This Was the Year That... Everyone Had a Renaissance
If time really is a flat circle, then maybe Matthew McConaughey always knew he was destined for a McConaissance—even when he was romancing The Wedding Planner and searching for Fool’s Gold. The 45-year-old kicked off 2014 by winning his first Academy Award for Dallas Buyers Club, which he followed with an Emmy nomination for HBO’s True Detective. In November, he blasted off in Interstellar, but not before proving he’s still totally grounded in a Lincoln car commercial. It’s been an—all together now—alright, alright, alright year for the actor.
Could it be that McConaughey is passing around his goblet of prosperity, seeing as renaissances seem to be catching on in Hollywood? After all, Reese Witherspoon is enjoying the beginnings of her own, er, Reese-aissance, earning awards whispers as she trades in her kitten heels for hiking boots in Wild. If you chant ”Oscar buzz” three times, you’ll conjure former Batman Michael Keaton, who got meta in October’s Birdman, playing a fallen big-screen superhero looking for a comeback. And ”Weird Al” Yankovic’s 14th(!) studio album, Mandatory Fun, hit No. 1 in July, a first in his 30-year career. (Though maybe that’s less a renaissance than an Al-wakening.)
But not every renaissance made it out of the dark ages. Lindsay Lohan’s OWN docuseries could’ve launched a renaissance; instead, the show climaxed with Oprah Winfrey telling the troubled 28-year-old to ”cut the bulls—.” There’s still hope, though. Lohan has since retreated to London to headline a production of Speed-the-Plow. Who knows, maybe we’ll soon be talking about the LiLo-lightenment of 2015. —Amy Wilkinson
This Was the Year That... Everybody Used the F Word
”Are you a Feminist?”
That was the litmus test lobbed at everyone from Shailene Woodley to Kelis, of ”Milkshake” fame, in 2014. (For the record, the answer from both was no.) Men didn’t get a pass. Daniel Radcliffe, Pharrell, and Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan were all grilled on their Gloria Steinem bona fides this year. Harry Potter declared himself a feminist. The dude in the Arby’s hat said he didn’t think men could be feminists. As for Christian Grey? He bit his lip and flip-flopped. The question was so ubiquitous that TIME magazine included feminist on its annual list of words that deserve to be banned: ”When did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them?” the mag asked on Nov. 12. (Editors later apologized for the term’s inclusion.)
But while some waited to be asked, other stars flaunted their credentials. Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston blew up Twitter by posing in ”This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirts. Emma Watson gave a stirring speech about gender equality at the United Nations. Beyoncé reiterated her status as the music industry’s most high-profile women’s advocate by posing on stage at the VMAs before a giant backdrop flashing ”FEMINIST.” And though a few celebs’ definitions might not pass muster with Webster’s—Katy Perry thinks feminism means ”lov[ing] myself as a female and I also love men”—others are helping to make the term’s meaning clearer than ever. ”Do you believe that women should have equal rights to men? And that we should fight for those rights?” media critic Anita Sarkeesian asked Stephen Colbert on his show. When the host answered in the affirmative, she said, ”Great. Then you’re a feminist.” —Hillary Busis
This Was the Year That... We Kouldn't Believe Our i(Pad)s
We konfess: The Kim Kardashian: Hollywood app brought us dangerously close to understanding (and loving) life as one of America’s most famous reality-TV stars.
This Was the Year That... Nobody Won in Gamergate
Supporters say Gamergate is about ethics in videogame journalism. Everyone else says it’s about gender warfare and how the Internet spreads a bad idea like a virus. It started with a blog post: a man accusing a female videogame designer of cheating on him with, among other people, a videogame journalist. The woman was harassed and threatened online. Then another woman got the same treatment, and another. As of Dec. 1, the #gamergate hashtag had been tweeted nearly 4 million times. Now Gamergate partisans are pleading for mercy. They’re misunderstood! Misrepresented by a lunatic fringe! Gamergate was the dark side of the Internet age, the moment social media got weaponized. Look closely and you can see all the promise of our hyperconnected society devolving into a shrill cacophony of endless infighting. What a waste of an era. —Darren Franich
This Was the Year That... I Started a New Chapter, Then Wrote a Whole Book by Neil Patrick Harris
This last year has been the most glorious of clusterf—s. I was finishing How I Met Your Mother, in rehearsals to perform Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, and filming back-to-back feature films. I remember one day where, after HIMYM, I drove across town to put on high-heeled boots to rehearse in a totally new physicality for Hedwig, then headed back across town to do some looping for the Western A Million Ways to Die in the West, and then went to a table read for Gone Girl. It was a bit like juggling. Juggling a bowling ball, a tennis racket, a kitten, and a chain saw.
