What happened in 2021? Fucked if I know. We still have two more weeks to slog through the second weirdest year in living memory – a year in which the UK learnt the word “Omicron”, tasted Euros defeat and went nuts for some lad from Birmingham with curtains and massive thighs. A year in which we padded around in plastic-soled Crocs; watched a silly little boat block the Suez Canal, used the word “cheugy” and then quickly stopped; saw rioters storm the US Capitol and our government prioritise getting a plane of animals out of Afghanistan before actual, you know, humans.
But, as always, there are a few moments and memories that stick in the collective imagination more than Bean Dad or that time you had to fight someone for the last box of lateral flow tests in your local pharmacy. These are the people who made 2021 what it is – the heroes, the villains and the occasions that truly gave the year its exact flavour of derangement and madness.
So crank up the Christmas songs, pour yourself a glass of eggnog and sing Auld Lang Syne to the winners of the VICE 2021 Awards.
BRITISH PRIDE AWARD: Bum flare man
Not all heroes wear capes– some wear £545 Louis Vuitton bucket hats, as in the case of Charlie Perry, a 25-year-old roofer from Sunbury-on-Thames, who is best known for making his country proud by putting a lit flare up his arse in the middle of Wembley on the day of the England vs. Italy Euros final.
Footage of Charlie’s inspirational brand of pyrotechnics went viral the day of the match, and social media onlookers eventually realised that he was also the star of another video that had been distributed online earlier in the day, which featured a guy theatrically doing a key in front of a gathered audience. Nobly, he told The Sun that he was trying to cheer people up after COVID.
Of his experience, Charlie is on record as saying: “It was the biggest day of my life. There were no rules that day. All I know is that I loved it all. I was off my face and I loved every minute.” And fair play to him: His knighthood for services to Having a Laugh is surely incoming. — Lauren O’Neill
CELEB INTERVIEW OF THE YEAR: Meghan and Harry on Oprah
What can you say that hasn’t already been said about the most explosive celebrity interview to ever take place in a some random garden in Southern California? That it might do more to bring down the monarchy than Edward VIII abdicating in 1936? That the allegations of racism might have shocked some, but come as no surprise given the Royal Family’s history of idiot comments (“If you stay here much longer you will all be slitty-eyed”, etc), love of weathering racist brooches, or the fact that the starring gem in the Crown Jewels isn’t actually British at all, but Indian, and no, they won’t be giving it back?
No, the real shocker of the interview is that Meghan and Harry actually chose to say the quiet parts spoken by the family – the kind of things that us commoners never get to hear, unless we’re on Windsor payroll – out loud. We’ll probably never find out who asked “how dark” their son Archie might be, but 28.4 million US and UK viewers playing a Who’s Who game of Guess the Most Racist Royal (it wasn’t the Queen or Prince Philip, apparently!) is a lot of viewers to be pondering the exact point of a royal family. Who knew Oprah was such a republican? — Zing Tsjeng
SEX TAPE OF THE YEAR: Matt Hancock’s kiss video
Think back to when you were, let’s say, 13. You are at a Year 8 disco, held in the combination cafeteria/assembly/PE/drama room that smells of chip fat and Impulse body spray. The dulcet tones of “Who Let The Dogs Out” are bouncing off the walls, which are intermittently painted with the colours from a singular rotating disco ball. The big lights are on. And so, somewhere near the toilets, you can very clearly see a couple attempting to do snogging with each other. The boy standing stiff as a board with his legs hip-width apart; desperate, inexperienced hands grasping for an arse cheek. The girl is just there, being normal.
These are scenes most adults had not seen for many years. Then, in June, CCTV footage emerged of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo – one of his aides and the wife of Oliver Bonas founder Oliver Tress – engaged in an act The Sun would repulsively describe as “canoodling”.
It’s enough to shrink your sex drive worse than a new course of SSRIs. Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo pressed against a door inside the Department of Health. Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo doing bits on a public sector-blue carpet. Matt Hancock poking his head along the corridor to check no one’s around before pulling her in for some action, like a teenage boy necking his girlfriend in his parents’ kitchen. Two fully grown adults, in a suit and pencil dress respectively, breaking COVID regulations and desecrating their marriages with a kiss that doesn’t even look like it involves tongues.
Matt Hancock was forced to resign from his ministerial position for this, by the way. Not for the (ongoing) Greensill scandal, or being a generally useless bastard, but for this – a crap bit of snogging on the clock. What a pathetic, deeply accurate emblem of British political power. They should put it on all the money when the Queen dies. – Emma Garland
VIRAL MOMENT OF THE YEAR: Paul Scholes and his daughter’s toes
A “viral moment” doesn’t simply mean “some funny thing that a lot of people tweeted about”. There has to be some element of surprise; a perfect combination of totally random factors that, when simply assembled together, make absolutely no sense and could only have happened in the chaos year of Our Pandemic Lord 2021.
So: Where were you when Paul Scholes’s daughter Alicia uploaded footage of the Manchester United legend tenderly munching on her toenails like a particularly toothsome corn cob? At what point did your brain start bleeding out of your ears when you realised that she’d captioned it “true love”? Truly, it gives new meaning to the phrase “a nail-biting finish”.
