The Top Zoomer Pop Culture Moments of 2023, From Oscar Firsts to the Final Beatles Song

Top Culture Moments

Michelle Yeoh, seen here holding her 2023 Oscar for Best Actress for 'Everything Everywhere All at Once,' made history as the first Asian actress to win the award. Photo: Michael Tran/AFP/Getty Images

As always, the year in pop culture didn’t disappoint – especially for stars in the 45-plus set, who enjoyed their share of fabulous and funny moments (and some gaffes, whoops!) in 2023. Which of our usual favourites did it again? Who surprised us with an appearance we didn’t see coming?

Zoomer remembers ten can’t-miss pop culture moments from 2023 that we’ll still be gossiping about for years to come.


1. The Oscars’ Year of the Comeback


Let’s begin with the biggest pop-culture night of the year, the Oscars. Maybe because COVID bummed us out long enough, the Academy Awards were all about feel-good comebacks for older stars who earned it: Among the big winners,  Best Actress Michelle Yeoh, 60 (becoming the first Asian actress to win the prize), Best Supporting Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, 64, (the daughter of two former Oscar nominees – Best Actor nominee dad Tony Curtis and mom Janet Leigh, was nominated in the same category as her for Psycho), Best Supporting Actor Ke Huy Quan, 51(the former child actor who’d retired and then returned, decades later, to become the first Asian man to win that award) and Brendan Fraser, 54, the Canadian sentimental favourite who nabbed the Best Actor award – and several standing ovations – for his turn in The Whale. The night was not-so-great, however, for Angela Bassett, who sat stoically and looking seemingly-snubbed after losing the Best Supporting Actress statuette to Curtis


2. The Grammy Granny Steals the Show


It takes a big character outshine rock star Harry Styles, but 78-year-old Reina Lafantaisie from Sudbury, Ontario, almost did just that at the Grammys in February. The “Grammy Granny,” as she was later dubbed, is a Styles superfan who’s granddaughter (secretly-recorded) the viral TikTok video that landed Lafantaisie a VIP invite to the awards show and stage. When Trevor Noah opened the winner’s envelope, he passed it to Lafantaisie to read, and Styles himself hit the stage to give the Grammy Granny a big bear hug and accept his Album of the Year award from her.


3. Gwyneth Has the Last Foreboding Word at Her Trial


It’ll never win an award, but the best performance of the year – surely one that the rest of us all watched in amazement – was Gwyneth Paltrow as “the accused” during March’s sensational skiing lawsuit. From her now famous eye glasses to her complaint that she “lost half a day of skiing” and her contention that she’s only countersuing for a symbolic one dollar (plus, ahem, attorney fees), to one of the prosecution lawyers seemingly fangirling over the Oscar winner, Paltrow made headlines throughout the trial. Her competition, however – a 76-year-old retired optometrist who claimed the actress smashed into him on the slopes, causing permanent damage – didn’t fare so well himself. The very best moment of the trial? After winning her case, Paltrow leaned in and appeared to whisper “I wish you well” into his ear. Is that sincere? Or some kind of Goop curse? We’ll never know.


4. The Pope Looks Dope


Pope Frances was looking surprisingly fly in March, when a snap went around the world of the Pontiff rocking a shiny white puffer jacket that a hip hop star might wear, complete with oversized cross necklace worn atop. But just as the pic made the rounds, it turned out “pope in the puffer” was a deep fake created with AI software designed to make us all believers in the power of digital deception something on everyone’s mind in light of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, a large part of which was pushing back against the infiltration of AI into Hollywood.


5. Barbie Proves Life in Plastic is Still Fantastic 


After years of building hype, the Barbie movie (finally) premiered in July. Sure, 33-year-old Margot Robbie did a fine job, but the real star coming out of this film is the doll herself who, thanks to the new movie, proved more popular than ever as she turned 64 in 2023. Still, she doesn’t look a day over 19 the marketed age of the famous black-and-white swimsuit debut Barbie from 1959.


6. Martin Scorsese Gets Hip With the Kids


Like the Grammy Granny, another unlikely TikTok star was born in October: acclaimed Killers of the Flower Moon director Martin Scorsese, whose special appearances on his 24-year-old daughter’s TikTok gathered millions of views. Turns out people love watching the 81-year-old go viral via various shticks like reacting to modern slang (for example, when told the term “sneaky link” is akin to a booty call, he noted, “We never used that term. We never saw specific people in my day.”)


7. The Buffy Scandal


October ended with scandal for singer-songwriter-activist Buffy Sainte-Marie, who made international headlines after CBC’s The Fifth Estate did a deep-dive that questioned her purported Indigenous heritage. When journalists claimed the 82-year-old Order of Canada recipient was actually a white Italian-American woman named Beverley, Sainte-Marie hit back with a heartfelt response called “My Truth As I know It,” defending her heritage as a Cree woman.  


8. The Beatles Say Goodbye


In November, more than six decades after their debut – and years after the passing of two members of the Fab Four, the Beatles released their final song. The fittingly-titled Now and Then used AI tech to capture and isolate John Lennon voice from a 1970s demo, a George Harrison guitar solo from the 1990s and recordings from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr from present day and wrap it up into one full song. The video, meanwhile, took footage from alive-and-well McCartney and Starr CGI-ed Forrest Gump-style with deceased band members Lennon and Harrison. The result is bittersweet, a bit strange, and impossible to turn away from.


9. Go, Dolly! Go, Dolly!  


Later that same month, former Zoomer covergirl Dolly Parton had the whole world talking when the 77-year-old country icon performed the halftime show during a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving game in the squad’s trademark cheerleading outfit. While critics squabbled over whether crop tops and short shorts were appropriate, Parton ultimately had the last laugh for looking great and sounding ever better. 

10. Still Rockin’ After All These Years


Last but not least, 78-year-old singer Brenda Lee enjoyed an early Christmas surprise when her 1958 song Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree finally topped the Billboard charts65 years after its original release. Lee’s now the oldest artist to top the charts and her song holds the record for the longest climb ever to No. 1. 

Knocking Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You off her long-held top spot, meanwhile, is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.


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