Dec. 27, 2010 at 8:54 AM ET
Worst of, best of, underrated, overrated. December is when we put events of the previous 12 months into neat piles as a means of making sense of what we spent our time thinking about. If an event or person makes it into a top-10 something or other, it offers some justification for spending time thinking about it, after all.
The complicated part about year end lists is the majority of pop culture newsmakers span more than one. A person sporting the crown of scandal also finds his way into the comeback category; a person who makes a most-intriguing appearance is usually dipping a toe in the pond of the overrated.
So instead of trying to put a semi-appropriate label on various and sundry items of intrigue, I offer this up as we put 2010 in the rearview mirror: Five pop culture talkers I’m thankful for, because they bridged gaps of gender and generation, and started a dialogue the whole family could be part of.
Before you label this a gimme, realize this choice is about more than a meat dress. Gaga did something most celebrities only do during an election year -- she used her platform to raise awareness of a cause to a swath of people who might have been unaware of what "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" meant. Regardless of your stance on the issue, the goodness of celebrity is when it can be used to bring people, who for whatever reason, might be left out of a dialogue, into one. And the meat dress didn’t hurt, either.
Things we know about JK Rowling’s "Harry Potter" series: that it’s done more for getting kids into reading than any book before it, and that it’s an inter-generational guilty pleasure. Why does it make the cut? Because beyond those two very formidable achievements, it’s also an example of restraint rarely seen in any franchise. Sure, 2010 brought Harry Potter his own theme park, but that’s just a natural progression, in my opinion. What’s impressive, especially as the films wind down, is that Rowling decided to end the series (for now) and give only select interviews about it, and that the powers that be decided that 3-D was not a good call for “Deathly Hallows, Part 1.” In choosing restraint over profit, not being over the top at every turn, the Harry Potter franchise remains special.
If you aren’t watching this show, I ask, what are you watching instead? “Modern Family” is in its second season and still manages to brilliantly entertain the people who watch it no matter their age. It is a great pleasure to be able to watch something as a family without ever having to employ the earmuffs rule. "Modern Family" makes the act of watching television together feel remarkably old-fashioned, while it addresses our culture in such a current way.
OK, sounds vague, right? But consider that this was the year of Lebron James’ “Where will he go?” infomercial, the World Cup and vuvuzelas, and Michael Vick’s redemption story. There’s been scandal, naturally, but in 2010 there have been a few special events that made even the non-sports fan become one, at least long enough to be part of the conversation.
Why Wikileaks? Not necessarily because of the conflict over the publishing of the leaks, and not just because the portrayal of founder Julian Assange has brought “Saturday Night Live” one of its best caricatures in recent memory, but because it encompasses all of the swift-moving social networking trends that everyone with an internet connection becomes a part of, whether they realize it or not. Forget about your mom being on Facebook -- that was so 2008. Now it’s about harnessing the Facebooks, Tumblrs and Twitters, and making a decision no one’s ever really had to make before the 2000s: Just how much you will you leave OFF the internet?
And with that, I am signing off for the year. Thanks for reading and following Scoop on its many platforms. Merry, happy everything to you. Here’s to a fantastic 2011.