Best and Worst Pop Culture Moments of 2014

From uplifting music to despicable behavior, these are the media moments that shaped the year. By Sierra Filucci
Best and Worst Pop Culture Moments of 2014

Fifteen minutes of fame used to sound too short. But now -- with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a thousand other ways to get news instantly -- fame is more fleeting than ever. One minute you're watching the world take the Ice Bucket Challenge, and the next minute, it's all about that bass.

But media moments matter. They shape the culture, signal trends, and influence how kids view the world. Whether they're wonderful, weird, or just plain awful, media moments are an opportunity to connect with our kids, put things in context, and share our values. Looking back over the past year, we highlight some of the best and worst media moments of 2014.

Best of 2014

February 27, 2014 Lupita Nyong'o delivers speech at Essence Black Women in Hollywood event.

The actress's poignant words about being African-American and feeling beautiful became an important contribution to the global discussion about race and beauty. 

March 14, 2014 Olympian Gus Kenworthy is reunited with Sochi dogs he helped rescue.

With the help of the Humane Society International, skier Kenworthy brought Sochi's stray-dog situation to light during the winter Olympics, matching many stray dogs with adoptive families back in the States.

April 14, 2014 Pharrell's "Happy" takes over the world.

The optimistic, clap-happy, family-friendly song dominated the radio and YouTube in the spring and summer of 2014, with the talented Pharrell soaking in his good fortune with humility.

May 7, 2014 First Lady Michelle Obama tweets #BringBackOurGirls in response to the April 14 kidnapping of 230 girls from a Nigerian school by militant group Boko Haram.

The first lady added her support to an international effort to rescue a group of girls targeted for seeking an education in a highly conservative region, bringing media attention to a human rights crisis that was otherwise overshadowed by Jay-Z and Solange Knowles' elevator fight.

May 12, 2014 Michael Sam receives news that he's an NFL draft pick.

Sam became the first openly gay NFL draft pick, and his celebration with his boyfriend and friends went viral, opening doors for a more inclusive professional sports community.

June –​ July 2014  FIFA World Cup dominates television and social media.

The international sporting competition garnered intense attention across the world, momentarily unifying countries and fans behind a love for the sport of soccer/football.

July 14, 2014 Kacy Catanzaro becomes first female finalist on "American Ninja Warrior" TV series

The former Olympian stunned TV viewers with her amazing strength and inspired the Twitter hashtag "#MightyKacy."

July –​ August 2014 The ALS Ice Bucket challenge goes viral.

Regular folks and famous people such as Justin Bieber, Bill Gates, and George W. Bush dumped ice-cold water on their heads and shared their videos on social media, raising more than $100 million for charities related to fighting ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

July 8, 2014 Colbie Caillat releases "Try" video.

The music video, which shows a variety of women removing their wigs and makeup over the course of the song, promotes the value of natural beauty. The video amassed more than 27 million views during the two months after its release.

August 1, 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy premieres in theaters to wide acclaim.

The lighthearted tone and irreverent humor of Guardians made this Marvel release stand out for families as well as hard-core fans. 

August 10 18, 2014 National protests are organized through social media in response to the shooting of Michael Brown and the police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Activists and news organizations used social media to react to and report on the police shooting of Brown and the police attempts to quell unrest, stirring a national debate about race and the militarization of local police departments. 

August 25, 2014 Mo'ne Davis appears on cover of Sports Illustrated.

At 13, pitching powerhouse Davis, only one of two girls in the National Little League, became the first Little League player to appear on the cover of the magazine.

September 20, 2014 Emma Watson delivers HeForShe speech at United Nations.

The Harry Potter actress spoke out in favor of women's rights and the need for men to participate in the movement toward equality.

October 10, 2014 Malala Yousafzai is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yousafzai, who survived being targeted and shot by the Taliban, went on to appear on shows such as The Daily Show to discuss her fight for education for all children. She became the youngest Peace Prize honoree at 17.

December 3, 2014 #BlackLivesMatter heats up the global Twittersphere.

Right after the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer involved in killing Eric Garner in New York City, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter joined #ICantBreathe and #HandsUpDontShoot in mobilizing activists and concerned people -- including teens -- to join protests against police brutality and to demand improvement to relations between the police and communities of color. Some vandalism and violence marred some of the public's reaction to these protests.

Worst of 2014


Throughout 2014 Selfie-improvement apps gain popularity.

As more people young and old used their phones to snap and share photos of themselves, an industry arose to "fix" any flaws in selfies before posting to social media, adding to our collective anxiety about our appearances.

March 2, 2014 John Travolta flubs Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her song at the 2014 Academy Awards.

The movie star called the singer "wickedly talented" but then called her "Adele Dazeem."

May 31, 2014 Two 12-year-old girls stab another girl, allegedly due to allegiance to Internet horror persona "Slenderman."

The victim survived, and the incident encouraged discussion about negative media influence on kids.

June 9, 2014 DinnerTime app launches.

Although we can get behind the concept of parental controls on digital devices, the idea that parents would need an app to tear kids away from their iPads at dinnertime is a sad commentary on the state of parenting and digital life.

July 15, 2014 Kanye West debuts "Bound 2" music video starring naked wife Kim Kardashian.

