By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
In a year fraught with social and economic turmoil, our country rallied under the powerful guidance of our leader, who inspired us, fought oppresson, changed minds, and switched outfts.
I'm talking about Lady Gaga, who continued to celebrate the rights of the outcasts and almost got "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repealed singlehandedly, also using her power to turn carnivores into vegans by sporting a meat dress that made it clear that steak was strictly for fashion. She is our trusted dictator and we are completely safe under her! (Or even on top of her.)
As for the real alleged boss in the White House? He soldiered on against a rising backlash, getting more and more caught up in the shitstorm of politics as it sometimes became unclear whether what he stands for has that much to do with what he votes for. At first, Obama fought to hold up DADT, even though he didn't believe in it—he wanted it shot down in an orderly fashion, by Congress—and the gays and Gaga were in his face, demanding a rapid end to the discrimination by any means possible. The repeal finally ended up passed by Congress, but not until we saw delays, an initial Senate defeat, and a nervous breakdown for military man/activist Dan Choi.
Meanwhile, though the Prez appears to be shifting in his views about gay marriage, he's still against it—whenever a mic is on, anyway. Some civil libertarian! Hilariously, the conflicted guy did an anti-bullying video telling gay kids they're not second-class citizens around the same time that he was playing with their rights.
As the administration limped along with all its crazy mixed messages, Tea Party conservatives gained power, selectively reading the Constitution to support their needs while pandering to fears and angling for more money and control. Their dour "parties" would have been way more fun if they'd only invited Johnny Depp's bug-eyed Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland to serve the tea. Instead, there was grudge queen Sarah Palin, and you had to choke on your crumpet when she refused to rule out a 2012 presidential bid. Dismayed liberals could only console themselves with the fact that last time around, Palin fled her position halfway through, then did a TV series rhapsodizing about the people she'd just given the middle finger to.
Of course Mama Grizzly had to compete for prime time exposure with her daughter, Bristol, who valiantly danced away all the energy she gets from not having sex. And this was great—it gave us a whole new way to jump off the couch and vote against the Palin clan.
Fortunately for us, the righties kept fucking up on cue and destroying their own causes, making it easier to just stay put and be entertained. Dr. Laura Schlessinger repeatedly said the N-word on her radio show to make a point, then quit and apologized, vowing to find a place where her freedom of speech would be more appreciated. (How about Fox News?) The equally potty-mouthed candidate for New York governor, Carl Paladino, told a bunch of rabbis that gays aren't godly creatures fit to have families, but when it became a front-page story, he decided he's always been for civil rights—just not when speaking to bunches of rabbis, I guess.
He lost big-time—and so did Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell, after we were reminded that she's against abortion, condoms, and masturbation; she doesn't know nothing about separation between church and state; and she once dabbled in witchcraft. Talk about "warts and all."
Most deliciously, rabidly homophobic preacher George Rekers was caught touring Europe with a young guy commonly known by the wrinkle crowd as a rising star from RentBoy.com. Relax—the kid was only hired to lift luggage and massage Rekers's weary, old bones, not to work miracles.
'For Lease,' But Not Forgotten
With world markets still in tatters, it's a wonder anyone could rent a hustler to do anything. The U.S. economy managed to angrily inch upward all year, but with unemployment clinging to tragic levels, it was way too soon to call it a "recovery"; only commentator Juan Williams felt safe, having nabbed a high-paying new job at Fox News after saying he's scared of Muslims on planes.
Bookstores were fading faster than readers, and nothing could re-Kindle them as two New York Barnes & Noble spaces gave way to Trader Joe's and Century 21. But at least the city's long-abandoned storefronts were getting new life, the shuttered Virgin Megastore at the heart of Times Square taken over by a 90,000-square-foot Forever 21, which has brought some low-scale glitz back to our tourism epicenter that thrives on it. In fact, searching for discount outfits till 2 a.m. has by default become the city's liveliest nightlife—especially after you've run from a nearby performance of Spider-Man, terrified when the lead became aerially stuck hanging over you. (That show must be produced by Bialystock and Bloom.)
A few blocks west, the imminent Out NYC is supposed to be a gay resort hotel with all the trimmings, but rumors say the current financial state of the project is not very gay. Still, just the fact that someone's trying to create a splashy new complex gave anguished New Yorkers hope amid the "dollar pizza" signs and extra bike lanes for those who can't afford cabs anymore.
