The People (And Walrus) That Made 2022
So much happened: the Depp-Heard trial, Twitter’s buyout, the Lismore floods, Splendour in the Mud, The Slap, the demise of ScoMo and Albo’s underwhelming arrival, Novak’s barring from the Aus Open, Bennifer 2.0, Brendan Fraser, the end of Neighbours, etc etc etc. So amid all the chaos, who actually managed to make their mark, for better or for worse, this year? Who is 2022’s ‘Person’?
We put the question to Junkee staff and contributors — here’s where they landed.
Freya The Overweight Walrus
There really is no one who moved the needle more in 2022 than Freya the overweight walrus – and anyone who disagrees can grow the hell up. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Freya may have singlehandedly switched out the era of the girlboss in favour of the era of just taking it fucking it easy, having famously spent the Norwegian summer sinking ships, feeding in local harbours, and generally lounging it up.
Memorably, Freya exhibited such aspirational female behaviour earlier this year that the Norwegian tabloid Verdenes Gang set up a 24-hour live cam stream dedicated to capturing her languorous ventures.
Sadly, Freya’s halcyon days were numbered. Tourists were so taken by the Norse beauty that they refused to keep their distance in her presence, putting themselves – and sometimes the walrus herself – in danger. Freya, ultimately, was too good for this world – she ended up being euthanised by Norwegian authorities for her own and others’ safety.
Rest in power, Freya. You deserved better.
– Reena Gupta, Deputy Editor
Before all… this *gestures to absolute hellfire that has been most of 2022 on Beyoncé’s great, green Earth*, anyone with a pulse and a TikTok account was obnoxiously repeating two words: “Uncaahhhh Jaaaams”.
Though Fox’s rightful rise to superstardom actually should have happened when she starred in the titular Safdie brothers movie back in 2019, we’re all better off for it happening now. Why? Because Julia Fox not only understands chaos; she thrives in it.
Having someone so absurd rise to omnipresence is exactly what we needed in 2022, the year of the main character. Her fashion is self-consciously ugly, yet somehow still an unequivocal serve. And her penchant for confidently saying unhinged, harmless nonsense? Iconic.
Go deeper on the Fox brand still, and you’ll begin to unravel its many carefully curated layers. Fox is the perfect antidote to the reality stars and influencers that strain themselves to exhaustion in their attempts to convince you that they’re ‘relatable’. Other A-listers concern themselves with showing their ‘true selves’ by way of earnest documentaries and lengthy Instagram captions, but not Fox — nothing could interest her less. Neither relatable nor aspirational, Fox’s fame is something else entirely.
So, I’m calling it: this year Fox gave us one of the most endearing performances of celebrity of our times, and I revelled in every second.
– Jackson Langford, Contributor
If I’m honest, Elizabeth Holmes has probably been my ‘Person’ for years. Like so many, I watched her story unfold in real-time with fascination and disgust. The Steve Jobs turtleneck thing; the green juice; the Yoda obsession; the voice — her legend is mind-boggling and captivating. No one girlbossed harder than Holmes, nor left such tragedy in her wake.
Of course, Holmes did not happen in a vacuum. She exemplifies that “lean in” mentality life coaches and startup founders have trafficked in for decades. Hustle culture dominated the 2000s and 2010s as fresh-faced Millennials were sold the myth that a steely-eyed commitment to “hard work” would grant us limitless opportunities. If we can dream it, we can do it – no matter our circumstances.
But things look very different in 2022. WeWorks have closed, tech bosses purporting the need for “extremely hardcore” workers are met with eyerolls and resignations, and the pandemic came with a searing reality check: we live in a culture rife with structural inequality, and no amount of ‘hustling’ was going to fix it.
It felt right that Elizabeth met her fate this year. Her era of decadence, ambition and optimism — one where work is destiny, business is salvation — is over. No one wants to move fast and break things anymore.
– Alice Griffin, Editor-in-Chief
Google Chatbot Guy
The Oxford Dictionary may have crowned ‘goblin mode’ its word of the year, but I think the term that truly encapsulates the chaos of 2022 is actually ‘artificial intelligence’.
From the image-generating software, Dali-AI — which stunned users by bringing about unseen vignettes with simple word prompts like ‘trail cam footage of James Corden eating teeth’ — to the arrival of the algorithm that judges with scientific accuracy whether Redditors are arseholes or not, we’ve all stood by, humbled, as A.I owned 2022.
So who could really blame Google Engineer Blake Lemoine for famously instigating mass panic at the company this year, after warning that an experimental computer chatbot had reached human levels of sentience?
The 41-year-old was responsible for testing Google’s conversational language chatbot, LaMDA (short for ‘Language Model for Dialogue Applications’). After months of long and personal conversations with the application, Lemonie declared LaMDA had not only become “self aware” but was also his very close friend.
When Google execs dismissed his claims, Lemoine went public, sharing the transcripts of his deep and meaningfuls with LaMDA in a desperate bid to warn the world. To be fair, it’s very convincing for a computer program; quoting the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant one moment, then begging not to be switched off the next.
But despite the leaps and bounds of A.I this year folks, computers aren’t about to complete a Skynet-esque coup d’état of human civilisation anytime soon. Experts ultimately found that LaMDA’s “sentience” was really just an illusion caused by a script that could quote huge databases of human conversations. Lemoine was later fired for insubordination. What a mess.
– Charles Rushforth, Staff Writer
The Trifecta (Olivia Wilde, Jason Sudeikis, and Harry Styles)
This year I rode the waves of heartache. I thought my pain was singular; that the depths of my feelings were irrevocably unique to me. That I was single-handedly the most heartbroken person to have ever lived, and for that I deserved a sponsorship deal with a tissue brand. The speed in which I was getting through those godforsaken boxes!
