When Google released its annual list of the year's top trending search terms, we were pleased to find our own interests aligning with the American people's search habits. Not only have we also been monitoring subjects like the Kardashians, Jurassic World, and fighting sports—we've been covering them too. (We should note here that Google's list must include some filtering for distinctiveness to this year. Otherwise, we assume, Google's top search every year likely has to do with pornography.)
Below, a chronicle of the stories we've written, in order of Googliness:
Do audiences really want to see female fighters duke it out in the ring? Considering mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey was the fifth-most popular trending Google search in the United States in 2015 and the third-most Googled person of the year, we would answer with an emphatic "yes." In fact, Rousey's audience-drawing power is credited with persuading the Ultimate Fighting Championship to start a women's division in 2012 (after the UFC's president once said his company would never promote a fight between women).
In her piece "The Fight for Women's Boxing Rights," published in April, writer Amelia Schonbek took a deep dive into the battle to convince boxing organizations to grant women the same regulations in the ring as their male counterparts. During competitions, women now are restricted to shorter rounds than the men, with fewer rounds in a match to boot. Female boxers hope getting the opportunity fight for longer will, among other things, bring their pay closer to the men's.
So far, boxing organizations have cited a lot of pseudoscience to back their claims that women need shorter rounds—most notably, taking menstruation "into account" when, in reality, having her period doesn't affect a woman's health risks when she fights. The one possibly legitimate claim organizers may have for enforcing shorter rounds is the possibility that women are more prone to concussions, though that still hasn't been adequately studied, Schonbek reported.
When Caitlyn Jenner publicly debuted her new look and name on the cover of Vanity Fair this summer, she brought the issue of transgender rights to the forefront of American culture. People were obviously curious: Her name was the fourth-most Googled phrase this year.
Here at Pacific Standard, we always think a little science helps the discussion, so for our July/August issue, we put together a Five Studies that explains the research on how prevalent transgenderism is, the discrimination transgender people face, and what therapies are proven to make folks with gender dysphoria feel more comfortable in their skin.
Critics may not have all liked American Sniper, but many moviegoers seem to have. The film, released at the end of 2014, was the U.S.'s highest-grossing movie that year and became 2015's third highest-trending Google search term. It's important to remember that powerful, popular military films are more than just great entertainment; they can affect how people think—and perhaps vote—about military issues.
Yep, we were excited about Jurassic Park's two-decades-later sequel. So excited, in fact, that we wrote about the science of Jurassic Park in 2013, in anticipation of Jurassic World. Then we kept Googling the movie alongside you, making "Jurassic World" the second-highest trending search term.
"Lamar Odom" was the most-Googled phrase in America in 2015. We never wrote directly about the former Lakers player, but we have looked at the vehicle that's helped him stay relevant in recent years: reality television. Research shows that "heavy viewers of a specific sub-genre—programs such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which purportedly reveal the reality of celebrities' day-to-day lives—are more likely to believe that the heightened theatrics of such shows reflect real-world behavior," Tom Jacobs reported.
We're not here to judge your viewing habits. We all need a little treat at the end of the day. But it's important to remember that "our view of society is shaped by what—and who—we watch."