The top pop culture moments, milestones and memories of the past ten years were not exactly easy to decide upon. It has been one particularly long, hallmark-filled, low-point loaded, eccentric, electric and ebullient decade. New paradigms were established when it came to media (from streaming to social); new highs reached with individual voices and rights (the federal legalization of same-sex marriage, for one thing); new languages emerged (meme speak); and new—and some very nasty—precedents were set (Trump and his “politics”).
While it’s impossible to capture all of any ten years’ worth of happenings in one place, we cut out and picked apart our own little slice of the 2010’s: the major cultural shifts, unlikely breakout stars, general absurdities and massive accomplishments that helped to define the decade. The following appear in no preferential sequence or order of importance. Each, rather, is part of our collective take on the popular culture icons that steered the era—and set the stage for the 2020’s.
During the summer of 2016, everything (and everyone) flipped. Stranger Things, from the Duffer brothers, premiered in July on Netflix. It debuted somewhat quietly, but its wave quickly swelled: what would become of the four best friends and their newfound superhuman companion, racing through the backwoods of 80’s-era Indiana, evading black-ops big-government, fighting dark-matter evil in “the upside down,” feeling the pangs of love for the first time, and so on? How great was it to see Winona Ryder, back in manic action, speaking to her missing son through blinking Christmas lights? Was Barb, hero and meme forever in our thoughts, alive? For older viewers, Stranger Things pulled at the heartstrings of our own upbringings, before anything digital, when all we had for entertainment was analog radios, endless nature to explore, and—most importantly—uncontaminated imaginations. For younger audiences, throwback Indiana was, in itself, something of a green-screen facsimile; an upside-down to their own electro-saturated worlds. Netflix has knocked it out of the park with a few shows this decade—Orange Is The New Black being its hallmark—but Stranger Things was and is its most clever. Whether it was the defeat of the Demogorgon, the introduction of new stars including Millie Bobbie Brown, Sadie Sink (season 2), and Noah Schnapp, or the simple premise of this show being a 10 out of 10 on the binge-meter, Stranger Things has proven that there’s nothing quite like nostalgia lit up in burning neon. -Nick Remsen
E!’s Pretty Wild was originally slated as a quickly produced reality show about aspiring Hollywood socialites to fill the schedule between seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but it took a turn towards the bizarre when, after the pilot's filming, facts emerged that one of those would-be socialites, Alexis Neiers, was part of a squad the had burglarized the homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. The press quickly coined them the “Bling Ring,” and E!’s camera crews quickly shifted their focus. Their big payout came in the sixth episode, titled “Vanity Unfair,” in which Neiers and her mother Andrea react badly to an article about the criminal case in Vanity Fair magazine and attempt, multiple times, to leave an enraged voicemail for journalist Nancy Jo Sales to clarify that she was not wearing Louboutin shoes but rather “four inch, little, brown Bebe shoes ($29!)”. In some ways, the moment comes across like a particularly nasty hangover from the previous decade (Lohan as an aspirational figure, a certain genre of schlock reality TV, the idea of young people actually leaving voicemails), but it also came to preface some of the uglier features of this decade: our problematic tendency to meme-ify any public freakout caught on camera, scammer culture, aspiring influencers fueled by the fumes of delusion, and, of course, the trend of unstable yet self-righteous people yelling at journalists that now extends to the Oval Office. Sofia Coppola was on to something when she decided to chronicle it all in her film, The Bling Ring. -Kyle Munzenrieder
What moment, exactly, should we pick as the one that K-pop truly made its mark on America? Was it Girls’ Generation becoming the first K-pop band to perform on American late night TV in 2012, when they appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in front of guests Regis Philbin and Bill Murray? Would it be later that year when Psy cracked the upper echelons of the Billboard Hot 100 with his viral earworm “Gangnam Style?” Or was it when breakouts like CL and G-Dragon became front row regulars at fashion shows across the globe and started collaborating with Western artists? Or maybe it didn’t truly happen until BTS broke a longstanding record previously held by The Beatles by placing three albums at the top of the Billboard chart in less than a year? The truth is, it has been a gradual movement, and one that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon. And while the genre isn’t immune from interrogation of cultural appropriation, K-pop’s global appeal hints at a future where the internet helps to dissolve cultural borders. A catchy hook and expertly executed dance moves have universal appeal. Here’s to a 2020’s where not only does K-pop continue to bloom, but the musical efforts of other non-Western countries get to shine on the world stage as well. -K.M.
