lemonade.
The Beyhive (Beyonce's fanatically devoted followers) quickly swarmed and joined forces to ID the female whom Jay Z had allegedly had an affair with. A broad range of suspects, including Rita Ora, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift, were considered, with Swift quickly knocked out of the running because we all know she would've already written a song about it. A large contingency settled on Rachel Roy as the culprit. Roy is a fashion designer who worked with Jay Z, and was also supposedly a key player in the elevator kicking controversy which you might remember from back in 2014, wherein Beyonce's sister Solange attacked her brother-in-law at the Met Ball. Between them, Beyonce and Jay Z have had enough "drama" to fill several Real Housewives episodes.
Since we never said internet vigilantes are smart, things got even more convoluted when food show host Rachael Ray was dropped into the mix. Ray admittedly does have nice hair, but she also has no apparent connection to Beyonce or Jay Z, and she became collateral damage when fans of the pop queen started attacking her on social media ... just because her name was similar to Roy's.
And then it got even more bizarre. Beyonce's hairstylist, Anthony Pazos, claimed that the Notorious B.E.C.K.Y. was reality TV stalwart Kris Jenner. It seems like a legit insider source, but Jenner rocks a classic matronly 'do. This begs the question: Wouldn't the lyric be "You better call Becky with the mom cut"?
Orlando Bloom's Penis
Nothing seems to get more of a rise out of the internet than a glimpse of celebrity genitalia. Last year it was Justin Bieber in the buff and a brief flash of LeBron James during an NBA game. This year, it was Orlando Bloom's Flying Dutchman.
At least one person on the planet wasn't impressed.
Shot while Bloom was on vacation with an indifferent-looking Katy Perry, the internet quickly melted down. Legolas has a penis. Please, someone call science. And while the internet disseminated the images, Bloom claimed to be totally humiliated by the attention. Probably because Katy Perry has never looked more bored in her entire life. "We're paddling around and my boyfriend's dick is flapping two feet away from me? Thanks for the trip, Elizabethtown."
Privacy issues aside, all the hype over a penis seems overwrought, particularly when you consider that nearly half the population has one of their own. However, the novelty of a phallus sighting continues to fascinate. That is, until we turned our attention to more pressing matters, like ...
Contaminated water! Terrorism! Zika! Touted as a guaranteed clusterfuck, the 2016 Rio Olympics proved to be more of a snoozefest than a must-watch train wreck. Right when it looked like the most controversial thing that was going to come out of the Games was the piss-poor coverage by NBC, or possibly the abundance of Michael Phelps Angry Face memes, full-time "Please, look at me" and part-time athlete Ryan Lochte injected some much-needed drama.
Fresh off a mediocre swim performance, the 32-year-old terminal frat boy was blowing off steam with teammates in downtown Rio de Janeiro late in the evening. What happened next is subject to interpretation, by which I mean that we gave up on figuring it out before we could be truly bothered with it. Things were broken at a gas station. Money exchanged hands. Was it a robbery? Vandalism? A shakedown? A little bit of all three with alcohol and a language barrier thrown in to make it even more confusing? In the classic "they said / we said ... all parties seem to be lying," we will probably never know the truth.
As a result of the incident, Lochte is banned from swimming through June 2017. He'll lose about $100,000 in bonus money. But it wasn't all bad. Fortunately for those like Lochte, there's always a trip to Dancing With The Stars and a terrible cameo in a romantic comedy.
The Mannequin Challenge
Just when you thought nothing could be more cringe-inducing and trite than the Harlem Shake, humanity outdoes itself once again. We've suffered through planking, perching, and milking. This year's participatory meme is the Mannequin Challenge. Like most of the viral video challenges of the past, if you have a phone and a skeleton, you can do it. Even those lacking basic common sense ...
The above video features a full minute of people wielding firearms, and it piqued the interest of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ultimately leading to their arrest on weapon and gun charges. And despite what I said in the opening, the election did seep into a few forgettable events ...
When Clinton gives a meme a go, that's its death toll.
Awkward Flirting Do's And Don'ts
Attracting a member of the opposite sex has always been an inelegant science. When an old blog post from dating guru Dan Bacon started making the rounds on social media, we found ourselves debating the merits of approaching a woman while she's wearing headphones. In his post, Bacon advises against "giving up too easily" or "approaching in a nervous manner." This classic pickup artist shtick whipped the meme factory into overdrive, with the internet ridiculing his dubious advice. Luckily, he has yet to to write such surefire viral hits as "How To Touch A Lady's Shoulder When She's Giving A Business Presentation" and "How To Smile At A Lady Astronaut."