When Scholes made an appearance at Old Trafford, Man City fans wasted no time in chanting “Paul Scholes… He sucks his daughter’s toes” at him, but then cheered the former player when he held his arms out and shrugged, basically confirming that in this country, you can basically own doing anything vile as long as you unashamedly fess up to it. Inspirational! — Zing Tsjeng
WORST CLUB OF THE YEAR: LGB Alliance disco
October is the highlight of the calendar for many reasons – the changing of the leaves, Halloween, a new slew of prestige TV dropping to see us through til spring. And, for transphobes across the UK, the LGB Alliance conference, which was followed by the worst disco ever to be held in the name of gay rights!
Held at one of London’s most iconic queer spaces – the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster – all the stars were in attendance: people in jeans and sheux, tea, someone in an inflatable T-Rex costume, a cardboard cut-out of JK Rowling. And, for those unable to attend, the magic of the night was captured by a woman filming for socials while singing “Just Dance” off-key, as well as in glowing reviews from some of the UK’s most progressive voices – a handful of Tory MPs, including Boris Johnson, and a disgraced member of the SNP.
To be honest, the vibes of the “disco” are neither here nor there. To achieve true equality we must fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ people to be as boring as they please – a privilege heterosexuals have enjoyed for thousands of years. But it does go to show that when you get a group of people together in the name of hating another group of other people, it doesn’t matter how you identify, the vibes will be on the floor. – Emma Garland
BEST DANCE DROP OF THE YEAR: Prince Philip’s death announcement on BBC Radio 1
Despite many years of rumours to the contrary, Prince Philip officially died in 2021, plunging the country into an enforced period of mourning that mostly just manifested as Eastenders not being on for a week. As is custom on the occasion of one of our overlords shuffling off the mortal coil, the announcement was initially made on all of the BBC radio and TV channels. On BBC Radio 1’s Dance Anthems, therefore, it was followed by the ultimate mark of respect: a big bastard of a bass drop.
Obviously this was an accident and I’m sure the BBC are very sorry to Prince Philip and so on, but on the other hand: What a compliment. If my death made the national news I would absolutely love whoever is in charge of these things to put a banging donk on it (I’ll have “Will I Ever” by Alice Deejay, please). In fact, I can think of no more honourable way to go. — Lauren O’Neill
BEEF OF THE YEAR: Stormzy and Chip
At the start of October 2020, a video of Stormzy turning up with a bunch of friends to Chip’s home appeared online and was quickly followed by two music videos – “Flowers” and “Killer MC” – taking aim at Stormzy in what was bound to be the start of a messy war, with two of the UK’s biggest names in grime going head to head. But Stormzy remained silent, ending the year with it looking like it would just fizzle out to nothing.
But in July 2021, it looked as though we would get the war we wanted to see. Stormzy’s feature on Dave’s “Clash” took shots at Chip who retaliated with his own track “Clash?”, reigniting the flames of last year's beef. But that was it. Nothing else happened and just like the entirety of 2021, the Beef of the Year had to be a bit of a flop, too. — Nana Baah
SNOWFLAKE OF THE YEAR: Piers Morgan
Clearly the theme of 2021 was being as embarrassing as possible, and, for Piers Morgan, that embarrassing moment happened on live TV, before most of the British public had woken up and had their morning coffee.
In the fallout after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s tell-all Oprah interview, Morgan stormed out of the studio. Alex Beresford, one of Morgan’s Good Morning Britain co-hosts asked him why he’s still obsessed with Meghan, to which Piers Morgan, a man who prides himself on asking tough questions and having difficult debates, stood up and walked out of the studio saying, “OK I’m done with this. You can trash me, mate, but not on my own show.”
As much as Piers Morgan’s job is being professionally disgruntled, regularly calling people or the guests he brings onto GMB “snowflakes”, he finally agreed that he too is a snowflake on Twitter. I guess you could call that growth? – Nana Baah
MADDEST CULTURE WAR MOMENT: The John Lewis insurance ad
Imagine sitting at home in 2021 – the year of Partygate, Bernard Castle, Omicron – and frothing, proper frothing, at the mouth about a John Lewis advert. The ad in question was for home insurance and showed a little boy in a dress dancing to Stevie Nicks and throwing paint around. So far, so inconsequential right? Wrong! According to one Telegraph reader it “represented a terrifying snapshot of all that’s wrong with Britain right now,” while people on Twitter said they were “bloody livid” and that John Lewis “won't be getting my money” *shakes fist*.
The ad was eventually pulled for being “misleading” (home insurance only covers accidental damage, as opposed to deliberate). But we all know that the ad was pulled because of a certain subsection of British people who hate – literally despise and abhor and revile – having a laugh and enjoying stuff. – Daisy Jones
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR: Matt Hancock
We almost didn't give Matt Hancock the title of “villain” because villains are supposed to be sexy and dark and cool, like Cruella De Vil or Spike from Buffy or The Joker. They're not supposed to be guys in their 40s who wear blue suits and do parkour and look like an alien made an imposter human out of clay.
But still, who else could take the crown really? This is a guy who voted against free school meals for children. He famously broke COVID guidelines back in spring while he was the literal Health Secretary. He made key decisions that would impact the course of the pandemic based off of the 2011 film Contagion, starring Matt Damon.
Can you imagine if we had anybody else other than Matt Hancock as Health Secretary during a time in which the world was and is experiencing an apocalyptic crisis in health? And they put this guy in charge? A guy who definitely wears a dressing gown and slippers together and probably licks the lids of yoghurt pots. He's gone, yes, but not forgotten. – Daisy Jones