Every now and again someone comes along and manages to piss off everyone in a meaningful way. While these people can be self-serving drama queens, not to mention supremely annoying, they drive productive debate and sometimes even change the world.
2013 had more than it’s fair share of lighting rods — whistleblowers, reporters, political pundits, even celebrities — who deliberately provoked media frenzies and challenged the status quo. So we thought we’d take a gander back through the year and see who stoked the flames of debate.
Scroll down to see our Top Six lightning rods of 2013.
Greenwald was accused of being a “traitor,” “terrorist,” and of endangering the lives of Americans. Some right-wing lawmakers went so far as to say he should be charged with aiding and abetting Snowden.
In August, Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained by authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport and questioned for nine hours. Afterwards, Greenwald, who lives in Rio with Miranda, accused authorities of trying to silence him by holding his partner hostage.
25-year-old army solder and whistleblower Bradley Manning made headlines when he was convicted of Wiki-leaking 700,000 confidential government documents. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison in August.
The very next day, Manning made headlines again, this time announcing he was transitioning to female and would now go by Chelsea. Reaction in the media was mixed, with some outlets respecting Manning’s wishes, and others ignoring them. We respect them.
Manning had used her gender identity as part of her defense during her trial, saying she had hoped that by joining the military she would be “cured.” Manning also argued that the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy played a significant role in her actions, claiming the oppressive nature of the policy caused her to act out. This caused some to accuse the soldier of using her transgender status to avoid taking personal responsibility for her actions.
It can’t be easy being the descent of arguably one of the most loathed VEEPs in history, Dick Cheney. Throw in the fact that she’s lesbian and Republican, and you can see the personal challenge going down here.
Though she has endorsed anti-gay politicians in the past, and taken hell for it, this year has marked a shift in Mary’s tone. She began speaking out against candidates who oppose LGBT rights, starting with her own sister, Liz.
In the fall, Mary got in a very public squabble with her older sister. Liz, who is running for a Senate seat in Wyoming, is an opponent of same-sex marriage, despite the fact that her sister is married to another woman and welcomed by her family. This position put Liz in the weird posting of being to the right of her extremely conservative father, an odd position that only the bizarre coalition that is the Republican Party could accommodate.
“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary told the New York Times in November. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”
She also accused Liz of being “dead wrong on the marriage issue” and took to Facebook to voice her frustrations, saying Liz was on “the wrong side of history.”
Things eventually got so heated that Dick himself intervened, telling the National Press Club he was “surprised” by Mary’s public “attack” on her sister and wished the two could just get along, at least in public. Mary is right, on the right side of history, and congrats on finding your voice, Mary.
Porn star/occasional columnist Michael Lucas is nothing if not outspoken. In the past, when he was not cozying up to Ann Coulter, he was making controversial comments about Islam. He’s also been highly critical of bareback porn.
Until this year, that is.
In September, Lucas produced his first bareback scene, even though he vowed for years that he never would stoop to such a level. He justified the shoot by saying the performers were in a committed, monogamous relationship. “Their passionate kissing, deep bare fucking, and comfortable sharing of cum leave no doubt about Seth and Billy’s intense connection,” Lucas’ studio said in a statement. Then in December, Lucas himself appeared in a bareback scene, saying he had a change of heart on the matter after discovering the miracle drug PrEP.
Lucas also spent the year picking fights with other gays (and alleged gays). In August, he had Calvin Klein’s ex-boy toy Nick Gruber kicked out of a party on Fire Island because he thought Gruber was too “aggressively straight.”
Then in September, he criticized Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir for supporting Russia in light of the country’s sweeping new antigay legislation.
Aside from Tom Daley, for different reasons, few Olympians elicit a stronger response from folks than figure skater Johnny Weir, otherwise known as the gayest man on earth.
In July, Weir spoke out against an Olympic boycott in Russia, much to the ire of activists. “Before a gay man, before a white man, I am an Olympian,” Weir said. “That’s what I worked for from age twelve. And a boycott would negate all of that and also, it would basically punish all of the non-LGBT athletes that would be on the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi.”
Afterwards, he made a number of flippant comments about Russia and about his critics, further inflaming people who felt the skater wasn’t taking the situation seriously.
Then there was that little incident back in November when his husband, Victor Weir-Voronov, sent a string of threatening emails to Michael Lucas, calling him a “fame-whoring piece of shit,” and saying he was going to have him put on the “sexual predators” list for speaking ill of Johnny. Talk about Drama with a capital D.
One thing is definitely for certain, Weir has mastered the art of commanding, or perhaps demanding, our attention.
While we’re on the topic of attention-seekers, how about that Lady Gaga? Is she really bisexual or simply buying publicity? She says she’s bi. But then again she also said her new album ARTPOP was going to redefine pop music as we knew it, and that didn’t exactly happen.
It’s been a rough year for Gagz. Not only did she overcome an addiction to marijuana (is an addiction even possible?), but she was also “stalked” by Perez Hilton. Then there was the time she was so overtaken by emotion during her performance at the YouTube Music Awards that she cried on stage.
On top of that, Gaga was reprimanded by Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde for trying to rig the charts, first by asking fans to buy multiple copies of her single Applause, and then by requesting they watch her video on a continuous loop.
All that for nothing. ARTPOP still — well — flopped.
We loved the album, the music is great, but there’s no denying the facts: it sold 42,000 less copies than expected during its opening week, and then suffered an 82 percent sales decrease during its second week.
Yet the gays remain divided over the diva. Some love her and say she can do no wrong. Others hate her and claim she uses them and her bisexuality to sell records.
Cue the angry comments and hate tweets.