2018 was a year that for many people seemed to last 27 years. So much happened that our brains aren’t wired to quantitatively process that we were forced to pick and choose the ones that mattered. In a normal year, these would have been signature moments in any year-end retrospective, but this year saw stories like this fall by the wayside. Here to refresh your memory are eight over-the-top pop culture shenanigans we saw last year:
Most Unpopular Oscar Category: “Most Popular”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, scared to death that a superhero movie like “Black Panther” might get nominated or maybe even win a Best Picture Oscar, decided to announce a new category starting this year: “Most Popular Film.” Despite the fact this award already exists — it’s called the Golden Globes — this announcement was not greeted with enthusiasm. Film buffs railed against what they felt was an insulting category (are “popular” films not worthy of Best Picture?). The backlash was so severe that the Academy tabled the idea for future, if any, consideration a mere month after they announced it.
Toys “R” No Longer with Us
In the end, the giraffe could not vanquish the piranha (native of the Amazon, get it?). After years of declining sales figures, the self proclaimed “World’s Biggest Toy Store” closed its remaining 800 stores after bankruptcy brought the company low enough for “vulture capitalists” to sell off the remaining equity. Thirty-thousand employees found themselves out of work three months before Christmas, and the vulture capitalists turned to their next target, Santa’s workshop at the North Pole.
International House Of Marketing Stunts
The iconic IHOP, purveyor of fine breakfast foods, suddenly announced last summer that it was changing its name to IHOb. After rampant speculation on the meaning (is it an upside down P?) they finally admitted that the “b” in this case stood for “burgers.” Social media went buggy trying to process this information and many good memes were made… until of course IHOb admitted the name change was only temporary and switched it back to IHOP. They sold a lot of burgers that way, but the breakfast industry has yet to recover from the betrayal.
Way back in January 2018, a sudden alert text sent out to thousands of Hawaiian residents caused an understandable panic, since the alert said that they were under imminent missile threat, and that this was not a drill. Considering that North Korea had already claimed it could hit a Western U.S. target, this was the ultimate worst-case scenario. But it wasn’t a drill — it was a mistake, sent by an emergency management official, in a post-apocalyptic version of texting “Reply All.” The panic was very real, with reported heart attacks and tearful goodbyes to loved ones, and yet it was the modern day equivalent of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” in the worst possible way, and that was one reboot we were not expecting to see.
Thanks but no Banksy
Street artist and social commentary guru Banksy not only proved himself a master of art and marketing but also of performance theater and a bit of DIY crafting. A seemingly innocent original painting in an ornate frame went to auction and sold for a whopping $1.4 million — and as the gavel came down, the audience was horrified to watch the picture shred itself into pieces. It turns out that Banksy had installed a paper shredder into the frame. But the picture is worth even more now, with the added provenance, so what is the real message that got delivered? Not even Banksy knows for sure.
The Sub Standard Submarine
The world was riveted to the news of a group of young hikers trapped inside a sprawling cave complex in Indonesia, about to be flooded by the annual monsoons. The only way out of the cave meant swimming through dark water. Enter Tesla CEO Elon Musk, with his offer to use a small submersible as a rescue device. The Indonesian government turned him down and got the kids out the old-fashioned way, with brave divers ferrying them out one at a time. Musk got revenge for his thwarted PR stunt by unleashing another one, making horrible claims about the rescuers themselves that will now be part of a libel lawsuit. And after all that, no one knows if the submarine even would have worked.
Musk, Grimes, and Banks
What sounds like three random nouns is actually another story of Tesla founder Elon Musk. It all started when rapper Azealia Banks was invited to come to the house Musk shared with his then-girlfriend, musician Grimes, ostensibly for some track sessions at their in-home recording studio. But instead, Banks claims Grimes spent her time consoling Musk over his controversial August 7 tweet about taking Tesla private, which landed him in legal trouble. Banks was not on board with this. Instead, she took to social media and began airing all the alleged musky and grimy laundry about Musk and Grimes. Oddly enough, Banks did eventually apologize for the outburst — to Musk, for involving him — leaving Grimes with a mess on her hands.
Szechuan, half dozen of the other
This story is proof that nothing dies on the internet. Back in 1998, McDonald’s released a new Szechuan dipping sauce for their Chicken McNuggets. Like all other promotions, this one eventually ended… only to be resurrected years later when the long forgotten secret sauce was mentioned on an episode of the massively popular cartoon “Rick and Morty.” McDonald’s found themselves drowning in requests for them to re-release the sauce, so much so that the company actually complied with the demand. But the joke was on the fans, since the sauce only was available for a single day in October 2017, and sold out almost immediately. The fans did not appreciate the joke and sharpened their pitchforks. Which is why in February 2018, McDonald’s paid their ransom in 20 million sauce packets.