As this disastrous year comes to a close, we feel it’s necessary to take one final look back on the events that made 2020 ~so 2020.~
Characterised by a deadly virus, civil unrest on a global scale, climbing unemployment rates, crashing economies, cancelled plans, staying at home, and spending more than half the year on Zoom, we can likely all agree that we will not be sad to see 2020 go.
So before we bid adieu to literally the worst year in recent history, here are ten of the biggest culture-shaping moments that happened in 2020.
NikkieTutorials revealed she’s transgender
Kicking off the year with a major milestone, beauty YouTuber NikkieTutorials revealed that she’s transgender after being blackmailed into coming out. In a video posted in January 2020, the viral star confirmed she was born a boy and actually transitioned while she was active on YouTube unbeknownst to her subscribers. One of the biggest creators on the platform, Nikkie’s decision to keep her transition private differed from other massive trans personalities on YouTube— such as GigiGorgeous— who built channels centered around their transition.
Nikkie’s announcement was a major moment for the LGBTQIA+ community, as it sent the powerful message that gender identity and sexual orientation might part of someone’s story, but it is not their entire story.
The killing of George Floyd
On May 25th, 2020, 46-year-old George Floyd was killed in a violent act of racism and police brutality. The viral space erupted in outrage, expressing shock (“How is this still happening?!“) and demanding change (“They should be charged for murder!“) behind retweets, trending hashtags, and changing profile pics. And while social media is often where activism stops, this time it was different.
The killing of George Floyd was the tipping point for a lot of non-Black folk — partly due to the tragic video released of his death. Floyd’s passing ignited months-long protests around the world in support of Black Lives Matter and triggered a global reckoning of the white fragility that upholds white supremacy and fuels systemic racism. It sparked intense debate about social justice, white privilege, anti-racism, and how to truly be an ally. Statues of former slave-owners across the U.S. were torn down, streets and landmarks were renamed, and white folk were asked to face their racial biases head-on.
We still have a long way to go, but the collective response to George Floyd’s untimely death gives us hope for a more equitable future.
The cancellation of Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson
Amid the BLM movement sparked by George Floyd’s death, social media began demanding accountability from some of the internet’s biggest stars. Amongst those cancelled for their racist pasts were YouTubers and best friends Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson— a fall from grace that no one anticipated.
Both creators faced serious backlash earlier this year when multiple resurfaced videos and photos began circulating of the two engaging in racist behaviour, like saying the n-word and making racist jokes. Shane was also exposed for doing blackface and sexualising animals and minors, while Jeffree was highly criticised for his involvement with musician Dahvie Vanity— who has been accused of sexual abuse towards underaged girls, some as young as 12 years old. Jeffree was reportedly an eye-witness to many of Dahvie’s encounters and assaults.
Then of course, in June, Tati Westbrook broke her silence on the ‘BYE SISTER’ scandal, accusing Jeffree and Shane of manipulating her into ruining James Charles’ career. She alleged that the two gaslit her into believing James was a predator and claimed Jeffree has an abundance of “dirt” on influencers and brand owners in the beauty industry which he uses to blackmail people into doing what he wants.
The pile of accusations against Jeffree and Shane led to one of the most severe cancellations in viral history. Jeffree’s longtime partnership with Morphe was severed, YouTube temporarily demontised all of Shane’s channels, mainstream celebrities spoke out against the creators, and both retreated from the internet for a bit.
Though Jeffree Star is back to his regular posting schedule, Shane Dawson has yet to return to YouTube.
TikTok transcends viral culture
What would this year be without TikTok? Honestly, we don’t want to know!
Though not totally new to 2020, TikTok’s popularity skyrocketed over the last 12 months, becoming the world’s fastest-growing social media platform ever. Unlike predecessor apps like YouTube and Instagram, TikTok’s influence has transcended the confines of the platform, seeping into mainstream culture and churning out some of the internet’s biggest stars.
What took traditional influencers years to achieve— like landing major movie roles, hanging out with A-list celebrities, collaborating with massive brands, and launching their own companies— TikTok stars have done in a matter of months.
TikTok’s impact on the viral zeitgeist is unmatched and we reckon this is just the beginning.
Creator houses: TikTok edition
The rise of TikTok has also given us the resurgence of creator houses, where a group of influencers live together under one roof and spend their days collaborating on content for their various channels.
First popularised in the early 2010s by gaming groups like FaZe Clan, and later by YouTube collectives like Team 10, these houses act as a talent agency for viral stars where a large percentage of everyone’s income goes to the owner of the house. Each house has a set of rules, requires parental permission for anyone under 18 to film there, and if members of the house don’t create consistent viral content, they’re out. This requires a house “manager” who’s responsible for keeping everyone in line and making sure they deliver.
