By Joceylyn Noveck
Marilyn Monroe. The Rolling Stones. And Bond - James Bond. What do they have in common?
Sure, one's long gone, and one's fictional. But all three marked a golden anniversary in 2012. And after a half-century in our pop-culture consciousness, they each displayed a surprisingly enduring appeal.
So even though, as a culture, we still worshiped at the fountain of youth this year, marveling at the precocious talents of a Lena Dunham, a Taylor Swift, a Jennifer Lawrence, let's also give a shoutout to some of our most enduring icons. Turns out some things never go out of style.
JANUARY: Here begins the incredible ascension of Lena Dunham, as HBO picks up the actress-director-writer's "Girls," a meditation on the awkwardness of being female and 20-ish in New York. By year's end Dunham, at 26, will have gathered so much buzz, she'll be on her way to becoming what her character, Hannah Horvath, can only dream of being: "The voice of my generation. Or at least, A voice. Of A generation."
FEBRUARY: Let's hear it for the adults! Meryl Streep, 62, wins her third Oscar for "The Iron Lady." It's her 17th nomination, a record. The best supporting actor, Christopher Plummer, is 82, and the best picture, "The Artist," is a throwback to silent films. Meanwhile, all hail Madonna - at 54, not only does she score at the Super Bowl with her halftime show, but by year's end, her MDNA global tour will be the highest grossing of any in 2012.
MARCH: Enter springtime, and youth again: Billboard's top moneymaker for 2011 is Taylor Swift, less than half Madonna's age. In 2012, Swift will have the biggest sales week for any album in a decade, for "Red." She also writes for the soundtrack of one of the year's hottest movies, "The Hunger Games." Speaking of which, Jennifer Lawrence, 22, becomes a breakout star this year, rocketing to fame as Katniss Everdeen in the first installment of the Suzanne Collins trilogy.
APRIL: In technology news, Facebook buys Instagram for a cool $1 billion, banking on people's insatiable desire to share photos of their most mundane moments.
MAY: The weather's getting warm, and certain phrases are fast becoming ingrained into our consciousness. One of them is "Call Me Maybe," Carly Rae Jepsen's dangerously catchy tune hits No. 1 on iTunes. Another is "Fifty Shades of Grey." The so-called "Mommy Porn" trilogy - the publishing sensation of the year - is banned by some public libraries due to its steamy content.
JUNE: "Call Me Maybe" hits No. 1 on the Billboard chart. But let's dedicate the month to Nora Ephron, the author, filmmaker and essayist whose searing wit put her in a class of her own. Her death at age 71 brings a flood of tributes.
JULY: Who'd have thought the cheesy words "Hey, Sexy Lady" would go so far? South Korean singer PSY's video of his song "Gangnam Style," emerges this month and the rest is history - it will become the most watched YouTube clip of all time.
AUGUST: Fifty years ago this month, Marilyn Monroe died, and look how a '50s icon has become a 21st century phenom. Her platinum locks, slightly parted ruby lips and curvy, clinging styles are copied by actresses and singers from Madonna to Taylor Swift to Lindsay Lohan to Rihanna. And there are a slew of Marilyn-themed enterprises on the horizon. Meanwhile, crusty Clint Eastwood, 82, makes our night at the GOP convention with his infamous "empty chair" chat with President Obama. It becomes one of the enduring moments of the campaign, if also the most puzzling.
SEPTEMBER: The most uninhibited person on the planet is now officially Dunham, who gets naked at the Emmys - she sits naked on a toilet and eats a birthday cake, to be precise, in an opening skit. At the MTV Video Music Awards, the boy band One Direction makes its mark as a new teen-girl obsession.
OCTOBER: Surprise, Dunham's in the news again - and let no one doubt the value of pop-culture prominence, however ephemeral: Her new book deal with Random House is reportedly worth more than $3.5 million.
NOVEMBER: Bond. James Bond. Embodied by the tough and chiseled Daniel Craig, the world's most famous British spy is in better shape than ever as the franchise marks its 50th anniversary with "Skyfall," regarded by many as one of the best Bond films. Another iconic image doesn't fare so well: Lohan's turn as Liz Taylor in a new TV film is pilloried. Sometimes the original just shouldn't be touched. And we must mention the oldest pop-culture hero of the year: Abraham Lincoln is back, courtesy of Steven Spielberg's movie and a typically mesmerizing performance by Daniel Day-Lewis
DECEMBER: Let's give a shoutout to the Rolling Stones, whose average age is 68-plus, slightly older than the average Supreme Court justice. In five concerts marking their 50th year as a rock band, the grizzled foursome shows the world they still have the power to rock huge arenas (at huge prices), and upstage celebrity guests like Lady Gaga with their own charisma. Along with aging rockers Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and the Who, they dominate a televised benefit for storm victims. As for Mick Jagger, who at 69 hasn't lost any of those "moves like Jagger," we can only say, to paraphrase the famous movie line: "We'll have what he's having."