The Biggest Celebrity Stories of 2018
Yes, it’s cliché to say so now but seriously, 2018 was a long damn year. A lot happened over the past twelve months and we’re still two weeks away from it being over so who knows what’ll happen between now and then. I’ve probably just jinxed it. But in the world of celebrity, things weren’t much quieter. There were scandals, tragedies, weird encounters and old-school romantic blunders. Gossip offered us another means to understand the world around us as well as an escape from the madness for a little while. To celebrate what has passed, I have compiled some of the biggest stories of 2018, or at least the ones that made a major impact. This is in no way comprehensive and I’m sure I’ve missed out some big ones because seriously, A LOT happened this year. Make sure to share your favourite celeb stories in the comments.
The Summer Romance of Ariana and Pete
For one shining Summer, Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson were millennial romance #goals. The speed with which they went through every stage of a relationship, ending just in time for pumpkin spice latte season, was thoroughly impressive: From the matching tattoos to the endless SNL jokes to the break-up bop glory of thank u, next (and all its think-piece inspiring madness). We all knew it was doomed but the ride was great fun and we got some solid tunes out of it. Love can be lit, as Pete Davidson famously said, but the brightest fires always burn out the quickest.
‘A Star is Born’ is Born
Whether you loved it or hated it - and going by box office numbers and award nominations, the latter seems to apply the most - it was impossible to escape A Star is Born. Hollywood favorite Bradley Cooper’s endless hustle for auteur legitimacy saw him plugging the film on every awards round-table, even as he groused about not wanting to be part of that narrative. Lady Gaga committed hard to the promotional circuit, spawning a few memes along the way, and way too many of you tried to sing the ‘aaaaAAAhhhhaaaaaahh’ bit from Shallow at karaoke. But what of the movie itself? It’s good! Not great but good! Nowhere near the best of 2018 but no film better encapsulated the industry’s hunger than the latest remake of its oldest and darkest fable.
Priyanka Chopra Marries Nick Jonas (and Scamgate)
The Summer of Love also brought us the unexpected pairing of Indian beauty queen and Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra with grown up Disney Channel star Nick Jonas. It was a surprise, to say the least, to the point where even the most respectable gossip blogs were convinced it was all PR gone wild. But regardless of whether or not you believed their love, this was a celeb couple who knew what people wanted from a celeb couple. They went BIG. The veil! The sponsored bridal shower! The wedding ring! The Vogue photoshoots! This was romance as pure spectacle. But then there was that piece in The Cut and the bad taste it left in our mouths as one severely misguided writer claimed Chopra was a scam artist for the ages, trapping poor unsuspecting Nick Jonas into marriage for her own gain. The Cut smartly deleted the post and apologized, but not until they’d milked it for all the clicks it was worth. Chopra and Jonas’s marriage was a keen reminder that celebrity does not begin and end with America, nor does tinhat conspiracy mongering fit in well with journalistic integrity.
The Royal Wedding
It was the story Hallmark wished they had written: A beautiful American actress - biracial, divorced, estranged from the worst family members ever - meets the most eligible prince on the planet and he falls head over heels in love with her. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry immediately proved more intriguing to gossip circles than William and Kate, in part because the latter couple have the responsibility of the crown on their heads and must play by different rules. Meghan and Harry could be looser, more publicly cute, more human and frankly, more interesting. Even their wedding seemed more fun. Alas, with a new baby on the way and Meghan doing unforgivable crimes like *checks notes* wearing dark nail polish, the press have pounced upon her as the ‘difficult’ royal. We know what that really means, right?
Johnny Depp Implodes in ‘Rolling Stone’
Johnny Depp is still a thing. He’s still got lots of fans in his corner, plenty of film-makers who want to work with him, and JK Rowling’s implicit support as he continues to help sink the Fantastic Beasts franchise in a haze of pot smoke and vintage scarves. A conveniently anti-Amber Heard vein of gossip sprung through the tabloids this year, but it did little to quash the in-progress car crash that was Johnny Depp’s own life (and this was all before he got sued for being violent on set). Rolling Stone, a publication that has historically been pretty kind to Depp, went all in on its evisceration of its subject and his downfall. Depp may have thought it sounded rock and roll but all it revealed was how far he’d really stumbled. The profile is a brilliant piece of work, an absolute take-down of a man descending into lazy self-parody that also refuses to give him the pity he so dearly craves. In a year where people kept trying to claim the celebrity profile was dead, this one alone justified its existence.
Brendan Fraser’s Quiet Comeback
Speaking of great celebrity profiles in 2018, GQ published a highly perceptive and incredibly moving piece on Brendan Fraser, answering all those ‘where is he now’ questions that have been swirling around the gossip ether since the third Mummy movie. Fraser, who comes across as exceedingly likeable and candid, holds back nothing in discussing his health problems, his divorce, the alleged sexual assault he faced at the hands of a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and the perils of being less famous than you used to be. It’s an empathetic profile that also reminded us of just how much we loved Brendan Fraser in films like The Mummy and George of the Jungle. We could use more of that slapstick beefcake persona in films these days, and Fraser’s influence on comedic action leading men deserves greater focus. Fraser also returned to the screen in series like The Affair, Trust and Condor. We heartily welcome him back and wish him nothing but the best in his new era as a prestige TV character actor.
