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The highs and lows of pop culture in 2010/11

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Friday, May 20, 2011

Following celebrity culture can elicit many reactions, from groans to shaking heads, smiles to wistful sighs. This year has proved no different, contributing its fair share of celebrity scandals, viral YouTube stars and tear-jerking moments. Hats off to vanity, Hollywood and celebrities everywhere!

Highs:

The Royal Wedding brings a fairy tale to life

William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — popularly known as Will and Kate — captured hearts across nations when they finally tied the knot April 29, 2011, adding a “and they lived happily ever after” to their fairytale story. Over 2 billion people tuned in to catch this beautiful ceremony, which, coincidentally or not, took place on St. Catherine’s Day. Kate left the crowds, mulling about the lawn since 5 a.m., stunned by her gorgeous dresses, dazzling in creations from designer Sarah Burton. This was the most popular wedding in recent history and probably the closest many will get to witnessing a real life fairytale.

Sandra Bullock handles Hollywood scandal with dignity

In March 2010, Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress. Days later, she found out that her husband, Jesse James, had cheated on her. She promptly moved out and began the divorce process. Her decorum in the aftermath of the divorce revealed her magnanimous and stand-up character. Despite her status as the “wronged woman,” Bullock did not stoop to trash-talking her soon-to-be ex, nor run an exposé in “People” or “Us Weekly,” as many celebrities are wont to do. Rather, she continued to live her life and raise her adorable adopted son, Louis. She has illustrated to the world that not all celebrities have morphed into vapid, vain humans and demonstrated the resiliency of the human spirit.

Lows:

Charlie Sheen stops #winning and sinks into delirium

Charlie Sheen and his half-crazed quotes from a March 1 interview with “20/20” captivated the American public this year, sparking a whole slew of new slang, from “bi-winning” to “tiger blood.” The confirmed abuser of drugs and alcohol, self-described as “too smart to die from drugs,” took his re-energized fame and launched his “Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour” across America. And it sold out — in multiple cities. Despite poor reviews and even walkouts, the American public demands to see what more this insane man has to dish out. It appears that “non compos mentis” only restricts legal courts, not American culture. At least his kids are out of the house now.

Ark Music and Rebecca Black prove talent isn’t necessary for success

On February 10, Ark Music Factory released “Friday” by Rebecca Black on YouTube. The auto-tuned 13-year-old singing about the days of the week immediately went viral. Despite a lack of talent, the video quickly topped 1 million views and hit iTunes soon afterward with a high popularity rating. No matter how many people bashed the song, millions continued to listen to it, probably wondering which seat they should pick. Ark Music proved, both with Black and other artists, that talent is not a requisite for musical fame — just money and YouTube. But this song also hits the “Lows” list for the reactions it garnered. From death threats to ringing condemnations, people came down hard on this tween, revealing the ugly side of fame.

Even after growing up, Taylor Swift keeps whining

In her first two albums, Taylor Swift sang about issues her mostly-teenage-girls audience could relate to. She found her genre, writing songs about the challenges that plague young adults, from high school crushes to fitting in at school. And her music did inspire. But apparently 2010 was a tough romantic year for Swift. It came out in her third album, “Speak Now,” where she could not keep her complaints about past relationships to herself. Gone were the songs about generalized young love. They were replaced with bitter ballads full of regret and complaints directed at certain celebrities. From “Dear John” to “Back to December” to “Story of Us,” Taylor informed her listening audience — and the whole world — about the demise of any romantic relationship she had in the past year, whether or not her partners wanted that laundry aired. It got old — there’s already enough heartbreak in the world.