On June 21, 2018, the multi-hyphenate talent Virgil Abloh debuted his first collection as the head of menswear at Louis Vuitton. His runway, which shot through central Paris like a rainbow laser beam, sent a clear, decisive message; this new era was to be all-inclusive, open-minded, and impossible to miss. Abloh’s appointment at Vuitton marked a massive and key milestone in Paris’s fashion industry diversification; Olivier Rousteing helped to lead the way in 2011, when he was hired as the head of Balmain (at only 24 years old). Likewise with Rihanna starting and leading her own label, Fenty, under LVMH. Abloh, though, has also profoundly expanded the idea of what it means to be a creative director; the man seems to be everywhere, doing everything. He deejays. He runs another label, Off-White. He curates exhibitions. He designs furniture. (Recently, he skipped Paris Fashion Week, as he needed, understandably, to take a bit of a break.) But on this particular cloud-free afternoon at the Palais-Royale, the resonance of what he’d achieved hit its pinnacle. Abloh and Kanye West—longtime friends and collaborators—embraced, tears flowing, knowing just how significant the moment was. -N.R.
Ah, nature’s Xanax. CBD finds itself right at the center of the marijuana legalization, corporatized natural wellness and luxury self care Venn diagram. The compound cannabidiol was first named and discovered in 1940, but it exploded in popularity in 2018, when studies began to show that it might be able to help with things like anxiety and pain. Suddenly, you could find the stuff in tinctures, face oils, lattes, muscle rubs, bath bombs and $45 gumdrops, often beautifully packaged but with varying degrees of effectiveness and purity. The perfect balm for our stressed out times. -Andrea Whittle
Born out of the wonderfully voyeuristic beauty blog Into The Gloss, makeup and skincare brand Glossier flipped the script when it launched in 2010. Rather than the pouty, airbrushed supermodels of ad campaigns past, the company presented a cheerful, fresh-faced alternative on Instagram: cool, young, internet-savvy hot people with great skin who just see this stuff as fun. Back when Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows were starting to make many of us rethink our threading routines, Glossier introduced Boy Brow, a product that has become a staple in makeup kits around the country. Well priced and sold in sleek, Millennial Pink packaging, the line was an instant hit, and remains hugely popular. Which reminds me, I need to restock my mascara… -A.W.
Tom Cruise first cemented his status as a Hollywood heartthrob by dancing in his underwear to Huey Lewis. Leonard DiCaprio did it by drawing Rose like one of his French girls. Timothée Chalamet? Well, he did it by having a carnal encounter with a juicy pitted peach in Call Me By Your Name. Included in André Aciman’s original novel, neither Chalamet nor director Luca Guadagnino thought it was possible to film the graphic vignette until they individually tried it, for real, at home. After some hesitation, they decided to shoot and include the scene. Unlike the book, however, Armie Hammer’s Oliver does not eat the peach (to the constant chagrin of certain parts of Twitter). The infamy of the sight became legend even before the film saw wide release, and helped launch Chalamet as a new kind of sex symbol. It’s a staggering achievement for a daring idea in a European arthouse film about queer intimacy and desire, but one that also underscores the culture’s evolution on discussing the depths and nuances of sex and lust over the decade. -K.M.
In the Age of the Scam, Miami rap duo City Girls have transformed from self-admittedly messing around (hear: “that’s Yung Miami / she’s signed to Q.C. / how the fuck she got a deal? / she been rapping ‘bout a week") into being legitimate “superstars, man,” as Jatavia “JT” Johnson says on the track “JT First Day Out,” which she recorded a few hours after being released from prison in October, 2019. She had just completed serving a partial sentence for credit card fraud. Johnson and her partner Caresha “Yung Miami” Brownlee first landed on the greater public’s radar when they were featured on Drake’s “In My Feelings” (“Fuck that Netflix-and-chill / what’s you net-net-net worth?”), which premiered on the same day that Johnson surrendered. They worked hard beforehand, though, and while one half of the City Girls was away, Yung Miami kept them going; songs including “Act Up,” “Twerk” (with Cardi B), and earlier recordings like “Where The Bag At?” and “Take Yo Man” (which reimagines the old Salt-n-Pepa track “I’ll Take Your Man”) all became big hits. Beyond the surface indulgence of their music, though, the City Girls have become influential in, simply, how they live; much of what they’ve said on the fly has become part of contemporary vernacular. Think: “Period" (pronounced periodt) and “flewed out.” So much about them seems to become larger than the original instinct or idea; here's hoping the City Girls continue to keep it going deep into the 2020's, in Louis tennis shoes and all. -N.R.