The Sad Single Jen Narrative Starts Once More
Jennifer Aniston announced her separation from Justin Theroux and you could practically hear the sobs of relief from bottom shelf gossip magazines. Finally, they could resurrect the ballad of Sad Single Jen, forever furious about Brad leaving her for the temptress Angelina, and just as Brangelina had come to an end (and hoo boy do I have thoughts on the transparent bulls—t that was the anti-Angelina gossip narrative this year). Aniston did everything in her power to circumnavigate the impending storm of bad headlines, and there did seem to be more press in her favour this year than seasons past. Was the gossip world wising up to the fact that those tired sexist tropes don’t sell so good nowadays? Or is it just not as much fun anymore?
Roseanne Barr is racist. Ambien doesn’t make her racist, nor does her mouth-foaming conspiratorial nonsense represent ‘economic anxiety’ in the Trump age. We knew all of this before ABC revived the sitcom Roseanne, pitching it as the much-needed voice of the silent majority in post-election era (apparently forgetting the existence of their entire sitcom bloc). The resulting season of television had its moments but it was impossible to separate the work from the tinhat wearing Trump loving racist misogynist benefitting from its glow. Eventually, even ABC had to pull the plug but the fact that they even brought her back to television in the first place was a sign that the well had been poisoned for a long time.
The ‘Smallville’ Actress and the Sex Cult
There may have been no gossip story more bonkers than NXIVM: A self-help community promising a route for rich women to lead their best lives that was actually a cult that literally branded people. Like, with a laser. And at the centre of this was Allison Mack from Smallville, a former CW darling and child star who was alleged to have been at the heart of the group as its most devoted follower and pseudo-leader. It was the kind of story you could imagine happening in a CW show, but regardless of how ridiculous it all seemed, at its heart was a flurry of abused women, financial extortion, and one actress who got lost in a big way. Mara Wilson wrote a great piece on how so many former child actors find themselves taken in by groups like this.
Bill Cosby Found Guilty
We never thought we’d see the day. We had all been dreading the inevitable ‘not guilty’ verdict because that’s just what we expect from cases like this where rich and powerful men have the clout to get away with anything. But happen it did. Bill Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to three to ten years in prison. For once, the justice system worked. If only it didn’t feel like the exception to the rule.
Asia Argento Accused of Sexual Assault
The story of Asia Argento may be one of the most difficult to parse in 2018. She suffered immense tragedy, went through hell because of Harvey Weinstein, and became a no-holds-barred de facto head of the movement against systemic violence in Hollywood. When she herself was accused of sexually assaulting the actor Jimmy Bennett, then aged 17, on the set of a film she directed, Argento denied it then claimed her late partner Anthony Bourdain had sorted out a settlement with the accuser. Any misogynistic creep waiting for a moment to decry #MeToo and label the movement a sham had their scapegoat in Asia. There was little thought given to Bennett himself, or to the torrid context within which cycles of abuse are perpetuated. Argento and former friend Rose McGowan had very public spates over it all, thus giving right-wing a—holes more fuel for their pointless fire, but the story was a reminder than being an abuser and being a victim are not mutually exclusive.
Kylie Jenner gave birth to her daughter Stormi this year but the biggest headlines came when she made the cover of Forbes with the claim that she was the youngest self-made female billionaire. Keep in mind that the piece then admitted she wasn’t a billionaire yet and that they couldn’t 100% confirm all the numbers themselves (their main source: Kris Jenner). What followed was a long discussion about privilege and what it truly means to be ‘self-made’ and at the centre of it was a woman raised under the harsh gaze of reality television who appropriated black women’s beauty and bodies for publicity and profit. Coincidentally, around the time Kylie became a Forbes star, she had her lip fillers removed.
Jennifer Garner Takes Ben Affleck to Rehab
Ben Affleck was on top of the world after his comeback that saw him jump to the top of the Hollywood pile when Argo won Best Picture. His subsequent public spiral was made all the tougher to watch by how visible it was to the world. We all chuckled at the Sad Affleck memes and that back tattoo, but 2018 was a darker year for the man who would be Batman. It culminated in Affleck’s now ex-wife Jennifer Garner having to drive him to rehab for alcohol abuse, and a series of paparazzi images too upsetting to share. The story spoke volumes to many issues in gossip circles: The responsibility put on women to ‘look after’ the men in their lives; the idealized image of the playboy falling out of favour in 2018; the public difficulties of addiction; the change in the Leading Man model in a franchise age; and how history all too often repeats itself. Affleck is now out of rehab and the divorce has been finalized. It remains to be seen if he will wear the Batsuit once more.
The Deaths of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade and Avicii
Chef Anthony Bourdain, designer Kate Spade and EDM DJ Avicii all died this year after committing suicide. In a year where we lost so many beloved figures, the deaths of these three in particular, in such quick succession, hit hard for many. It also revealed how pathetically inept the media is at covering issues of mental health and suicide. Despite the leaps and bounds that have been made in destigmatizing depression, the press narratives could not get over questions about who to blame for their deaths, nor could they stop glorying over the more personal details.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.
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