The biggest pop culture moments of 2022 (so far) – Entertainment Weekly News

Pop culture is filled with pure moments of glee, but some really unfortunate events can also dominate headlines — legal battles, deaths, scandals. We've had a mix of all of the above in the first half of the year, and we're looking back on the biggest.
When everyone said the Academy should punch-up the Oscars ceremony, we’re certain they didn’t mean like this. After 2022 ceremony presenter Chris Rock made a joke on stage about the shaved head of Jada Pinkett Smith — who has alopecia — the actress’ husband, Will Smith, approached the comedian and slapped him across the face. Audiences watching in the room (see Lupita Nyong’o’s reaction) and at home (Twitter blew up) appeared equally stunned, and headlines buzzed for nearly a month after the incident, as the Academy banned the King Richard actor (and eventual winner that night) from AMPAS events for the next decade — arguably giving those involved a bigger presence in the press than an Oscar victory could’ve. Nuanced discussions about the why behind the exchange aside, the moment proved that, even on a night meant to celebrate cinema champions, no one wins when it comes to blows. —Joey Nolfi
It was a rematch 17 years in the making. When Ewan McGregor‘s Obi-Wan and Hayden Christensen‘s Darth crossed lightsabers on the volcanic planet of Mustafar back in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, we thought that was the last time we would ever see both the actors and characters doing battle. But thanks to Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, we got to watch the two friends-turned-foes engage in “aggressive negotiations” not once more… but twice! Obi-Wan was clearly a little rusty in their first encounter on the mining planet of Jabiim, and was literally buried at the start of the rematch, but the wise Jedi once again summoned the Force to show his former Padawan who the Master truly was. It was a thrilling and emotional conclusion to their epic tale. —Dalton Ross
When Harry Styles announced his new album, Harry’s House, three years after the success of Fine Line, fans expected some press to follow. What they didn’t expect was for the musician to end up on the cover of the June issue of Better Homes & Gardens. A brilliant marketing move — get it, Harry’s House? — nearly broke the internet, both for the unexpectedness of it and because, well, have you seen the photos?! For a guy who has delivered more than his fair share of great pop culture moments in 2022 — including a plethora of concert videos on TikTok — that cover goes down as one of the year’s biggest. —Samantha Highfill
(Disclosure: Better Homes & Gardens and EW are both owned by Dotdash Meredith.)
Johnny Depp‘s defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard began in April in Virginia, ushering in six weeks of live-streamed testimony and media mayhem. Depp sued Heard for $50 million over her 2018 Washington Post op-ed detailing her experiences as a domestic violence survivor. She didn’t mention Depp by name, but his lawyers argued that the references to him — and her previous public abuse allegations — were clear, claiming it damaged his reputation and career. Both parties recounted gut-wrenching accusations of physical, verbal, and sexual assault, as well as some bizarre anecdotes that involved feces and a severed fingertip. A jury ruled in Depp’s favor in June, awarding him $15 million in damages. Hollywood played a starring role in the case that warped the cultural discourse, with Paul Bettany, Ellen Barkin, Kate Moss, and James Franco among the stars referenced in subpoenaed correspondence or called to the witness stand. —Jessica Wang
A wise woman once asked, “Do you believe in life after love?” Though that dance classic predates their coupling by a few years, Cher might as well have been talking about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Some 20 years after they first got engaged, the entity known as Bennifer decided to give it another go. The pair met on the set of the historically bad Gigli in 2001 and their romance became front-page fodder till their 2004 break-up. But like many a couple during the pandemic, Affleck and Lopez rekindled their romance in May 2021 (following respective break-ups from Ana de Armas and Alex Rodriguez) — and announced their engagement this April. News of the Bennaisance immediately set nostalgic minds racing with hopes that those two crazy kids could finally make it work this time. Do you believe? —Lester Fabian Brathwaite
Alternate realities and parallel worlds have long been a cinematic staple. But in 2022, the multiverse officially entered the mainstream, with the films Spider-Man: No Way Home, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. (Another thing that all three films have in common? Insanely long titles.) 
No Way Home helped kick off the trend in December, with Spider-Men Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire uniting for a franchise-hopping, box-office-topping adventure. Later, Marvel revisited the concept with the appropriately named Multiverse of Madness, zipping between dimensions and introducing alternate versions of familiar heroes. (RIP to Professor X & Co.) Finally, the Daniels’ brilliantly bonkers Everything Everywhere All At Once fused parallel-universe sci-fi with absurdist family drama, resulting in one of the strangest and most delightful films of the year. (Shoutout to this year’s breakout star, Raccacoonie.) Perhaps it’s no surprise that moviegoers have glommed on to multiverses this year: In 2022, haven’t we all dreamed of escaping into a different, slightly better version of our world? —Devan Coggan
Season 42 of Survivor was overstuffed with twists wrapped inside wrinkles that were covered in an assortment of bells and whistles, but the thing that has always been at the core of the show are the contestants themselves. Which is why the unexpected delight of the reality TV year was when a goofy, grinning chatterbox of a seminary student who made up fake curse words somehow, someway won the game — becoming the most likable winner in the franchise’s long, storied history. The relentlessly unpretentious Maryanne — who became the show’s second Black female winner ever — was not just a silly barrel of laughs either. She displayed gravitas and wisdom when talking about issues of race, and made the strategic move of the season when she blindsided the puppet-master Omar to clear her path to the million dollars. She not only won the money, but the hearts of all who watched her journey along the way. —DR
The news of Bob Saget’s Jan. 9 death sent a shockwave through Hollywood and with fans. The comedian, 65, died in his sleep from head trauma in a Florida hotel after performing there the night before. Saget was revered throughout the industry for his kindness, generosity, and incredible comedic talent; audiences considered the Full House star America’s dad. Processing his passing wasn’t made any easier given it came just 10 days after that of another comedy icon, America’s grandma, Betty White, who died Dec. 31 — a couple weeks shy of her 100th birthday. We still hadn’t recovered, and now this one added to our collective grief. It’s continued throughout 2022 with the deaths of legends including Sidney Poitier, Naomi Judd, Taylor Hawkins, and Ray Liotta. Just when you need a joke from someone like Saget to help lift your spirits…… —Gerrad Hall
There can be no day without night, no sound without silence, no fire without ice — or, more precisely, Iceman. When it was first learned that Tom Cruise would be re-enlisting for the role of his Top Gun flyboy Maverick, superfans prayed for a reunion with his cocky antagonist, immortally played by Val Kilmer. (The latter’s well-known battles with throat cancer have nearly robbed him of his voice, so praying may have been in order.) Kilmer’s one-scene appearance is better than anyone could have hoped for: silent but dignified, emotional, and the occasion for some of the most empathetic acting of Cruise’s career. —Joshua Rothkopf
The Spring Awakening reunion documentary gave millennials a chance to revisit a musical that shaped many of our youths alongside the cast that enshrined it in theater history. But we weren’t expecting to get a revelation as explicit as the lyrics of “Totally F*cked.” In the doc, Lea Michele disclosed that she’d once shown costar (and BFF) Jonathan Groff her vagina with a desk lamp in an illustrative lesson on the female anatomy, a story she then elaborated on with EW. It’s a bitch of a living, but this shameless confession made our days a little brighter (and Lea, we’re sorry for making your vagina trend on Twitter). —Maureen Lee Lenker
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