Beyoncé’s headlining Coachella performance, dubbed "Beychella," made history in 2018. It was easily one of the top pop culture moments of any decade. As the first black woman to headline the California music festival, she delivered, giving her fans—and haters—everything they wanted (and then some) when it came to presenting her catalog. The show also included a Destiny’s Child reunion and an appearance by Beyoncé's sister, Solange Knowles. She upped the ante the following year when she released a live album recording of the event and a surprise documentary about developing the HBCU-inspired performance, which earned her an Emmy nomination in 2019. -Brooke Marine
I saw A Star is Born in theaters three times, which is an absurd thing to do, let alone admit to doing. But the movie, with its soaring soundtrack, straight-up emotionally manipulating story, and electrifying-to-the-point-of-uncomfortable chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga has an absurd kind of power. Sure, it’s a little corny. But it landed on our cultural landscape like a meteor. Even just the trailer, in which the world first heard Gaga belt out haaaaAaaaaAAAaawaaaahaaaaAAaaAAAaaWAAAAAAAAA, spawned a meme: Hey. What? I just wanted to take another look at you. (I just want to take another look at… this movie. Seriously, I’d see it ten more times.) -A.W.
In 2010, in the seventh season of The X Factor, five British lads came together to form a band called One Direction. There was Niall, the sweet one, Louis, the prankster, Harry the heartthrob, Liam, the band’s natural vocal leader, and Zayn, the bad boy. Teens around the world quickly fell in love with their heavily-produced sound and chart-topping 2011 single "What Makes You Beautiful.” There were multiple SNL appearances, two concert films, and so much fan fiction. Not since Beatlemania had there been such a British invasion into American pop culture. We had all really, really missed boy bands, it seemed. But then, turbulence—Zayn left the band in 2015. 1D made two more albums post-Zayn (who attempted to embark on what became a rocky solo career), before Harry Styles left to do his own thing, with far more aplomb. The other three soon followed and while the band says they are on "hiatus," we all know the chance of them getting back together in any capacity is slim. -B.M.
Who would have thought that not only would this decade give us the ability to stream content directly from Netflix, but also from Hulu and Amazon? And HBO. And HBO Max. And Apple TV+. And Disney+, CBS All Access, Showtime, Peacock, and a handful of other services that, for a small fee, will deliver content directly to your computer. Or phone. Or tablet. And who would have also thought that each of those platforms would debut original content that you could only access via streaming? The 2010's were largely about the streaming wars. We have the privilege of watching these networks fight tooth and nail to beat each other at their own game. There have never been more services for creatives to share original ideas, but the sheer volume of it all has given everyone content nausea. They say nobody pays for cable or watches TV on an actual TV anymore, but by the time you cut a check for all of the original content each entity has to offer, you might as well pay for some sort of package that bundles all of the streaming platforms together into one. -B.M.
Remember when you could only post photos you’d taken in the app? Remember when all the filters included funny little borders that made your pix look like bleached-out polaroids? For that matter, remember the ubiquity of Valencia? (!) Or when Boomerang was a separate app? Or when photos could only be square? Or when the only people you followed were your actual friends and family? Instagram has morphed drastically since it was introduced in October 2010, from a quirky photo sharing app to an advertising and marketing behemoth that demands our constant attention. It has birthed an entirely new economy based on the finnicky metrics of influence. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, the app has had an immeasurable impact on our culture, the way we present ourselves to the world, and how we think about the people and products we surround ourselves with. Although, it might all be about to change again. Soon, we’ll be asking: Remember ‘likes’? -A.W.
It’s hard to think of a TV show at any point in the history of the medium that was as divisive or closely analyzed as HBO’s Girls. Lena Dunham’s gritty, funny show painted an occasionally bleak portrait of a very specific kind of millennial life in Brooklyn, where privilege, apathy and anxiety mingled with bad sex, terrible friends, and even worse apartments. Often compared with the infinitely more glamorous Sex and the City, it held a mirror to our times, for better or for worse. Dunham’s Hannah Horvath said it best: “"I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or, at least, a voice of a generation." -A.W.
This decade delivered not one, but two royal weddings! The somewhat restrained and very traditional pomp and circumstance of the first nuptials—the 2011 knot-tying between Prince William and Kate Middleton—almost paled in comparison to the history-making frenzy surrounding the second big royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. A black American was set to join the royal family, and the racism in both the press and amongst minor royals did not go unnoticed, either. 11.2 million people tuned in to YouTube’s live stream of the ceremony, and wedding dress memes went viral, as they tend to do. We can’t wait for the dramatic reenactment on a future season of The Crown. -B.M.
