It’s fair to say that the news cycle has been pretty bleak over the last couple of years. In fact, even our usual escapism of pop culture has been more draining than uplifting thanks to grave stories, including the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial and Kanye West’s antisemitic comments.
But amid all of the seriousness and misery, 2022 has actually provided us with some absolute gems of celebrity drama that is reminiscent of yesteryear — before our stars became more PR-trained and social media savvy, and when petty feuds and cringe exposés were all the rage.
After all, for every “Will Smith slapped Chris Rock” 2022 headline there was a “Harry Styles spat on Chris Pine,” and the latter is just so much more palatable for gossip enthusiasts because it’s all of the fun of famous faces misbehaving without anybody getting hurt — physically or otherwise.
So, as the year comes to an end, I thought that it was about time we looked back on some of the ultimately harmless but endlessly entertaining stories that celebrities have gifted us this year.
Buckle up for a very petty and seriously awkward walk down memory lane…
Let’s just get the elephant in the room out of the way and say once and for all that the Don’t Worry Darling saga was one of the best celebrity dramas that we have ever seen.
Whispers of a messy feud between the movie’s director, Olivia Wilde, and lead actor, Florence Pugh, first began to swirl last year, but it didn’t reach boiling point until August.
This is when Florence and Olivia’s ~creative differences~ started to become really apparent as they consistently gave interviews that contradicted one another.
While Olivia repeatedly praised the movie’s sex scenes, which culminated in her excitedly declaring to Variety: “Men don’t come in this movie!” Florence spoke out against the hypersexualized way that the film was being marketed.
Olivia also regularly discussed her decision to fire Florence’s original costar, Shia LaBeouf, because he was apparently making Florence uncomfortable and she has a strict “no-assholes policy” on her sets.
But shortly before Don’t Worry Darling’s Venice Film Festival premiere, Shia shared messages and emails from Olivia that appeared to prove that he’d quit the film of his own accord — and that Olivia had actually begged him to change his mind.
In a video that later leaked online, Olivia can be seen patronizingly referring to Florence as “Miss Flo” as she tries to convince Shia to rejoin the project.
During a press conference at the film festival soon after, Olivia awkwardly insisted that Florence was unable to make it due to other work commitments. Florence immediately rebuffed this claim by showing up in Venice with an Aperol Spritz in hand while the press conference was still going on.
For that extra bit of pizzazz, Florence’s glam team were spotted wearing T-shirts with “Miss Flo” emblazoned across them in deleted social media posts, and her stylist also referenced Olivia’s sassy comment in an Instagram caption.
Things only got more awkward when the premiere began later that evening, with Florence’s costars — Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, and Nick Kroll — acting as human buffers between the two women, who would not stand near or speak to one another throughout the entire evening.
And just when you thought that things couldn’t get any more weird and intense, Don’t Worry Darling’s leading man, Harry Styles, was accused of literally spitting on Chris after a strange video of them at the premiere circulated online.
For a glorious couple of days in September, the internet was alight with people very seriously trying to decipher what on earth had happened in the video as it was analyzed frame by frame. Ultimately, Harry joked about the incident at his next concert, and Chris’s rep vehemently denied that any spit had been sent his way.
As the old saying goes, all’s well that ends well... But I personally can’t wait for a movie to be made about the circus that surrounded Don’t Worry Darling’s rollout at some point in the not-so-distant future.
And Harry wasn’t the only One Direction alum to be making headlines with bizarre behavior this year, with Liam Payne going viral not once but twice over the last 12 months.
The first time was thanks to his confusing accent at an Oscars after-party in March. The next was when he laid into his former bandmates during a May appearance on Logan Paul’s podcast, where he appeared to forget every bit of media training that he had ever been taught.
At the time, Liam recalled throwing an unnamed bandmate up against a wall, and claimed that he warned them: “If you don’t remove those hands, there’s a high likelihood you’ll never use them again,” prompting a mass outpouring of secondhand embarrassment.
Liam also said of “rowdy” Louis Tomlinson: “In the band, we hated each other. Like, come to blows hate each other, it was close.” And he went on to add that to this day he dislikes Zayn Malik “for many reasons” before taking aim at the singer’s family.
Finally, Liam was widely mocked when he claimed that One Direction was formed around him being the lead singer and insisted that he’d been the most successful solo artist from the band — despite official sales and chart rankings telling a wildly different story.
After Liam’s bombshell comments, people waited with bated breath to see how everyone involved would react, and Zayn appeared to respond in the pettiest way possible.
The star — who rarely uses social media and never acknowledges his time in One Direction — retaliated by uploading an 8-second Instagram video of himself belting out what used to be his high note in the group’s hit single “You and I,” something that Liam had taken over once Zayn left the band.
Many fans interpreted this as Zayn’s way of putting Liam in his place following the podcast comments and were left wheezing when they spotted that Louis had liked the post.
As if that wasn’t enough, footage was shared just two months later that seemingly confirmed that One Direction was built around Niall Horan, not Liam. Ouch.
Instagram being used as a tool in petty feuds really ramped up a gear in 2022, probably thanks to the level of deniability that it offers when followers pick up on a subtle undertone in a post.
Victoria Beckham is arguably the star who utilized her social media page the most this year amid her rumored falling-out with her now-daughter-in-law, Nicola Peltz Beckham.
In fact, Posh Spice is a shining example of the power of leaving things unspoken, and her and Nicola’s social media activity has always been used as a barometer of how well the two women get along.