TikTok has given us a slew of creator houses including The Hype House, Sway LA, Not A Content House, Clubhouse Beverly Hills, and many more. Each house comes complete with millions of followers, problematic residents, and a whole bunch of drama, making them that much more interesting to follow.
Celebrities joined, and destroyed, OnlyFans
Founded in 2016 by British entrepreneur Timothy Stokely, OnlyFans has gained a lot of momentum since its inception due to a lack of content restrictions. Though not specifically designed just for porn, OnlyFans’ “anything goes” policy and airtight data security designed to protect both creator and subscriber make the platform a safe space for sex workers and voyeurs alike. As a result, Stokely’s brainchild is often credited for transforming the sex industry in just a few short years— granting entertainers full control of their content, image, and earning potential.
Unfortunately, 2020 was the year when celebrities collectively decided to ruin that.
Stars like Trisha Paytas, Tana Mongeau, Bella Thorne, and Gabi DeMartino were amongst the hoards of viral stars to join OnlyFans this year and as a result, jeopardise the livelihood of millions of sex workers on the platform.
Despite clear guidelines on how to properly engage with the platform, many of these celebrities have come under fire for exploiting their subscribers, including actress Bella Thorne who scammed her fans into buying a $200 full-nude photo set only to not actually send any photos in full-nude. OnlyFans received so many requests for refund that the platform was forced to withhold creator payments and implement changes to their payment structure. As a result, thousands of sex workers who use the subscription-based service as their primary source of income were negatively impacted.
Taylor Swift’s redemption
Some may argue that Taylor Swift‘s redemption was her return to the spotlight after a year-long hiatus with Reputation, but we’re certain that 2020 was her true comeback.
In March, the singer’s 2016 feud with Kimye was put to rest when the full phone conversation between Taylor and Kanye West was released on YouTube. After listening to the phone call, it seemed Taylor Swift was right— Kanye never actually played her the line “I made that bitch famous,” thus she never gave her consent to that line.
The singer also earned props for a scene in her Netflix documentary Miss Americana in which she fought her father and management team on wanting to publicly back the Democratic party despite the risk of isolating some of her fan base.
Taylor ended the year with the release of not one, but two surprise albums that she wrote in quarantine, Folklore and Evermore. The albums have earned accolades across the board for their lyrical depth and creativity.
Oh, and of course, she also started re-recording her masters after a multi-year battle with her former record label. #TeamTaylor
K-Pop took over Western culture
Another massive win for the music industry this year was the infiltration of K-Pop into Western society like never before. The genre solidified itself, and its die-hard fan base, as a force to be reckoned with after stunning displays of activism like derailing Trump’s Tulsa rally in June and flooding Twitter timelines in support of Black Lives Matter to drown out hate speech.
K-Pop group BTS cleaned up at 2020 award ceremonies around the world and idols inked some major commercial sponsorships, like BTS for Samsung, BLACKPINK’s Lisa for M.A.C, and Rosé for YSL.
#MeToo round two
Along with 2020’s reckoning of racist stars came similar consequences for a younger generation of Hollywood men who apparently aren’t familiar with the #MeToo movement. This year alone, allegations of abuse and sexual assault have been made against Ansel Elgort, Justin Bieber, Tony Lopez, Jeffree Star, Shia Labeouf, and Diplo.
Despite accounts from multiple victims against each of these men, including some allegations involving minors, no legal action has been taken to hold any of them accountable. Here’s hoping the victims get some justice in 2021.
COVID-19 swept the world
No 2020 wrap up would be complete without a special shout out to that one faithful friend who was there for us all this year through thick and thin: the coronavirus (COVID-19).
After making its debut sometime in late 2019, coronavirus infiltrated continents across the globe throughout January and February. By early March, the majority of the Western world was placed under government-mandated lockdown to ease the spread.
With nearly 2 million lives lost, thousands of closed businesses, and millions around the world facing unemployment, many countries have reverted back to lockdown as the virus continues to rage.
However, there’s been a silver-lining to COVID-19’s wake of destruction. As the world slowed down, we learned new ways to socialise, connect, work, date, celebrate, mourn, and relax. We counted our blessings. We checked in on each other. We listened to one another. And we binged Tiger King together.
Despite all its shortcomings, 2020 brought us a year of reflection, a year of gratitude, a year of grounding, and a year of change.
And though we’re not out of the woods year, in December 2020, several countries began administering the first round of coronavirus vaccines, giving the world hope for a more positive 2021.