We didn't think it could get any worse after 2016...and then 2018 happened.
As 2016 rumbled on day after disorienting day, it felt like every moment produced a new dismaying headline. Even as we were torn apart by politics, the nation collectively mourned the sudden and too-soon deaths of so many iconic celebrities, including David Bowie, Prince and Carrie Fisher. When the calendar turned to 2017, many people sighed with relief -- it couldn't get worse than that, right?
Well, yes, actually, it could. Sure, 2017 didn't see the same number of icons pass away -- though Mary Tyler Moore and Tom Petty were both gutting losses -- but frequent despair returned in 2018. This year was filled with heartbreaking deaths, often under terrible circumstances, as well as cultural bombshells, falls from grace, and of course, celebrity breakups. Few years have seen such a wide variety of sad headlines, ranging from the tragic to just plain dumb.
The last few months of 2017 made clear just how screwed up things have been in Hollywood -- and our broader culture -- since time immemorial. After the first New York Times and New Yorker stories dropped about Harvey Weinstein's alleged prolific history of sexual assault, bombshell reports dropped day after day, revealing terrible crimes allegedly committed by so many icons, from Hollywood stars (Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Jeffrey Tambor) to media figures (Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose) to many other men in power. The revelations rolled into 2018, which brought allegations against James Franco, former CBS honcho Les Moonves, and many more -- the list still continues to pile up.
To be clear, this was an avalanche that needed to happen, both to give some semblance of justice to the victims and to put in place measures meant to stop it from happening again. Women have been empowered to speak out and band together, not only to avoid sexual assault, but to fight for equal treatment and pay -- the Michelle Williams scandal, when it was revealed how little she was making compared to Mark Wahlberg on their ironically titled movie "All the Money in the World," was hopefully a game-changer. It just so happened to set the tone for a year of hard headlines that required fortitude just to read and process, and most of the rest of the year's news did not right any wrongs, deliver any justice, or spur any social progress.
Every year has its in memoriam reel, and they always evoke tears, but this year's deaths were particularly upsetting because of the circumstances surrounding them. While Aretha Franklin died at age 76 after years of illness, some of 2018's most high profile deaths were suicides committed by people who by all accounts were happy and tremendously successful.
In June, over the period of just four days, fashion designer and mogul Kate Spade and beloved chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain hanged themselves, cutting short lives still in their prime. Their deaths seemed so senseless and still mystify us six months later, and we'll never get answers as to why such notable and talented people took their own lives.
Mental health and addiction were ongoing struggles for a number of A-list celebrities, many of whom suffered mightily in 2018. Ben Affleck spent 40 days in rehab, while Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, once best friends and megawatt Disney Channel stars, both required extensive treatment for long-term issues. Gomez had an emotional breakdown, while Lovato, a long-time recovering addict, overdosed and almost died.
Mac Miller, one of the most talented young rappers of our time, suffered a fatal overdose, passing away at just 26 years of age. The fallout of his death led to the breakup of his ex Ariana Grande and "SNL" star Pete Davidson, who had gotten engaged just a few months prior after a whirlwind romance that appeared to be the one feel-good story of 2018.
Other than a royal wedding and some low-key marriages between long-time couples, this was a pretty bad year for love, too. Jennifer Aniston's latest marriage, to Justin Theroux, ended after two and a half years. Her previous husband, Brad Pitt, saw his ongoing divorce saga with Angelina Jolie get especially nasty and litigious, while Channing Tatum and wife Jenna Dewan, once so publicly in love, also called it quits. The highest profile marriage was probably Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, and their union happened so fast, it's impossible to predict what will happen there.
Above all else, 2018 was the year that celebrities just shoved their feet deep down their throats and kept on choking. The fraught political climate and the nascent #MeToo movement meant that people were already on high alert, monitoring closely for latent bigotry or otherwise offensive rhetoric, and a number of very high-profile stars made it very easy for them.
The leading dull bulb was Roseanne Barr, whose long history of racism and conspiracy theory-peddling reached its apex when she let fly a racist and delusional tweet about one of former President Barack Obama's closest advisers, Valerie Jarrett. She tried to backpedal for a time, but when the outrage led to ABC cancelling her top-rated sitcom revival, Barr wound up just doubling down and playing to her extremist base. Now ABC's top show is "The Conners," which is basically "Roseanne" without Roseanne.
The firestorm she unleashed was probably the most severe, but not unique. Kanye West continued his habit of being politically clueless, indicating his support for President Trump and even meeting with him before pulling back, no doubt under the guidance of wife Kim Kardashian, who is the measured and astute half of the couple. And earlier this month, Kevin Hart pulled out of hosting the Oscars because he refused to apologize for homophobic tweets he sent out into the world nearly a decade ago. His stubbornness was ill-advised, given the new paradigm in which we live; just ask "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn, who lost his job for very bad jokes he tweeted out years ago.
Long-forgotten "Smallville" actress Allison Mack, meanwhile, turns out to have been running a cult.
Every year has plenty of bad celebrity news — tabloids and thrive exist for that very reason. But rarely have we seen years with so little positive news out of Hollywood. Celebrities: they're just like us.
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