Year in Review

The worst entertainment stories of 2015, according to Scrooge

From Taylor Swift's #SQUADGOALS to Left Shark, if the pop-culture talking points of 2015 make you shout bah humbug, you're not alone. We asked nine Canadian Scrooges, actors in stage productions of A Christmas Carol, to tell us which headlines would make the real Ebenezer the crankiest. These are the 2015 trends that humbug them the most.

Nine Scrooges agree, these were the worst pop-culture trends of 2015.

Nine Scrooges agree, old Ebenezer could give a figgy pudding about Hollywood. CBC Arts reached out to actors playing Scrooge in A Christmas Carol productions around the country. Giving them a long list of the most talked-about entertainment stories of 2015, they told us which headlines would make Scrooge shout "Bah humbug!" (CBC Arts)

They're the stories and trends and memes that you couldn't avoid in 2015, and they're being shoved in your face and your feeds yet again as every media outlet cranks out the expected pile of year-in-review stories. Enough with the listicles! Bah humbug!

That's why CBC Arts enlisted the holiday season's O.G. grouch. Not Grumpy Cat. That little dude is so 2013. We're talking about Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserly star of A Christmas Carol.

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?- Scrooge (Stephen Hair, Theatre Calgary) on what to do with Justin Bieber

Stage productions of the classic story are as much a holiday tradition as pop-culture recaps, so CBC Arts reached out to actors playing Scrooge around the country, acting as a sort of Ghost of Christmas Past that comes bearing a Google questionnaire.  

"This Scrooge says 'Bah!' to almost all these things as they are basically irrelevant." Tom McBeath as Scrooge in The Belfry Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. The show runs in Victoria to Dec. 20. (Supplied)

Nine Scrooges were game: Paul Griggs (Pacific Theatre, Vancouver), Tom McBeath (Belfry Theatre, Victoria), James MacDonald (Citadel Theatre, Edmonton), Stephen Hair (Theatre Calgary), Kristian Truelsen (Sudbury Theatre), John D. Huston (National Arts Centre, Ottawa), Rhys Bevan-John (Neptune Theatre, Halifax), Oliver Dennis and Joseph Ziegler (Soulpepper Theatre, Toronto).

Provided with a list of the year's most talked about pop-culture topics — everything from Mad Max and the Mad Men finale, "Hotline Bling" and Justin Bieber and Star Wars — the team was asked to choose the entertainment headlines that would make Scrooge shout "Bah humbug!"

We've tallied the results, and nine Scrooges agree: the old coot couldn't give a figgy pudding for Hollywood.

"He did not know what a selfie was (Selfridges wouldn't be open for another 60 years), a war hadn't broken out between the stars (that he knew of anyway)," says Vancouver Scrooge Paul Griggs. "Scrooge cared about one thing and one thing only. Money."

So…what 2015 trends humbug him the most? 

Oxford's word of 2015 is the "face with tears of joy" emoji." Bah humbug!

It's the unpronounceable symbol that was named the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year, and seven Scrooges agree: Bah humbug to the "face with tears of joy" emoji. Well, technically six Scrooges. The seventh, The Citadel's James MacDonald, had a few choice symbols of his own to share. Namely, "#@!&#%"

"I don't care what they call it. It's a hieroglyphic. I suppose we'll be living in pyramids next," groused the National Arts Centre's Scrooge, John D. Huston.

Kristian Truelsen, who plays ol' Ebenezer for Sudbury Theatre Centre adds: "Scrooge would be annoyed with things that interfere with his business. Getting mail with emojis, for instance."

The rise of Taylor Swift's #SQUAD. Bah humbug!

Of all Taylor Swift's achievements — the Grammy wins, the No. 1 hits, the ticket sales — her biggest contribution in 2015 might just be #SQUADGOALS, a term just as worthy of Oxford inclusion as the "tears of joy" emoji, and one spawned by her mission to befriend every dazzlingly famous woman on the planet.

Selena Gomez, Karlie Kloss, Lena Dunham, Gigi Hadid, Cara Delvigne: they're all ride-or-die members of the squad, or maybe "bake cookies or die" would be the more appropriate phrase, since that's one of their preferred group activities. That's the Squad in her "Bad Blood" video. And on social media, Instagramespecially, they're getting millions of likes for showing the world how fabulous being Swift's pal can be — whether that means walking the red carpet as a glamazon girl gang, or holidaying in Hawaii or hyping her on tour. And on that point, five Scrooges agree: Bah humbug!

"God bless us, every one." Even the celebs on this list. Stephen Hair (right) plays Scrooge in Theatre Calgary's production of A Christmas Carol to Dec. 24. (Trudie Lee/Theatre Calgary)

As for why these haters gonna hate (hate, hate, hate, hate), Swift's been shaking off criticism all year. The intended message might be up with friendship and female solidarity, but there's a thin line between a squad and a you-can't-sit-with-us clique. And as feminist scholar Camille Paglia recently wrote in the Hollywood Reporter, the squad would be better at advancing women if they "avoid presenting a silly, regressive public image — as in the tittering, tongues-out mugging of Swift's bear-hugging posse."

