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Although a lot of people are mourning the negative aspects of 2016, there's actually a lot of great things that this year gave pop culture fanatics! From incredible music and captivating films to inventive television and laugh-out-loud memes, let's take a look back at all the pop culture that totally owned 2016.
Without a doubt, the most ubiquitous element of pop culture all throughout 2016 was Hamilton, the runaway hit musical that launched its creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda into the spotlight. Though the hip-hop-inspired musical about the founding fathers originally entered Broadway at the end of 2015, it reached it's peak public acclaim this year. Because of that, Lin-Manuel Miranda was pretty much everywhere this year --- from dominating the Tonys, to helming a PBS documentary, to hosting Saturday Night Live. Not to mention composing the soundtrack for Disney's latest hit, Moana.
Back when the Pokemon games and TV show first came out in the '90s, they inspired a rabid obsession among kids eager to catch 'em all. As the franchise grew, so did its audience, and in 2016, the Pokemon craze was rekindled and took over the world yet again thanks to the new gaming app Pokemon Go. For months, you couldn't wake anywhere without noticing passersby running after a Pikachu they spotted a block away.
The TV show that everybody was talking about as 2016 drew to a close was HBO's new shock-a-minute, sci-fi hit Westworld. The expansive universe of a theme park filled with artificially intelligent robots lent itself to thousands of fans eager to try and figure the puzzle out themselves.
Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively
The happiest couple of the year must be that of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. Not only did both husband and wife star in a hit film in 2016 --- Reynolds broke box office records in Deadpool and Lively wowed critics in the thriller The Shallows --- but they also welcomed their second daughter a few months ago. They also established themselves as members in two of the most powerful entertainment families in Hollywood: the Marvel cinematic universe and Taylor Swift's squad.
Though Star Wars: The Force Awakens technically came out at the tail end of 2015, its success revived fervor in the decades-old franchise that lasted throughout 2016. The smash success of Rogue One this year further proved that the intergalactic adventure saga is going to be a pop culture behemoth for years to come.
In what has become her signature form of releasing music nowadays, Beyonce surprised the world in February by dropping a brand new song and video called "Formation," which quickly took over the radio, the charts, and the world after she performed it during the Super Bowl halftime show. A few months later, she surprise-dropped the feature length visual album Lemonade on HBO, securing that 2016 was the year Beyonce ruled.
Sports fans witnessed an event that many thought was impossible this year: the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. The team's win ended a 108-year losing streak and broke an infamous curse placed on the Cubs.
It hasn't exactly been an easy year for Leslie Jones, but it's been a formative one. After the comedian had made a name for herself as one of the breakout stars of Saturday Night Live, she became the target of racist and misogynistic hate online after signing on to the Ghostbusters reboot. Though she had to go offline for a little bit, Jones roared back at her haters and laughed her way to the top.
Leslie Jones' Ghostbusters costar and fellow Saturday Night Live castmate Kate McKinnon also had an incredible year, thanks in part to the ripe-for-parody political climate of 2016. McKinnon had been a standout on SNL for years, but her Hillary Clinton impression this year is what made her one of the main reasons to stay in on Saturday nights and tune into the show.
In the past, there have been insane toy crazes over Furbies, Tamagotchis, Beanie Babies, and more, and this holiday season proved no different. The big toy in 2016 was Hatchimals, a Furby-like robotic toy animal shrouded in an air of mystery since they are sold within eggs that the user has to hatch. After launching in October, the toys immediately became the most in-demand product for kids all over the world.
Westworld may have owned the TV climate at the very end of 2016, but the biggest breakout show of the year would have to be Netflix's '80s-tastic, sci-fi series Stranger Things. Appealing to both the younger-skewing Netflix bingers and older fans nostalgic for the "adventuring children" movies of days gone by like The Goonies or E.T., Stranger Things turned out to be the perfect recipe for a pop culture phenomenon.
The Olympics in Rio this summer produced a number of big winners, like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Neymar, and more, but the athlete who most flipped and tumbled her way from Olympic champion to pop culture icon was Simone Biles. Along with taking home four gold medals for her incredible gymnastics performances, Biles won over the world thanks to her relatable personality and adorable crush on Zac Efron.
Nintendo keyed into pop culture's nostalgia craving big time a few months back when it released a new and improved version of its original gaming system. Though the re-released NES Classic has HD graphics and can now fit in someone's palm, it's still a blast from the past for gamers longing for the good 'ole days of jumping over barrels thrown by a giant gorilla.
I think it's safe to say that the insane election cycle this year wasn't exactly fun for anyone, but it was great for late-night comedy shows. And in that already crowded space of men sitting at desks telling topical jokes, it was newcomer Sam Bee that stole the spotlight with her gut-bustingly hilarious and brilliantly incisive new series Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which was met with unanimous critical acclaim.
It was a big year for Star Wars, and nothing proved that more than when a woman turned a toy Chewbacca mask into one of the biggest viral videos of 2016. The infectious laughing that the woman erupts into after putting on the automated mask offered viewers an unexpected font of joy in the middle of a tough year.
Sure, the big political names of 2016 were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but it was Vice President Joe Biden that won out when it came to being adored on the internet. As President Obama prepares to leave the White House, tons of memes about Biden pulling pranks on incumbent Trump have given social media users something to laugh about.