Well, it’s almost in the history books, and 2015 has been a very memorable year in terms of news, politics and popular culture. As the clock ticks down to 2016, we feel it only appropriate to look back at some of the most memorable events, personalities and unexpected occurrences that have defined the past 12 months. As with most calendar years, 2015 included its share of triumphs, tragedies and weirdness. Here are the 10 biggest stories for the past year—for better or worse.
11. Bill Cosby’s Sex Scandal
He’s never been charged or convicted of a crime, but the growing number of allegations concerning sexual misconduct levelled at comedian Bill Cosby in the first half of 2015 were enough to derail his career and make him a social pariah. To date, more than 40 different women have come forward to say that Cosby drugged them and then sexually assaulted them. Most damning, a transcript from a deposition in a 2005 case was released this past year, wherein Bill Cosby admitted to giving women he wanted to sleep with Quaaludes. And while Bill Cosby tried to continue with his comedy shows and other appearances, he found that venues would not book him and protesters greeted him everywhere he went. Several universities that had given the Cos honorary degrees also retracted them. It was a steep fall for the man who was known as “America’s Dad” in the 1980s when his popular TV series The Cosby Show was number one in the Nielsen ratings.
10. Police Shootings and Racial Profiling
There were a number of police shootings of young black men over the past year—from the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April to the shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago in October. These killings of young black males at the hands of white police officers continued to touch on issues of racial profiling and outright racism in police forces across the U.S., and they prompted a number of riots as well as peaceful demonstrations in cities across the country. The mounting unrest and civil actions had mayors in major cities, as well as President Barack Obama, calling for peace and to let cooler heads prevail. Sadly, the police killings of blacks this year continued a trend observed in 2014.
9. David Letterman Retires
After 33 years, late night talk show host David Letterman retired in May—leaving behind a substantial legacy and massive hole to fill. The hugely influential stand-up comic turned late night host had quite a send-off in May as newspapers, magazines, TV programs and a slew of Hollywood luminaries paid tribute to David Letterman and tried to sum up his influence over late night television. The man responsible for the “Top 10 List” and “Stupid Pet Tricks” reinvented the late night talk show format when he debuted on NBC after Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1982. His acerbic wit and irascible sense of humour became the standard for a generation of other late night talk show hosts. Stephen Colbert, who took over for Letterman in September, has big shoes to fill indeed. However, despite all of the success David Letterman achieved, he never managed to beat his rival Jay Leno in the ratings. Even Jay Leno’s departure from The Tonight Show in February 2014 scored higher ratings than Letterman’s last show this past year.
8. The Emanuel Church Shooting
Sadly, another mass shooting makes it onto this year’s noteworthy list. This one the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black people were shot to death in church by Dylann Roof, a white supremacist gunman, during Bible study. The shooter, who apparently hoped to start a race war with his actions, actually succeeded in bringing many people together in the southern U.S. In fact, citizens demanded and succeeded in getting the Confederate flag removed from the grounds of the State Legislature in South Carolina following the shooting. And who can forget President Barack Obama’s stirring rendition of the song “Amazing Grace” at the funeral service for the people killed in the shooting.
7. Steph Curry Takes Over the NBA
The Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title in 40 years this past June thanks, largely, to the electrifying play of consummate three-point shooter Steph Curry. While the 27-year-old Curry is only in his sixth year in the NBA, many pundits have already labeled him the greatest shooter in the history of professional basketball. Indeed, Steph Curry is making a strong case for that mantle, having been labeled the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) after his team beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals. Now, Steph Curry, who is averaging 31.5 points per game, has the Golden State Warriors undefeated in the current 2015-2016 season at 18-0—the best regular season start in NBA history. Several games already this season, Steph Curry has scored more than 40 points, and his ability to make jaw dropping shots from virtually everywhere on the court has people saying that he is the new face of professional basketball. Move over LeBron, there’s a new superstar taking over the league. How far the Golden State Warriors will go this season is anyone’s guess. But at the end of 2015, they look completely unstoppable, as does Steph Curry.
