December 28, 2017 at 8:22 pm EST | by Joey DiGuglielmo and Mariah Cooper
YEAR IN REVIEW: Top 10 pop culture stories of 2017
pop culture, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photos courtesy of the productions)

10. Aaron Carter comes out, gets busted for pot

Aaron Carter
(Screenshot via YouTube)

Pop singer Aaron Carter, at the time 29 though he’s since turned 30, came out as bisexual in an open letter posted on Twitter in August.

“There’s something I’d like to say that I feel is important for myself and my identity that has been weighing on my chest for nearly half of my life,” Carter writes. “This doesn’t bring me shame, just a weight and burden I have held onto for a long time that I would like lifted off me.”

The star revealed he has been attracted to both genders since he was 13. He also shared that he had a sexual experience with another man when he was 17. Carter claimed that Madison Parker, his girlfriend at the time, broke up with him when he told her he was bisexual. Parker denied his sexuality was the reason for their spilt. He also said that his older brother Nick Carter had not reached out to him since he came out.

Carter brought his struggles with drug addiction, plastic surgery and his family on a tumultuous September episode of “The Doctors.” On the show, Carter learned he weighed only 115 pounds at 6 feet tall. He said he feared his weight loss was due to being HIV-positive. However, he tested negative for all STDs. His drug test revealed he tested positive for marijuana, Benzodiazepines (Xanax) and opiates (hydrocodone). After initially refusing to go to rehab on the show, Carter entered rehab in October and was released in December.

9. Milo Yiannopoulos goes down

Milo Yiannopoulos, gay news, Washington Blade

Milo Yiannopoulos (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Milo Yiannopoulos’ swift descent from rising alt-right media personality to a defamed journalist shunned even from his own conservative community was peppered with controversy.

The year started out promisingly for the British political commentator who secured an autobiography book deal with Simon & Schuster and was invited as a guest on “Real Time with Bill Maher.” He kicked off a university speaking engagement tour which drew numerous protesters to University of California, Berkley. The protest became violent as protesters refused to let Yiannopoulos, who has made racist, misogynistic, transphobic and xenophobic remarks, to speak at the university. President Donald Trump even weighed in on Twitter threatening to cut the school’s federal funding for not allowing free speech.

Yiannopoulos’ success came to a halt when an old interview clip surfaced of him saying that sexual relationships between 13-year-old boys and adult men could be positive. His comments caused him to lose his job as senior editor for Breitbart News, to have his book deal with Simon & Schuster revoked and to be disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Despite the negative press, Yiannopoulos tried to keep his career afloat. His publishing company Dangerous Books published his book “Dangerous.” Yiannopoulos closed out the year on a personal note marrying his boyfriend, identified only as “John,” in Hawaii.

8. ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ ‘Tom of Finland’ among year’s best films

A scene from ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classic)

It was a strong year for LGBT-themed movies but two especially stand out — “Tom of Finland” and “Call Me By Your Name.”

“Tom,” a Finnish biographical drama directed by Dome Karukoski, stars Pekka Strang as Touko Laakosenen, better known as the titular artist who specialized in mid-century homoerotic art. The film inspired a Tom of Finland renaissance of sorts with books and an extensive line of home products like shower curtains and throw pillows featuring Tom art.

“Call Me By Your Name,” a leisurely paced gay romance story between a 24-year-old intern (Armie Hammer) and the 17-year-old son of his employer (Timothee Chalamet) in Italy circa 1983, has drawn strong reviews for its taste and restraint.

“(Director Luca) Guadagnino and his actors emphasize tenderness and feeling capturing the magic of first-time dalliance in a way that makes it seem, if not wholly innocent, at least wholesome,” a Blade critic wrote.

It’s up for three Golden Globe Awards including nods for both its leads.

7.  Season 9 of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ makes ‘herstory’

(Image courtesy VH1)

It was a banner year for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in several ways. Debuting in March on new home VH1, the queens went apeshit when Lady Gaga walked into the work room and was featured as the guest judge.

