The Top Zoomer Pop Culture Moments of 2022: Joni’s Back, Will’s Slap and Dolly Gets Her Due

Pop Culture Moments

Dolly Parton is inducted into the Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Nov. 5, 2022 in Los Angeles. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Compiling this list of top pop culture moments for 2022 made for some encouraging energy: Sure, there were the usual scandals, but there were also some great leaps forward, especially for older performers and artists.

Let’s relive some of the most famous, and infamous, moments.


The Slap Heard Round the World

We still aren’t over Will Smith, 54, jumping up on stage to smack Chris Rock, 57, in the face at this year’s Oscar’s ceremony after the presenter made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, 51. Smith then went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor that same night! Every viewer was left with their mouth hanging open in shock, and the glittering audience in the theatre was visibly shaken. Rock stayed silent, save for a brief mention in his stand-up. Smith, after a series of apologies, and addressing his anger management issues, has a new movie out, Emancipation, which looks to be his bid at redemption.


Maverick Flies Again

Another massive movie moment this year was the release of Top Gun: Maverick. With all the thrills and a soaring save-the-world plot, we get a 60-year-old Tom Cruise showing the young hot-shots how to master an impossible mission. The other highlight is the return of Iceman. Val Kilmer, 62, who played Maverick’s rival character in the 1986 original, has been battling throat cancer. They incorporated his real-life illness and means of communication — a computer keyboard — into the story, scoring a victory for disability representation. The scene between Maverick and Iceman has a lovely gravitas to balance the fly-boy antics.


The Return of Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s surprise performance at the Newport Folk Festival in July was a treat we never thought we would get. It marked her first return to the event since her legendary 1969 appearance, and was also her first public concert since 2002 (she has been performing privately, at her Los Angeles home, where fellow legends Dolly Parton and Elton John, among others, have joined her). Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, and all those small steps back to the spotlight culminated in a set accompanied by Brandi Carlisle, Marcus Mumford and Wynonna Judd, where she sang “Big Yellow Taxi,” “A Case of You” and “Both Sides Now.” The concert will be released next year as a live album, and she plans to perform live next June in Seattle as well. Mitchell also hasn’t lost her political edge: this year, she joined fellow Canadian Neil Young’s boycott of Spotify to protest the company’s broadcast of Joe Rogan’s vaccine misinformation.


A Second Chance at Love

What’s the expression? Love is better the second time around? Well Jennifer Lopez, 53, and Ben Affleck, 50, are trying to singlehandedly prove that adage. The reunited lovebirds wed (twice) this year after having broken off an engagement 20 years prior. They both went on to marriage and kids (with Marc Anthony and Jennifer Garner, respectively), and both had a series of high-profile relationships (Alexander Rodriguez and Ana de Armas, also respectively) before finding each other single and in sync. They took a PDA-filled European tour with their blended family of kids this past summer, and were captured on Italian yachts and Parisian streets making their 50s look very, very glamorous indeed.


Rock and Roll is Ageless, Part One …

At age 80, Paul McCartney became the oldest person to headline Glastonbury this past June, playing a three-hour set of songs spanning his career, from a pre-Beatles deep cut from the Quarrymen to his solo releases of the past decade. He was joined onstage by none other than Bruce Springsteen, who jumped in on “Glory Days,” and Dave Grohl, who backed him up for “Band on the Run.” But it was heart-stopping renditions of “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be” to close out the concert that felt like McCartney reaching out across time and generations in front of an audience with representatives from all ages.


Rock and Roll is Ageless, Part Two

After years of insisting she wasn’t a rock star, Dolly Parton finally accepted her invitation to be inducted into the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame. She had declined the honour, but a public campaign convinced her otherwise. She then announced that, at age 76, she was going to release her first rock album, due out next year. On the track list of song’s she intends to cover: “Purple Rain,” by Prince, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” Expect some epic guest appearances!


A Sussex Success Story

Harry and Meghan are now one-name only, American-style celebrities. The back-to-back release of their two-volume, six-episode docuseries, appropriately titled Harry & Meghan, broke viewership records for Netflix and created a steady stream of fresh tabloid headlines. But this time, unlike their experience as working royals, the Sussexes were in control of their own narrative.

Seeking to correct the record, the couple dropped a lot of what they billed as “their truth” and their story. As Meghan says in the series: “When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?” Aside from revealing internal family politics and fractures, the docuseries addressed some important issues the Royal Family and King Charles will need to deal with swiftly, including institutionalized racism, or what Harry called “the unconscious bias” that his family needs to acknowledge.

This year also saw the release of Meghan’s Spotify podcast, Archetypes, which became the most popular podcast on the platform and went on to win a People’s Choice award. Markle had many starry guests on the pod to discuss ways in which women are held back by negative archetypes and hobbled by preconceived roles.


Baring It All

In a very brave, beautiful and truly emotional moment on film, Emma Thompson did her first nude scene this year at age 62. The film, Amazon Prime’s Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, is a moving story examining the stigma of both sex work and aging bodies and sexuality. Thompson stars opposite 29-year-old Daryle McCormack, and said in post-premiere interviews that she had to work through her own body issues for the role.

Despite being a lifelong feminist, she found, she still suffered the same insecurities we all do. This film was an opportunity to challenge herself, as well as society’s views of the aging female body. In the press conference for the film’s virtual premiere at Sundance, Thompson said of the nude scene, which is just her character, alone, standing in front of a mirror, letting go of a lifetime of hang-ups: “I realized I never stood in front of the mirror without judging and without doing something to my body that somehow changed it so I didn’t have to look at it in the way it was presented to me in a mirror.”


Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) and Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) in ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’. Photo: Nick Wall © GoodLuckLeoLimited


The Kids Are Alright

The Kids in the Hall returned to the airwaves this year on Amazon Prime, 27 years after the breakthrough CBC show ended. The troupe — Mark McKinney, 63, Scott Thompson, 63, Dave Foley, 59, Kevin McDonald, 61, and Bruce McCullough, 61 — was considered ahead of its time when it hit small screens in 1989, and has become a generation-spanning classic as kids discovered the old shows on YouTube. The new series drew rave reviews and amazing guests stars such as Canadian comedy legend and SCTV and Schitt’s Creek alum Catherine O’Hara, and Star Wars’ Mark Hamill.


Running Up That Hill … Again

Gen Z discovered the wonders of Kate Bush, 64, when the top-rated Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things used her 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” in a Season 4 scene where one of the characters escapes a demon. It then went on to top U.K. pop charts again — and break records — making Bush the U.K.’s oldest female chart-topper ever. (She beat Cher’s previous record for a number 1 hit, for “Believe” in 1998. Cher, an avid social media maven, reached out to congratulate her peer.) Bush was stunned by the renaissance and told BBC Radio 4: “It’s just extraordinary. I mean, it’s such a great series, I thought that the track would get some attention, but I never imagined that it would be anything like this. It’s so exciting. It’s quite shocking really, isn’t it? The whole world’s gone mad.”