The pop culture moments that changed the world in 2022

2022 has been a chaotic and - at times - cursed cultural hellscape. In just 12 months we’ve lived through three Prime Ministers, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Elon Musk’s diabolical takeover of Twitter, the fifth (or was it sixth?) downfall of Kanye West, and countless other internet-busting world events.

So as we draw towards the end of this year of mayhem, we’ve been reflecting on the truly bonkers and downright revolutionary pop culture moments that have happened since January. Ones that didn’t just trend for a day, but collectively changed us - both for better and for the worse.

Rihanna’s maternity fashion heralded a new era for motherhood

 (Getty Images for Gucci)
(Getty Images for Gucci)

The year got off to a good start when Rihanna announced she was expecting in the chicest way possible. In true Rhi Rhi fashion, she broke the news with a photoshoot wearing a quilted Chanel jacket that revealed a baby bump adorned with over $20,000 worth of jewellery- and she didn’t stop there. The rest of her pregnancy was a triumph of crop tops, low-slung jeans, belly-grazing jewels, sheer dresses and maximalist coats unbuttoned to reveal her growing belly.

Countless thinkpieces congratulated the star for her audacious takedown of dowdy maternity wear and for ushering in a new cool era for motherhood. In fact, US Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour even honoured Rihanna at the Met Gala with a statue of the pregnant Fenty boss in a red lace Alaïa catsuit from her Vogue cover. "[Pregnancy’s] a long nine to 10 months. You have to enjoy it," Rihanna told Entertainment Tonight on the Met Gala honour. “Fashion is one of my favourite things, so, you know, we’re defying what it even means to be pregnant and maternal.”

The wildcard IT girl the world didn’t know it needed

Kanye West briefly dated actress Julia Fox who he appeared to be styling to look like Kim Kardashian (Getty Images For Kenzo)
Kanye West briefly dated actress Julia Fox who he appeared to be styling to look like Kim Kardashian (Getty Images For Kenzo)

You’ll be forgiven for forgetting that Julia Fox was once Kanye West’s girlfriend. Yes their January fling undoubtedly catapulted the downtown New York socialite into an internationally papped IT girl. But since their one-month courtship ended, Fox has single handedly dismantled the overtly polished celebrity archetype and made it fun again. From “Uncut Jauyems,” to her OTT black wing makeup, as well as her TikTok musings on patriarchy, ageing and motherhood, the internet can’t get enough of the self proclaimed “hustler”.

The chaos of the Depp v Heard trial

The juror, who has remained anonymous, said the Aquaman star had been given bad advice by her legal team (Evelyn Hockstein/AP) (AP)
The juror, who has remained anonymous, said the Aquaman star had been given bad advice by her legal team (Evelyn Hockstein/AP) (AP)

After three years of suing Amber Heard for defamation over an opinion piece she wrote for the Washington Post in 2018, Johnny Depp finally took his ex-wife to trial in May and as Dazed put it, “opened a portal to hell”. Over the six week libel case both parties recounted gut-wrenching accusations of physical, verbal and sexual assault, as well as bizarre stories involving severed fingers, threesomes with Elon Musk and feces.

Of course, social media couldn’t get enough. Every day, videos of the trial would flood TikTok, with increasingly unhinged takes being shared online that muddied the narrative. Depp was eventually awarded $10 million in damages. Heard filed an appeal to the ruling but ultimately settled - paying Depp $1m (£820,000). Most tragically, none of the discourse that emerged served victims of domestic abuse well, with commentators worried that it will encourage other powerful men accused of abuse to sue their accuser.

Kim Kardashian losing 16 lbs to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s dress

Kim Kardashian has been accused of damaging the Marilyn Monroe dress she wore to this year’s Met Gala (Getty Images for The Met Museum/)
Kim Kardashian has been accused of damaging the Marilyn Monroe dress she wore to this year’s Met Gala (Getty Images for The Met Museum/)

The reality TV star’s Met Gala outfit was perhaps the most controversial of 2022. Not just because she was accused of damaging the priceless original gown worn by Marilyn Monore in 1962, nor because she turned up with then-boyfriend Pete Davidson cementing his status as Hollywood’s most unlikely heartthrob. But because of the dangerous diet she went on to fit into the dress.