Weird, awkward, and notably unsexy despite plenty of bobbing and moaning, West's music video further objectified his wife and made the rest of us shake our heads in disbelief (but then James Franco and Seth Rogan spoofed the video, and we felt better again). 

July 31, 2014 Kim Kardashian app reportedly makes $700,000 per day.

The reality star's mobile app -- where players spend money to move up the ranks from E-lister to A-lister by attending parties and wearing expensive clothes -- became one of the most popular and top-grossing apps in the iTunes store.

August 11 13, 2014 Beloved movie star Robin Williams commits suicide; news helicopters surround his house; daughter Zelda is harassed on Twitter and Instagram.

In the hours and days after the world lost a great comedian and actor, the news media and users on social media unleashed their worst, turning a sad event into a travesty. Thankfully, the simultaneous outpouring of support became the bigger news.

August 31, 2014  Jennifer Lawrence, Victoria Justice, and Arianna Grande's nude photos are leaked by 4Chan.

In an extreme breach of privacy, Internet hackers released naked pictures of female celebs stolen from their iCloud accounts. Naked pics of other celebs continued to trickle out over the next few months.

September 8, 2014 TMZ releases full video of Ray Rice hitting then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

The public had previously seen only video of Rice dragging Palmer's unconscious body from the elevator, and the full footage brought about increased criticism of the NFL's handling of the incident and Rice's punishment.

October 14, 2014 Feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian receives death threats and cancels talk at Utah State University over fears for her and other attendees' safety.

Sarkeesian's canceled talk became the latest and most public incident in #Gamergate, which is related to the controversy about misogyny in the video game industry.​

November 12, 2014 Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine try to #breaktheinternet with pictures of her nude bottom.

The Internet remained intact, but once again the reality TV star made waves by showing off her significant assets for no deeper reason than getting attention.

About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more
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Comments (7)

Kid, 12 years old

You think that the Slenderman stabbing was due to exposure to media violence? That is 100% wrong. I'm interested into Slenderman (when he's done right and not like a waifu or something like that), and I have never felt the urge to stab someone. The reason was not because of negative media influence. It was because of mental illness. Now I'm not saying that all mentally ill people are murders, but those girls were not in the right mind. Another thing that I would like to point out was that the bomb threat was a hoax. A legitimate bomber would have not a referred to an obscure bombing let alone threaten one before. That's just moronic. Anita was again playing the victim game again here. Wanna know? When she gets criticized, she will simply act like they are attacking her. She won't just ignore them which is ironic considering someone that is wanting to see more strong females in gaming. There is also a reason why she gets a lot of hate. She wants everything to be her way. No sexually attractive female characters, no damsel's in distress, no men saving women, nada. She isn't even a real gamer. In one class "education" special event, she said that she isn't a gamer. To let you know, I am a girl so... yeah. Disappointed at the choices here Sierra. I could go on, but I would be here all day.
Teen, 15 years old written by Hey boy

Black lives matter is not a good thing ps not being racist talking about the organization
Teen, 17 years old written by Kronosaurus

I'm terribly disappointed that this list did not discuss the importance (or, more accurately, the lack thereof) of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Also, unless I'm missing something, I'm completely in the dark as to why the John Travolta incident and the Slender Man incident were treated as equally horrific.
written by Amalthea

I'm so glad that Colbie Caillat released "Try". My daughters love the song, the video, and the message. I wish they had something like this when I was young.
Adult written by JEDI micah

I understand why Anita Sarkeesian received the death threats from a lot of people, and I understand why she's doing these petitions cause she wants video games to have equal rights when it comes to gender roles and I think women do deserve to have equal rights as well. But what bothers me about this though (this is coming from a 20-year-old male gamer's point of view), is that how everyone who is doing these petitions have to be so politically correct all the time. In other words, don't always look at the game that has a male-leading character as a bad way to objectify women. If the game has a male-leading character, great. If the game has a female-leading character, great. Just let things naturally happen. And when these petitions come up, it just makes things worst instead of better, and it just makes us gamers look bad, and most of us are not. And just a little message to Anita Sarkeesian: You don't deserve to die for stating your opinions. No one deserves to die for speaking their mind on things. I appreciate how you want to fight for women having equal rights. But as I said before - just let things naturally happen. If you do, less people will threaten you :)
Adult written by therealasanath

I am not sure that in a world where makeup, piercing, tattoos, braces, jewelry, cosmetic surgery and other sundry forms of improving our real selves have all gained widespread acceptability/approval that apps that improve only a digital image of oneself is worthy of a worst of the year award. That horse seems to have left the stable ages ago. Personally, I prefer natural appearances to any of the above mentioned real-life options (and Photoshopped images as well) For those of us who do not follow sports, FIFA World Cup is a total yawn. Professor Elemental's songs about positive reinforcement of one's self image, All In Together, Please Don't Feed The Trolls, Hat Full of Sunshine, etc.. would be my choice for a best of year award. Finally some positive Rap music for us all.
Adult written by motamom

I'm sorry, I can't get behind an endorsement of a musician that had anything to do with Blurred Lines. Pharrell produced AND performed in a song endorsing date rape. Read about it here: What's worse, is that he remains unapologetic. Now I can't hear him speak or sing without cringing.