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11 pop culture phenoms we said goodbye to in 2018

Fast Company’s year in review continues with a look back at some careers, attitudes, TV shows, and other things we lost in 2018.

11 pop culture phenoms we said goodbye to in 2018
[Photo: Flickr user Les Chatfield]

As much of a bummer as the In Memoriam section of the Oscars is, it’s an important part of the show. If you’re into spicy drama, it’s always interesting to see who the Academy might accidentally (?) leave out, infuriating so many belligerent Abe Vigoda fans. But mainly, the In Memoriam suite marks a moment in time–the changing of guards, the cultural landscape shifting beneath our feet.

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Since mourning what we’ve lost is part of determining who we’ll become, let us now take stock of the year we’ve just been through. We’ll be forgoing any actual eulogies, though. You’ll have to wait for next year’s Oscars, shortly before the inevitable Paddington 2 sweep, to see those. Instead, what you’ll find here are remembrances of some of the personalities, organizations, and other cultural phenomena that reached some sort of ending in 2018–an ending that will have an impact on what 2019 looks like. These aren’t biological deaths, exactly, but rather the fading of relevance, opportunity, fiscal stability, and other intangibles into the next life.

Here are 11 things we said goodbye to over the course of this year.

Kanye’s credibility

Throughout his impressive career, Kanye West has bounced back from a lot: a traumatic jaw injury, becoming the bane of all Taylor Swift fans forever, and even tweeting in defense of Bill Cosby’s (now-officially nonexistent) innocence. Somehow, Kanye was always able to win back the fans sick of his boorish public persona, by putting out incredible music. Not this time, though.

In 2018, Kanye became an enthusiastic poster boy for the MAGA movement and made some of his most despicable “controversial” statements ever, all while putting out some truly dull and uninspiring music. (He ended up postponing his promised second LP of 2018 and pretty much nobody cared.) Perhaps somebody very close to Kanye let him know just how much damage he had done to his reputation, because he recently renounced MAGA. Unfortunately for him, it’s too late. Claiming that 400 years of slavery was a choice isn’t the same kind of “controversial” as crashing an MTV Video Awards speech. Kanye played with fire and he burned down his house. Now he can look forward to a future of regularly getting roasted by Twitter.

Roseanne’s comeback

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Life comes at you pretty fast, especially if you’re Roseanne Barr in 2018. One minute you’re getting congratulated by the president for the success of your rebooted network sitcom, and the next you’re on YouTube screaming “I thought the bitch was whiiiiite!” about the black woman you called an ape, a move which resulted in a TV network canceling your sitcom. Fruit flies have flourished longer than Roseanne’s comeback. At least her former costars Sara Gilbert, John Goodman, and Laurie Metcalf are still riding the wave of her show’s success without her.

Megyn Kelly’s makeover

The initial return of Roseanne was part of an industrywide flurry of networks trying to appeal to conservative viewers in the wake of the 2016 election. It was during this foggy time that NBC swooped in to hire Megyn Kelly, newly freed from Fox News, where she was famous for things like insisting Santa is white. Although Kelly never brought the ratings NBC wanted and embarrassed the network with her Alex Jones interview, she was signed to a three-year deal worth $69 million. She was too expensive to lose, no matter how low her ratings. Well, at least until she announced that she thought blackface was okay. NBC cut ties with Kelly after that November snafu, even though the network took a bath on paying out the rest of her contract. It’s unclear where Kelly will go from here, but odds are it will be in a more Fox News-like environment.

Facebook’s fig leaf

How many times have we seen a repentant Mark Zuckerberg apologize for (some of) Facebook’s privacy-violating conduct and other dirty deeds, only to be followed by yet another bombshell New York Times report outlining how it’s all even worse than anyone suspected? In 2018, the answer was: officially too many times. At one point, Facebook could maybe get some leeway for its questionable decisions because it’s the most dominant company of its kind and is figuring things out as it goes along. After this year, however, something has changed. It’s becoming ever clearer that Facebook has acted more maliciously than carelessly in its business dealings. The company is now facing its first lawsuit from U.S. regulators, along with the fact that users are starting to drop the company. Because Facebook can’t hide its insidiousness anymore.

