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Remember THAT moment Will Smith smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars? Picutred is a graffiti mural showing the scene that took place at the Academy Awards. What other pop moments have you missed from 2022? Photo: EPA

2022 in pop culture month by month, from Taylor Swift breaking Ticketmaster to Elon Musk to THAT Will Smith moment at the Oscars

  • 2022 has been a wild ride for pop culture – we take a look at some of the biggest moments, from January’s private Golden Globes to December’s Avatar sequel
  • Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in March, while Kim Kardashian divorced Kanye and dated Pete Davidson – then broke up with him months later

Taylor Swift was up. Elon Musk was in, out, in and maybe out again. Tom Cruise was back. BTS stepped aside, and so did Serena Williams.

But the slap? The slap was everywhere.

OK, so maybe it was not on the level of a moon landing, or the selection of a pope. But henceforth all you need say is “the slap” and people will know what you mean – that moment Will Smith smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars and a global audience said, “Wait, did that happen?” Even in the room itself there was a sense everyone had imagined it, which helps explain why things went on as normal, for a bit.

The pandemic was over, phew! Well, of course it was not. But live entertainment pushed forward in 2022, with mask mandates dropping and people rushing to buy things like, oh, Taylor Swift tickets!

In October, a New York court dismissed a sexual misconduct lawsuit brought against Kevin Spacey. Photo: AFP

We will take any segue to mention Swift, who already had a big year in 2021, but just got bigger – heck, she broke Billboard records and then she broke Ticketmaster.

It was a year of celebrity #MeToo cases, featuring the likes of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein (again), singer R Kelly (again), actor Kevin Spacey, screenwriter Paul Haggis and actor Danny Masterson. And every excruciating turn of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial was captured on television.
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp at their defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax in the US state of Virginia. Photo: AP
On the big screen, there were big comebacks. Mourning its dearly missed star, Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was a box office triumph. James Cameron’s Avatar made a splashy December return.
Then there was Cruise, turning 60 in ’22, swooping into Cannes in France with his most successful movie and showing that when they tell you “The end is inevitable”, as they do in Top Gun: Maverick, you can always reply: “Maybe so, sir, but not today.”

Will audiences one day find Cruise too wrinkled and past the sell-by date? Maybe so, but not this year.

US President Barack Obama (right) with US actor Sidney Poitier in Washington in 2009. Poitier died aged 94 in January. Photo: EPA

Our annual, totally selective journey through a year in pop culture:


It is Golden Globes time. But is a Globes with no telecast, boozy celebs or red carpet a Globes at all? The embattled Hollywood Foreign Press Association, reeling from stunning failures over diversity, holds a private event and plans a comeback next year.
Rihanna at the Dior autumn/winter 2022 show in Paris. Photo: Dior
Meanwhile, it is a month of loss, heading off a year of loss: pioneering black actor, director and activist Sidney Poitier dies at 94.


What would a year in pop culture be without Britney? Just months after liberation from her restrictive conservatorship, Spears is reported to have signed a mammoth book deal, but at year’s end we are still waiting for news. Rihanna is pregnant!
Troy Kotsur becomes the first deaf actor to win an acting Oscar – he wins the Oscar for best supporting actor in Coda in March. Photo: Reuters


Quick, who wins Oscars this month? Well, Coda does, a feel-good drama with a largely deaf cast, and Troy Kotsur becomes the first male deaf actor to win an acting Oscar. Alas, all anyone can talk about is – you know who.
Smith, who wins the best actor award not long after slapping Rock over a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, will not truly address the issue until the end of the year, so keep reading.
Jon Batiste performs during a festival in 2021. Batiste received five Grammy Award awards in April. Photo: AP
Kardashian watch: Kim K is declared legally single again in her ongoing divorce with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.


It is Grammy time, and Jon Batiste wins big, taking five statuettes. The musician’s huge year will later include performing at the first state dinner of the Joe Biden administration in the US, for French President Emmanuel Macron, who meets Musk a day later.

April is when Musk begins his acquisition of Twitter this month, leading to untold – and still unfolding – changes at the social media giant.

Kim Kardashian, and Pete Davidson attend The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala in May in New York. Photo: AP


The biggest splash at the Met Gala is Kardashian, on the arm of boyfriend Pete Davidson and wearing the same sequinned, skintight gown that Marilyn Monroe wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to US President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
In films, Top Gun: Maverick opens, making the highest-grossing domestic debut in Cruise’s career and his first to surpass US$100 million on opening weekend. Harry Styles fans rejoice: his album, Harry’s House, is here.
BTS announced in June they are taking a break to focus on members’ solo projects. Photo: Instagram/@bts.bighitofficial


On the legal front, a jury in the US state of Virginia hands Depp a victory in his very messy libel case over allegations of domestic abuse, finding that former wife Heard defamed him in a 2018 op-ed. On a happier note, Britney gets married
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck married in July. Photo: On The J Lo


With a winking reference to being a “Sadie”, or a married lady, Jennifer Lopez directs fans to her newsletter, where she shares pics of her quickie wedding to Ben Affleck.

“Love is beautiful,” she writes. “And it turns out love is patient.”

A shot of Charles and Diana in The Crown. Photo: Instagram/@thecrownnetflix


Kardashian and Davidson are no longer. In other summer news, the world remembers Princess Diana, whose shocking death happened 25 years ago, and whose life is being rehashed for a new generation in the current season of The Crown.
Days after the anniversary, that same Netflix series will pause production as a mark of respect for Queen Elizabeth as Britain – and the world – mourns the beloved monarch, who dies at age 96 after more than 70 years on the throne.
US tennis player Serena Williams at the US Open tennis tournament in September. Williams announces she is stepping aside from tennis. Photo: DPA


At the Emmys, behold Sheryl Lee Ralph, who wins for Abbott Elementary and schools the crowd on the power of dreams and self-belief.

In sports, with four rueful words that resonate with working mums everywhere, Serena Williams says she is stepping aside from tennis, because “something’s got to give”.
Adidas severs ties with Ye (formerly Kanye West) over his anti-Semitic rant and other troubling comments. Photo: Adidas


Adidas drops Ye (as Kanye West is now known), part of a cascade of companies that will sever ties with the rapper over his anti-Semitic outburst and other troubling comments. The Musk era begins at Twitter as the world’s richest man carries a sink into the office to “let that sink in”.
Swift drops her new album, Midnights, Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day, then adds seven bonus tracks – then becomes the first artist to occupy all top 10 slots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
US singer Taylor Swift poses with her six trophies during the 50th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles in November. Photo: AFP


Millions of eager Taylor Swift fans crowd a presale for her much-awaited Eras Tour, resulting in crashes and endless waits. Ticketmaster cancels the general sale, citing insufficient stock. Multiple US state attorneys general announce investigations.

At cinemas, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever meets the double challenge of following up one of the biggest blockbusters in history and losing its biggest star.

Elon Musk says he will step down as CEO of Twitter once he finds someone “foolish” enough to replace him. Photo: Reuters


Love ’em or hate ’em, here come Harry and Meghan again, with a Netflix documentary watched very closely by royalty across the pond.
Over at Twitter, Musk says he will step down as CEO – after polling users – once he finds someone “foolish” enough to replace him.
A still from Avatar: The Way of Water. Photo: 20th Century Studios
Cameron’s Avatar sequel finally appears, 13 years after the original broke records, and yes, film-goers flock to Pandora once again.
And bringing the year full circle, Smith emerges to promote his new film, Emancipation, hoping people will forget about … what was it? … at least enough to check out the film.

In this year of comebacks, will Smith’s be the biggest?

Check back with us in 2023.