So I added a book. But I needed a structure that allowed for a healthy dose of self-deprecation—the last thing I wanted was for my book, Choose Your Own Autobiography, to seem a self-important memoir. My life is very full, but incredibly random. This year I got to both shag probable Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike in a David Fincher film and s— in a derby in a Seth MacFarlane comedy.
Right now, I’m in New Orleans filming American Horror Story: Freak Show. My husband David’s doing a cabaret that I’m directing in New York. We bought a brownstone in Harlem that we’re renovating. I’m starting a production company. And I’m gearing up to host the Oscars. But I remain hopeful that next year will involve more calm, more family time. Sigh. ‘Cuz nothing says calm quite like tireless, ebullient twin four-year-olds…
This Was the Year That... Willow Smith Learned to Control Time
To quote her joint T Magazine Q&A with brother Jaden: ”I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.”
This Was the Year That... Funny Guys Got Fit
Hollywood’s latest exercise trend is comedy cardio. That would help explain why several of our favorite stars (hey there, Chris Pratt) are now looking considerably more svelte. Take a cue from soon-to-be Antman Paul Rudd, slimmed-down Jimmy Kimmel, Black-ish network headliner Anthony Anderson, and Zach Galifianikis (whose beard, we’re guessing, now accounts for one-third of his body weight): Laughing can hurt your stomach, but we didn’t know it could give you abs. Like, good abs.
This Was the Year That... I Finally Got a Head by Pharrell's Hat
I remember the moment clearly. I was just a young hat growing up in London—no older than a beanie, really—when I saw the performance given by the fedora in Raiders of the Lost Ark and said to myself, ”Someday, I’m going to be famous.” But never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined it would happen like this. The millinery industry can be hard on big guys like myself (size 7.5 and proud!), so I was filled with excitement when I learned Pharrell wanted to wear me to the Grammy Awards.
Then everything blew up. The next few weeks were a blur. I may have come from a milliner, but I was embraced by millennials. Everyone was talking about me, me, me; my Twitter account gained thousands of followers; and I signed a five-figure deal with Arby’s to be its spokeshat. The night before the Oscars, I called up Aretha Franklin’s hat from President Obama’s inauguration and asked her how she dealt with her newfound fame. Naturally, she said, ”Don’t let it go to your head.” Indeed, there were times when I felt like I was wearing Pharrell and not the other way around. And while Skateboard P has moved on to other hats—and Blake Shelton—I’ll be fine right here with my beef ‘n cheddar.
This Was the Year That... Diva Wars Took an Intergenerational Turn
See: Bette Midler/Ariana Grande and Annie Lennox/Beyoncé Knowles.
This Was the Year That... I Saw My Hair on TV by Tracee Ellis Ross
I think what is important about Viola Davis taking her wig off on How to Get Away With Murder is that it illustrates that there is a mask that women are thought to have to wear. For black women, it can be a more complex mask. Our culture has created a very limited view of what beauty is and can be. I think right now television is one of the places where women are pushing up against that and saying, ”You know what? I don’t need to play this game anymore in order to be considered beautiful.”
My mom [Diana Ross] is known for her big hair. So me embracing my big hair was not outside the frame of reference of where I come from. What I think is exciting is that to a certain extent, there is a revolution happening where black women are owning their own beauty, despite the standard of beauty that in the past has not had space for it.
I think it’s huge that I’m wearing my natural hair texture on ABC in prime time. As Dr. Rainbow Johnson on black-ish, I think my hair is part of the reality of this woman’s life. She has four children and is an anesthesiologist and a wife. She doesn’t have a lot of time to fuss with beauty, so her look is pretty simple. I’m very conscious of how I wear my hair on the show, and yet it’s the way I wear my hair as Tracee. You hire me, you hire my hair, and you hire my ass. It’s all coming with me.
Other Ways in Which This Was the Year That Got Real
The inmates’ textured hairstyles inspired emotional story lines on Orange Is the New Black.
In Scandal‘s season premiere, Olivia took a rest from her silky-smooth D.C. blowouts.
This Was the Year That... It Was Hard to Say Goodbye
Grab a hankie. We had enough goodbyes this year to reduce even the toughest pop culture fan to tears. After nine years, Stephen Colbert is retiring his bloviating, conservative TV-pundit alter ego—along with his search for truthiness. (Colbert the man will go on to succeed David Letterman at the Late Show.) Boardwalk Empire‘s Nucky Thompson headed to the big speakeasy in the sky, and the bikers from Sons of Anarchy rolled off into the small-screen sunset. Meanwhile, How I Met Your Mother and True Blood went out in grand (and, in the latter’s case, Grand Guignol) style, with fan-enraging final seasons. Plus, the bell has already tolled for a handful of fall shows: A to Z, Manhattan Love Story, and Bad Judge. We hardly knew ye.