Per Sudbury Theatre Scrooge, Kristian Truelsen: "Ebenezer has no time for the frivolous or the self-indulgent." That said, there's at least one Scrooge who might take back his "Bah humbug!" if Swift wanted to be besties. Says Tom McBeath from Victoria's Belfry Theatre: "Scrooge says Bah to almost all these things. … However, if this Scrooge could get work in any of the pop culture veins out there, he would certainly jump on the bandwagon."

19 Kids and Counting spawns scandal. Bah humbug!

Plagued by about as many scandals as there are Duggars, 19 Kids and Counting provided some of the ugliest TV headlines of 2015, and it was enough to make three Scrooges cry "Bah humbug!"

"Two words: surplus population," quips NAC Scrooge John D. Huston. "Even the Cratchits stopped at 6."

The long-running reality show was TLC's most-watched show, and the network applied the Duggar family's "go forth and multiply" philosophy to producing spin-off specials. This despite troubling details that took 19 Kids and Counting off the air this summer. In the spring, a police report revealed that 27-year-old Josh Duggar molested five girls as a teenager, four of them his sisters. The Ashley Madison hack led to further revelations, as Josh confessed to a porn addiction and extra-marital affairs. 

The year in Justin Bieber. Bah humbug!

His reputation's still not as smooth as his (selfied) behind, but despite nude photo scandals and a few bratty onstage outbursts, 2015 was a good year to be Justin Bieber. Most of that has to do with the music. The pop star's latest album, Purpose, was his sixth No. 1, one that produced three simultaneous Top 5 hits, a feat only accomplished by The Beatles and 50 Cent. 

Unusually for a Bieber record, Purpose has also enjoyed critical acclaim, and outlets including CBC News have ruminated on how its tropical house sound have opened up a new fanbase: adult males.

The appeal, however, is lost on Scrooge, and at least one thinks Biebz should get out of the game. Says Theatre Calgary Scrooge Stephen Hair: ""Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Left Shark fail FTW. Bah humbug!

In 2015, one of Katy Perry's back-up dancers forgot his moves as the Super Bowl audience laughed — then made him a meme — then laughed some more. Asks NAC Scrooge John D. Huston: "In my day do you know what we did with nincompoops who failed at the simplest of tasks while being watched by millions of people? Bah humbug!"

'90s TV hits return. Bah humbug!

Want to relive the TGIF sitcom era? You got it dude! In 2015, the world spazzed over news that some of the biggest series of the '90s would soon return to TV. Full House, The X Files, Twin Peaks: they're all being rebooted. Two Scrooges couldn't give a Christmas Goose about it. Per Oliver Dennis, from Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre: "Scrooge doesn't pay attention to pop culture. Pop culture? Bah! Humbug!"

Kim Kardashian's selfie book. Bah humbug!

According to reports in August, Kim Kardashian's Selfish, a photo book of selfies, sold only 32,000 copies. 

"Scrooge doesn't pay any attention to pop culture. Pop culture? Bah! Humbug!" Oliver Dennis is Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre. The show runs to Jan. 3. (Soulpepper Theatre)

Considering 54.6 million followers giddily consume the exact same content on Kardashian's Instagram, one can only imagine the sales were disappointing to publishers. 

The NAC's Scrooge, experienced a different sort of remorse when he purchased the collection, "expecting a tribute to my favourite emotion: Selfishness."

"Instead, it's a series of portraits of a youngish woman who's not even a member of the royal family. And this Kardashian chap is, I'm told, a millionaire? In my day we made our money through good honest child labour."

Looking for Scrooge this season?

A Christmas Carol. Featuring Tom McBeath. To Dec. 20. Belfry Theatre, Victoria.

A Christmas Carol: On the Air. Featuring Paul Griggs. To Jan. 2. Pacific Theatre, Vancouver.

A Christmas Carol. Featuring James MacDonald. To Dec. 23. Citadel Theatre, Edmonton.

A Christmas Carol. Featuring Stephen Hair. To Dec. 24. Theatre Calgary, Calgary.

A Christmas Carol. Featuring Kristian Truelsen. To Dec. 19. Sudbury Theatre, Sudbury.

A Christmas Carol. Featuring Oliver Dennis and Joseph Ziegler. To Jan. 3. Soulpepper Theatre, Toronto.

A Christmas Carol. Featuring John D. Huston. Dec. 18 - Dec. 21. National Arts Centre, Ottawa.

Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Featuring Rhys Bevan-John. To Dec. 26. Neptune Theatre, Halifax.


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