2015’s top viral videos and newsmakers

Viral newsmakers 2015

Each year there are always moments that capture the world’s attention, whether it be for good or bad reasons. 2015 was no exception so we’ve rounded up some of the headlines and videos that got people talking:

“The Dress” debate

In February 2015 bride-to-be Grace Johnston posted a photo to Tumblr (a microblogging and social networking site) of a dress her friend was planning to wear to her wedding. They were disagreeing about whether the dress was black and blue or white and gold, and they wanted the opinion of people on the Internet. The photo spread like wildfire with no-one seemingly able to agree on the colour of the dress. Hashtags like #thedress, #dressgate, #whiteandgold, and #blackandblue started trending worldwide.

It was eventually revealed that the dress was in fact black and blue, but it had a polarising effect on people’s perceptions when photographed. The reason for this, according to scientists, had to do with the type of light in which the dress was photographed and how the light bounced off the dress. Essentially, the light detracts from the actual colour of the dress by washing it out. The real deep explanation is much more complex than this, but you get the gist.

Cecil the Lion

This viral news story is a particularly sad one. Cecil was a lion who lived in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was one of the main attractions in the park and also part of an ongoing study being conducted by the University of Oxford. In late June 2015 Cecil was wounded by an arrow from an American dentist named Walter Palmer. The wounded and suffering lion was then tracked for 40 hours and ultimately killed by Palmer with a rifle.

The killing of Cecil sparked outrage across the world and Palmer quickly became everyone’s number one villain. What made matters worse for Palmer, is the fact that he is no stranger to this type of senseless trophy hunting. The dentist had to close his practice due to daily harassment, and his family home was also vandalized.

The two guides who were leading the hunting party are currently being prosecuted by Zimbabwean authorities. They had lured Cecil out of the sanctuary in order to kill him. Unfortunately, Palmer was not prosecuted due to him being unaware that he had broken any laws.

Despite the loss of Cecil, a lot of good has come from this. Heightened media attention has spurred on many activists who are calling for an end to this type of hunting, particularly favoured by foreigners. Furthermore, large funds for wildlife institutions has been raised by well-known names such as Jimmy Kimmel.

Mick Fanning shark attack

If you watched Jaws and to this day have a fear of going into the water, you might want to give this one a skip. In July 2015 a video surfaced on YouTube of Australian pro surfer Mick Fanning taking on the waves at the J-Bay Open finals in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa. In the video a great white shark appears right next to Fanning in the water which prompts Fanning to punch the shark. He then attempts to wedge his surfboard between him and the giant of the sea. The shark eventually just bit off Fanning’s surfboard lease, which gave the surfer a chance to make his getaway in the safety boat that had come to help him.

Many marine biologists studied the video. They believe that it was never the shark’s intention to bite or kill Fanning, but it was a lucky escape nonetheless. Fanning wasn’t the only surfer in the water that day, fellow Australian Julian Wilson, was also competing in the final heat. Luckily, the safety boat picked both Fanning and Wilson up without any further incidents. Unfortunately, the final had to be cancelled for fear of the shark returning. The judges decided to give them a shared victory, and they split the prize money between them. This often happens when a final or heat is halted for reasons like no waves, shark attack, dangerous weather conditions and so forth. On a side note, the safety boat that picked up Fanning and Wilson after the attack accidentally forgot to pick up South African World Surf League photographer Kelly Cestari who was situated in the water close to the two surfers. He had to swim the 50 metres back to shore as slowly as possible so as to not make sudden movements that might alert the shark to his presence. Scary…

Pranks – the mind-blowing, the fun and the ugly

Pranks are a dime a dozen on YouTube nowadays and 2015 was no exception. Some of the most notable ones to top the list of most viewed include:

In this video Jesse Wellens from the YouTube pranking duo PrankvsPrank dresses up as Disney’s Aladdin, a character well-known for flying around on a magic carpet. With the help of filmmaker Casey Neistat, a flying carpet was created using an electric skateboard, some plastic piping, and lots of fabric. Then Jesse was sent flying through New York City to stun onlookers. Currently, the prank has over 12 million views.

This prank is included for the pure controversy it caused on YouTube and across major news networks. In the prank (created by YouTuber Sam Pepper), a guy is “kidnapped” alongside his best friend (who is in on the prank) and taken to an isolated area. There the best friend is “killed” in front of the target. Most people did not find this harmless or funny, and wondered what type of psychological damage this prank had inflicted on the unsuspecting target. Pepper is not a stranger to controversy as he has been previously called out for one of his pranks involving inappropriately touching women on the street. Currently, there are many petitions floating around with the aim of getting Sam Pepper off YouTube for his offensive content and laissez-faire attitude.

Now for something a lot more light-hearted and family-friendly. Roman Atwood is one of the biggest pranksters on YouTube and also a family man. At the beginning of 2015, Atwood and his friends managed to get thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of multi-coloured plastic balls and filled up his two-storey house, while his wife was away. When his wife returned, she was shocked by the surprise playground that now occupied her house, but in the end good fun was had by all in the giant ball pit.

Pizza Rat

Seeing a rat on the New York subway is not likely to make anyone bat an eye since millions of rats live underneath New York City. But in September 2015 a video of a rat dragging a large slice of pizza down subway stairs made news headlines whilst garnering over 8 million views on YouTube. It is unknown whether the rat finished the pizza slice all by himself or at least shared with some of his rat friends. The video inspired another rodent video, called Milkshake Squirrel, to go viral. It features an NYC squirrel drinking leftover milkshake scavenged from a bin.

Music makes the world go round

Every year new music is released almost on a daily basis. Some of the most viewed music videos of 2015 include:

  • Adele made her big comeback this year with a new album called 25. Her first piano-based single on the new album, called Hello, was a massive smash hit as soon as it was released. The music video broke the Vevo record on YouTube by reaching 27.7 million views within a mere 24 hours, bypassing Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood.
  • We’ve had the Macarena, Gangnam Style and the Harlem Shake, but this year’s song that created a viral dance was Whip/Nae Nae by Silentó. As soon as the song was released, young and old were copying the simple two-part dance, and it was played mercilessly on radios across the world.
  • Drake is a popular Canadian rapper known for being a suave character with many people wanting to emulate his fashion and music style. However, with the release of his single Hotline Bling, many people were questioning why they ever thought he was cool. It was not the song itself that raised eyebrows, but rather Drake’s peculiar dancing in the music video. It can only be described as dad dancing, and some of his moves made it look like he was playing tennis or ping-pong rather than dancing.
  • Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott is an icon in the music industry. Her songs Get Ur Freak On, Work It and Gossip Folks have become staples on many people’s playlists. However, around 2007 she sort of fell off the radar and focused her musical talents on producing songs for other artists. But this year she surprised everyone with a new single called WTF (Where They From) featuring Pharrell Williams. In true Missy Elliott style, the music video is full of wacky and bizarre scenes accompanied by her signature lightning quick style of rapping.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our retrospect of the viral newsmakers of 2015. Here’s to a 2016 filled with only heartwarming and fun stories!