When Nicola first started dating Victoria and David Beckham’s oldest child, Brooklyn Peltz Beckham, in 2019, she was immediately welcomed into the family with open arms and the Instagram posts to prove it became incessant.
But these fizzled out completely by the time it came for Nicola to walk down the aisle in April, with Victoria and her family all-but-ignoring their future in-law in the months that preceded the wedding.
Although on the surface Victoria and Nicola have maintained levels of celebrity professionalism that some other stars have lacked this year, their online activity has left little doubt over the tension in their relationship.
For example, straight after the wedding Brooklyn and Nicola took on the joint last name of “Peltz Beckham” — something that his mom refused to acknowledge as she repeatedly referred to the newlyweds as “Mr and Mrs Beckham.”
Nicola was equally petty and didn’t share a single wedding photo of Brooklyn’s relatives on Instagram. She even excluded them from a nine-picture carousel that she posted alongside the caption “family is everything to me 🤍🤍🤍.”
More recently, Victoria expertly managed to only share photos of Brooklyn to her Instagram Story after he and Nicola landed a joint photo shoot with Vogue.
Nicola has repeatedly insisted that she and her mother-in-law get along just fine, but Victoria has yet to comment on the constant speculation — seemingly letting Instagram do the talking instead.
But of course, not all celebrity drama comes in the form of a feud, and there have been plenty of other examples this year.
I mean, remember when Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney committed a major faux pas when she failed to vet the photos from her mom’s 60th birthday party before they were uploaded to Instagram?
Sydney received huge backlash when the apparent MAGA-themed bash was exposed as followers spotted guests wearing the telltale red caps as well as what appeared to be a Blue Lives Matter shirt.
And Sydney’s seriously blasé response only added fuel to the fire, with the star nonchalantly tweeting at the time: “You guys this is wild. An innocent celebration for my moms milestone 60th birthday has turned into an absurd political statement, which was not the intention. Please stop making assumptions. Much love to everyone and Happy Birthday Mom!"
Where’s a publicist when you need one?
Speaking of, a certain Ms. Kimberly Noel Kardashian can probably relate all too well to a backlash response getting, well, more backlash, as she found herself at the center of more than her fair share of drama throughout the year.
Perhaps the most groan-inducing incident was when she basically attacked women everywhere for not wanting to get their “fucking ass up and work.” Kim reiterated at the time, “It seems like nobody wants to work these days,” after she was asked to give advice to women in business back in February.
Her stern comments caused an immediate Twitter storm, with Kim under fire as she was accused of being out of touch with reality and not checking her own privilege.
Kim’s reaction to the frenzy aired in an episode of The Kardashians in October, and people were even more stunned to see PR darling Kim double down on her comments, rather than apologizing.
“Yeah, we grew up privileged, but people don’t know the story of your dad and mom having to sell their house in Hidden Hills because they couldn’t afford it and they had to move to an apartment,” she insisted at the time, which is a claim that is directly contradicted in her mom Kris Jenner’s own memoir.
In addition to feuds and slipups, we were also treated to a good old-fashioned sexting scandal this year, with Adam Levine being exposed in some toe-curlingly cringe leaked DMs.
“Holy fuck. Holy fucking fuck,” some of the messages to an Instagram model read. “That body of yours is absurd.”
“I may need to see the booty,” another said. “Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk.”
And if those messages weren’t enough to put Adam in celebrity jail, the fact that he has been married to model Behati Prinsloo since 2014 certainly is.
In a statement that thankfully didn’t use the words “absurd” or “booty” once, the Maroon 5 lead singer insisted that he didn’t have an affair but admitted that he had “crossed the line.”
“I used poor judgment in speaking with anyone other than my wife in ANY kind of flirtatious manner,” he confessed.
And I have to admit that sliding into the DMs of another woman from your verified social media account as a famous married man probably wouldn’t be the smartest move for anyone to make.
Finally, what is celebrity drama without one of the biggest stars of late-night entertainment being called “a tiny cretin of a man” by a fed-up restaurateur?
James Corden was brutally called out on Instagram by Keith McNally, the entrepreneur behind A-list New York hot spot Balthazar, for apparently verbally abusing the staff over a stray hair.
In the messy exposé, Keith said that James was “extremely nasty” to his servers as he quoted manager’s reports that detailed two incidents with the British comic.
In one instance, James allegedly threatened to leave the restaurant a negative Yelp review if his party weren’t provided with a free round of drinks after he found a hair in his food.
Keith’s post served as a catalyst for people to recirculate past allegations about James’s behavior on social media, and others leaped at the opportunity to make their own claims against him.
In a response that would make any publicist wail in exasperation, James dismissed the situation as “beneath” him during an interview with the New York Times, but later backpedaled during his opening monologue on The Late Late Show.
Here, James finally admitted to making a “sarcastic, rude comment” to the server and said that he would apologize to the staff in person next time he is in New York City.
But the star’s woes didn’t end there, and shortly afterward James was seemingly stitched up by his Late Late Show writer’s room when they gave him an opening monologue that regurgitated a gag from Ricky Gervais’s 2018 stand-up show almost word for word.
Ricky himself roasted James for the gaffe, was caught liking a series of shady tweets that referenced the Balthazar drama, and suggested that James’s writers had set him up on purpose.
Lesson learned? Never cross the people whose job it is to make you look good on live TV.
Actually, please do — because that’s exactly the kind of thing that provides the rest of us mere mortals with endless entertainment.
So, to the celebrities who spent 2022 getting exposed, being shady, or just generally giving their PR teams stress-induced headaches, we thank you for your service.
Please keep it up in 2023.