The Associated Press' highly subjective pop-culture journey through the year:
Here begins the incredible ascendance of LENA DUNHAM, as HBO picks up the actress-director-writer's "Girls," a meditation on the awkwardness of being female and 20-ish in New York.
Let's hear it for the adults! MERYL STREEP, 62, wins her third Oscar for "The Iron Lady." It's her 17th nomination, a record. The best supporting actor, Christopher Plummer, is 82, and the best picture, "The Artist," is a throwback to silent films.
Enter springtime, and youth again: Billboard's top moneymaker for 2011 is TAYLOR SWIFT. In 2012, Swift will have the biggest sales week for any album in a decade, for "Red." THE HUNGER GAMES star JENNIFER LAWRENCE, 22, rockets to fame as Katniss Everdeen in the first installment of the Suzanne Collins trilogy.
It's an election year, and it's dog eat dog: Talk focuses on SEAMUS, GOP candidate Mitt Romney's Irish setter. The pooch is long departed, but the image of him strapped to the roof of the family car, suffering gastric distress, is too much for many dog lovers to stomach.
The weather's getting warm, and certain phrases are fast becoming ingrained into our consciousness, like "Call Me Maybe"; Carly Rae Jepsen's dangerously catchy tune hits No. 1 on iTunes. Another is "Fifty Shades of Grey." The publishing sensation of the year is banned by some public libraries due to its steamy content.
Let's dedicate the month to NORA EPHRON, the author, filmmaker and essayist whose searing wit put her in a class of her own. Her death at age 71 brings a flood of tributes.
South Korean singer PSY's video of his song "Gangnam Style," emerges this month and the rest is history — it will become the most watched YouTube clip of all time. At the London Olympics, young athletes like the ebullient gymnast GABBY DOUGLAS and swimmer MISSY FRANKLIN, both 17, shine, but MICHAEL PHELPS — now 27 — still shows fellow swimmers how it's done.
CLINT EASTWOOD, 82, makes our night at the GOP convention with his infamous "empty chair" chat with President Obama. It becomes one of the enduring moments of the campaign, if also the most puzzling.
BILL CLINTON, 66, rocks the Democratic Convention with an energetic speech that shows he can still inspire the masses. As for little SASHA and MALIA OBAMA, the country does a double-take; in four years they've become two mature and fashionable young women.
Binders full of women! Big Bird! Malarkey! Debate season is on, so let the instant memes begin. This is the first election where you could have followed the debates purely via Twitter.
BOND. JAMES BOND. Embodied by the tough and chiseled DANIEL CRAIG, the world's most famous British spy is in better shape than ever as the franchise marks its 50th anniversary with "Skyfall," regarded by many as one of the best Bond films. Another iconic image doesn't fare so well: Lohan's turn as Liz Taylor in a new TV film is pilloried. And we must mention the oldest pop-culture hero of the year: ABRAHAM LINCOLN is back, courtesy of STEVEN SPIELBERG's movie and a typically mesmerizing performance by DANIEL DAY-LEWIS.
As the year ends, the world is abuzz with news of a royal pregnancy. Soon, a baby will be one of the biggest celebrities in the world. But for now, let's give a shoutout to the ROLLING STONES, whose average age is 68-plus. In five concerts marking their 50th year as a rock band, the grizzled foursome shows the world they still have the power to rock huge arenas. MICK JAGGER, at 69, hasn't lost any of those "moves like Jagger."