The 35 Biggest Cultural Moments of the Past 35 Years…

We’ve all experienced a moment in time when we felt like this isn’t real. When we question: Did this actually happen? Is it really over? There have been deaths, the last-ever episode of our favorite TV shows and celebrities who have gone so far off the deep end, we become enamored and can’t help but enable their behavior. These past 35 years have given us so many of these wonderful, funny, sad, “winning” and too-good-to-be-true moments in the cultural domain that they’ve redefined our lives and become part of our lexicon. The virality and their significance have  — and always will — stand the test of time. And if you don’t like our rankings, well, “No soup for you!” 

35. Pee-Wee’s Big Misadventure

Pee-Wee Herman arrested for public masturbation

Pee Wee Herman VMA

CREDIT: Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

Pee-Wee Herman, aka Paul Reubens, was arrested at an adult theater, in Sarasota, Florida, on July 26, 1991. The beloved TV star of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was seen by an undercover cop playing too much with himself while viewing Nancy Nurse, Turn Up the Heat and Tiger Shark at the South Trail Cinema. Before there were memes there were a million snickering jokes, mostly about which two famous Americans got shot in the back of the head in a theater…

Reubens made his triumphant return just five weeks later at the MTV Video Music Awards, poking fun at himself when he asked the audience, “Heard any good jokes lately?”

– Jason Stahl

34. The Need for Stream

Netflix begins streaming


CREDIT: Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

Netflix launched in 1997 with its DVD-by-mail business, but it wasn’t until 2007 that they changed the way we watch television. For a small monthly subscription, you had access to videos on demand — Netfilx launched with about 1,000 videos, including Casablanca and the BBC version of House of Cards; today they have over 70,000 (!) — but with bad resolution due to slow bandwidth. Fast forward, and streaming has become the new norm to viewing. Netflix is still at the forefront of this technological marvel and somehow quickly developed a hypnotic power to suck us into a time vortex called “binge-watching.” 

– JS

33. More Than Friends

Sesame Street’s Bert & Ernie: Gay or straight

Bert & Ernie, 'Sesamstraße' ARD, Sesamstrasse,, (Photo by Pet

CREDIT: Peter Bischoff/Getty Images

Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie’s very close friendship — two male friends living in the same house and sleeping in the same room, albeit in different beds — lead many to believe that they were also gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the public wanted them outed. Creators Jim Henson and Frank Oz never intended them to be gay, but Mark Saltzman, a former Sesame Street writer said he wrote them based on his real-life relationship with his partner. Sesame Street denied this, saying they are best friends, but Oz tweeted in response in September of 2018: “A last thought: If Jim and I had created Bert and Ernie as gay characters they would be inauthentic coming from two straight men. However, I have now learned that many view them as representative of a loving gay relationship. And that’s pretty wonderful. Thanks for helping me understand.”

– Mary Elisabeth Gibson

32. No, you ask for it back

New York City Pizza Rat

New York is full of underground creatures, but its most famous might be the rat who was videoed dragging a full slice of cheese pizza down the stairs into the subway in 2015. The video was uploaded to the interwebs and became an immediate viral sensation, which is not to be confused with that actual scratchy feeling you get while riding a NYC subway.