This is a series called Sheroes & Zeroes, about the people who defined our year in culture in both terrific and terrible ways.
When it came time to select a Shero or a Zero for the year of 2014, I was nearly bowled over by the overwhelming field of possible Zeroes. Would it be Ray Rice? Gamergate? Darren Wilson? The wriggling turd that stole and leaked private photos of celebrity nudes? Bill Cosby? Vladimir Putin? That dude from the World Cup who kept biting people?
Let's cut to the chase: 2014 was a garbage year made of garbage, eating garbage, and pooping garbage, and there's no way I could possibly choose a single winner of Most Bad. No matter how you slice it, 2014 was simply teeming with the foulest of trash, like a dumpster outside of a frat house after pledge week. Here's why.
January 2014 was what I can call from my Monday morning quarterback chair "Garbage, The Prequel." After the Polar Vortex got all of us in a surly mood, things really got hopping with Justin Bieber getting arrested twice in one week. It was Justin Bieber who later in the year delivered perhaps the best (but also definitely the worst) deposition video of all time. It is Justin Bieber whose advanced state of douchebagdom has reached the point where he's approaching instability at the nuclear level. We could be mere smirks away from a massive Bieber up-his-own-butthole implosion at any minute, collapsing into a singularity that threatens the very existence of the universe.
I bet you forgot that happened this year.
February was, I'm sorry to report, also garbage. The Olympics happened, which were sort of fun if not utterly and completely forgettable in a way that Winter Olympics not involving Tonya Harding typically are. The only thing I remember from the Sochi games is being terrified for the safety of the athletes and disturbingly turned on by that blonde snowboarding guy who adopted all of those stray puppies whose name I just had to Google (Gus. It was Gus). Immediately after the Olympics were over, Putin resumed internationally monstrous fuckery. As Putin does.
March 2014 was a steaming dumpster. Malaysia Air flight 370 disappeared into the ocean. a terrible tragedy for everybody involved. In significantly less tragic news, I embarked on my first ever commercial cruise (verdict: cruises are most assuredly Not For Me). Because I was on a boat, the only TV we could get was an endlessly repeated loop of Looney Tunes or CNN, which was only covering the search for the missing plane. Watching CNN yammer endlessly about tangents off tangents off informationless tangents must have seen sanity-challenging enough on the mainland; imagine watching it on a boat. Imagine if it's the only thing to watch. I will forever remember March 2014 as the month I went completely insane, thanks in part to Jeff Zucker.
April was when I realized that 2014 was actually shaping up to be a shit year, overall. The abduction of 276 girls by the Boko Haram group in Nigeria served as a helpful reminder that human beings are capable of inflicting unspeakable horror on each other, and the quixotic hashtagging in the wake of the abduction only served to drive home how powerless we all were (and are). Two days later, a Korean boat carrying mostly high school-aged students collapsed, killing more than 300 people.
May: garbage. Ray Rice pled not guilty to assaulting his then-fiancee Janae Rice and got accepted into a program that allowed him to avoid punishment entirely. On the 23rd, the Baltimore Ravens held a joint press conference featuring both the assailant and his victim, where both parties apologized. The Ravens even Tweeted about it. It was truly garbage.
Solange kicked at Jay-Z in an elevator and we had a lot of important discussions that everybody has forgotten by now.
June really got cooking with gas, kicking off a shit-summer we won't soon forget! ISIS stormed from Syria into Iraq, pillaging, raping, kidnapping, killing. ISIS getting a foothold anywhere is garbage enough to stink up an entire year, but in 2014, it was just one entree in a veritable smorgasbord of bad news.
By July, Israel and Hamas were fighting again, and the Palestinian people were again caught in the crosshairs. By the time the Israeli military operation was over at the end of August, 2,100 Palestinians and 71 Israelis had been killed. Another Malaysian Airlines flight went down, this one by an errant missile that was probably fired by Ukrainian separatists who thought the plane was not a passenger jet, because modern wars are apparently being fought by fucking idiots. On the same day, NYPD officers killed Eric Garner on camera by using an illegal chokehold. His crime was selling loosie cigarettes, which, in the civilized world, is not traditionally a crime punishable by death. The cop who did it faced no consequences.
Jay Z and Beyonce divorce rumors really began to heat up.
The NFL decided to suspend Ray Rice for only 2 games for knocking his now-wife unconscious back in February, despite the fact that they'd hoisted much more severe punishments on players who had dabbled in marijuana. It was all garbage.
Meanwhile: still ebola. That was still happening.
August sucked. On the 9th, Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man. They left his body in the street for hours. Nobody was punished, and supporters of Wilson raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for him and his new bride, a fellow officer whom he married a month before. And: Gamergate, whatever that was or is, began with a jilted ex-boyfriend writing a several thousand word long missive about his girlfriend that kicked off a series of events so mind-numbingly idiotic that Men's Rights Activists—the litmus test for whether something is stupid—got involved.
Local police in Ferguson responded to protests by outraged residents by treating them as enemy combatants, firing tear gas at protesters and members of the media who arrived in town to cover the protests, rolling out in military surplus gear, arresting, harming, hurting. ISIS beheaded a man they'd kidnapped and uploaded it to YouTube. It hasn't gotten better.
Bill Cosby is probably a fucking psycho. Jian Ghomeshi is, too. Robin Williams and Joan Rivers are dead. Jan Hooks, Maya Angelou, and Elaine Stritch are dead. Phillip Seymour Hoffman died with a needle in his arm. Shirley Temple died, too.
In November, Republicans took the Senate and took a bigger majority in the House in the election with the poorest participation rate since World War II, because nobody fucking voted. Ted Cruz Marco Rubio Chris Christie Rand Paul Paul Ryan Ryan Gosling Satan. They're all maybe running for President. Several conservative outlets accused Lena Dunham of sexually molesting her sister, because of a passage in her memoir that implied the older girl had touched her younger sister's vagina when Dunham was a small child. Rolling Stone ran—and then backed off—a story of institutional fumbling of a gang rape case at UVA that maybe didn't even happen in the first place. Maybe most rapes didn't happen, wondered the garbage people.
Meanwhile—and despite the fact that most news outlets magically ceased discussing ebola as soon as the elections were over—ebola continued to ravage some countries in West Africa. Almost 8,000 people have died.
I'm so exhausted at this point in running down all of the reasons that 2014 can go ahead and fuck itself that I can't bring myself to enumerate the rest. 2014 was the Year of the Murderous Cop and the Cop-Babies Who Defend Them. The year of the military group so unspeakably foul that they must have been dreamed up by the mind of an overeager screenwriter shooting for the moon. The year of pundits saying out of one side of their mouths that it's really curious that Cosby's rape victims took so long to come forward and out of the other side basically stalking an alleged rape victim in an attempt to discredit a story that had already been debunked. The year of catastrophic apathy where it matters the most, and screechy overreaction where it matters the least.
Goodbye, good riddance, and go fuck yourself, 2014.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.