By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
From a deranged Dirty Harry to the rise of Honey Boo Boo, it was a long, strange, sad, and silly trip
We won! Barack Obama was reinstated as president mainly because the other guy was so bad. So bad, in fact, that he couldn't even figureout how to steal the election!
Conservatives found Mitt Romney too moderate. (Sure, he was a hater, but not nearly enough so for them. Certainly not as much as his running mate, Paul Ryan.) And a lot of others thought he didn't stand for anything, because he seemed to keep flip-flopping and pandering like a chameleon dressed like a used-car salesman. So Mitt's evasiveness came to haunt him, with various moments in the campaign exuding a "Don't vote for me" chill that proved ruinous.
There was the creepy convention performance of on-screen gunman Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair representing Obama, a stunt that made the entire nation hide their furniture. (At least it eclipsed Romney's speech later that night.)
Big Bird also became an unlikely issue when Romney boasted at the first debate that he'd pull funding from PBS—yes, that's how to save the country from ruin—while his second-debate contention that years ago he had to go through "whole binders full of women" to look for qualified females led to more than a few undecided voters taking Romney out of their own binders.
On election night, not only did the way more populist Obama get green-lit again, but gay marriage was approved in Maine, Maryland, and Washington; a proposed ban on same-sex marriages was rejected in Minnesota; openly lesbian Tammy Baldwin won as Wisconsin senator; and there were many other LGBT victories, not the least of which being the "evolution" of our returning president on gay marriage (he still sounds halfhearted, though, saying the issue should be left to the states for now; too bad evolution is so slow).
But move over, Big Bird. This year, it was Chick-fil-A that was the most highly politicized poultry. LGBTs avidly battled that chain's gay-bashing and funding policies, and in turn the world got a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, with the Bible-toting damnation-mongers wolfing down chemically saturated sandwiches while declaring themselves American heroes standing up for freedom. At least they never claimed to have good taste in food.
Bizarre, entitled behavior seemed to be the order of the day all over the place, lots of local yokels obviously having sprinkled bath salts into their possum stew. In Florida, neighborhood-watch coordinator George Zimmerman was accused of the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, a black teen whom the prosecution said Zimmerman confronted after racially profiling him. (Zimmerman pleaded not guilty, citing self-defense.) It was one of those explosive incidents that fueled countrywide speculation and anger all year, mirroring the outrage over the New York City police's racially charged stop-and-frisk tactics, which have made life hell for some perfectly innocent people.
Equal opportunity offender ex-football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years after being convicted of serial child molesting, a true American Horror Story finally getting some payback.
And far less seriously (but still ickily), Patricia Krentcil became known as Tan Mom when she was thought to have brought her five-year-old daughter into a tanning booth for an ultraviolet browning. Krentcil vehemently denied that charge, but the woman seemed really burned out—or, if you prefer, toasted—when she was the guest of honor at a drag revue held at the New York gay club xl in August. Krentcil spent the night falling down, speaking in semi-coherent sentence fragments, and even turning belligerent and yelling "Fuck you!" at the bewildered crowd. With her cocoa-brown face, she's probably lucky we don't have neighborhood-watch coordinators in Manhattan.
In the real celebrity arena, males crawled out of the woodwork to claim John Travolta had sexually harassed them, with massage the most-cited form of expression. (Grease is the word.) But Travolta wouldn't wait for oral arguments on the charges—his lawyers shot them down—and the actor continued with his fairy-tale marriage to the lovely Kelly, Scientology beaming down its approval all the while.
That was not the case with Tom Cruise, whose wife, Katie Holmes, stunned the world by filing for divorce. Why so shocking? Well, a lot of cynics had assumed this was a deal with the devil that was eternally binding, Katie having sold her soul for a career break. Maybe her agent had gotten her an out clause?
Also out of a relationship was Demi Moore, who was reportedly devastated that Two and a Half Men replacement Ashton Kutcher was flouncing around with far younger babes. Demi was promptly hospitalized for "exhaustion and health reasons," which, of course, is code for inhaling whip-its, a form of nitrous oxide known mainly to mature folk from their school days long ago.
I'm not sure what Lindsay Lohan was inhaling this year, but every attempt at a comeback seemed to be greeted with a setback (or a stinky Liz Taylor TV pic). She's back on the court docket for 2013. And though he was hot again, singer/rapper Chris Brown got involved in a brawl with Drake in a New York nightclub called W.i.P. (no relation to what Demi was taking), with Rihanna the invisible impetus. The incident led to a proposed city crackdown on bottle service—as if the poor bottles were to blame!
Bottle-pink transsexual director Lana Wachowski grabbed headlines for showing off her new look, and so did Stephen Beatty (Warren and Annette's son) and Chaz Bono. Chaz is now losing weight on national TV to help people! How giving!