Death Is the New After-Party
Not only is there some wispy promise for Gotham—it's there for all of humankind, apparently. In movies and on TV, the lure of fantasy became more potent than ever, the public still turning to the afterlife, vampires, dream implants, parallel universes, and other sci-fi allegories that gave the narcissistic generation hopes of even more social networking after death. Fractured fairy tales like Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, and Alice (with gap-toothed Depp serving the hot liquid and weird accent) offered mind-blowing altered states for arrested children of all ages. Even real-life stories were more or less about life after death, with biopics celebrating survivors who overcame self-amputation (127 Hours), a stammer (The King's Speech—a/k/a Stutter Island), and a backstabbing friend (The Social Network). The year's biggest cultural shock was that people actually took a two-hour break from Facebook to watch a movie about it, thrilled to finally see something not in 3-D. And they didn't even tweet that much through it!
The Oscars were a zingy romp, not because of the movies involved, but because of the marital disputes being acted out for our delectation as if on a sordid reality show. The showdown between divorcees Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron made for a riveting battle of the sexes, Cameron turning blue over his bloated film losing Best Picture to Bigelow's little-seen war drama. And while Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock weepily thanked her man, Jesse James, it was only days later that she went into hiding when it turned out James was banging a neo-Nazi-esque porn star. Why wasn't that girl dating Mel Gibson?
In TV land, the Emmy Awards became a war between two movies about euthanasia, and I lost sleep wondering why their subjects didn't just pool their resources and team up. Temple Grandin and Jack Kevorkian would do socko business if they only got on the same page and opened a mercy-killing partnership. And think of all that afterlife!
The brooding crowd stuck with Mad Men, the Gaga kids screeched along with Glee, and the braindead bunch lapped up, you know, Jersey Shore, which gave dumb Guidos a bad name (though you had to admire Snooki, the trash-mouthed ex-cheerleader who searched for love on the boardwalk, didn't deny sex-tape rumors, and had a gala birthday party sponsored by LifeStyles condoms).
If anything was in need of euthanasia, it was American Idol, which fewer viewers idolized due to new judges who made Obama look decisive by comparison. Uncomfortable as a gay who bullies singers, Ellen DeGeneres bombed on the show, but her daytime job was even more secure now that Oprah Winfrey was stepping down to do a cable channel. Yay! Twenty-four hours of product giveaways, kitsch reunions, and closeted celebs pushing their straightness on us!
Off-camera, swarms of entitled stars took their cues from the imploding righties and foolishly allowed people to catch them being themselves. In a year of never-too-much-information, the public didn't miss a trick—or a meltdown—as celebrities got brought down to subhuman levels on an hourly basis. We got to hear Mel Gibson spew the passion of the anti-Christ via unbelievably rancid rants and death threats, though his dwindling fan base preferred to paint those as the highly edited extortion attempts of a disgruntled ex-wife—who feared for her life!
As Mel became a showbiz pariah all over again, his comeback hopes were pinned on The Beaver, a film drama directed by Jodie Foster, in which he's a disturbed man who communicates via an angry puppet. It's the only beaver Mel's been allowed to put his hand up in ages.
Charlie Sheen topped his own last horror performance—proudly holding a knife to the spouse's neck—by going ballistic in a hotel suite, accusing a prostie of stealing his wallet, and sprinkling in some N-words to please the Gibson/Schlessinger fan base. With the suite in shambles and the cops called to the scene, Charlie's flacks came up with the boldest spin of all time: It was all due to an allergic reaction to a medication. Yeah, cocaine.
A hotter meds-mess, Lindsay Lohan, bounced around from jail to rehab, as the public prayed she wouldn't be released from either in time to make that Linda Lovelace flick. She ended up being dumped from it anyway, which sent her into such a dizzying spiral that she even made up with her father.
Celebrity rampaging was so prevalent it even hit walking bad-hair-day Justin Bieber (a/k/a "the Bieber"). He's the androgynous, YouTube-created protégé of Usher—and in fact he basically is Usher, minus the singing, dancing, experience, and sex appeal. But apparently Bieber's got a dark side. In his native Canada, he allegedly parted his Cousin Itt–like bangs and assaulted a 12-year-old who was repeatedly taunting him with the F-word. And suddenly I'm interested in Justin Bieber.
But the year's most hilarious twist of fate had disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer becoming respectable enough to nab a CNN show while the madam who supplied him with girls actually ran for his old political position (if not his old missionary position). Everyone's switching seats on the same plane these days—and there are Muslims, too. And not only does President Gaga approve, but Secretary of State Katy Perry thinks it's totally cool.