Of course, the hardest farewells were for the entertainers who left us in real life. 2014 was tragically full of surprising heartbreaks with the sudden deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Mike Nichols. We also lost the last grande dame of Hollywood’s golden era when Lauren Bacall died in August. And, it must be said, red carpets will never be quite the same without the searing wit of Joan Rivers. —Kat Ward
This Was the Year That... We Hoped to Be Tortured by Tilda Swinton
While we’ve always wanted to be trapped on a train with Chris Evans, Swinton’s twisted Snowpiercer turn as Mason was the breakout performance of the cult hit. Given the Oscar winner’s track record, it’s no surprise.
This Was the Year That... I Became a Household Name by Sam Smith
Saturday Night Live was one of the scariest nights of my entire life. I tried to beg my managers and my team to not do SNL because I thought it was way too early. But I was so, so wrong. It was incredible, and it’s broken me in America. That night, people were recognizing me a bit more. It was hours after, actually. You could feel the shift and you could feel the change physically in that moment in New York and it was amazing. It was really surreal.
Meeting Beyoncé was incredible. She said my voice is ”like butter,” which was very lovely, and I said, ”Thank you.” Mary J. Blige is so honest and lovely and calm. She’s like a big sister to me. You realize that when you meet these people, they are just people, you know? As a kid I thought all these people were superhumans, but it’s their talent that makes them superhuman.
I don’t feel pressure to follow up In the Lonely Hour. It’s hard to explain. I want to be a career artist. I actually like the idea of my career going in a wave. All I’m going to do is document my life and write about who I fall in love with, who I fall out of love with. I hope that’s enough. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. As long as I’m proud of the work, then I don’t care.
This Was the Year That... Staying Dry Was a Challenge
That’d be thanks to the ALS Association, which turned the Internet into one big (delightful) wet T-shirt contest.
This Was the Year That... We All Got a Booty Call
Sir Mix-a-Lot should really consider a career as a trend forecaster. The rapper was way ahead of his time when he proclaimed his love for a juicy booty on 1992’s ”Baby Got Back,” because 2014 will undoubtedly go down as the Year of the Rear. Jason Derulo’s ”Wiggle” encouraged big butts to shake. Meghan Trainor defied those body-image expectations with ”All About That Bass.” Nicki Minaj even sampled ”Baby Got Back” on ”Anaconda.” Then there was Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea’s duet, ”Booty,” basically the U.N. Summit of Ladies With Well-Endowed Cheeks. Possibly out of FOMO, Kim Kardashian crushed the competition last month with her naked, glazed bum in Paper magazine. (And it wasn’t just the girls: Charlie Hunnam revealed his rump on Sons of Anarchy and had the Parents Television Council crying and most of the Internet cheering.)
Why all this focus on the backdoor? It’s not sudden—we’ve been easing our way down. In the ’90s, boobs were huge, both literally and figuratively. We moved on to abs in the 2000s, with Britney Spears displaying her midriff whenever she had the chance. Enjoy your time in the sun, butts. Hollywood can be fickle. If my theory is correct, Christina Aguilera should be releasing a new song about sexy kneecaps in 3…2…1… —Tim Stack
This Was the Year That... I Couldn't Let It Go by Idina Menzel
They had sent me a demo of ”Let It Go,” and I thought, ”Oh, s—, this is going to be hard to sing.” I knew Frozen was going to surprise people, but I didn’t know it would stir up so many people to take ownership of the song. It’s a nice marriage of social media with a zeitgeist moment. Every day I receive a video from a friend of their daughter singing ”Let It Go” in the backyard. The Rent and Wicked years were remarkable, but this is especially extraordinary because I’m not a twentysomething anymore and I’m still able to empower young people.
It was a whirlwind of a year. My five-year-old son doesn’t care about that stuff. On Halloween, when every little Elsa and their mother wanted to take pictures, my son was not having it! I’ve learned not to get swept away by the perfectionism. Imperfections make it better. It happened when John Travolta screwed up my name, it threw me out of this meditative place. I had to get back on track.
This year was going to be all about coming back to Broadway in If/Then. This crossover thing was a big hurdle for me, but next year, hopefully, there’ll be another album and a world tour, to countries I haven’t been where Frozen helped me sell some tickets. And when I go on tour, it’s the same thing with ”Defying Gravity”—of course I’ll sing it every night. I sing it everywhere I go. I mean…it’s my song!