Moonlight—released on October 21, 2016, with direction and screenwriting by Barry Jenkins and story development by Tarell Alvin McCraney—is one of the decade’s most galvanizing and poignant films. From Liberty City, Miami, it tells a three-tiered coming-of-age (and coming out) narrative around Chiron, who must not only come to terms with his own identity, but also those powerful peripheral forces that can fragment it like a palm frond might the glow of a street lamp. The movie, produced by A24, achieved huge success: it won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, becoming the first film with an all-black cast to do so. It was also the first victor in the category to be focused around an LGBTQ-related premise. Mahershala Ali, who plays Juan, a drug dealer who also stands in as a father figure for Chiron, became the first Muslim to win an Oscar for acting. Yet the most remarkable thing about Moonlight is not its accolades—it is the film’s inherent humanity, regardless of race or sexual orientation or socioeconomic bracket. The scene in which Juan pseudo-baptizes Chiron, in the gray-green murkiness of Biscayne Bay, is definitive: no matter who you are, we’re all just trying to stay afloat. -N.R.
If anyone has had a standout visual arc in this decade, it’s Kylie Jenner. For years, she denied enhancing her lips. But once she capitulated and admitted to getting lip fillers in 2015, the heavens (and credit lines) opened up for the youngest Jenner. She had realized things. Jenner took her signature bee-stung pout a step further by creating Kylie Lip Kits, and the general American public has genuinely not been the same since. Now, instead of fillers, you could just use a little bit more liner and smear on some liquid gloss to get the full Kylie effect. The moment she debuted those Lip Kits on her site, they sold out within a minute. And now, a billion or so dollars later, she’s just sold the majority stake to her Kylie Cosmetics company while retaining kreative kontrol. She is King. -B.M.
Throughout much of the 2010’s, queer voices in the comedy community were vastly under-recognized. (Though Tig Notaro did break through in 2012 with her dazzling “Live” album). Yet by the end of the decade, someone like Harry Styles was making jokes about poppers and bottoming on Saturday Night Live. The watershed moments between those points may have been the sketch “Wells For Boys,” a two-minute faux-commercial written by Julio Torres and Jeremy Beiler and starring Emma Stone about a Fisher Price plastic well for sensitive boys to reflect in while they’re not watching Y Tu Mama Tambien. It was a quiet little sketch, but one that loudly announced that an underground queer comedy scene of diverse talents had arrived. -K.M.
In the age of streaming, 30 Rock may go done as the last truly great original network sitcom. We’re okay with that. -K.M.
Remember when “activism” was as simple as sporting a yellow LiveStrong bracelet? Society—or a portion of it, anyway—has since come to understand that to effect real change, one must take real action. And in the summer of 2014, there was no action more real than obtaining documentation that you had dumped a bucket of ice water on your head. Swept up in a wave of what wasn’t so much good will as competition, participants of the so-called “Ice Bucket Challenge" strove to complete, and capture, the act with fervor. (The Ice Bucket Challenge was conceived to raise awareness around ALS.) The key to a winning entry was twofold: an innovative, amusing approach, and a list of names of those that you nominated to follow suit within 24 hours that was mostly just a flex. Of the great many people who did it, Donatella Versace came out on top—without so much as lifting a finger. Which is a very Donatella Versace thing to do, or not to do. In her challenge, she enters a surreal scene where two shirtless, chiseled men are standing sentry, awaiting her commands. “Hello, I am Donatella Versace,” she says, completely unnecessarily, before nominating Pedro Almodóvar, Pharrell Williams, and—wait for it—Prince. -Stephanie Eckardt
After gaining notoriety for her supporting part on Orange is the New Black, actress Laverne Cox was put on the cover of Time in 2014, with the cover-line “The Transgender Tipping Point.” When Pose premiered four years later, we knew in which direction the culture had tipped. Centering transgender characters as played by transgender actors (with a good amount of trans talent, including Janet Mock and Our Lady J behind the scenes, as well) the show was, in and of itself, a revolution. And what better subject matter to start with? Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning exposed the mainstream to Harlem’s ballroom scene, but then the mainstream picked it apart like culture vultures. Pose took the narrative back, and hopefully sets the scene for its talent to tell more in the future. -K.M.
Even when Ryan Murphy doesn’t give us what we think we want (traditional narrative structure, satisfying and cohesive world-building logic, sensical conclusion, consistent tempo), he can give us things so singularly bizarre that we couldn’t have imagined how much we needed them. Case in point: American Horror Story. Things like Frances Conroy strapped to a pyre while dressed up in Grace Coddington drag screaming “Balenciaga!” before being burned alive. Indeed, AHS’s Coven may stand as Murphy’s defining television creation. It was so close to actually making sense, but if it’s failures were because Murphy was too busy trying to cast Stevie Nicks and dreaming up lines like “What is this? Knotty pine!?” for Jessica Lange, then, well, we forgive him. -K.M.
It’s not that social thrillers didn’t exist before the 2010s, but it had been a while since we’d seen something as meditative on the contemporary black American experience as Jordan Peele’s Get Out when it was released in 2017. Get Out was a watershed moment for mainstream film, earning Peele an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay the following year. After its release, the movie made space for more socially conscious horror films after it, like Sorry to Bother You and Parasite. -B.M.
