1. “The Force” Volkswagen commercial 

Commercials yell at you, break up your favorite show and make you want to rip your hair out. Commercials suck.

Except this one.

A far cry from a tribute to OxiClean — safe on colors! — or a testament to the Applebee’s sizzling platter, this commercial will melt your heart. Guaranteed.

Because what could possibly be cuter than a tiny kid dressed up as Darth Vader trying his darndest to control the force? Absolutely nothing.

The commercial is advertising Volkswagen’s new 2012 Passat, but no one’s looking past that adorable pint-sized man who has won over our hearts in less than a minute. He’s already struck out on jump-starting the elliptical machine, running the washer, moving the dog — and … his mom slides over his sandwich for him? Not helping. He just can’t catch a break.

That is, until the determined little guy sees his dad pulling into the driveway and gives it one last shot. Bam. I guess the force really was with him.

Though interspersed with a nice shot of the Passat, this clearly isn’t a car commercial. It’s an epic portrayal of sheer cuteness. It demands to be watched over and over again. It’s one unforgettable minute — to the dulcet tones of the cult classic theme — of 2011. Thanks, Volkswagen, for giving us the unthinkable: A commercial we can’t help but love.

-KELLY ETZ

2. Rebecca Black’s “Friday”

2011 is a difficult pop culture year to assess critically. Its most attention-grabbing events blurred the borders of performance art, trolling and incomprehensibly out-there earnestness. From Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown to serious presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain and Donald Trump, there was no shortage of seemingly insane stuff asking us to take it completely seriously.

Nothing embodies this phenomenon more than Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” The song needs no introduction. It went viral quickly and spawned sub-memes like the awkward dancing girl in pink, remixes and parodies like the Bob Dylan acoustic cover, CollegeHumor’s Friday the Thirteenth mashup and Rebecca Black’s “music career.” People analyzed it as a serious piece of songwriting and auteurship. All this happened for no particular reason, save that it was a very bad, yet obnoxiously catchy song. That it became one of the defining cultural fragments of the year reveals a lot about the media landscape we live in.

-SAM CENZHANG

3. Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger

Somewhere, a Disney executive is kicking himself for overlooking one cuddly companion.

Scan the archives of animated classics and one animal is noticeably excluded from the gang of woodland friends. It’s the Honey Badger — and it doesn’t give a shit. National Geographic may have introduced viewers to “the most fearless animal in all of the animal kingdom,” but a track of nasally commentary rouses the Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger to the top of the food chain. Mingling sassy observations with graphic clips of the honey badger ripping the remains of a cobra into a slithering snack, there’s no question about the video’s appeal. Watching the video recalls the excitement of tuning in to your favorite Animal Planet special — if it was narrated by a member of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” encouraging the viewer to, “look at that sleepy fuck.” Take a hint, Disney. Not even the angelic intonations of Morgan Freeman can compare to the Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger. Why? Because Honey Badger doesn’t give a — well, you get it.

-BRIANNE JOHNSON

4. Zach Wahls Speaks about Family

Listen up one and all — especially you, Rick Perry — because Zach Wahls has something to say. One of the most eloquent 19-year-olds on the Internet, Wahls spoke at a public forum in the Iowa House of Representatives about the strength of his family. He talks about going to church, going on vacation, having family dinners. The University of Iowa engineering student promises his family isn’t all that different from anyone else’s. He just happens to have two mothers.

Wahls is arguing against the House Joint Resolution 6, which would end civil unions in Iowa. The video of his three-minute speech swept the Internet like wildfire in 2011. Putting a face to a heavily debated issue, it’s safe to say Wahls made a name for himself this past year.

He has gone on to give several interviews, saying he plans to continue to support and fight for his cause despite the resolution passing.

No matter the stance taken, there’s no arguing the power behind Wahls’s words. His description of what a sense of family should mean can’t be argued.

“A sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other: To work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us. That’s what makes a family.”

-KELLY ETZ

5. Taran Killam recreating Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” video

Taran Killam has held his own as a featured player on Saturday Night Live for the past two seasons, but never before have we seen this side of Killam. Sure, he is consistently funny and has a similar comedic style to SNL alum Will Forte, but this video was downright hilarious and goofy.

Just the fact that it gave us a peek into the mysterious world of an SNL writers room at 4:30 in the morning was enough to intrigue, but Killam’s mastery of Swedish pop star Robyn’s simple yet entertaining music video for “Call Your Girlfriend” takes this video to the next level.

The video raises all sorts of questions. Exactly how many times did Killam have to watch the video to nail those moves? Was there any alcohol involved in the making of this masterpiece? Where on earth did he get that fluffy pink jacket?

Seeing a straight-faced Bobby Moynihan,Vanessa Bayer and Abby Elliott wave flashlights while Killam thrashed and spun in the comically small room just added to the enjoyment. Even more hilarious than the original video was a second video that surfaced shortly after, displaying the video of Killam and the official Robyn video side-by-side (thank you, Internet). Hopefully the SNL writers will harness Killam’s talents and get him boogying in more and more sketches this season.

-KAYLA UPADHYAYA

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