And CNN's Anderson Cooper came out as a gay man, as half the world said "Duh" while the other half screamed "Finally!" But the U.K. enjoyed no such relief about their own royalty. Yes, Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee was a good-time gala capped off by disco singer Grace Jones gleefully spinning a hula hoop. But in other corners, when photos surfaced of a naked Prince Harry and a topless Kate Middleton, it became clear that the young royals were actually fun-loving humans with private parts, and that simply could not be allowed to happen. They'll no doubt never be seen in public again (which is fine with me).
In movies, the jewels in the crown continued to be gleamingly aggressive action franchises, with The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Breaking Dawn, Skyfall, and The Dark Knight Rises raking in the ka-ching. But the dark side of The Dark Knight happened in July, when a Joker opened fire at a midnight showing in a Denver suburb on the opening night of the relentlessly gloomy film. By the end, 12 were dead, more than 58 were injured, and a lot of people watched movies at home that weekend. (The Connecticut elementary school shooting in December fed even more cries for increased gun control, though the concept of whack-job control seemed out of everyone's grasp.)
Sad psychos were certainly in tune with the bleak mood that cinema was reflecting. Most of the big Oscar movies were based on horror, whether it be a tsunami, shipwreck, plane crash, slavery, 9/11, or Scientology. Les Misérables indeed, even if the accent was on human dignity and survival against all odds.
The year's real horrors included a sinking Battleship, a schizo Dark Shadows, and an unfunny Casa de Mi Padre. The Paperboy was a wan attempt at satirizing elaborately trashy behavior—it looked way better on paper—while the expensive flop Cloud Atlas was a wildly imaginative exercise in time-spanning and gender-morphing (partly written/directed by Lana), though as it went on interminably, it seemed like a movie about prosthetics buried inside an epic about makeup.
Prosthetics ruled the Academy Awards in February, when The Iron Lady's Meryl Streep won her first Oscar in 29 years, but she somehow made her acceptance speech a self-deprecating exercise in "Oh, her again?" What an actress! But even Meryl was upstaged by Angelina Jolie's leg sticking out of a slit in her dress, a très Jolie pose that was so bold and wacky it captivated the world as everyone set about putting the jutting leg on photos of Betty White and themselves. Quickly, the leg-out stance began to be seen as the only sensible response to a culture, economy, and ecology gone amok.
Straight out of The Paperboy, Honey Boo Boo and her family nabbed better cable ratings than the debates, proving that white trash is better off running for beauty titles than for elected office. And with Uncle Poodle along for the ride, there was even a positive message that "ain't nothing wrong with being a little bit gay. Everybody's a little bit gay."
In music, a yay-gay Carly Rae Jepsen video ("Call Me Maybe") launched the year's most unavoidable hookup anthem, while Justin Bieber and the Brit boyband One Direction also stoked the Clearasil-for-lunch bunch with looks and ambiguity. The indestructible Madonna got into various battles with the new her, Lady Gaga, whose "Born This Way" Madonna mashed into "Express Yourself" to make a point about reduction. But the older gal put away her hate pom-poms for a moment and asked Gaga to perform with her, maybe so they could bury the hatchet in Katy Perry. When Gaga declined, Madonna no doubt started rustling through whole binders full of other divas.
On Broadway, medium-successful movies like Newsies and Once morphed into large musical hits. But in books, it was big-name sex that sold, especially if the big names happened to be extremely dead. Ex-Hollywood-pimp Scotty Bowers's Full Service revealed that virtually every old-time star was gay and ate doody sandwiches, while actor Frank Langella's Dropped Names went for more probing portraits of late legends, while also dissecting a lot of their sexual predilections (if not always his own).
New York City itself went through a full plate of proverbial crap sandwiches—probably courtesy of Chick-fil-A—from a shoot-out in front of the Empire State Building (overreacting police did most of the killing) to a harrowing death on the subway tracks, which a photographer controversially snapped for posterity, then "licensed" the photo. A natural disaster was inevitable, too, one so whopping it destroyed Halloween while supplanting its fear tactics. On October 29, Hurricane Sandy traumatized the country and the Caribbean, killing more than 100 people in and across New York. The accompanying blackout caused major inconvenience while reinforcing our long-running have-and-have-not divide. Downtown Manhattanites (south of 39th Street) and residents of the far reaches of certain boroughs found themselves utterly powerless, while uptowners went department store hopping without even realizing there had been a problem.
As the affected returned to a state of dry safety—some faster than others—none of the angst could be washed down with a Big Gulp, since the board of health had approved Bloomberg's measure that would ban movie theaters and restaurants from selling sodas larger than 16 ounces. As a result, we wondered: Is this so Drake won't be able to throw large sodas? Can't we just order seconds? And won't this be another unneeded blow to—everybody now—the economy? Oh, well. Cheers (with 15 ounces) to a better 2013. Tan off, leg out, hand on hip, kick that empty chair away, and smile. And stop picking on Big Bird! Elmo, on the other hand . . .