From “The Fappening” to Iggy Azalea’s controversial rise to the fall of Honey Boo Boo, a look back at the celebrity stories we couldn’t stop talking about in 2014…for better or for worse. (And usually, for worse.)
The Sony Hack, Part I
There are so many levels to this scandal it’s almost impossible to keep track. In late November, an anonymous group of hackers calling themselves “Guardians of Peace” breached Sony’s servers and leaked a trove of company emails, personal information like salaries and social security number of Hollywood’s biggest stars and power players, and even a few of their big holiday films, like Fury and Annie. The most troubling of the leaked emails talked about how President Obama must be a fan of “black movies,” insulted Angelina Jolie, revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams made less than their male counterparts in American Hustle, and pulled the curtain back on plans for new Ghostbusters, Spider-man, and James Bond movies.
The Sony Hack, Part II
The second tier of this scandal is how it’s all tied to James Franco and Seth Rogen’s comedy The Interview. The U.S. has said that North Korea is to blame for the cyberattack on Sony, and it’s long been thought that the attack was because of the country’s displeasure with the film’s fictional assassination of Kim Jong-Un. When the Guardians of Peace threatened a 9/11-invoking attack on the film’s premiere, theatre chains rapidly announced they wouldn’t be screening and Sony pulled its release entirely. Then, on Dec. 23, after a week that found President Obama and most of Hollywood criticizing Sony’s decision, the studio authorized a handful of small theaters to show it. Hollywood’s biggest scandal of 2014: still evolving!
2014 might as well be referred to as The Year Hollywood Was Hacked. Months before the Sony hacks implicated Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes power players, the personal photos of dozens of the industry’s hottest young starlets were stolen and leaked in an operation grossly called “The Fappening.” Jennifer Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Anna Kendrick, and more were among the victims, inciting an incendiary debate over cyber responsibility, what amount of privacy celebrities should expect, and the deplorability of victim shaming. In a hot-button cover story interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence explained it best. “Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” she said. “It’s my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe that we even live in that kind of world.” Her conclusion: “It is not a scandal. It’s a sex crime.”
The Bill Cosby Accusations
They say where’s there’s smoke there’s fire. When it comes to the increasing number of rape allegations leveled at Bill Cosby, the smoke is becoming impenetrable. There seems to be a full-blown inferno out there. The sordid details from Cosby’s accusers threaten to, if they haven’t already, ruin his legacy as a culture-changing, sweater-wearing, pudding-loving entertainer. Women from all arenas of entertainment and with varying levels of credibility have stepped forward, and Cosby himself has remained largely mum on the controversy—though his wife did release a long statement in his defense that was controversial in its own right. There’s a timeline of the charges against Cosby here. Unbearably, that timeline keeps growing.
The Carter-Knowles Family Elevator Brawl
It was the year’s most captivating silent film. It was also the most shocking revelation of 2014: Beyoncé Knowles is not perfect. We were a nation captivated when TMZ released security camera footage of Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, assaulting Jay Z in an elevator after the Met Gala, while Queen B just sort of somnambulantly makes sure no one steps on her dress. Rumors about Music’s Royal Family started flying: Was Jay cheating on Bey? Were Bey and Jay headed for divorce? Is Beyoncé secretly Solange’s mother? (Seriously this was a thing.) In the end, no one divorced. Solange’s staged the fiercest wedding photo of all time and the world, at least momentarily, forgot about all that elevator drama. And Beyoncé reminded us, again and again, that she is still absolutely perfect.
Renée Zellweger’s New Look
A person who claimed to be Renée Zellweger but who looked nothing like the previously cherubic and adorable Oscar winner ignited a media firestorm after an appearance at October’s ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards. Internet chatter rose to a deafening roar as speculation began about what—plastic surgery? chemical treatments? weight fluctuation?—contributed to her startlingly different look. Then, as quickly as the Internet made fun of Zellweger, it shamed the ridiculers, calling the obsession with her appearance sexist, retrograde, demeaning. As for Zellweger, she said she’s “glad” people talked about her new look because her appearance reflected her new state of being: “I am healthy.”
Kim Kardashian Breaks the Internet
In April 2014, Kim Kardashian posed demurely on the cover of Vogue magazine, the most prestigious fashion publication in the world, wearing a demure white gown and cradled by her husband. In November 2014, Kim Kardashian posed on the cover of a magazine no one had ever heard of, bent over naked and pooching out her bare ass. The downward plunge of class, yielding hundreds of web memes and think pieces along the way, was all the more shameful when a clip of Kardashian on her E! reality surfaced in which she was in hysterics over a magazine cover that showed her more nude than she claimed to ever want to be photographed. LOL. WTF. UGH.
