Culture / People

These are some of the best cultural moments from 2021

best cultural moments 2021

Ah, 2021. A hellfire of a year that made us wonder if things could really get any worse. Well, just in time for Christmas, Omicron has said "hold my beer" and it looks like things are, in fact, going to get worse. Not to worry! The internet will always be here to distract us through it, and who needs a life when we can live through iconic pop-cultural moments strung together by viral videos and fervent tweets? Below, we're looking back at some of the best cultural moments from 2021.


1. The success of #freebritney


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A post shared by Britney Spears (@britneyspears)

Britney Spears' 13-year conservatorship finally came to an end in November, after a movement that only die-hard Britney fans had been campaigning for went global this year. The momentum particularly picked up after the watershed moment in June when Spears broke her imposed silence with a harrowing court statement; where she described the many tactics of abuse of power and control she experienced at the hands of her father, who oversaw her conservatorship.

Now, she is slowly getting used to normal life again with her Fiancé, Sam Asaghari, and we love to see her drag all of the complicit figures in her conservatorship along the way!


2. Lil Nas X going viral multiple times


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2021 was truly the year of Lil Nas X, with the release of his seismically successful debut album, Montero, which saw conservatives go absolutely bonkers, and the rest of the world caught in an ass-shaking death trap. He became the chaos, while making very necessary points about queerness, being a gay Black man, and expressing his identity in ways that both illuminated and infuriated (the conservatives, that is). Mostly, he acted as a beacon of defiant joy, while delivering music videos like Montero, Call Me By Your Name, and Industry Babythat we've watched over, and over, again.


3. The power of Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka speaking out about mental health


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During a year where both gold medalist athletes had immense pressure mounting on their shoulders, both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles took brave and necessary steps to prioritise their mental health over the sports they are world-famous for.

Biles, the Olympic gymnast who has been named the best in history, was among over 150 women and girls who were sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. During the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games, Biles made the decision to withdraw from the women's team final in favour of her mental health, which was underscored by the USA Gymnastics team not having reached a settlement with Nassar's survivors. “With the year that it’s been,” Biles said, “I’m really not surprised how it played out.”

In May, the Grand Slam–winning tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, when organisers refused to let Osaka skip her post-match press briefings, a procedure which Osaka explained via Instagram that gave her “huge waves of anxiety", coupled with battled bouts of depression since the 2018 U.S. Open. “I have had a really hard time coping with that,” she added.

“At the end of the day, we’re human too, so we have to protect our mind in our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” Biles noted. Both moments were so significant because they served as a necessary reminder that being a champion is not a binary definition based on the medals won, but the integrity these athletes lead with. As Black and asian women, both Biles and Osaka sent a very strong message for women in sport, especially women of colour in sport, to take back their voices.


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4. The Squid Game Phenomenon

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. The Netflix phenomenon of the year was brought to us c/o Hwang Dong-hyuk, creator of Squid Gamethe show that shone a light on very real socio-economic struggles in Korea today, and the ways that poverty and debt can be almost impossible to crawl out of once forced into them, in the most violent and twisted of ways. Swiftly becoming Netflix's most watched show ever, Squid Game was a chilling rendition of the lengths desperation will take you to. We will never  un-hear the red light, green light song.


5. That Golden Globes Snub


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Forget about who was at the 2021 Golden Globes, what's more important, was who wasn't. Namely, Michaela Coel, whose lack of nomination for her masterpiece I May Destroy You sent the internet into a death spiral. As one of the most prolific pieces of television to come out of 2020, one might imagine a nomination might be in order. Instead, nothing. Nothing but the feeling of absolute snubbery. Coel gave us what felt like her mind, body and spirit and the Hollywood Foreign Press said "I'm good." She did, however, go on to win an Emmy later in the year for limited series writing for the show.

Among the chaos, Emily in Paris was nominated twice, somehow, as was James Corden (??), alongside just three women nominated for this years best director category. Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao, One Night in Miami’s Regina King, and Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell.


6. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain's armpit sniffing moment


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At the Venice Film Festival 2021, on the red carpet for the premiere of Scenes From a Marriage, this happened between Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. Like the rest of the internet, we've not been the same since.


7. The return of Sex and The City

Making a not-so triumphant return, is Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte for a deranged reboot titled And Just Like ThatIt has disappointed us to no end, and we will of course be watching the entire series. The first episode, however, has such a seismic cultural impact, that promptly following Mr. Big's death post-Peloton ride, the exercise bike giant made a panic decision to include Chris Noth in an ad narrated by Ryan Reynolds to combat the idea that a Peloton would induce a heart attack. Some very expensive damage control which was swiftly pulled following the harrowing sexual assault allegations that have come to light against Chris Noth in the past week.


8. The takeover of White Lotus


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Escapism with a sprinkle of commentary on classism, capitalism, and colonialism, anyone? This is what White Lotus served us up midway through the year, and we drank it down like a pina colada. Following the lives of hotel staff and the affluent guests at the White Lotus hotel, it depicts the growing tension between the spiralling hotel manager, an overgrown frat boy on a disastrous honeymoon, an unhinged woman who has come to scatter her mothers ashes, and a dysfunctional family trying to fix their problems with a vacation. A Hawaiian resort never felt so chaotic.


9. Taylorgate

As someone who has never really been a Taylor Swift fan, when I tell you I was GRIPPED by the narrative around her release of the 10-minute version of All Too Well, it is simply no lie. My for you page was drowning in commentary, spurred by the 10-minute song, which was released alongside a short-film adaptation.


10. Virgil Abloh's legacy


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On November 28, 2021, Virgil Abloh, king of streetwear, founder of Off-White and the men’s artistic director for Louis Vuitton, sadly passed away at age 41. Abloh was the prodigal child of fashions new guard, and will be remembered best for his ability to bring the concept of streetwear into a luxury lens, and offer a new way forward for an industry bound to tradition. He was one of the few Black designers at the helm of a historic, luxury house, and a creative mind like few others in the fashion landscape. Famed for his reinterpretation of the term "creative director", Abloh made it clear that he was "not a designer", but a facilitator of innovation, community, expression, and creativity in an industry that is often calcified in rigidity. His legacy is survived by his family, and his unfinished work at Louis Vuitton, who paid tribute to him in Miami mere days following his passing. While this is far from a 'best' cultural moment, it was a hugely impactful one, and was a defining moment in the fashion landscape this year to lose one of the greats.


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