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Top 10 Defining Pop Culture Moments of 2018

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
January 2018 sure feels like a long time ago. For this list, we’re looking at events and moments in news and entertainment that were not only memorable but also set in motion a change in the cultural landscape. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Defining Pop Culture Moments of 2018.
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Script written by Savannah Sher

Top 10 Defining Pop Culture Moments of 2018


January 2018 sure feels like a long time ago. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Defining Pop Culture Moments of 2018.

For this list, we’re looking at events and moments in news and entertainment that were not only memorable but also set in motion a change in the cultural landscape. We’ll be excluding some items that we think would fit better on our list of “Reasons 2018 Was The Worst”.

#10: Cardi B Makes a Splash

2017 may have been the year that Cardi B. first made it big with the release of her hugely successful single "Bodak Yellow", but by 2018, she was a full fledged member of the celebrity A list, making appearances at the Met Gala and showing off some killer pregnancy style. The female rapper released her first studio album, “Invasion of Privacy”, back in April but even before it actually went on sale, she became the first female artist to have five top ten singles on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart at the same time. The 2018 music scene wouldn’t be what it is without this powerful performer.

#9: The Thai Boys Soccer Team Rescue

There were some truly awful news stories in 2018, but this was one that the entire world could band together on. In June, news broke of a Thai boys’ soccer team that had went missing while exploring a cave in the Chiang Rai Province of Thailand. The story became an international sensation, with people around the world following with bated breath as the boys were found and a rescue mission went underway. Against all odds, this story had a happy ending, with all 12 of the boys and their coach making it out of the cave successfully in early July.

#8: Midterm Elections

Typically, when the midterm elections roll around in the US, they pass without much fanfare, with most people waiting until the presidential elections to get really geared up about politics. In 2018 however, that all changed when the whole country - and even the rest of the world - focused their attention on the event. Celebrities were vocal on social media, encouraging followers to vote, and even the previously apolitical Taylor Swift chimed in. This helped to spur a significant increase in voter turnout, with the highest youth participation in decades. The results included a number of historic firsts, launching a relatively diverse selection of candidates into the political spotlight.

#7: March for Our Lives

In the wake of the tragic Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, many of the students who survived the attack mobilized in what commentators described as the political “coming out party for Generation Z”. On March 24, the student-led demonstration in Washington D.C. became the largest youth-led protest since the Vietnam War, with satellite events taking place around the country. Many consider it to have been a tipping point in the gun control debate, with a new generation demanding that legislation progress with public opinion.

#6: Nike's Colin Kaepernick Campaign

In the social and political climate we’re living in, it should come as no surprise that brands are realizing that by getting political, they can have a greater draw. NFL player Colin Kaepernick has been in the news since 2016, when he kicked off the protests that saw players kneeling during the national anthem. Now a controversial figure, he’s been out of a job in the NFL since 2017, but at the end of August Nike included Kaepernick in a major ad campaign, prompting much discussion and leading to the creation of a thousand memes.

#5: Ariana Grande’s Major Year

Billboard voted Ariana Grande as their “Woman of the Year”, and her career has certainly been on fire in 2018, with her album “Sweetener” topping charts thanks to hit singles like “God Is a Woman” and “No Tears Left to Cry”. Her personal life also made headlines, with her sudden engagement to Pete Davidson shocking fans, and their subsequent breakup being one of the biggest pop culture news stories of the last few months - rivalling even Bieber’s engagement and marriage to Hailey Baldwin. Ariana already has another album in the works for 2019, and the lead single, “Thank U, Next” has become a huge hit, as well as the perfect modern breakup anthem.

#4: Roseanne Controversy

2018 has sure been a whirlwind for Roseanne Barr. In March, her show “Roseanne”, went back on the air after a long hiatus, becoming one of the most watched shows on TV. Just two months later though, with the show already renewed for another season, Barr posted a racist tweet comparing African-American Valerie Jarrett to “Planet of the Apes” and the “Muslim Brotherhood”. The backlash was swift and almost universal, and ABC cancelled the show. Barr apologized, while also blaming blamed Ambien and people with “low IQ”. You can still see The Conners on TV - just without Roseanne. Around the time of this controversy, it seemed like no one was talking about anything else.

#3: The Royal Wedding

You’d think that by 2018 we would have gotten over this whole royal obsession, but it’s still going strong even outside the commonwealth. People can’t help but get excited about a good old royal wedding, and how can you blame them when the rest of the news cycle is dominated by so much negativity? Sometimes people just want to see a nice young couple get married in a big castle surrounded by their friends and family . . . and Oprah. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot in the spring, and by autumn had already announced that their family would be growing in 2019.

#2: "This Is America" Music Video

The song of the summer was an unconventional one in 2018. No, “This Is America” wasn’t exactly an upbeat dance hit, but it was a political statement disguised as one. The song’s lyrics subtly tackle issues of racism and gun violence in the United States, and the visuals are some of the most poignant that we can remember seeing in a music video. The song was hugely influential, with many referring to it as the release of the year. Even months after it debuted, the song and music video are still giving us goosebumps.


Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

"Get Out" Wins Best Original Screenplay at Oscars

Kylie Jenner "Self-Made Billionaire" Controversy

Stormy Daniels Revelations

2018 Winter Olympics

Serena Williams' Tennis Tutus

#1: Marvel Had a YEAR

Sadly, we lost creative mind Stan Lee in 2018, who was one of the most influential figures behind Marvel comics, but this news came at the end of a year in which Marvel dominated pop culture. Of course, there was “Black Panther” (Wakanda forever!), which broke records and exceeded expectations. It was only surpassed at the box office by one other film: “Avengers: Infinity War”. “Black Panther” was great and all, but there may not have been any movie moment that was more heavily discussed than that Thanos snap, and in case you’re one of the three people who hasn’t seen the movie yet, we’ll keep this spoiler free.
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