RANKED! The 20 Greatest Pop Culture Disasters of the Last 20 Years
Pop culture has gone through some weird permutations in the last 20 years, with trends coming and going faster than a virgin with a curfew. But even still, certain moments stick out from the pack and linger like the smell of a dumpster fire long after the fire trucks have gone home. Today we turn our attention to these pop culture disasters, the ones that have left a giant smoke stain on our collective identity. See if you can handle all 20. And get ready to cringe like you haven’t cringed in years.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz (Getty Images)
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20. Kanye West Mansplains Someone Else's Grammy Win
It may have looked like Kanye was trying to be chivalrous when he "defended" Beyonce's loss to Taylor Swift in 2009, but we all know that wasn't it. It turned out to be the exact moment rap's outspoken icon flipped his lid into the Kanye we know today. The actions of a tipsy megalomaniac hogging the spotlight by mansplaining his opinions never come off quite as gentlemanly as you'd think.
19. Starbucks Enters Westeros
Though many of the Starks were killed over the course of the world’s biggest show, the legendary appearance of the Starbuck's latte in the third to last episode of GoT will forever live in pop culture infamy. And it's not even the continuity error that bothers us, as much as the realization that TV's biggest stars drink shitty coffee.
18. Roseanne Tweets on Ambien
Anyone who's spent five minutes watching candid Roseanne interviews will understand that the woman is pistachios. But her tweet insulting Valerie Jarrett was a disaster not only for the fact that what she said was crass, inappropriate, and unfunny, but also because the backlash served up by the Twitterverse was uglier than the original tweet itself. Twitter justice has become a cultural norm -- a mob mentality of internet ugliness that treats the accused as guilty before proven innocent, dishing out punishments that rarely fit the crime. Disagree? Go tweet about it.
17. Justin Beiber Pisses in a Mop Bucket, Visits Anne Frank House
The past 20 years have given us some great musical artists. Not included on that list is Justin Bieber, whose register of culturally contemptible accomplishments is too long to recap here. Suffice to say, the message he scrawled into the guestbook at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, stating, "Hopefully she would have been a Belieber," illustrates just how clueless pop culture royalty can be.
16. Fyre Festival
What happens when you combine festival culture, rich kids, and people who have no idea what they're doing? You get one of the century's most hilarious fails. We can't wait for Fyre Fest II.
15. Ashlee Simpson Lip Syncs Onstage, World Scoffs, Then Shrugs
SNL was the scene of this crime back in 2004 when Ashlee Simpson was busted lip-syncing to a backing track. She tried to play the embarrassing moment off by dancing a jig, but that only proved the girl couldn't dance either. The moment was a cultural low point. But what's worse, Simpson released an album the following year that debuted at No. 1, demonstrating the world no longer cared about musical talent.
14. Hawaii Ballistics Snafu
In 2018, an accidental text message was sent to residents of Hawaii informing them that a missile was headed their way. The fallout was messy. Residents went into panic mode, with one man reportedly dying of a heart attack, before a subsequent message was sent out letting everyone know it was a false alarm. The incident showed how quickly all hell could break loose with the touch of button.
13. America Ghost Rides the Whip
What started off as an OG Bay Area rapper literally stepping out of the driver's seat to regain the rap reins turned into a stampede of lemmings looking for a taste of viral fame. The result was an exercise in stupidity, inspiring further spinoffs that history can only shake its head at.
12. Kelly Osbourne Tries to Razz Trump Over Latinos
Maybe she meant well, but her good intentions came spilling out like hot juice from a port-a-potty when, in mid-2015, Osbourne responded to Donald Trump's xenophobia by triumphantly blurting, "If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?" Osbourne fully expected a slow-clap to follow, but one surely did not.
11. 4chan Turns Ugly
They gave us memes, so technically they're cultural heroes. But the unchecked bullshitting on 4chan also led to the creation of 8chan, a subterranean internet clubhouse where young men could incubate their hate with impunity. Exploiting the worst of what freedom of speech has to offer, these dark web societies became this century's fight club, without the sex, but with the violence.
10. Kendall Jenner's Pepsi Commercial
Tone-deaf doesn’t even begin to describe the cultural turd that came out of Pepsi and Kendall Jenner’s collective butt cheeks on this one. In an attempt to capitalize on the rise of Berners and social activists (and to show the world how woke they were), Pepsi dropped this prime-time deuce that was immediately pulled off the air due to unanimous backlash. Pepsi will always be No. 2 in the world of cola beverages, and this horrendous commercial was a perfect example of Pepsi number two-ing all over itself.
George W. Bush became a pop culture icon due to his hilarious persona, incredible Bush-isms, and "presidential" cowboy smirk. And while the man made mistakes every single day of his presidency, there was none so disastrous as his war on Iraq. Citing weapons of mass destruction as his reason for invading, Bush began a protracted war that cost billions of dollars, claimed thousands of innocent lives, and still echoes on to this day. It was the beginning of a cultural shift in which America learned to invade foreign countries without a formal declaration, while also swallowing mounds of bullshit without breaking stride.
8. U2 Invades Our Lives
Nothing has been more continuously frustrating and pretentious than U2’s Songs of Innocence showing up uninvited to the party that is our lives. We will never forgive and never forget.
7. Luxury Apartments Appear Everywhere
The giant erection of the Millennium Tower in 2009 kicked off a wave of dubious "luxury" apartments in America’s most expensive cities. Completed during the fallout of the financial crash, the building remains a symbol for rising rents, cheap construction, and a total disregard for the middle class in favor of Silicon Valley unicorn-makers. The one saving grace? The tower appears to be sinking into the soft earth of reclaimed land upon which it was built.
6. Brett Kavanaugh Hearings
The Supreme Court is the highest in the land, which is why the Brett Kavanaugh hearings were such a catastrophe. Even in the face of the #MeToo movement, our government swore in a man who displayed, on national television, poorer judgement than Glen Quagmire on a fistful of Xanax.
5. 'American Idol' Debuts
At the intersection of reality TV, social media, and fame-obsession sits American Idol. The show single-handedly watered down the cultural stew of America, while convincing millions of people that fame was the most important quest. Eighteen years after its debut, we live in a country where everyone is the star of their own movie and the plots are all basically the same.
4. Cosby and Friends
Learning that a bunch of cultural heroes are actually despicable human beings is like being stabbed in the back and the heart at the same time. Laughter now comes with strings attached. The silver lining? Men will collectively feel shitty until chivalry is restored and equality established.
3. The Flat-Earthers National Conference
Thanks to the internet, right-wing think tanks, and a serious educational drought, a culture of flat-earthers has been reborn. Yet underneath this mostly hilarious fringe group, a deeper cultural disaster smolders. One filled with “alternative facts,” “non-experts,” and "fake news." This resurgent movement is creating an engineered social division while stifling progress on issues like climate change. It's an example of a cultural disaster that will lead to an actual disaster if not remedied within the next few years.
2. Trump Wins
MAGA hats. Russian interference. Collusion. Grabbing women by the pussy. Racism. Xenophobia. The total defilement of office. The promotion of alternative facts. The championing of idiocy. Environmental protection rollbacks. These things and more make Trump’s entrance into politics one of the longest burning dumpster fires in the history of America, a cultural coup that could only exist in modern times.
1. Adam Levine's Super Bowl Halftime Show
Whatever you may personally feel about this moment, it leaves a sweaty Levine-esque armpit taste in our mouths. Everything that led up to this instant, and the inhumanity of it all, can only be described as the death rattle of the American Dream.