18 Pop Culture Lessons From Summer 2014, From "Good" Feminism to Elevator Madness

If you're having trouble believing that September starts next week, you're not alone; ever since Fourth of July, this summer's sped by at warp speed. Outdoor barbecues, bathing suit tan lines, a reasonable "excuse" to leave work at noon on Fridays — it's all fading away, faster than anyone could've wanted or imagined.

That's no excuse to mope around for the next few days, however; take those final, precious moments to look back at the movies, TV shows, events and more that made summer 2014 so special — and revisit the (spoiler-ridden!) lessons they taught us along the way.

Superstars Come From the Unlikeliest of Places

Who would’ve thought that the biggest new superstar in America was a chubby jokester from Parks & Rec? Chris Pratt’s transformation from sitcom sidekick to action hero was the summer’s best surprise — although true fans will forever say that they loved him even when he was just Andy Dwyer, the silliest, sweetest shoe-shiner in Pawnee.

Image: Marvel Studios

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

Tyrion’s decision to murder his father in Game of Thrones ’ season 4 finale may not have been planned, but the seeds for it had been planted long before he walked into that bedroom. It was a momentous moment for Tyrion — and, thanks to Peter Dinklage’s incredible acting, an unforgettable one for viewers.

Image: HBO

Nothing Gets Audiences Going Like Teenage Death

I mean, seriously, it’s not normal how fast The Fault in Our Stars’ tickets sold out. Or how The Giver’s promotion was everywhere. Or how If I Stay’s plotline — girl decides whether to live or die — seemed to actually entice people to come see it opening weekend. Apparently, the key to audiences’ hearts is to show them a movie filled death and young people, preferably combined.

Image: 20th Century Fox

Justin Theroux is America's Hidden Treasure

Until this summer, Theroux was known merely as Jennifer Aniston’s fiance. Then came The Leftovers, and everything changed; suddenly, the actor was everywhere, appearing on our TV screens, writing our favorite movies, and showing off his, uh, personality in paparazzi photos. Not that anyone complained, of course.

Image: HBO

Feminism Isn't a Dirty Word

This lesson wasn’t something learned overnight; in fact, it’ll likely still be years before everyone realizes that “feminist” isn’t an accusation. Yet between Taylor Swift’s change of heart and Beyonce’s VMA performance, more and more people are finally understanding that feminism is something to be embraced, not hated.

Superstars are Human, Too

And speaking of Beyonce… nothing shows the dark side of American pop culture as much as the speculation that arises when a superstar’s marriage seems to be falling apart. Did Jay Z cheat? Does Beyonce hate motherhood? Is Blue Ivy really screwed up for life? Whatever the truth is, this summer’s events gossip headlines covered it all — and showed that we all could use a big reminder that superstars are real human beings, too. Let’s all lay off the Knowles-Carter family, okay?

Image: Getty Images

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Sometimes the Best Results Take the Most Time

It took Richard Linklater 12 years to make Boyhood , but only 164 minutes for the world to fall in love with his unforgettable world. Through the child/pre-teen/young adult eyes of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), viewers were treated to the most moving, original coming-of-age story of the year.

Image: IFC Films

Never, Ever Take PR Lessons From Robin Thicke

It’s not like the “Blurred Lines” singer was doing so hot before this summer, but the double whammy of a cringeworthy, creepy album and an epic fail of a Twitter hashtag ruined whatever little cred Thicke had left.

Cliffhangers are Great — But Satisfaction Is Better

Tell me you didn’t stand up and cheer when Rosa drove away from Litchfield during Orange is the New Black ’s June finale. The scene was one of the season’s, and series’, most satisfying, and when Rosa hit Vee on the way out? Just icing on the cake of the already-perfect season ender.

Image: Netflix

There is Still No Success Story Better than Melissa McCarthy's

So what if Tammy wasn’t great? McCarthy is still a national treasure, and this summer showed her remarkable staying power; her movie was a hit, her production company took off, and the trailers for her next film looked fantastic. And to top it all off? In July, the Mike & Molly star received her fourth Emmy nomination, just a few months after her show was renewed for its fifth season.

Image: New Line

Sorry, HBO: Summer's Real Winners are Network-Made Sitcoms

HBO and Netflix may get all the hype, but when it comes to happy casts, it’s network TV who’s coming out ahead. Between Modern Family ’s Emmy win and The Big Bang Theory ’s huge salary bump for its cast, starring on a PG-rated, ensemble-led sitcom has never been better.

Image: CBS

Shit Go Down When There's a Billion Dollars on an Elevator

Well said, Beyonce. Well said.

Image: Getty Images

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The Truth Isn't Always What It Seems

But it does make for one good read — and, hopefully, an even better movie.

Humans Use More than 10% Of Their Brains

Of all the things about Lucy that made no sense — and oh, there were many — the oft-repeated declaration that humans use only 10% of their brains was the most irritating, not to mention totally false. For the last time, pop culture: the “10%” thing is a myth. The only exception: people who actually bought a ticket to Lucy.

Image: Universal

There's No One Way to be a "Good" Feminist

Thank you, Roxane Gay, for teaching us that yes, you can be a feminist even if you watch The Bachelor.

You Don't Have to Show Your Face To Make a Statement

Or produce the biggest music video sensation of the year. Sia’s “Chandelier” was released back in March, but its video premiered in May — and in the months that followed, it became the most unexpected smash of the summer, thanks to Maddie Ziegler’s dance moves and a parody by Lena Dunham.

Sorry, Ladies, But Late Night Doesn't Want You

Are you a woman and want to host a late night TV show? Sorry, but you don’t have a chance. Despite outrage from viewers and critics, the white-men-running-late-night lineup didn’t see a change this summer — in fact, with Chelsea Lately ’s end and James Corden’s hiring, it only gotten worse.

Pop Music Belongs to the Women

Specifically, women under 25 who may or may not dabble in rap. Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX took over the airwaves this summer, and our choices in shower songs — or role models — will never be the same.

Image: Getty Images

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