​​“I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein,” she said in an interview with British Vogue. “I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict.” On the Met Gala red carpet she gloated that she had lost 16lbs in three weeks, and a month later she told the Today show, “I continued to eat really healthy. I mean, I’m down 21 pounds now.” Combined with the speculation that she had removed her BBL, many culture commentators declared this a watershed moment for the return of skinny, where the rise of ultra thin bodies has been creeping back into fashion and pop culture once again.

Coperni, Bella Hadid and that viral spray painted dress

 (Imaxtree)
(Imaxtree)

2022 was the year Bella Hadid earned her place in the supermodel hall of fame. She walked 19 shows at Paris fashion, was awarded model of the year at the British Fashion Awards and her ability to raise a fashion brand’s profit (she added 90 per cent to the expected monetary value for Jil Sander by walking the show) has been dubbed “the Bella effect” by influencer marketing platform Lefty.

However there was one moment that truly earned her place among the greats. Yes we’re talking about when practically naked Bella strutted to the middle of Coperni catwalk to have liquid fibre spray painted on her. The plot twist? She left wearing a stunning, figure-hugging, one-shoulder white dress that was strong enough to be reworn and washed. According to WWD, in the 48 hours after the show, the media impact value of the event was measured at $26.3 million (£23 million), with $20.9 million of that total attributed to social media. But more than that, it confirmed to TikTokers that Bella Hadid would be the defining supermodel of this generation.

Matt Hancock ending up in the final of I’m a Celebrity

Boy George: Don’t believe Matt Hancock’s reasoning for joining I’m A Celebrity (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
Boy George: Don’t believe Matt Hancock’s reasoning for joining I’m A Celebrity (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

When it was announced that former Health Secretary Matt Hancock would be a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, the public was rightfully outraged. This was the man who presided over the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic, which claimed 210,000 lives, and who had broken his own lockdown guidance to cheat on his wife. Why the hell was he being paid £400k to go on national television to rewrite his narrative?

As expected, the beginning of his time in the camp was marked by endless bushtucker trial votes and interrogation from his fellow campmates. But then something unexpected happened. Gen Z on TikTok started telling people to bully Hancock, and before long he wasn’t just getting votes to do Bushtucker trials but to actually stay in the competition. The most disturbing twist of all however was that he somehow unironically wound up in the final. Considering the longlist of disgraced politicians, this outcome has the potential to spark an onslaught of politicians on reality TV in 2023. Perhaps we might see Boris Johnson on Big Brother, god forbid.

Elon Musk single handedly destroyed Twitter

 (Getty Images for Heidi Klum)
(Getty Images for Heidi Klum)

It’s been a will-he-won’t-he saga throughout the year, with the Tesla entrepreneur first stating his intent to buy Twitter back in April. Many were sceptical that the deal would ever be completed, but once he officially bought it for $44billion in October, chaos ensued. Musk’s plan to charge $20 a month for a "blue check” caused imposters to flood the platform, with pharmaceutical company Eli Lily’s stock price halving after an imposter tweeted that they’re making insulin free. Then he suspended comedian Kathy Griffin’s account for impersonating him, even though he believed Donald Trump should be allowed back. Ultimately, his reign over the site has prompted endless think pieces about whether this was not only the end of Twitter, but the end of the age of social media. Sensing that the backlash against his reign was gaining momentum, he recently ran a poll asking Twitter users whether he should step down as the company’s CEO - when 57% voted yes, he agreed to resgin as soon as he could find someone “foolish enough” to take his place. Whether the platform survives remains to be seen.

