Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 year in review: pop culture

By Rick Morris

As is always the case these days, 2011 had several noteworthy pop culture angles, but none that show any signs of lasting relevance at the end of the year – although some of them may be planting the seeds for more developments in the next few years.

^ Optimists believed that celebrity trash culture peaked and started to permanently recede with the public backlash over the Kim Kardashian farce wedding and quickie divorce. We shall see. In a year that Liz Taylor passed from the scene, fittingly, celebrity divorces were a subject of great fascination, with Kim and her NBA boy toy joined in this regard by Arnold’n’Maria, Ashton’n’Demi and Russell’n’Katy (albeit with the last one coming at the proverbial 11th hour in 2011). The fact that ordinary people continue to obsess over celebrity marriages is a lingering symptom of the decline of Western civilization. For those looking for a happier flip-side of celebrity marriage, the William’n’Kate royal nuptials provided the world with a lighthearted touch of normalcy in the spring. Conversely, trash culture also manifested itself with the Conrad Murray and Casey Anthony trials. These events are train wrecks that transfix people.

^ Taylor was one of a number of icons who passed from the scene, including Steve Jobs and Al Davis. Many, like Jobs, were taken well before their time, including Dan Wheldon, Patrice O’Neal, Amy Winehouse and Ryan Dunn.

^ Pro wrestling did not rejoin the mainstream in a big way as it did in the mid-‘80s and turn of the century period, but it achieved social relevance over the summer in a way that was almost unprecedented – however briefly. 17 years after ECW first put the term in the industry’s lexicon – and well after most observers thought the concept had been completely beaten into the ground – CM Punk delivered one of the top worked-shoot promos of all time. This led into the July 17 Money In The Bank pay-per-view, which featured an atmosphere and pair of workers in Punk and John Cena that combined to create one of the most memorable main events ever and prefaced Punk’s short-lived “exile” from WWE. Public consensus has it that the company bungled the effectiveness of the aftermath, but it did irrevocably launch WWE into the social media mainstream, created a new cornerstone superstar for the company going forward and created a template for how the company can bypass tired storyline formulas when they are so inclined.

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