First there was Vine, then there was Music.ly, then there was TikTok. Throughout the evolutionary stages of the short-video-clip social media platforms, YouTube has flanked the category’s side as a sort of catch-all—and all-powerful—overseer. This particular social medium has given rise to plenty of its own celebrities, and, in turn, it has de-polished, to an extent, the curated gloss of Instagram and Facebook. Cameron Dallas is the poster child of this realm; he ascended to prominence on Vine, and has since become a social media heavyweight (the guy has dozens of millions of followers across his channels). When did the rest of the world really notice? When Dallas first made an appearance in Milan in early 2017, attending a fashion show for Dolce & Gabbana. The hordes of paparazzi and screaming fans outside were not for one’s traditional movie star or music icon. They were for a guy from California who had no reservations in filming clips of himself doing silly, pointless things. (In a way, the Vine mentality might be traced back to the prior decade’s TV show Jackass, which had a more hazardous but just as ephemeral premise.) -N.R.
A “hypebeast"—a term coined by the media platform of the same name—is a voracious consumer of “the drop,” and a wearer of a select stable of skateboard-centric or younger-glancing brands, ranging from Supreme to Palace to Off-White to Nike to KITH to Anti-Social Social Club to… well, the list is long. Hypebeast-dom also comes with a massive resale market, which is a byproduct phenomenon of the term’s ascent. All of this being said: Hype crossed into fashion’s upper echelons in January 2017, when Kim Jones, then head of Louis Vuitton menswear, launched a collaboration with Supreme that broke the sartorial internet. The latter’s white Futura font and scarlet color scheme was emblazoned on the former’s Epi leather Keepall duffle; a hoodie, blending both house’s logos, is currently asking north of $12,000 on StockX. It was they hype-iest hype move in hype history, and it paid off big-time for both Vuitton and Supreme. As Jones told Vogue’s Sarah Mower, the move was about capturing the “Pop identity” of Louis Vuitton, and the “joy of the brand.” It worked, and then some. -N.R.
The Kardashians are contouring, the kids are gleefully flaunting gender norms, and your 52-year-old conservative aunt is suddenly laughing about “throwing shade” at your mother’s mashed potato recipe at Thanksgiving Dinner. RuPaul’s Drag Race is responsible. What started as a curious cable experiment on Logo in season one, found its rhythm is season two thanks largely to contestants Raven and Jujubee, and truly started to reach its potential in season three. While the impeccably styled Raja won that season, it was Shangela who produced its most iconic moment by going on a highly quotable diatribe about sugar daddies and the limits of fellow contestant’s propensity for glamour. The show never looked back, and its contestants are now bankable stars in their own right. Shangela, for her part, has gone on to feature on an Ariana Grande album and steal scenes from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born. -K.M.
It’s rare for a Broadway show become a cultural phenomenon outside the New York metropolitan area. It’s rarer still for historical fiction based on a biography of a founding father to catch anyone’s attention. But Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Alexander Hamilton exploded onto the pop cultural landscape. Reframing history with a racially diverse cast, the historical fiction drama told via hip hop resonated with the nation from coast to coast, giving us multiple albums (including The Hamilton Mixtape, which debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts) and getting Miranda a slew of Tony Awards, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer Prize. -B.M.
Around two-and-a-half years ago, Kaia Gerber—then 14, but already strikingly poised and self-assured—stopped by the W office and told me that while she was dying to walk runway shows, she was waiting until “the proper age,” aka 16. True to her word, just four days after her 16th birthday, she turned up on one—at the already highly anticipated New York Fashion Week debut of Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein, no less—and she hasn’t left the pinnacle of the fashion sphere since. This decade also saw the rise of other millennial model scions like Kendall Jenner, Bella and Gigi Hadid, and Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin). Gerber is something of an exception in that she’s been brimming with encyclopedic knowledge of fashion for years now, not to mention clearly has staying power. The fact that it’s easy to forget that she’s Cindy Crawford’s daughter goes to show just iconic she’s become. -S.E.
This moment from the 2013 Oscars is somehow still just as funny almost seven years later. The sheer confidence with which John Travolta introduces Idina Menzel as “the wickedly talented, one and only, Adele Dazeem” has been seared into our collective consciousness, where I hope it remains forever. Even his little deferential bow at the end is pure comedy. What was he thinking? What did the teleprompter say? Does it still keep him up at night? We may never know. And I don’t care. -A.W.
