Amy Maoz, Staff Recommendations Editor: “People typically think of celebrities as out of touch with the realities of daily life, but leave it to the biggest celebrity of all, Beyoncé, to not just understand the woes of underpaid and underappreciated office workers, but turn that pain and ennui into a year-defining anthem.”
2022 had more than its fair share of geopolitical disruptions and political power shifts. But amid an often overwhelming news cycle, there were a few (occasionally light-hearted and low-stakes) internet moments that the Very Online couldn’t get enough of.
We’ve rounded up some of the 2022 stories that lived rent-free in our heads, from a nation transfixed by a five-letter word game to our love of ‘goblin mode’ and exoplanets.
Kimi Goffe, Recommendations Editor: “The slap that launched a thousand think pieces. Whatever your feelings about Will Smith hitting Chris Rock on live TV—act of violence, passionate protection, explosive childhood trauma—it earned its place in entertainment industry lore.”
Corrie Evanoff, Syndication Coordinator: “We definitely didn’t think Tom Cruise would fly so high on our feel-good radar again, but Top Gun’s blockbusting appeal to our collective nostalgia made it worth getting back into movie theater seats this summer. A domestic box office of $660M+—more than Titanic earned—suggests Americans were ‘desperate for permission to collectively feel good about our life, country and culture, without any of the attendant political baggage.’”
Alex Dalenberg, Staff Recommendations Editor: “It’s possible that the only thing in the universe still capable of bringing the internet together is the universe itself. The James Webb Space Telescope’s steady drip of gobsmacking images from across the cosmos provided plenty of opportunities for awe-scrolling this year, from distant galaxies and nebulae to detailed images of the planet Jupiter. It’s a heady reminder that, as complicated as life on Earth can be, we are just an infinitesimally small part of something inconceivably vast.”
AM: “Sunsets and baskets of puppies made room for another dopamine-activating image this year: Five neat little green squares in a row. In January, The New York Times turned a larger audience onto Wordle and our mornings (or midnights) haven’t been the same since. Hats off to Josh Wardle for his addictive-in-a-good-way word game, which has managed to bring us a few blissful moments of non-regrettable screen time.”
AD: “It took me over half a decade to finally get the Hamilton soundtrack to stop playing on loop in my head, and then Lin-Manuel Miranda goes and floods my brain with ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’. Whether or not you think Miranda is the second-coming of Stephen Sondheim or the embodiment of millennial cringe, I don’t know of many others who could take this kind of lyrically dense ensemble number to the top of the Billboard charts.”
AM: “The reality show ‘Old Enough’ has been running in Japan for more than 30 years, but when it hit Netflix in March 2022, you could practically hear the collective ‘squee’ spread across North America. These tiny intrepid tots, waddling through their neighborhoods, didn’t just accomplish their errands; they launched cultural commentary about unmarried adult men, America’s unimpressive city planning, and helicopter parenting. They really earned those big hugs at the end.”
CE: “Her ageless and hauntingly surreal melodies are more than deserving of our renewed appreciation—but should anyone be surprised at Kate Bush’s record-breaking renaissance? After all, when it comes to songs like her spectral, soulful, Max-saving ‘Running Up That Hill’: ‘They stay in rotation not because of nostalgia but because they damn well should.’”
KG: “She came, she won, she burst into song. We all had goosebumps watching Sheryl get her long overdue flowers in an industry that often overlooks and undervalues Black talent. ‘I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like ... and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.’”
CE: “Ah, the ‘comforts of depravity.’ Two years into a pandemic, slobbing out and going ‘goblin’—a direct rejection of the performative, baking-heavy, ‘cottagecore’ aesthetic that reigned in the early Covid days—was always going to be our only solution if we were to stay sane. It was the vibe shift of 2022: ‘Why bother?’”
AM: “Congratulations to Olivia Wilde for catapulting salad dressing into the greater pop culture vernacular, just one of the pivotal, memeable aspects of the great ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ drama of 2022. The internet sat at the edge of our seats as the off-screen theatrics swung from Shia Lebeouf leaks to Zapruder-esque analysis of possible public spitting and deep cuts from Nora Ephron books. True catnip for those seeking low-stakes watercooler gossip.”