Pop culture rewind: 2023

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The word “Culture” is drawn in bubble letters and a person’s hand is poised to throw a dart at it, as a play on the term “pop culture.”
For better or worse, we’ve popped this culture. What waits for us in 2024? lee lim

With everything that happened, what did we miss?

I write a lot about pop culture and things going on in the realm of the internet. Cancellations, scandals, controversies, the whole nine yards. But, I can’t capture every single major pop culture event that happens, so here’s some of what I missed in 2023.  

Right at the beginning of 2023, Prince Harry himself released his book Spare. Spare became the talk of the town in January, likely because of all the absurd things he shared about himself that maybe he shouldn’t have.  

He said that he lost his virginity in a field. He admitted to using cocaine and doing mushrooms. Strangely, he talked about how alarming he found it that his brother was balding and that he once got frostbite on his genitals.  

In February, we saw what happens when theater kids are let loose, with Ariana DeBose opening the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. DeBose is best known for playing The Bullet in Hamilton Off-Broadway, Alyssa Greene in The Prom on Netflix, and Anita in West Side Story (2021).  

During her BAFTA performance, she rapped about all the powerful women in attendance. The most popular line was, “Angela Bassett did the thing.” She went viral for the performance, deleted her Twitter, but became a meme in the process.  

In March of 2023, Gwyneth Paltrow went to court. She was sued in 2019 by a man named Terry Sanderson who said that, in 2016, Paltrow skied directly into him, causing a collision and injuring Sanderson. He was suing Paltrow for US$300,000.  

Paltrow said he ran into her and she stayed until an instructor told her she could go, while Sanderson said Paltrow hit him and left after a few minutes without a word. Sanderson was found at fault for the ski collision, but Paltrow went viral for saying, “I lost a half day of skiing,” on the stand when asked if the crash stopped her from enjoying her vacation. 

Kanye West is a strange man at times. Something he did that most would find strange, even for the rapper, was open a school. Donda Academy is a K-12 Christian private school in California. West founded Donda Academy in 2022, however, in April 2023, a lawsuit was filed against Donda by two previous teachers.  

They claimed that their termination happened after they complained about the health and safety of the school. They claimed the school was strange, having no tables, no chairs, and no utensils.  

The school uniform was Balenciaga, with Nike and Adidas not being allowed. Students ate sushi for lunch, on the floor. Classrooms were not allowed to have art.  

Despite the building being two stories, no one was allowed on the second floor resulting from West’s fear of stairs. Despite no updates on the April lawsuit, two more teachers have filed lawsuits against the school.  

In May of 2023, the Met Gala was held and themed “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” The internet was quite pissed at the theme, considering Lagerfeld’s reputation.  

He was fatphobic and repeatedly called plus-sized celebrities fat as well as downplaying eating disorders. He dressed models in blackface. He praised the Holocaust. He criticized the #MeToo movement. The Met Gala still went on as planned, despite the controversy surrounding Lagerfeld.  

In June of 2023, a docu-series premiered on Amazon Prime called Shiny Happy People. The docu-series was about the infamous Duggar family from the show 19 Kids and Counting as well as the religion they were a part of, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).  

In the docu-series, Jill Duggar Dillard appeared with her husband Derick Dillard. The series positioned them as a gateway for the IBLP to recruit new members, but also as a path for the IBLP to step further into the public.  

The series brought to light the ‘Joshua Generation,’ which can be seen today on apps like TikTok. The Joshua Generation was a group of young men being raised to come to power in government. 

In July, Ariana Grande split from her husband of two years, Dalton Gomez. They claimed the marriage fell apart because Grande was filming in the U.K. and Gomez was working in L.A., blaming the long distance for their split.  

Only three days after her divorce was announced, it was confirmed that Grande had started dating Ethan Slater, her co-star in Wicked. Slater’s wife Lilly Jay reported that she was blindsided by the news and called Ariana “not a girl’s girl.” As of writing this article, Slater and Grande are still together. 

All hail the Queen in the North! In August, Sophie Turner split from her husband Joe Jonas. Jonas then started doing whatever he could to paint Turner in a bad light. He claimed she was partying and he was left with the kids while touring.  

In response, Turner sued Jonas for not allowing their two daughters to go to England with her. Since then, the former couple have seemed to figure out their location struggles with their children. 

In September, popular Kick IRL streamer, Johnny Somali, was arrested. He gained popularity for asking people in Japan insensitive questions about things like Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor. Prior to his arrest, he was attacked multiple times for his harassing behavior.  

On September 21, a video was shared of Somali being arrested after illegally entering a construction site. His entire conversation with the police was live-streamed. In early January of 2024, he was found guilty of criminal obstruction of a business and was ordered to leave Japan and pay a fine. 

In October, Britney Spears released her memoir The Woman in Me. She confessed Justin Timberlake pushed her into having an abortion and shared details about her infamous head shaving in 2007. She revealed many things that happened to her under her conservatorship.  

In November, popular baking YouTuber Rosanna Pansino stated MrBeast falsified a hide-and-seek video where the winner would’ve gotten a million dollars for their community. Pansino said she and another YouTuber named Quackity had placed second and third, but MrBeast didn’t show that in the video.   

Pansino apologized to MrBeast, then took it back. The big controversy was that people thought the language Pansino was using was similar to sexual assault survivors, when really she had just been edited to look like she performed poorly in hide-and-seek. 

In December, we got a legal update about Ruby Franke, the mom from the 8 Passengers YouTube channel who was arrested and charged with child abuse.  

She pleaded guilty and admitted to some pretty horrific stuff she did to her youngest two children. According to Ruby Franke, she waterboarded them, forced them to work outside for days in the Utah heat with no water, denied them food and water, bound them, and tried convincing them they were possessed.  

And that’s what you may have missed in 2023. 

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