Like any awards show, the Golden Globes usually kicks off with a colorful, competitive display of red carpet pageantry. But in 2018, a week after 300 public figures banded together to launch Time’s Up, the Globes was a sea of black, with attendees expressing their solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and assault. Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams brought activists as their dates, while others affixed Time’s Up pins to their chests. As it turned out, that didn’t necessarily mean they were sincerely behind the cause: a clearly flabbergasted David Harbour’s failure to answer the question of what he thought time was up on was so bleak it was comical, and not a single man’s acceptance speech made mention of the #MeToo movement or Time’s Up. For better or for worse, it perfectly foreshadowed the early stages of activism that followed: all too rare instances of people in power actually using their platforms to make a difference, accompanied by a few helpings of petty drama. (A portion of which, naturally, ended up centering around Lena Dunham.) -S.E.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself wondering how this decade ended up with Kanye West—excuse us, Christian Genius Billionaire Kanye West—releasing an album earnestly titled Jesus Is King, or Justin Bieber frequently attending church services and even marrying a fellow worshipper. Well, we have one word for you: Hillsong. If you’ve never heard of it, well, that’s because it isn’t so much a self-proclaimed “megachurch” as an unabashedly celebrity-friendly enclave; after all, it took Bieber’s conversion from Belieber to believer so seriously that one of its most prominent pastors—whose liturgical attire consists of flannels and oversized aviator glasses—took him into his own home, baptized him in an NBA player’s bathtub, and eventually employed him as a religious “intern.” Not every A-lister belongs to Hillsong—or, for that matter, attends Sunday Services—but it’s still emblematic of the wave of Christianity that’s overtaken regular ol’ spirituality (remember Kabbalah bracelets?) in Hollywood. Whether or not congregants are true believers or just drawn to religion’s aesthetically hip, Helvetica-heavy rebrand is besides the point. (And so, apparently, are the institutional traditions that survived the rebrand—like the fact that Hillsong’s track record with the LGBTQ community is shaky at best.) -S.E.
“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” the actor Alyssa Milano tweeted on October 15, 2017—10 days after the New York Times published an exposé of Harvey Weinstein, the former Hollywood mogul who had allegedly been sexually harassing and abusing women for decades. Originally the brainchild of the activist Tarana Burke, the idea was to show the public the magnitude of the issue, which had already come to symbolize the abuses that women have silently endured for—at the very least—decades before Weinstein even existed. It worked. The “#MeToo movement” quickly became the catch-all phrase for any and everything to do with the post-Harvey Weinstein reckoning (and Burke even finally received her due). -S.E.
The pseudonymous author of a series of four dense books about a complicated friendship between two women growing up in a poor, mafia-blighted part of Italy would seem an unlikely pop icon. But Elena Ferrante caused a literary frenzy with The Neapolitan Novels. The books themelves, with their somewhat strange, eye-catching cover designs and whiff of European sophistication, also ushered in a new era of feminist-leaning literary fiction as status accessory, the kind of books you’re excited to post on your Instagram stories or crack open on a crowded beach—Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy and both of Sally Rooney’s novels could be placed in the same category. They ignited heated conversations about the dynamics of female friendship; had literary critics champing at the bit to figure out if she was, in fact, a man; got adapted into a moody, stylized HBO series; and attracted legions of both fans and haters. (I loved them) -A.W.
It seems almost impossible now that Vetements started out purposefully cloaked in anonymity. Even long before its founder, Demna Gvasalia, was appointed to the helm of Balenciaga, the label’s out-there clothes (sock boots with lighters for heels, floral dresses with sleeves that extended way beyond arm’s length) were seemingly everywhere. By the time then-burgeoning street style star Celine Dion pulled the very meta move of stepping out in a $885 Titanic-themed Vetements hoodie, the brand had already solidified its place in the fashion pantheon. - S.E.
Carly Rae Jepsen’s seminal pop hit “Call Me Maybe” rejuvenated the concept of the earworm when the single dropped in 2011. The song’s virality was unprecedented at the time, thanks to a Justin Bieber lip sync and label co-sign. The hook of “Call Me Maybe” was so undeniably catchy that nary a hater could shake it out of their head no matter how hard they tried. It seemed like every sports team under the sun recorded a lip sync video of the track. Even the cast of Glee produced a rendition of it in 2012. It didn’t just go gold or platinum in the U.S., it went diamond. For those who thought this catchy pop tune would make Jepsen a one-hit wonder, she proved them wrong—dead wrong—in 2015 when she followed up with E•MO•TION, a fantastical disco-pop album. Like Alanis Morissette, another iconic Canadian singer-songwriter before her who faced a delayed recognition of her genius, it took until Jepsen third studio album for critics to take her seriously. And nearly a decade later, “Call Me Maybe” still slaps. How’s that for longevity? -B.M.