6. Donald Trump
Real estate magnate and television personality Donald Trump seems to be seriously running for the Presidency, and he dominated the Republican primary race this past year with one inflammatory comment after another. Whether it was threatening to build a giant wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants to taking on Starbucks for using the term “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” to insulting every detractor who dared question his integrity, motivation or experience, Donald Trump was everywhere this past year—making headlines and leading the polls among the crowded race to become the Republican candidate for President in 2016. Fueled by reactionary far right Tea Party supporters, Donald Trump succeeded in turning the typically stodgy Republican primary race into attention-grabbing, head-scratching, eye-popping theater. It remains to be seen if Donald Trump will be able to sustain his lead in 2016, but he has certainly made politics a lot more interesting.
Tom Brady and The New England Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl in February. But the celebration was tempered by the seemingly endless controversy that was known as “Deflategate.” And people couldn’t go anywhere for much of this year without hearing about the saga that pitted arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history (Brady) against the NFL Commissioner himself, Roger Goodell. The league suspended Tom Brady four games after concluding that he was “generally aware” of a plot to deflate footballs below the allowable air pressure level in this year’s AFC Championship game. Brady refused to fully cooperate with the investigation and his suspension was upheld by the league on appeal after it was learned that Tom Brady had destroyed the cell phone he was using at the time of the AFC Championship. The saga eventually ended up in New York federal court, where a judge threw out the suspension, clearing the way for Tom Brady to have arguably his best season ever in 2015-16. This drama kept sports talk shows busy throughout the spring and summer, and the controversy is likely to do the same next year as the NFL’s appeal of the matter is scheduled to be in court in March 2016. By which time it is possible that the Patriots could have won their fifth Super Bowl.
4. Climate Change Reaches a “Tipping Point”
This past year (2015) is slated to go down as the warmest on record. Average temperatures were the hottest ever recorded in each month from July through November, and the rising heat produced a number of droughts, wild fires and tropical storms around the globe. Armed with these facts, leaders from 150 countries gathered in Paris, France, at the end of November for a United Nations Climate Summit that sought to impose targets on the world’s worst polluters. The end goal was for world leaders to take steps to prevent the Earth from warming a further two degrees, which scientists say could have a devastating impact on our future. With U.S. President Barack Obama in attendance at the summit, there seemed to be a sense of urgency around the talks. While nations such as China and India continued to balk at curbing their emissions, pressure from the international community gave the sense that this is a make or break period for the Earth and us inhabitants.
3. Caitlyn Jenner
If it were possible to break the Internet, it likely would have happened in July of this past year when Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner) appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Caitlyn Jenner amassed over one million Twitter followers in four hours, setting a Guinness World Record in the process and surpassing U.S. President Barack Obama’s number of Twitter followers. People were both shocked and impressed by Bruce Jenner’s transformation into a woman, and Caitlyn Jenner quickly became a household name and hero in the LGBT community. Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the 2015 ESPY Awards, and gave several interviews to prominent media outlets about the move to become a woman at age 65. Many media pundits declared Caitlyn Jenner to be a turning point in sexual politics and male/female relations.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Whether you think it was appropriately hyped or overhyped, the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the most hotly anticipated film in a generation. The first new Star Wars movie in a decade, and the first one produced without the involvement of creator George Lucas, The Force Awakens brought back the series’ original cast under the promise of new director J.J. Abrams. Star Wars purists had their fingers crossed for this one. And anticipation and speculation of the movie could not have been more rampant. The film sold more than $50 million of advanced tickets and every television, movie and online trailer was dissected by fan boys and critics who were searching for clues to the carefully guarded plot. From the “Luke is Evil” internet firestorm, to speculation that Han Solo would be killed, the lead up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens was as entertaining as the film itself, and it has paved the way for an onslaught of future Star Wars films from Disney, the company that bought the rights to the series from George Lucas for an estimated $2 billion.
1. The Paris Terrorist Attacks
The attacks that occurred in Paris, France, on November 13th were the worst case of terrorism since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In all, 130 people were killed in coordinated terrorist attacks that involved suicide bombers and shooters at several public venues, including a soccer stadium and rock concert. Nearly 400 other people were injured in the attacks. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which further cemented the resolve on world leaders to fight extremist Islam around the world. French military hit Islamic targets in the Middle East, while French and German police rounded up suspects and killed the purported leaders of the attacks in a series of raids across Europe. Still, the attacks on Paris were a reminder that terrorism is still a problem around the world and that people need to be vigilant at all times. For the City of Lights, its residents will never be the same again.