If we buried a time capsule to explain American pop culture in 2015, what would we include? Which events, releases, trends, and conversations best explain 2015 — and which will we look back at and wonder what the hell we were thinking? Full story: http://bit.ly/1mkWW19
  1. "The Dress" hits the Internet, confuses the Internet, breaks the Internet, etc
    "The Dress" was a phenomenon that swept the internet for just one day: February 26, 2015. After a Tumblr user named "swiked" posted a picture of a dress and asked people to identify its color scheme, everyone who saw it became immediately and passionately embroiled in a debate that briefly tore friends, family, celebrities, and co-workers apart. Either you saw a black-and-blue dress, a gold-and-white dress, or a useless exercise that represented all the worst the internet has to offer.
  2. Equal pay in Hollywood gets louder voices
    Patricia Arquette bluntly demanded for equal pay during her Oscar acceptance speech. Charlize Theron used information the 2014 Sony leaks to negotiate her pay up to the level of her male Snow White and the Huntsman co-star — to the tune of an extra $10 million. Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay for Lena Dunham's Lenny newsletter in which she admitted that she hadn't been as aggressive in pay negotiations for fear of being labeled difficult — and that she was finally ready to fight back.
  3. Marvel gets even more ambitious, continues to dominate
    Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to Marvel's blockbuster The Avengers, was supposed to be the biggest news for the company this year. And while the movie did very well, it didn't quite live up to the standards set by its predecessor —both earnings-wise and critically. Where Marvel exceeded expectations was in the unexpected delight and ingenuity of Ant-Man, the set-up for Captain America: Civil War, its upcoming projects like Dr. Strange and Black Panther, and of course, its comic books.
  4. #blacklivesmatter enters pop culture parlance
    As Flavorwire's Pilot Viruet pointed out, shows that routinely rip fictional stories from real headlines, like Law and Order: SVU and The Good Wife, tried to offer their own perspectives on police brutality and the nationwide protests against it. As more diverse stories get told on television, and more attention is brought to these issues, more shows will try to capture the tension and unease of a country reckoning with its fraught history — to varying degrees of success.
  5. "Diversity in TV" reemerges as a popular discussion/catchphrase
    This year saw a prominent burst of minority-driven shows that loudly told their stories, including Fresh Off The Boat, Black-ish (which launched in 2014), Master of None, Jane the Virgin (2014), Dr. Ken, The Carmichael Show, Empire, and the continued dominance of ABC's Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. All these shows performed above industry expectations, which is to say that all these shows proved that people do, in fact, care about and crave stories starring more diverse casts.
  6. Caitlyn Jenner comes out on the cover of Vanity Fair
    Caitlyn Jenner came out on the cover of Vanity Fair's June issue, and the issue made for the perfect convergence of pop culture, social justice, and civil rights. Parents and grandparents knew Jenner as a gold-medal-winning Olympian, while a younger generation knew her as the patriarch of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. And in her coming out, Jenner brought already burbling conversations about transgender people into the spotlight.
  7. "Deflategate"
    The accusation: before the AFC championship between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots' locker room attendant Jim McNally may have released air from a set of game balls, which would make them easier for quarterback Tom Brady to throw. Brady was subsequently suspended from four games for likely knowledge of the incident, and the Patriots lost two draft picks and a cool million dollars in fines.
  8. "Netflix and Chill"
    While the term Netflix and Chill had its brief moment in the spotlight, people have been Netflixing and Chilling for years. But the phrase perfectly encapsulated the idea of arranging an assignation in this day and age of cord-cutting. Like a lot of popular slang, the term originated on Black Twitter, and found its way to the mainstream before flaming out. But Netflix and Chill will live forever in our hearts.
  9. Minions
    What else is there to say about the Minions, the squeaky, surprisingly filthy Despicable Me sidekicks who launched their own cartoon empire when their standalone Minions movie made over a billion dollars worldwide by August? No, really, we're asking. We have nothing else to say.
  10. Late-night television becomes a revolving door
    Larry Wilmore constructed The Nightly Show in place of The Colbert Report. David Letterman retired from The Late Show, and Colbert took his place. Jon Stewart stepped down from The Daily Show, and Trevor Noah took his place. Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show ended in 2014, and James Corden's Late Late Show went up in its place. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver became even more of a mainstay, and Jimmy Fallon's lip sync battles kept celebrities busy with audience-pleasing throwback tunes.
  11. Amy Schumer is everywhere, all the time, always
    As much as Inside Amy Schumer had already been impressing Comedy Central nerds, 2015 was the year when the show and its star broke out in a huge way. And she was just getting started. Trainwreck, the movie she wrote and starred in, debuted in theaters in July and went on to gross over $110 million. She had a stand-up special on HBO. She turned down an offer to become The Daily Show's new host. And she became best friends with fellow unapologetic blonde Jennifer Lawrence.
  12. Rape accusations against Bill Cosby go from an open industry secret to an unavoidable roar
    It's been over 50 years since the first woman was allegedly assaulted by Bill Cosby, and yet it took Hannibal Burress's standup act in October 2014 to kickstart a public outcry that led to what seems like the comedian's final fall from cultural grace. Accusations against Cosby flooded the public discourse throughout 2015. On Dec. 30, Cosby was charged for an alleged sexual assault that took place in 2004. A judge set his bail at $1 million, which Cosby immediately paid up to avoid jail time.
  13. Adele returns with a new album and promptly takes over
    After four years off the radar, the power of Adele was once again unleashed upon the populace in 2015, as her new album, 25, went about smashing records and racking up sales like no album has in years. Optimistic projections hoped she would sell 2.5 million in her first week; she sold 3.4 million. She's got new records, a sold-out tour coming up, and Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence on speed dial. The lady's got 2015 wrapped around her finger, and 2016 isn't far behind.
  14. Star Wars: The Force Awakens slides in as the year's biggest movie, right before the buzzer
    After years of whispers, set photos, and trailer teases, J.J. Abrams's take on the storied franchise hit theaters on Dec. 18 and immediately become a phenomenon — though actually, over $100 million in advance ticket sales meant it broke records before it premiered. With fresh faces like Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Lupita Nyong'o inspiring a new generation of Star Wars fans, The Force Awakens has already grossed $1 billion in ticket sales.