Duck Dynasty Star Quacks Homophobic
Late last year, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson told GQ that he felt that gay men were dumb because sex in an anus doesn’t feel as good as sex in a vagina. He said that! Why is Phil Robertson talking about sex and anuses at all? Because we let him, and continued to let him in 2014, which is how he somehow implausibly topped the bigotry and absurdity of that GQ interview. While promoting his new book (he writes too!) Robertson gave a radio interview saying that, how he sees it, AIDS and similar diseases are punishment for immoral behavior, elaborating to strongly suggest that immoral behavior is really just “being gay.” What does this matter? Because Duck Dynasty receives monster TV ratings and Robertson paid by a company (A&E) while making these public statements. It’s not a huge leap, then, to say that we (the TV public) and A&E are both rewarding Robertson for his homophobia, with TV ratings and a salary, respectively. What quackery.
There Goes Honey Boo Boo
If there was something redeemable about the TLC reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, it was the undeniable, adorable, genuine love the unabashedly redneck family at the heart of it had for each other. It’s what made reports that family matriarch June “Mama June” Shannon was in a relationship with a man convicted of molesting Shannon’s daughter a decade before so disturbing. TLC promptly pulled the plug on the hit series and Shannon embarked on a press tour denying the claims. The whole scandal: definitely not beautimous.
Kanye West’s Wheelchair Gate
Kanye West wants people to stand up and dance at his concerts. All people. Even ones with prosthetic limbs and who are in wheelchairs, apparently. There were reports that at a September concert in Sydney the rapper stopped the show to berate audience members who hadn’t abided by his request that the entire audience get on their feet, only for it to be revealed later that those audiences members were handicapped. When the story caught fire, instead of apologizing, West posted an epic rant criticizing the media for blowing the controversy out of proportion and painting himself the victim.
Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman”
One thing was despicable and many things were encouraging about New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley’s tone-deaf essay on Shonda Rhimes, in which she calls the Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator and How to Get Away With Murder producer an “angry black woman.” The despicable thing should be obvious: how reductive, demeaning, and retrograde to compare one of the most progressive and talented television creatives to a tired, inaccurate stereotype, even if, as Stanley later insisted, it was to make the point that Rhimes bucks that stereotype. The encouraging thing, however, was the instant, unanimous outrage over Stanley’s column. The Internet puts its pitchforks to good use with this one, calling for Stanley’s firing, ridiculing her column, and rabidly coming to Rhimes’s defense.
Adele Dazeem Sings at the Oscars
It’s the only damned moment people were really looking forward to at the Oscars and John Travolta went and effed up the whole thing. Gays, children, and fans of professionalism everywhere gasped when Travolta, introducing musical theatre star Idina Menzel to sing “Let It Go” from Frozen at the Oscars, inexplicably called her “Adele Dazeem.” Menzel, as she’s said after being quizzed about ad nauseum, was visibly shaken from the inexcusable goof. She also, as she’s again said ad nauseam, benefitted greatly from the media hullaballo that ensued. But still—really, Travolta?
Iggy Azalea’s Controversial Rise
Google “Iggy Azalea” and “cultural appropriation” for an exhaustive look into why one of 2014’s biggest stars was also one of its most controversial. Azalea made history when she became the first artist since The Beatles to have her first two singles go to number one and two on the Billboard charts at the same time, with “Fancy” and “Problem.” But many music critics found Azalea’s popularity to be incredibly problematic, considering the way the white, Australian rapper who didn’t move to the U.S. until she was 16 blatantly appropriates the culture of the black community in her rapping style. It’s a nuanced, delicate debate—one that requires more than a short caption here to detail—but the passions are fierce when it comes to Azalea, which warrants her unparalleled rise in 2014 status as a very controversial one, too.
Justin Bieber’s Year of Scandal
Pop’s Prince of Petulance’s 2013 reign of terror spilled into 2014 when he was arrested in late January for DUI and drag racing in Miami Beach. The shit-eating grin on Bieber’s face in the ensuing mugshot made the embarrassing incident all the more captivating. But wait—there’s more! Like a ShamWOW commercial on crack, Bieber wasn’t done. The star was also mired in controversy when a racist video leaked of him using the N-word, he was booed at a Fashion Rocks concert, and he was allegedly punched by Orlando Bloom in Ibiza. He released music, too?