This Was the Year That... TV Transformed the Way We Think
It’s easy to believe that pop culture has the power to change the world. It’s rare to witness that change in real time, but that’s what happened.
Across the country, our minds were opened to the varied experiences of transgender people by watching television. Laverne Cox—Litchfield’s beloved hairdresser, Sophia, on Orange Is the New Black—endeared herself to both inmates and the Television Academy, becoming the first openly trans actor ever nominated for an Emmy. Then on Amazon, the new drama Transparent, about a transgender woman named Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) and her troubled family, was a hit with viewers and was hailed as one of fall’s best TV shows by many critics (including this writer). On Broadway, Neil Patrick Harris sold out nearly his entire run in the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and won a Tony award for starring as the title character, a trans singer in a glam-rock band. These fully formed roles suggested that trans people aren’t heroes or villains. They’re just human. —Melissa Maerz
This Was the Year That... Lena Dunham Won the Red Carpet (by Losing It)
It’s been 13 years since Björk laid an egg at the Academy Awards. And if the Oscars’, Emmys’, and Golden Globes’ red carpets are the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Gowns, that’s nearly 40 nights of jewel-toned, fish-tailed, corporate-sponsored parade floats accessorized with borrowed diamonds and phonetically spelled designer names for E!’s Mani Cam (”MOH-neek Luh-HOO-lee-ay”).
Then Lena Dunham arrived at the Emmys. The actress, Girls creator, and author showed up in a blushing flotsam of Giambattista Valli tulle that Dunham described as both ”cake” and ”sweatpants.” We’ll go with cake. Frosted. Layered. Highly caloric and gloriously messy. Verified and unverified fashion critics pounced. The best: ”An inside-out Muppet.” The worst: ”Gwen Stefani’s wedding dress.”
While best-of honors went to Kerry Washington and Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery—”simply chic”—Dunham’s magic-carpet ride brought back a sense of fearlessness and (depending on one’s relationship with pink and red) color blindness to awards shows that actually made watching people get out of cars fun. (In two and a half hours of stars walking in dresses, don’t you need some surprises?) However gorgeous or hideous—take your pick—Dunham’s choices may be, they are her own. And for that, madam, you win. —Jason Sheeler
This Was the Year That... Beyoncé got really short bangs...
…and took the longest elevator ride of her life.
This Was the Year That... Johnny Weir Nailed It
The figure-skating commentator (and newly ordained style expert) made the style podium every day in Sochi, and he even pulled off a hat trick at the Kentucky Derby in May.
This Was the Year That... I Taught Taylor Swift How to Dance by Bobby Shmurda
When it was time to make the video for ”Hot N—a,” my friends woke me up, dragged me out of my house, and said, ”Let’s go make a video.” The Shmoney Dance in the video was natural. I came up with it right on the spot. I dance all the time. I dance when people aren’t looking, but this time we just happened to have the cameras on. I knew it was big when people started asking me to come perform it and a lot of girls started giving me their number. When I saw Beyoncé and Taylor doing my dance, it was a good feeling. I’ve been dancing to other people’s music and doing their dances my whole life, so for them to do my dance, it feels good. I’ve been teaching people how to do the Shmoney Dance, but I really can’t explain it. I just do it. You gotta feel it.
This Was the Year That... Coming Out Had No Drama
Thanks to a poignant, to-the-point announcement by Ellen Page at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference in September, active, accepting discussion about identity and sexuality moves increasingly in the mainstream.
This Was the Year That... We Used These Words
Bass: A curvaceous, full figure (see: Meghan Trainor); ”I’m all about that bass/’Bout that bass, no treble.”
Groot: An all-purpose term coined by Guardians of the Galaxy‘s lovable sapling; ”Groot” translates to ”yes,” ”no,” ”hello,” and ”merchandising deal.”
Bang Bang: (1) Two consecutive meals eaten back-to-back at different restaurants; ”We just ate a ton o’ food at this Indian place, and now this. Bang bang.” (2) An undefined sex act that can be performed while going ”into the room”; ”Bang bang all over you…bang bang there goes your heart.”
Utopia: The place where nothing exciting happens on TV.
I Am Not Famous Anymore: Please, please pay attention to me.
Adele Dazeem: A celebrated vocalist, best known for her rendition of Frozen‘s ”Let It Go”; Did you hear Jim Travolga say Adele Dazeem’s name wrong at the Oscars?
YAASSSSS: A more emphatic way of saying ”yes.”
Belfie: A butt selfie (often taken in a bathroom).
”Lonely Starbucks lover”: The type of companionship taken by Taylor Swift.