Then Olivia, Harr,y and Jason entered the chat — their unceremonious and very messy entanglement proof that, actually, things could always be worse. No one in my relationship got spat on. Nor did anyone get served divorce papers on stage. My ex didn’t lie under a car to stop me delivering a salad, either. Thank you, [REDACTED-EX].
As I head into summer with the recent flame of a situationship extinguished, I could be sad. I could choose to mope and play Lana Del Ray on repeat (‘Blue Jeans’, always). But I won’t. Instead, I raise a toast to the Don’t Worry Darling saga and the trio who showed the world — showed me — that it could be far, far worse.
– Issy Phillips, Executive Producer
Ke Huy Quan
When I watched Everything Everywhere All at Once, I knew it was destined for Oscars glory. I know, I know: it’s an easy claim to make after the fact. But behold: my notes app movie review — conveniently time-stamped too, you haters.
Before this film, I’d never experienced the burning need to record my post-credits feels like this. Everything Everywhere All at Once defined 2022 for me, that’s for sure, but which cast member takes home the title of my person of the year award? Michelle Yeoh was recently named Time’s 2022 Icon of the Year, as is her right. Stephanie Hsu was a goddamn star in her role as the formidable Jobu Tupaki — and her wardrobe design was S-tier perfection.
But Ke Huy Quan is my guy. And there are two big reasons why: his role in EEAAO as Waymond Wang, the purest man in the multiverse, and his IRL journey back to the big screen.
On the former: Waymond’s laundry line had me sobbing my sappy little heart out in the middle of the movie theatre. His determined pacifism in changing the tide of the final fight scene was perfectly absurd. The bum bag fight was straight up flawless. No notes.
The way I feel about Quan’s real-life journey back to Hollywood is more complicated. In 2022, he talked a lot about how he stepped away from acting gigs after Indiana Jones and The Goonies back in the ’80s; because, frankly, there were no roles for Asians. Then, after seeing box office hit Crazy Rich Asians (also starring Queen Michelle) in 2018, he realised there was hope after all.
Quan’s journey hurts. It’s a bitter reminder of those years in limbo that are all too familiar to minorities — the years before things actually started changing for the better. But then, once they do, it feels gauche or ungrateful to look back. ‘Things are better now, don’t dwell on the past!’ Well, that’s easier said than done.
Seeing the entire cast of EEAAO get its due this year was validating. A film so rich in its Asian immigrant experience, it’s a masterpiece. In 2022, Ke Huy Quan showed us how to make room for yourself, and never let anyone forget why you were gone.
– Lia Kim, Staff Writer & Producer
Hot Trans Non-Binary Folks
2022 was the year people realised just how hot trans non-binary people are and it’s about damn time. I couldn’t pick just one person, so please consider all of the following my 2022 icons:
The year began with Our Flag Means Death actor, Vico Ortiz, who had everyone swooning over their joyous TikToks. Whether they were sharing their illustrious dressing gowns; behind-the-scenes shenanigans with Taika Waititi; educating the masses on pronouns in Spanish; or starring in their breakout performance as the avenging genderfluid swashbuckler Jim in Our Flag Means Death, Ortiz is sunshine personified and unbelievably hot.
In April, Dirty Computer icon Janelle Monae confirmed they are non-binary, using they and she pronouns. Her new anthology of weird wonderful short stories, The Memory Librarian And Other Stories From Dirty Computer is a funky celebration of gender diversity, social rebellion and Monae’s ardent love of science fiction.
Elliot Page had an awe-inspiring 2022. Page walked the Met Gala’s red carpet for the first time since coming out, rocking a suave suit featuring a green rose — a historical covert symbol for the LGBTIQ+ community — pinned to his chest. Page also returned to The Umbrella Academy as Viktor Hargreeves in one of the most bonkers, casual trans stories on Netflix in years.
Ahead of their iconic Holy Fvck pop-punk record, Demi Lovato also updated their pronouns back in August, explaining she uses both “they” and “she” pronouns. The album featured ‘eat me’, a verifiable enby bop with a chorus that inspired a TikTok trend in which many hot trans and non-binary babes shared their glow-ups.
And finally: Emma D’arcy. The House of the Dragon star was named GQ’s Man of the Year after their stunning performance as Princess Rhaenyra. D’arcy was also singlehandedly responsible for gay people everywhere ordering a negroni sbagliato after a TikTok of them seductively sharing that the cocktail was their favourite went viral.
As someone who came out as non-binary this year, it was a joy to live through 2022 and experience the epic highs of a community that is becoming more recognised and represented for the joy, talent and chaos we can bring to the world.
– Merryana Salem, Staff Writer
The 2022 celebrity zeitgeist doesn’t get much more zeitgeist-y than Pete Davidson. The Saturday Night Live alum began the year dating arguably the hottest woman on earth. He ended the year also dating arguably the hottest woman on earth.
First up was Davidson and Kim Kardashian’s love story, an unexpected but interesting rebound for the reality star after her tricky separation from Kanye West. Instagram and very small snippets on Kim’s show, The Kardashians, painted their relationship as something fun, cute and carefree… but then came several tattoos and a permanent branding dedicated to Kim (one even to her offspring). Choices were made!
Kim and Pete eventually called it quits in September. In the months since, Kim hasn’t been spotted with anyone new. Pete, however, has been linked to model and author, Emily Ratajkowski. How does he do it?!
Kim and Emily follow a long list of former Davidson lovers, including Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale, Kaia Gerber, and Bridgerton’s Phoebe Dynevor. Whether it’s his BDE, sense of humour, large set of chompers, or looming height — the allure of this man continues.
– Tara Watson, Editor of Punkee