This year saw lots of celebrations — from the insanity that was the summer Olympics’ opening ceremony, to the return of our favorite TV advertising men, to the much-anticipated premier of The Avengers. There were some notable deaths, including North Korean communist leader Kim Jong-il and pop icon Whitney Houston.
New York City and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard showcased resilience in the face of Hurricane Sandy, shortly before America’s first black president was re-elected. Oh, and there was that weird trend with bath salts and face-eating. But the most important thing to remember about 2012 is that we have (almost!) defied the Mayans! Now let’s take a look at the people to whom we were introduced this year. At least the 12 most important ones anyway. And remember: #YOLO!
Unless you speak Korean and listen to obscure Korean pop music, chances are you probably didn’t know about this wacky musical man from the land of kimchi and Samsung. His breakthrough, record-shattering dance hit “Gangnam Style” has captured our hearts and ears this year, and made for some life-altering moments on the dance floor for many of us. Will we still be talking about PSY in 2013?
2. Todd Akin
Outgoing U.S. Representative from Missouri Todd Akin may have first been elected to public office in 1988, but it was in 2012 during his senatorial campaign that he grabbed national attention with his disturbingly uninformed statements on rape and abortion. In an interview with Charles Jaco on Fox News, Akin discussed his stance on abortion in the case of rape, citing that women who are victims of what he called “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. Although the comment sparked controversy amongst Democrats and Republicans alike, he decided to continue his campaign which ultimately resulted in a loss to Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.
3. Carly Rae Jepsen
One of many catchy tunes to invade your eardrums this year, “Call Me Maybe” was an instant YouTube sensation, thanks to Canadian-born Carly Rae Jepsen. A third-place finalist on Canadian Idol in 2007, Jepsen is among a rising group of stars that can truly attribute their international success to YouTube and social media.
4. Kim Jong-un
Our second Korean to find himself on our list this year, 27/28-year-old (we aren’t really sure) Kim Jong-un is the current supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea. He is the third successor to the Kim dynasty of communist North Korea, and officially assumed office on December 17, 2011. Educated in Switzerland and a supposed fan of American basketball, Kim Jong-un is the youngest current head of state. He is also the star of kimjongunlookingatthings.tumblr.com, the successor site to kimjongillookingatthings.tumblr.com.
5. Honey Boo Boo
Delightfully obnoxious Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson is reality television’s latest little darling. The blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty queen from McIntyre, Georgia, captured the attention and fascination of America’s YouTube audience this year in a big way. Her flamboyance, adult-like mannerisms and diva-tude were so disturbingly entertaining that the go-go juice addict (a healthy blend of Redbull and Mountain Dew) acquired her very own reality TV show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. She first appeared on TLC’s Toddlers in Tiaras, which showcases life in the youth beauty pageants world; and now she’s made it onto our exclusive list.
6. Jason Russell and Joseph Kony
Remember that massive ad campaign, viral YouTube sensation, human rights tragedy and ... oh yeah ... the TMZ video of a psychotic Jason Russell that ruined it all? Some of us knew of the organization Invisible Children, and some had heard of Kony, but most had never heard of Jason Russell before he created one of the most virally influential social media campaigns in history. The video to expose Ugandan military leader Joseph Kony was met with an equally viral attack campaign, which ultimately resulted in the aforementioned documentation of a naked, crazed Russell running through the streets of San Diego. There’s a name that came — and will probably leave — in 2012.
7. Paul Ryan
Mitt Romney’s running mate may have been known to his constituents in the 1st District of Wisconsin and the Tea Party, but this dashing young republican also gained national attention for the first time this year. Ryan became well known for his conservative economic plans that adhere to the theories of economist Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, who has served as a big inspiration for Ryan’s political career. Ryan may have lost the election, but at only 41 years old, we can be sure to expect more from him in the political future.
8. Lena Dunham
The writer, director and star of HBO’s latest series, Girls, Dunham and her tattoos made a name for themselves this year by accurately capturing the life and voice of today’s 20-something-year-old millennials. The show details the lives of four girls figuring out how to be adults, live in New York City and deal with STDs. Sound like Sex and the City? Well, it’s not. The second season premiers on January 14.
9. George Zimmerman
One of the most covered news stories of the year, the fatal shooting of unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin attracted national media attention due to allegations of racist motivation for both the shooting and police conduct. Zimmerman is responsible, but has continued to plead not guilty based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which states that a person may use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat. In October 2012, Zimmerman’s trial date was set for June 10, 2013.
10. Jerry Sandusky
Another unfortunate scandal to reach national headlines this year were the 52 charges of sexual crimes against children by Jerry Sandusky, retired assistant football coach at Penn State. Through his non-profit organization for low-income children, The Second Mile, Sandusky came into contact with hundreds of boys between the 1990s and 2009, and the cases were finally brought to light in 2011. Joe Paterno, one of college football’s most prominent and longest-serving head coaches, came under fire for perjury and personal sympathy for his assistant coach. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 counts and sentenced on October 9 to 30-60 years in prison.
11. One Direction
If you thought boy bands were dead, our newest and cutest import from across the pond should cause you to think again. This chart-topping, heart-stopping group of five young men from the U.K. made an international name for themselves this year, with their sophomore album Take Me Home and singles such as “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Live While We’re Young.” Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis range in age from 18-20 years old, and have been described as forming part of a new “British Invasion” in the United States. The Huffington Post described 2012 as “The Year of the One Direction,” so you can be sure to expect more from these boys in 2013!
12. Jamie Lynne Grumet
You may not know her name, but you’ll certainly recognize her face and provocative photograph from one of the most controversial covers of Time Magazine this year. Grumet was photographed breastfeeding her 4-year-old son who was standing on a chair, while the 26-year-old bombshell of a mother looks defiantly at the camera under the headline, “Are you mom enough?” The photo was trending before the publication was even released, it became an internet sensation within seconds, and was the spark of several conversations on child rearing and today’s mother-son relationship.