The often repeated line “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A Billion Dollars.” Is a slightly truncated version of the original exchange in 2010’s The Social Network, which told the story of the early days of Facebook. In the film, Andrew Garfield responds to Justin Timberlake’s question with a slightly defensive “You…?” Timberlake smiles wryly and starts to respond as the camera cuts, in a classic example of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s pacing, between him and Garfield delivering the kicker: “A billion dollars.” It’s a perfect distillation of what we’ve come to recognize as cringey Silicon Valley bravado—broey but also extraordinarily lame. How bizarre that these people have become our overlords. Although that’s not the only line from that scene that’s been quoted into oblivion (“drop the the. It’s cleaner.”) there’s another, lesser known one that was perhaps the most prescient: “Private behavior is a relic of a time gone by.” -A.W.
Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, circa 2013, was a messy yet riveting ode to the polychrome teenage wasteland of coastal Florida, and by extension, any party town when school’s out. It starred Selena Gomez and James Franco (as a maybe-rapper named Alien), among others, and was scored by Skrillex (which I’d forgotten, but which is a very essential piece of information). Its reception among critics and audiences alike was weak-to-average at best. No matter, though: Spring Breakers was ahead of its time. In one respect, it paved the way for hyper-saturated Floridian fare, such as 2017’s far stronger The Florida Project, and in another, it painted the framework for the neon hallucinatory aura that would heavily inform HBO’s Euphoria. We'll also never be able to get the lingering line "spraaaaaaang breaaaak" out of our heads. -N.R.
Lady Gaga certainly wasn’t the first modern popstar to base their aesthetics on the excesses of the avant-garde fashion runways (See: Irish singer Róisín Murphy’s Overpowered era or Björk’s entire career since Vespertine), but Gaga was the first to do it with the full force of paparazzi and mainstream gossip blog attention. So while the Murphys and Björks of the world could space out their outré looks for maximum impact, by 2010 Gaga was burning through fashion statements at an unsustainable pace. There was the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac “Kermit” coat during an interview, the Alexander McQueen armadillo heels in the “Bad Romance” video and other occasions, the Armani cosmic iceberg-like headpiece at that year’s Grammys, and Francesco Scognamiglio’s three-tiered haunted wedding cake dress at the Brits. So when she accepted the VMA Moonman for Video of the Year for “Bad Romance” in September of that year (which would be the biggest awards show night of her career until, arguably, the most recent Oscars), how could she even top herself? Well, Gaga and stylist Nicola Formichetti decided to forgo fabric and thread all together, and commissioned a dress made out of raw flank steak. "I never thought I'd be asking Cher to hold my meat purse,” she said that night. Us either. -K.M.
To the chagrin of public health officials and anxious parents everywhere, one of the most major glow ups of the decade was that of the vape. Indeed, Juul—the rebrand’s poster child—bears such little resemblance to the metal monstrosities of yore that for several years, teens could believably pass it off as a flash drive. Alas, those days are in the past: The demise of Juul is officially upon us, arriving just as quickly as its rise. Suddenly, pod flavors like cool mint, cucumber, fruit medley, mango, and crème brûlée have all gone up in (potentially lethal) smoke. Celebrities who once seemed glued to their devices are being photographed with empty hands. Bella Hadid is no longer posting strangely mesmerizing videos of herself exhaling, and even Sophie Turner—the last bastion of Juul culture—hasn’t posted any Juul content since the Game of Thrones finale in May. What happens of Juuls in the afterlife remains to be seen, but at least Sofia Richie’s will be laid to rest in the alligator-embossed coffin that was once her Juul case. -S.E.
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand during the National Anthem in 2016, he sparked a protest movement across the nation. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said, in reference to the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police officers. Kaepernick’s kneeling caused him to effectively be blacklisted from the NFL, filed a lawsuit against the organization, and eventually reached a settlement, but he was right—it was bigger than football. -B.M.
The Monterey Five—as they will be known in the canon of entertainment history—are a quintet of women in the HBO series Big Little Lies (an adaptation of a book by the same name by Liane Moriarty). There is Reese Witherspoon’s feisty Madeline Mackenzie, Zoë Kravitz’s troubled Bonnie Carlson, Nicole Kidman’s ethereal yet wounded Celeste Wright, Shailene Woodley’s new-to-the-scene and also wounded Jane Chapman, and the absolutely masterful Laura Dern as an uncompromising, if insecure, Renata Klein. Together, the cover up a killing, but more interestingly, they never let you in on whether or not they actually do have good intentions. Like the eerie calm of the Pacific looming permanently in the background, you can’t help but wonder that these women have bigger, not-so-little lies in their pasts, as they swirl around their expensive glasses of wine. Kidman gives an incredible scene in which Celeste, a lawyer, is defending herself in a custody battle. But it is Dern’s brilliant, unhinged line—“I will not not be rich!”—that sets the lightly absurd tone for one of the most soapy-shimmery programs of the 2010’s. -N.R.
