Nine Words That Sum Up 2012

Gangnam (the actual neighborhood)

All things considered, 2012 was a relatively slow news year. Sure, plenty of important things happened, but when you compare it to other recent years, with their tsunamis and their earthquakes and their revolutions, this year mostly offered just "more of the usual". Still, there were some major stories, and many of them can be summarized by single words - words that may have meant little or nothing in 2011. To wit:

  1. Trayvon. The first major American controversy of 2012 was the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager. With self-appointed "Neighborhood Watch" member George Zimmerman still awaiting trial, the facts in the case remain murky, though that didn't stop millions of Americans from sharing their uninformed opinions about this for several weeks before the news cycle moved on. (The story even forced the lame Hollywood comedy Neighborhood Watch to change its title to simply The Watch.) Look for the arguments to heat up again next year when the trial begins.
  2. Gangnam. This district in Seoul is considered the "Beverly Hills of South Korea", and was immortalized by the goofy song "Gangnam Style" by unlikely Korean pop star PSY (nee Jae-sang Park). Already the most-watched video on YouTube after just 5 months (with 900 million views as of this writing), "Gangnam Style" became the - well, what should we call it? Viral sensation of the year? One hit wonder of the year? Joke of the year?
  3. Gotye. On the "legitimate" pop front we had the ubiquitous song "Somebody That I Used to Know", recorded by the Belgium-born, Australia-raised Gotye (nee Wally de Backer) with assistance by Kiwi artist Kimbra. Officially released in July 2011, it blew up in January '12, and was another international hit in a rare year when quite a few people over 40 could actually recognize some of the chart-toppers, which also include "Call Me Maybe" by Canada's Carly Rae Jepsen and "We Are Young" by American band fun. (whose lead singer Nate Ruess is my doppelganger). That hasn't happened since the 1980s!
  4. Mitt. Back in the United States, the year's dominant story was inarguably the presidential election, where an embattled Barack Obama (has he ever not been embattled?) faced off against the millionaire Mormon Mitt Romney, who I think was best described as looking like a model for stock photos of golfers. It ultimately became a non-event since Obama won re-election, but you can't think of 2012 without thinking of Mitt, and vice-versa.
  5. Superstorm. The worst disaster on U.S. soil this year came ironically at the very end of a busy but mostly harmless Atlantic storm season. But by the time Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and merged with a nasty nor'easter, it couldn't be called a mere hurricane anymore. We had to use the term "superstorm". Bad news indeed for the millions living along the shore in New Jersey (like my in-laws), New York, and Connecticut, who are only beginning the recovery process.
  6. Avengers. The most successful film of the year - though the Bond smash Skyfall is giving it a run for its money in some countries - Joss Whedon's superhero blockbuster The Avengers was the must-see movie of the summer, far outperforming the overhyped Batman sequel. Was this really that important a story for 2012? Well, no more than "Gangnam Style" was. And this is a film site, after all. I should acknowledge my industry at some point in this list. The Avengers contributed to a strong year at the box office, following 2011's slump.
  7. Curiosity. The biggest story not on planet Earth must be the successful landing of NASA's exploratory Mars rover, which certainly piqued the curiosity of millions of astrophiles.
  8. Usain. In an Olympics year, just as in an election year, you can guess where the big stories are going to be. And of all the breakout stars at the London summer Olympics, Jamaica's hilariously arrogant gold medal runner Usain Bolt takes the cake in my book. Besides, "Usain" is certainly a more remarkable name than "Brian" or "Gabby".
  9. Whitney. There are a few solid contenders for this last slot: Benghazi. Aurora. Morsy. Sandusky. All had significant meaning this year, but alas - all are also merely chapters in ongoing troubled sagas that may continue for years. So I'll fall back on a less politically important but equally memorable story and cite the passing of Whitney Houston, the surprise celebrity death of 2012. It was an especially sad year for pop music, with other major losses including Adam "MCA" Yauch, Robin Gibb, Davy Jones, Donna Summer, Don Cornelius, Dick Clark, Etta James, Andy Williams, Marvin Hamlisch, and many others.