The year in review: Top 6 pop culture moments that defined 2021

From Britney to Bernie, here's a look back at some of the highlights

By Web Desk

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Reuters file
Reuters file

Published: Wed 29 Dec 2021, 3:30 PM

2021 was anything but normal, but it was certainly a year to remember.

As the world battled a new wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone desperately needed a distraction. Luckily, the Internet and the entertainment industry delivered.

From Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Oprah interview to Spider-Man's blockbuster opening, here's a look back at some of the most defining moments in pop culture this year.

1. Bernie Sanders' "meme worthy" mittens


In January 2021, Senator Bernie Sanders attended President Joe Biden's inauguration wearing a grey winter coat, a pair of unique, brown mittens and a blue disposable mask. He was photographed sitting on a folding chair, looking as casual as ever, as opposed to his colleagues dressed in designer clothes.

"It's just Bernie being Bernie," said Brendan Smialowski, the AFP photographer responsible for the picture.

This phrase stuck, as the meme travelled across the Internet, being used in different places and contexts.

Supporters said this reflected Bernie's people-oriented approach to politics, as well as the fact that the gloves were handmade, from recyclable material, by a Vermont second-grade teacher, Jen Ellis.

2. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's bombshell interview


"Were you silent? Or were you silenced?"

This single phrase was used by the one and only Oprah Winfrey, whose impeccable conversational skills were proven (yet again) during Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's interview special, where they talked about numerous instances of injustices and discrimination inside the Royal hierarchy.

Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special (2021) turned heads, as Oprah's no-holds-barred interview provided insights into generations of the Royal Family's working style, which, for the most part, remains largely unknown to the world.

3. Movie magic


2021 saw a number of great films and TV series, but only two films can be rightly said to have occupied the centre stage: Cary Fukunaga's No Time to Die and Marvel Studios' Spider-Man: No Way Home.

No Time to Die saw the end of Daniel Craig's long-time role as the dapper James Bond, which began with Casino Royale (2006). The ending was met with a plethora of reactions on Twitter, with the majority paying homage to the brilliant actor.

Marvel Studios' Spider-Man: No Way Home, which released this month, received the most fan response worldwide that any movie could receive in 2021, considering the complications of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Fan theories and potential spoilers were all the rage on social media, months before even the trailer was released. The film is a culmination of the previous two Spiderman films starring Tom Holland, and is the only film in 2021 to reach the $1 billion mark at the global box office.

4. The sensation that was Squid Game

In September, Squid Game, a Korean survivalist drama on Netflix, became an instant global hit. The show wasn't just one of Netflix's most-streamed shows worldwide, but was also the Internet's hot topic for months.

The story of Hwang Dong-hyuk, the creator of the show, and his constant rejection for 10 years prior to the release of the show, amazed fans, as did the show's allegorical quality.

5. Friends: The Reunion

Friends, one of the world's most beloved TV shows that captured the hearts of millions, once again made an appearance on screens worldwide.

Fans were treated to a joyful reunion of the six main endearing actors, as well as the side characters and fan responses from around the world.

Reminiscing good old Central Perk, listening to Lady Gaga sing 'Smelly Cat', and debating whether Ross and Rachel were, in fact, on a break, was truly a sight for sore eyes; a remedy to the negative news of 2021. According to users on social media, it checked all major boxes of a reunion.

6. The ending of the 13-year-long "Free Britney" struggle


The "Free Britney" movement is a global politico-cultural movement created to free the American singer Britney Spears from the oppressive conservatorship she was in.

The New York Times' documentary Framing Britney Spears, directed by Samantha Stark, came out in February. Its highly accurate presentation of Britney's life under the spotlight, and her eventual fall into the conservatorship trap, a powerful ploy orchestrated by her own relatives and others, caused a cultural storm as it led to revamped "Free Britney" efforts worldwide, by people from different backgrounds.

This, combined with persistent legal efforts and social media unrest, led to a strategic win for Britney, as the 13-year-old conservatorship finally ended in November.

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