Digital media as we know it

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Let me be clear: Digital media is not entirely dead. (You may have noticed you’re reading this on your phone instead of inside a physical magazine.) However, 2018 was a year where mass layoffs were the norm and the hottest trend was unionizing; the year we lost beloved independent publications like The Awl and Rookie altogether; the year we found out that the “pivot to video” that cost hundreds if not thousands of employees their jobs may have been based on a lie. (Thanks again, Facebook.) Digital media is not dead. But it will never be the same as it used to be.

Alex Jones’s platforms

Something else that will be different about the digital landscape in 2019, as distinct from the first half of this year, is the total absence of Alex Jones and Infowars from social media, Apple podcasts, and YouTube. Anyone who thinks it’s maybe not so chill to be a Sandy Hook truther has long preferred that Jones do his dangerous conspiracy-mongering from a street corner or a Klan rally or any other platform besides the most popular (privately owned) ones on the internet. Now that he no longer enjoys those platforms, Jones appears more pathetic than dangerous, a trend set to continue in 2019.

Les Moonves’s severance package

I’ve got 120 million reasons to be glad about how former CEO Les Moonves’s exit from CBS shook out.

#MeToo momentum

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Despite Moonves’s ouster and the Cosby verdict, #MeToo lost some of its power in 2018. The backlash was swift, accelerated by a poorly reported exposé on alleged sex pest Aziz Ansari. Although it didn’t kill the movement, it slowed things down. More than a year after the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, men still have a lot to lose by abusing their power, but it’s become clear that asshole men can indeed still get away with asshole behavior (Ahem, Brett Kavanaugh, ahem.) #MeToo is turning out to be not quite the bro-pocalypse the naysayers and Bari Weisses of the world feared.

Governor Cynthia Nixon

It was close. Well, not really, but closer than some detractors might have thought. But even though Cynthia Nixon didn’t win her gubernatorial race, New Yorkers can thank her for moving Cuomo to the left on, uh, certain issues. Now if he would just fix the damn subways like she wanted in the first place!

Netflix’s reluctance to cancel shows

The streamer with the reported $13 billion budget used to be famous for never canceling its shows. Weird werewolf curio Hemlock Grove stuck around for three whole seasons even though nobody watched that show whatsoever. In 2018, though, Netflix had a change of heart.

Suddenly, in 2018, sturdy performers began to look super expendable. It got rid of quirky female-driven shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Lady Dynamite, along with the The Break with Michelle Wolf and Emmy-nominated American Vandal. It cut two Chuck Lorre shows (Disjointed and The Good Cop) soon after each premiered. Then there’s Netflix’s Marvel shows. First, the streamer cut its most underperforming Marvel property, Iron Fist and then the more buzzy Luke Cage. By the time it axed its most venerable Marvel series, Daredevil, many suspected Netflix was clearing the path for Marvel parent company Disney’s 2019 streaming service, Disney+. Though Jessica Jones and The Punisher are still thriving on Netflix (for now), there’s been speculation that they will likely end next year, signaling the end of the Netflix/Marvel collaboration. Although Netflix hasn’t had any trouble luring top talent to its original programming roster recently, that trend could change if creators don’t think their series will have room to grow.

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Nathan For You

And speaking of shows that are no longer with us, in 2018 Comedy Central announced that Nathan Fielder is done making Nathan For You, the marketing satire that occasionally drifted into moments of existentialism and poignant beauty. As someone who recently urged TV creators not to outwear their welcome, I have to respect Fielder’s decision. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like seeing the ideas he created actually put into practice, rather than in new episodes of his show, where they belong.

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