Seeming to genuinely enjoy herself throughout the episode, Gaga helped series regulars Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews and Carson Kressley assess the queens’ interpretations of classic Gaga looks.

It turned out to be an unusually dramatic season, though. Latina diva Valentina emerged early on as a strong contender but was sent packing on episode nine after pissing off Ru for initially declining to remove a veil during the lip-sync against Debbie Downer Nina Bo’nina Brown. She said later she was in shock and hadn’t bothered to learn the words to the song, which all the queens are given in advance should they land in the bottom two.

The drama continued, though, on perhaps the bitchiest reunion episode of the series’ entire run with several queens calling out Valentina on her fake charm.

The finale, despite featuring no clear standout winner, went to Sasha Velour who bested Peppermint, Shea Coulee and Trinity Taylor for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar.

RuPaul won his second consecutive Emmy Award for hosting.

6. ‘Wonder Woman’ lassos boffo box office

Gal Gadot (Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

Although she’d been seen in 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Wonder Woman finally got her own film this year with a June release starring Gal Gadot as the titular character and winningly helmed by Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) who won universal praise for her effort.

Filmed over a six-month period starting in November 2015 (development started in 1996), it set numerous box office records. It was the fifth highest-grossing superhero film in the U.S. and the 20th highest-grossing film ever stateside. It made more than $800 million internationally and is the best-ranked superhero film on Rotten Tomatoes. The American Film Institute called it one of the best 10 films of 2017.

Gadot plays the Amazon princess Diana, a highly trained fighter who’s been raised on the hidden island of Themyscira by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). The island’s security is breached when American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane on the island.

The Blade said it was “packed with gripping action sequences but also leavened with generous doses of comedy and deepened with serious considerations about the horrors of war and mankind’s capacity for both love and hatred.”

5. ‘Feud’ revives complicated partnership of Davis, Crawford

A scene from ‘Feud.’ (Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Feud,” an FX series from Ryan Murphy, devoted its maiden season of eight episodes to the rivalry of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, co-stars in the 1962 cult classic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.”

Jessica Lange starred as Crawford and Susan Sarandon played Davis. Both were nominated for Emmys, though the show won none of the 10 Primetime Emmys for which it was nominated (it won two Creative Arts Emmys). The series was praised for its period detail and grand, sweeping recreations of pivotal moments such as a long tracking shot showing Lange walking backstage at the 1963 Academy Awards.

Though declining somewhat in ratings after a strong start, the series fared decently overall. Its debut was the most-watched program on FX that week.

The series had an unexpected coda with Olivia de Havilland, a real-life friend of Davis who replaced Crawford in their planned follow-up “Baby Jane” movie “Hush … Hush Sweet Charlotte,” sued the creators claiming in a lawsuit filed a day before her 101st birthday that she was inaccurately portrayed and her likeness was used without her permission. Catherine Zeta-Jones played her in the series.

A second season of 10 episodes devoted to Charles and Diana will premiere in 2018.

4.  ‘When We Rise’ draws mixed reviews 

A scene from ‘When We Rise.’ (Photo courtesy ABC)

“When We Rise,” an ABC miniseries about LGBT rights that aired Feb. 27-March 3, drew so-so reviews from the mainstream press but was sharply criticized in the gay press.

Writing for the Blade, columnist Brock Thompson, said it had serious problems.

“Though I very much appreciate what ‘When We Rise’ was attempting, I couldn’t see past its problems,” Thompson said. “Its tone was preachy. Its messages about unity and strength in diversity landed like anvils. I stopped counting the clunky cliched lines like ‘we are stronger together,’ or ‘you don’t know how strong we are,’ or perhaps ‘strength. let’s get some and be strong with it together.’ All this gave way to some melodramatic moments. Beyond that, actors were switched out to play their role’s older counterparts, making the timeline rather confusing.”