The Don’t Worry Darling Drama

Styles currently also stars in Olivia Wilde’s highly anticipated psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling, alongside Florence Pugh (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP) (AP)
Styles currently also stars in Olivia Wilde’s highly anticipated psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling, alongside Florence Pugh (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP) (AP)

Following Covid-19, the rise of even more streaming giants like Apple+ and the Marvel-ification of the Big Screen, has brought the box office to its knees. The New York Times reported on the phenomenon, writing that Oscar-worthy films were tanking at the box office (films like Tár - which cost at least $35 million to make - only brought in ticket sales of $5.3million).

Perhaps they will have to take a leaf out of Don’t Worry Darling’s disastrous (but highly publicised) roll out. Firstly Florence Pugh skipped the Cannes press conferences to sip Aperol with her Grandma Pat amid rumours of a feud with director Olivia Wilde. Then she blanked the director at the premiere, and only acknowledged Wilde during the eight minute standing ovation where they awkwardly clapped at one another. At its most deranged a clip of Harry Styles and Chris Pine went viral, where it appeared as though Styles was spitting on Pine. Though both denied it, Styles later joked about it at a concert, saying that he had “just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine.”

We, of course, couldn’t get enough - which helped significantly at the box office where it debuted at Number One. With The Minions movie also seeing huge box office returns thanks to a viral TikTok trend that saw crowds of teens descending on Cineworlds across the nation wearing “Gentleminions suits”, we have to ask: is the memeification of movies the future of film marketing?

Three low-key moments you might have missed but were still mind blowing

Sophie Turner in Do Revenge

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With audiences cringed by the heavy handed “woke” narratives written by boomer showrunners and misfired styling briefs, the teen comedy genre struggled to find its feet in the Gen Z landscape. However  Do Revenge might have finally broken the curse, especially thanks to an unlikely cameo. Though she only had a couple of scenes, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner stole the show by unleashing her inner teenage girl and delivering a spectacular comedic performance. In one scene that sees Turner’s character framed for drug possession, she utters the quote of the year — “I don’t do cocaine! I don’t even know what it looks like!” Combined with her unnerving British accent, exaggerated facial expressions and outlandish physical acting, the scene is truly one to remember. Although few previously saw her in a comedic setting — it’s safe to say that 2023 should be the year Turner pivots to comedy.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once wins top prize at 2022 Gotham Awards (Alamy/PA)
Everything Everywhere All At Once wins top prize at 2022 Gotham Awards (Alamy/PA)

As previously mentioned, highbrow films and leftfield arthouse flicks have been struggling on the Big Screen. Well, apart from Everything Everywhere All At Once. The non-franchise, completely out-there indie film showed some serious staying power in the US box office this year. In fact, it even went to number one at the US box office back in May after six weeks climbing the charts. What’s more, after years of saying that mainstream cinema wasn’t interested in Asian storylines,  Everything follows in the footsteps of Crazy Rich Asians and Shang Chi as a massive one-finger-up at industry gatekeepers.

Lily Rose Depp doesn’t want to be called a “nepo baby”

Lily-Rose Depp has spoken about the challenges of growing up with famous parents (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)
Lily-Rose Depp has spoken about the challenges of growing up with famous parents (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

The fascination and frustration at “nepo babies”, i.e a celebrity who comes from a famous family  has been a characterising trend of 2022. From Brooklyn Beckham’s outrageous wedding to billionaire heir Nicola Peltz, to Zoe Kravitz admitting she feels “insecure” about being the daughter of musician Lenny Kravitz and actor Lisa Bonet ahead of her Batman starring role, TikTokers are exhausted by the firm grasp nepotism has over the entertainment industry.

However it reached pinnacle outrage when Lily Rose Depp’s told Elle that she found it “weird” that she was being called one. "It just doesn’t make any sense. If somebody’s mom or dad is a doctor, and then the kid becomes a doctor, you’re not going to be like, ‘Well, you’re only a doctor because your parent is a doctor.’ It’s like, ‘No, I went to medical school and trained.” It’s an odd analogy, especially considering Depp didn’t even go to acting school (she got her start because her dad’s friend thought it would be “fun” to make a movie together). Will 2023 be the year we finally all rebel against neobabies? Let’s hope so.