illustration of person wearing 2021 New Year's glasses

Flashback Through 2021: The Defining Moments of the Year

Several key political and entertainment events have shaped mainstream discourse. It’s time to remember some of these developments in time for the start of 2022.
December 29, 2021
8 mins read

2021 brought its own set of surprises: It started off with an attack on the Capitol and ended with a new strain of the COVID-19 virus. However, there have also been positive steps back toward normalcy. In time for the new year, let’s take a look at some of the events that shaped this year and possibly ones to come.


Jan. 6: The U.S. Capitol is attacked.

Rioters from all around the country stormed the Capitol to interrupt a Congress session that would confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. In the aftermath, five of the rioters died, 138 police officers were injured and 30 million dollars’ worth of damage was incurred. The incident provoked widespread concern regarding political extremism and the state of democracy in the U.S. It also led to a second impeachment of Donald Trump to determine the role he played in inciting the riot and eventually quelling it. Trump ultimately committed to what is termed “an orderly transition of power,” a precedent set by President Washington and all presidents who succeeded him.

Jan. 20: Joe Biden’s inauguration.

President Biden was sworn in as the 46th U.S. President and Kamala Harris made history as the first female, African American and Asian American vice president in U.S. history. In light of the Capitol attack, it was a tense day, armed with extra security to ensure everybody’s safety. However, following Trump’s eventual transition of power, it was also a poignant day that kicked off a new presidential administration.

April 20: Derek Chauvin is convicted by a jury.

Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer that killed George Floyd, was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was later sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison for his crimes.

Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds despite Floyd repeatedly saying that he could not breathe. The video of this event, caught on camera by an onlooker, sparked nationwide and international protests during the summer of 2020. Though Chauvin has been tried and the other officers who did not intercede to stop Floyd’s death will soon be held accountable, the discussions around police brutality and possible reform are still ongoing.

Aug. 24: Andrew Cuomo resigns.

Andrew Cuomo received positive exposure for the daily speeches he made at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, giving updates to the citizens of New York and the nation. However, the New York governor resigned from his post following the numerous sexual harassment accusations leveled against him from women who worked with him throughout his 10-year term.

Chris Cuomo, who interviewed his brother in several light-hearted segments on CNN, would later be “suspended indefinitely” from CNN, following evidence that he was more heavily involved in advising Andrew Cuomo than initially suggested.


May 14: J. Cole returns with his new album.

Cole released “The Off-Season,” the follow-up to his 2018 fifth studio album, “KOD.” The album’s content subverted audience expectations by delivering an intense listen where J. Cole flexes his rap skills and boasts his desire to keep uplifting others in the rap game. It also flips certain tropes introduced in J. Cole’s previous discography. He released his first studio album, “The Sideline Story: Cole World” 10 years ago, playing with basketball motifs in an effort to express his ambitions in rap music; on the cover of “The Off-Season,” he burns the basketball hoop. J. Cole also teases his possible retirement to a role in the production world in preparation for his next release, “The Fall-Off.”

Sept. 3: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is released in theaters.

The first Marvel superhero film with an all-Asian cast, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” kicked off a new level of representation and received positive reviews that highlighted the clean, unique execution of its action sequences.

The film brings together actors and actresses from all types of backgrounds: Simu Liu is an Asian Canadian actor who plays the titular character; Awkwafina, an Asian American actress, plays Katy, Shang-Chi’s best friend; and Tony Leung, a Chinese actor, portrays Xu Wenwu. Having grossed over $432 million even under COVID-19 restrictions, Marvel officially greenlit a sequel.

Nov. 19: Adele returns with her new album.

Adele’s first album in five years, “30,” explores divorce, motherhood and self-realization over a subtle, versatile sonic palette. Adele maintains her artistic integrity as well as her personal authenticity: She has expressed her desire to make music for “people in their 30s getting into therapy” instead of trend-hopping, and granted an in-depth interview to several publications in anticipation of the album’s release. Even in an industry as fickle as mainstream pop music, Adele topped the charts and once again proved her longevity.

Dec. 17: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” opens in theaters.

Despite coming out just last week, the third film in Marvel’s reboot of the infamous superhero franchise has garnered $753 million. It has also stuck the landing in delivering on audience expectations, racking up a record-breaking number of preorders in the days prior to its release.

Though Sony has announced that more Spider-Man films are already in the pipeline, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ends an era. Its lead actors and actresses expressed that they have “grown up together” since the release of the first film and, as hinted at by Tom Holland in a recent GQ interview, there are more twists to come in the following films.

Looking Toward 2022

As the country prepares to come farther out of COVID-19 isolation, Biden’s administration works to follow through on its promises and the art world tries to reopen more theaters, it’s clear that 2022 is going to be a busy year. Needless to say, there’s a lot to anticipate.

Rory Conlon, De Anza College

Writer Profile

Rory Conlon

De Anza College

My name is Rory Conlon. I live in California, attend De Anza College and major in journalism. As an intern, I hope to meet many enthusiastic writers and readers.

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