And it's not just men who have had an awkward, ill-advised go at it this year. Lena Dunham found herself at the center of yet another controversy when she complained about Odell Beckham Jr.'s apparent lack of interest in her as a sexual being when they were seated next to each other during the Met Gala. Dunham wrote that "The vibe was very much like, 'Do I want to f- it? Is it wearing a ... yep, it's wearing a tuxedo. I'm going to go back to my cell phone." Dunham continued, "It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, 'This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.'"
What appeared to be a lame attempt at self-deprecating humor evoked accusations of flaunting white privilege and perpetuating racist stereotypes. Dunham offered at first an excuse based on poor body image, and then an actual apology. As for Odell Beckham Jr.'s response to the controversy, the Giants wide receiver seemed unfazed when asked about it. If you don't want to read that article, his response was basically "Man ... why?"
Welcome To The Real World, Baby
After months of political mud-slinging, hateful name-calling, and general vitriol, the internet finally came together in a Kumbaya moment to watch a lizard.
With a background score straight out of a Christopher Nolan movie, a newly minted marine iguana runs for its life while a horde of snakes pours out from rocky crevices to hunt it down. Did you know that snakes are born out of thin air whenever prey comes near? And that they hunt in packs? Neither did we until we saw this video! We sat transfixed while something that didn't leave us emotionally crushed happened. Of course, we also had other animal drama with a slightly less happy ending ...
In the year of divisiveness, even something as one-sided as the unfortunate death of a beloved zoo animal became a battle over parenting styles, and more. The drama began when a young boy somehow managed to enter the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The boy was scooped up by a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla named Harambe. Fearing for the life of the child, zoo officials shot and killed Harambe. And then the madness began.
After the above video was posted, it seemed everyone had an opinion on who was at fault and what should be done about it. The boy's mother was the target of harassment on the internet, and police considered possible criminal charges. Meanwhile, your Facebook friends revealed that they're still coming to terms with how jokes work.
And then the memes started, and they just kept coming, seemingly birthing like those snakes. So much so that the zoo director publicly declared his annoyance with them, and pleaded with the public to stop. "We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe. Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us." Surprisingly enough, posting non-sequiturs on a picture of a dead gorilla wasn't helping anyone's emotional state.
Even though most of the hype has died down, the Harambe Juggernaut continues to roll. Harambe was included in the presidential election, because of course he was, with the dead gorilla polling with 5 percent support in July 2016, tied with the Green Party candidate. There have been several songs written about Harambe, and a computer fighting game has just been released. Man, isn't humor great?
The Ugly Side Of Pretty
Genetically blessed / scientifically modified Playboy Playmate Dani Mathers bolstered the adage "Beauty is only skin deep" when she posted a Snapchat image mocking a 70-year-old woman at her gym. It was an action accompanied by all of the empathy of orphanage arson.
The nude pic was snapped without the woman's knowledge as she showered in a locker room. The image also includes Mathers covering her mouth in disgust/delight, with the commentary, "If I can't unsee this then you can't either." You can find more human caring in most major avalanches. After the post went viral, Mathers set about to do some damage control with a classic non-apology apology.
Short Mathers-less version: "I'm new to Snapchat. I only wanted to a snark / share this illegally obtained photo in front of a few close friends. Therefore, it's not my fault!" Thanks, Dani. It's nice to know that your friends are terrible, too.
As egregious and mind-numbingly callous as all this was, even more disturbing was how the media covered the story.
Nope. Sorry. This was not the "crazy PC police are charging people with body-shaming" that headlines made it out to be. It's a clear invasion of privacy. In legal terms, it's "Dissemination of Private Images," a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Mathers has pleaded not guilty to charges, mostly because she's the kind of person who would take naked pictures of the elderly without their permission.
Crime Doesn't Pay ... Or Does It?
Taking time out from the outrage over whether a football player should stand, sit, or kneel during the National Anthem, we were briefly concerned with the massive fraud taking place at one of the nation's largest banks. In an effort to make sales quotas / keep from being fired, Wells Fargo employees secretly opened millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts for customers without their knowledge or consent. It appeared to be a systematic endeavor. When employees attempted to report the fraud, they were fired. Sounds pretty criminal. And if it isn't criminal, well, it sounds pretty shitty.
Don't worry, there were repercussions. Wells Fargo did fire 5,300 low-level employees and paid $190 million in penalties. As for the head honcho (Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John Stumpf), it's not like he sold millions in stock before the fraud revelation. Oh wait, he totally did. Stumpf admitted no wrongdoing when he testified before Congress, but didn't get off completely without penalty. Besides the humiliation of the congressional inquisition, he forfeited $41 million in unvested stock as well as his 2016 bonus. Of course, on the upside (for him, at least), it's estimated that Stumpf walked away with $134.1 million when he stepped down as CEO.
But that lizard lived! That's nice, right?
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