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29 Culture Stories That Fascinated Us In 2017

From neo-Nazis taking over a resort town in Montana to a look inside a Sikh motorcycle club, here are the most captivating stories Reader published in 2017.

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"The Real Tragedy Of The Aaron Hernandez Story" by Pier Dominguez

John Tlumacki / Boston Globe / Getty Images

"By the time he was convicted, Hernandez was no longer allowed to signify anything beyond himself; he became a sociopath or 'thug' — as online comments describe him — who must take responsibility for his own actions. But his trajectory cannot be divorced from the institutions that shaped him, from his family to his football teams, and the values they instilled in him."

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"Lena Waithe Is What The Future Of Hollywood Looks Like" by Tomi Obaro

Corina Marie for BuzzFeed News

"Waithe belongs to a new breed of Hollywood star: the multihyphenate. Writer, director, producer, actor — combining these titles is no longer the preserve of big-name celebrities for their vanity projects. Increasingly, they’re the way people traditionally locked out of the Hollywood system — queer women of color certainly among them — can make the television and film that they want to see."

"How Over A Million Christians Have Opted Out Of Health Insurance" by Laura Turner

Oliver Munday for BuzzFeed News

"For Christians looking for a way to opt out of an expensive health insurance market that they see as profit-driven, intruding on their personal freedom, and indifferent (at best) to issues of abortion and the sanctity of life, health care sharing ministries may seem like the perfect, providential solution."

"How Anna Nicole Smith Became America's Punchline" by Sarah Marshall

Michelle Rial / BuzzFeed News; Getty

"If the heroine's allure is the product of not just blind luck but sustained effort and intent — let alone strategic surgical alteration and courtship of wealthy benefactors, as Anna Nicole Smith’s was — then she is too powerful to remain sympathetic, and becomes an object of jealousy, rather than aspiration."

"'Stranger Things' Is Nostalgic For A Time Before Nerds Were Toxic" by Alison Willmore

Netflix

"Puberty turned out to be an even more trying antagonist than the evil entity looming large on the horizon of the Upside Down. The monster merely wanted to take over and destroy the world as the characters knew it. Puberty, far more pernicious, sent the show drifting back toward retrograde gender norms and character patterns it had previously managed to avoid, ones in which the (male) nerd always gets rewarded with romance."

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"Flint Isn’t Ready To Trust Anyone Yet" by Bim Adewunmi

Sean Proctor for BuzzFeed News

"A lingering question remains for the residents of Flint: Will they be able to trust their elected officials — local, municipal, and gubernatorial — ever again?

"If the answer is yes, what, precisely, would it take?"

"How The Rock Became Our Favorite Populist Hero" by Scaachi Koul

Josue Evilla for BuzzFeed News

"He’s always had a populist appeal, managing to morph himself into whatever his audiences wanted: Sometimes he’s all brawn, a body pummeling through men like they’re paper dolls; other times he’s a bro, an action star who takes the work seriously without taking himself seriously; and other times still, he’s the best version of a woke bae, socially conscious, feminist, and wildly hot. The Rock has always had the range."

"Meek Mill's Prison Sentence Is Proof That Our Justice System Is Broken" by Niela Orr

Matt Rourke / AP

"Besides being a complex human being, who feels joy, pain, and makes mistakes, Meek Mill is a cipher for the country’s criminal justice system. He’s an existential case, an Aristotelian archetype. It seemed apt that T.I. employed biblical imagery in his message, because Meek might as well be a man that you can teach to fish or who gets his hand cut off for stealing bread. He’s both a cog in the machine that is this nation’s carceral state and an agent of his own demise."

"How A 20-Year-Old Exorcism Sent Me In Search Of Korea’s Cult Problem" by Jen Choi

Na Kim for BuzzFeed News

"The more I uncovered, the more I began to think that my uncle’s scandal, along with Park’s, belonged to a larger phenomenon that has taken root in South Korea: a unique concentration of cults and fringe religious groups, whose influence has drifted overseas, to the US, and into my own family."

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"What Does Getting 'Outed' Mean Anymore?" by Shannon Keating

Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

"The closet (glass or otherwise) remains a social fixture when some of our most powerful cultural and political figures remain crouched inside of it, oftentimes using the language of 'privacy' to defend their place there."

"In 'Get Out,' Racism Is The Horror Story Black People Try To Survive" by Frederick McKindra

Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

"These films grant black men a rare aura of grace precisely by staging their moments of vulnerability in a suburban landscape, traditionally depicted as pristine and white. By doing so, they dismantle nearly three decades' worth of associations that have rendered black men denizens of lawless urban spaces, undeserving of an empathetic gaze."

"A Weekend With Arnold Schwarzenegger And The Swolest Men In America" by Suzannah Showler

Frank Jansky / Icon Sportswire / Corbis via Getty Images

"Bodybuilding has changed since Schwarzenegger’s day. The swole have swelled; bodies and muscles that were impressive have become implausible. And if Kai Greene is any indication, hugeness comes with diminishing returns in terms of actual power. At some point, you get big enough that you stop believing the world is your cum rag and begin to just feel exposed — like a body taking up too much space for comfort. Like all you have is a lot to lose."

