Rich Kids, Gay Life: Pop Culture Trends of 2003

In 2003, if you were rich, gay, a celebrity with an interest in politics, looking for love on television, trying your luck on Broadway, cutting carbs, dating a younger man or older woman or listening to hip-hop, you were in touch with the zeitgeist.

Here are some of this year's noteworthy trends/phenomena:

"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy": Gay culture seemed to go mainstream this year with the success of this cable show that aims to convert heterosexuals into "metrosexuals." (search) Also in 2003, the soap opera "All My Children" featured daytime television's first lesbian kiss, and Madonna and Britney Spears heated up TV screens with their lip-lock at the MTV Awards -- all in a year when the Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting sodomy.

Rich-Kid Reality Shows:  A spate of "rich-kid" programs hit the small screen, giving the public ample opportunity to indulge in a favorite pastime: making fun of wealthy people. HBO’s documentary “Born Rich,” made by Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson (search), captures the foibles of kids whose parents are millionaires; MTV’s reality show “Rich Girls” follows a pair of wealthy friends; and Fox's "The Simple Life" (search) pokes fun at hotel heiress Paris Hilton and her best friend, singer Lionel Richie's daughter Nicole Richie.

Which brings us to Paris Hilton: This rich kid became a celebrity in her own right following the release of her homemade sex tapes and the ensuing success of "The Simple Life." More Americans tuned into the program than watched an interview with President Bush airing at the same time.

"Joe Millionaire": The reality show about heavy equipment operator who pretends to be a millionaire -- revealing the gold-digging ambitions of unsuspecting female contestants competing for his heart -- was an unexpected huge hit for Fox. However, its follow-up, "The Next Joe Millionaire: An International Affair," bombed.

The California Election: Everyone from former child star Gary Coleman and "adult actress" Mary Carey to porn king Larry Flynt and a 100-year-old woman -- along with about 135 others -- ran for California governor in a recall election. The winner was almost as unlikely -- action-movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Anti-War Celebs: The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines (search) caused an uproar when, with the U.S. on the brink of war with Iraq, she told a London audience she was ashamed President Bush was from her home state of Texas. Although she later apologized, it didn't come quickly enough for some country radio stations, which pulled the popular trio's music. Other stars like Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins spoke out against the war, with still others, like Bruce Willis and Kelsey Grammer, defending it.

Stars Bomb on Broadway: Big names didn't mean big crowds or big talent on Broadway in 2003. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" actor Ned Beatty criticized the performances of his co-stars Jason Patric and Ashley Judd; Jasmine Guy dropped out of a preview of "The Violet Hour" during intermission; Jenna Elfman quit "Nine," saying she needed more time to prepare for her role; Mary Tyler Moore quit "Rose's Dilemma" in previews after playwright Neil Simon reportedly reproached her for not knowing her lines; Farrah Fawcett’s Broadway debut, "Bobbi Boland," was cancelled after a week of previews; and Ellen Burstyn's one-woman show, "Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All," closed after its first night, among other examples.

Nick and Jessica: Pop-star duo Jessica Simpson and former 98 degrees boy-bandmate Nick Lachey worked out the kinks of their first year of marriage on MTV's reality show "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica." The show became a hit for its train-wreck quality, most notably when Simpson questioned whether "Chicken of the Sea" was chicken or tuna. She had the last laugh though, fielding spokeswoman offers from competing tuna companies.

Curves: The bare-bones, women-only gym was named the fastest-growing franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine in January. Until 2003, there was no national ad campaign for the gym, but members spread the Curves story like gospel; some even became franchise owners. Now with about 6,000 locations in the U.S., the gyms promise a complete workout in 30 minutes. Members move between strength-training “hydraulic resistance” machines arranged in a circle, and maintain a target heart rate by jogging in place between circuits.

Hip-Hop Pimps Out: Pimps moved off the street corner and into record shops, music videos and even grocery stores this year, as hip-hop artist 50 Cent claimed to be a “P.I.M.P.” in his hit song featuring real-life former pimp Archbishop Don "Magic" Juan; Nelly unveiled an energy drink called “Pimp Juice”; and pimp cups, hats and suits were ubiquitous on MTV. Critics charged the trend was degrading to women and detrimental to young audiences.

Ms. May-December: Female celebrities like Demi Moore, 41, and Cameron Diaz, 31, made headlines for dating considerably younger men -- in their cases, Ashton Kutcher, 25, and Justin Timberlake, 22, respectively.

Low-Carb Diets: More people than ever seemed to jump on the Atkins Diet (search) bandwagon this year, with many celebrities leading the "hold the bread basket" trend.

Other Noteworthy Fads: Additional notable phenomena were colored diamonds, ever-expanding celebrity entourages and bodyguards, home-improvement shows, the solo careers of Justin Timberlake and Beyonce, Jacko becoming even more Wacko and hip-hop's ascension over pop music.

Stay tuned to for the trends of 2004.