Ratings, too, were weak for the series starring Guy Pearce, Mary Louise-Parker, Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O’Donnell as Cleve Jones, Roma Pauline Guy, Pat Norman and Del Martin, respectively. Its first episode drew 3.26 million viewers to come in last of the four major networks for its time slot. Viewership dropped sharply thereafter. Scheduling was shifted after President Trump addressed Congress live on Feb. 28.

Helmed by multiple directors including writer Dustin Lance Black and Gus Van Sant, the eight-episode arc was framed as an epic, 45-year survey of the entire gay rights movement.

3. Chelsea Manning makes glam debut 

Chelsea Manning, gay news, Washington Blade

Chelsea Manning (Photo courtesy Instagram)

After being released from prison at Fort Leavenworth on May 17 after nearly seven years in prison for leaking 750,000 documents (some classified) to WikiLeaks, many were curious to see how Chelsea Manning would segue into civilian life.

Manning, 29, made her glam debut in the September issue of Vogue in a red Norma Kamall swimsuit and other high-fashion outfits with low-key styling by Phyllis Posnick and was praised for not being as sexualized and in-your-face as Caitlyn Jenner was when she made her debut in Vanity Fair in 2015.

“This is a far cry from the haughty, hyper-feminine Hollywood unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner,” wrote Robin Givhan in the Washington Post. She called Manning’s photos a “message of … accessibility, normalcy, calm.”

2. ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘Dynasty’ return

(Photo courtesy NBC)

After 11 years off the air, “Will & Grace” returned to NBC Thursday nights in September to launch a new, 16-episode run and ninth season.

The original cast — Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally — were back after a planned one-off mini-episode that ran last fall timed to the presidential election.

The first new episodes of the show since 2006 found the familiar gang at the White House, navigating middle-aged gay dating, Jack discovering he’s a grandfather (with a gay grandson), Will making senior partner, an appearance by Beverley Leslie (Leslie Jordan) and many more hijinks.

Ratings have been solid — averaging more than 10 million viewers per episode — and reviews have been mostly positive.

A 10th season has already been approved.

Much less successful, however, has been the “Dynasty” reboot, which debuted in October on the CW with an all-new cast featuring James Mackay as Steven Carrington, Fallon’s (Elizabeth Gillies) gay environmentalist brother. Now his being gay is no big issue to dad Blake and gold digger Sammy Jo is now a gay man. Oh, and the Colbys are black this time.

Reviews have been highly mixed with Variety saying it “barely gets out of the gate before it begins to lose steam.” Ratings have been anemic, averaging less than a million viewers per episode.

1. ‘Moonlight’ wins Best Picture in shocking envelope mistake

(Photo courtesy AMPAS)

It was supposed to be one of those nice little Oscar moments longtime fans of the Academy Awards cherish — beloved stars of yesteryear stride onstage reunited to give an award. Many stars have done it over the years — Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. This year it was Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, stars of 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde.”

On the 50th anniversary of their cinematic classic, they came on stage at the Dolby Theatre on Feb. 26 to hand out the top prize of the evening. “La La Land” was announced as the winner but it quickly became apparent as its producers were giving their acceptance speeches that a mistake had been made and gay-themed “Moonlight” was the true winner.

Beatty and Dunaway had been handed the wrong envelope, a duplicate of the Best Actress envelope (“La La Land’s” Emma Stone had won that award). Upon seeing its contents, Beatty was flummoxed; Dunaway, thinking he was joshing for suspense, saw “La La Land” and announced it as the winner.

Dubbed the biggest gaffe in Oscar history, it turned out to be the mistake of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ managing partner Brian Cullinan who’d been Tweeting backstage. He and Martha Ruiz, who each had copies of the evening’s envelopes, were later relieved of any future Oscar duties though they kept their jobs.

“Moonlight” became the first LGBT-themed film and first film with an all-black cast to win Best Picture.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2018. All rights reserved.
Blade Blast

Get the latest LGBTQ news to your inbox every Thursday!