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"Louise Erdrich, Great American Novelist, Is Just Getting Started" by Rumaan Alam

Ackerman + Gruber

"Some writers are prolific; some are shape-shifters. It’s rare and intimidating to encounter one who is both. It’s further confounding when so serious an artist also manages to be entertaining — and Erdrich never fails to offer the reader that particular pleasure."

"Jewish Rituals Are The Hot New Thing In Wellness" by Mattie Kahn

Sara Lewkowicz for BuzzFeed News

"Revived in an era of wellness retreats and digital detoxes, ancient Jewish rituals like Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh celebrations have found a sudden resonance unattached from the strictures of the tradition that invented them. Whether the rabbis like it or not, they’ve been Goop-ed."

"Matt Damon’s Limitations Are Catching Up With Him" by Elisabeth Donnelly

Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

"Stars like Damon embody the default liberalism of Hollywood: prominent names with money who give to the right charities and who make brave speeches denouncing the state of political discourse today. But this form of liberalism is growing rapidly outdated as Hollywood’s complicity around issues of sexual harassment and assault become clear."

"Black Athletes Are Black People, And Black People Are Dying" by Bryan Washington

BuzzFeed News; Michael Zagaris / San Francisco 49ers / Getty Images; David McNew / Getty Images

"Black people are being killed in the streets, in their cars, and in their homes, and black athletes are using their platforms to magnify this, because that is, ultimately, the only way many Americans will care."

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"Inside The Many Universes Of Jack Sparrow Superfans" by Ema O'Connor

Manuel Vazquez for BuzzFeed News

"The Jack Sparrow universe isn’t only still thriving; it’s expanding. The popularity of the character pervades — and Depp knows this. He has started appearing as the character in public to surprise his fans, at Disneyland and at children's hospitals, perhaps attempting a resurrection of his career. Meanwhile, he’s inspired imitators the world over."

"This Private Investigator Was The Original Most Interesting Man In The World" by Eamon Javers

Marc Aspinall for BuzzFeed News

"In the course of his incredible career, Corbally gathered intelligence for the US government, prominent lawyers, and some of corporate America's biggest names. He befriended members of the British aristocracy and the US political elite. When business moguls found themselves in tricky transactions with billions of dollars on the line, they often turned to Corbally to provide that one piece of hidden information that could tip the deal in their favor."

"Why Do We Let 'Genius' Directors Get Away With Abusive Behavior?" by Imran Siddiquee

Sunset Boulevard / Getty Images

"There are some signs that Weinstein’s downfall might already be impacting the dominance of white men in the industry. And if disrupting the status quo is the goal, it’s past time for cinema’s elite to explore how the deification of men who direct might itself be contributing to an environment ripe for abuse."

"How The Kardashians Reflect Changing Ideas Around Plastic Surgery" by Zan Romanoff

BuzzFeed News; Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

"Even as our ideas about women’s bodies and lives have continued to evolve over the course of the last decade, and as plastic surgery becomes increasingly acceptable, it’s still a culturally troubled topic, and old ideas about class and race continue to play outsized roles in how and on whom we’ll accept it."

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"Why A New Mixed-Race Generation Will Not Solve Racism" by Lauren Michele Jackson

Fox Searchlight Pictures

"Why do multiracial children so often function as the antonym for racism? What is the political value of an interracial relationship? The notion that cream-colored babies will save the world is a popular one. Unfortunately, it’s a myth."

"Deaf Music Fans Are Finally Starting To Be Heard" by Kim Bellware

Brittany Sowacke for BuzzFeed News

"Though Deaf culture has nudged closer to mainstream visibility in the past several years, progress remains stunted in spaces where DHH people aren’t considered part of the equation to begin with. Music festivals in particular have been slow to include the DHH community, despite the industry’s explosive growth over the past quarter century."

"What To Expect When You're A Trans Dad Expecting" by Sarah Karlan

Sarah Karlan for BuzzFeed News

"I thought I would be fearless. Who cares that I’m a pregnant man? Fuck it! But I was actually really scared of being hurt or attacked. All my radical, queer, devil-may-care attitude dissipated because every part of my body was dedicated to keeping this baby safe and keeping me safe."

"Why Rihanna's Red Lipstick Line Is So Groundbreaking" by Leticia Miranda

Anthony Harvey / Getty Images

"Much like how someone might choose a nude lip one day and a red lipstick another, Beyoncé and Rihanna are two femininities one person can embody. And maybe, right now, we want Rihanna on our lips."

"The Second Coming Of Televangelist Jim Bakker" by Kelsey McKinney

Whitney Curtis for BuzzFeed News

"While Bakker might have been happy with the results of the election, he still doesn’t see them as a solution. He recognizes that the country is still starkly divided, and that the divide places his church firmly on one side of the fight. And it doesn’t hurt that in Bakker’s case, the end of the world is also good for business."

"Meet The Riders Of The Sikh Motorcycle Club Of The Northeast" by Teresa Mathew

Teresa Mathew for BuzzFeed News

"Faith and riding are ostensibly personal affairs. But there is a reason bikers come together to ride; a reason worshippers congregate to celebrate, pray, and mourn. For Barninder, riding was never a way to make him more religious."

"Silicon Valley Is Turning Into Its Own Worst Fear" by Ted Chiang

Justin Metz for BuzzFeed News

"The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism."

For more Best of 2017 content, click here!

Karolina Waclawiak is the executive culture editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Karolina Waclawiak at karolina.waclawiak@buzzfeed.com.

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