It feels weird to put a spoiler alert before an item on an end-of-decade list, but if you are one of the few people who have never watched an episode of Game of Thrones maybe you should move on to the next item. Sure, you might think the idea of you actually watching the show after all of that may be surprising, but more shocking things have happened. Shocking things like, well, (spoiler alert!) an HBO show ruthlessly killing off a handful of its most beloved main characters during what was set up as a wedding celebration. Even though the moment happened all the way back in the third season, the massacre still stands as the signature gut punch of a show filled with them. -K.M.
Perhaps no story better encapsulates America today than that of Alice Marie Johnson, who was 63 years old and two decades into a life sentence without parole when her case caught the attention of one Kim Kardashian. Outraged by the fact that Johnson’s incarceration stemmed from a first-time nonviolent drug offense in the mid-’90s, Kardashian made her first-ever visit to the White House so that she could personally petition Johnson’s case to Donald Trump, in a reality-star-to-reality-star tête-à-tête. For better or for worse, it worked. The president granted Johnson clemency, somehow managing to make the outlook of America’s broken criminal justice system look even more bleak. In between studying to become a lawyer and texting Jared Kushner, Kardashian has since returned to the White House so regularly that it’s become a stomping ground of sorts. But even as she moved on to other prisoners, Kardashian wasn’t finished with Johnson just yet. Which brings us to the perfect happy ending: Kardashian asked Johnson to become a Skims shapewear model. -S.E.
A hip-hop song built around a sample from an album by alt-rock legends Nine Inch Nails that briefly lit up the country music charts until it was (controversially) removed, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” became the longest running number one song on the Billboard charts not just of this decade but any other. While some wrote “OTR” off as a optimized-for-streaming meme that got out of hand, there’s no denying the song buried its way deeply into our collective heads. Just 19 years old at the song’s release, Lil Nas X may have even produced the first significant cultural work of Generation Z, and in that context may foreshadow what’s to come in the 2020s. For a generation that has had the entirety of human knowledge at their fingertips since the time they could read, the myth of originality seems exposed. In its place, recontextualizing the existing into surprising combinations and streamlining it for our algorithm overlords. -K.M.
Few scandals have produced more potent schadenfreude than a group of B-List actresses scamming their children’s ways into college with millions of dollars, a shocking degree of willful ignorance and photoshopped water polo glamour shots. So-called Operation Varsity Blues sparked a larger conversation about the murky metrics of college admissions, privilege on campus, and the fact that most people who spend millions of dollars to increase their child’s chance of getting into an Ivy do it by just… giving that money directly to the school. -A.W.
In 2016, 18-year-old Malia Obama started off her gap year by attending music festivals around the nation, hanging out in relative peace until paparazzi spotted her smoking at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Tabloids took the photos and ran with them, shaming her for smoking what appeared (but was never confirmed) to be a joint at an outdoor concert where other attendees were likely rolling on much harder stuff. George W. Bush’s daughters were busted for underage drinking in 2001, but the media wouldn’t let Obama live after her alleged marijuana use. Her rather brilliant response? Wearing a white t-shirt with handwritten text that read “smoking kills” paired with a Harvard baseball cap at Philadelphia’s Made in America Festival a couple months later. -B.M.
2017’s “Bodak Yellow” announced the arrival of Cardi B, and, in turn, Cardi B announced the arrival of an entirely new wave of celebrity—a star who rose the ranks by fighting, tooth-and-bedazzled-nail, through strip clubs and social media to the very apex of fame. Cardi—née Belcalis Almánzar—has not released anything quite as exciting as “Bodak,” which proudly delivered such declaratives as “If I see you and I don’t speak / that means I don’t fuck with you” in that now very famous, very stays-in-your-ears Cardi accent. The Bronx-born superstar shot to the top and hasn’t budged since; with Offset and baby Kulture in tow, she has moved on from only coveting “bloody shoes” (a line from “Bodak” that nods to Christian Louboutin’s famous red soles). Cardi has become a more avant-garde fashion plate, too, (sometimes) trading in her Fashion Nova for designers like Richard Quinn, Thom Browne and Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia. -N.R.
With the rise of YouTube came the rise of an extremely powerful kind of niche celebrity: The Beauty Vlogger. With their punchy, sped-up videos and hyper-stylized makeup looks (high contrast brows, heavy contouring, saturated matte lips) they invented an entirely new aesthetic vernacular. The kind of detailed makeup once only reserved for the red carpet started to slowly creep its way into real life, where teenagers always have their cameras at the ready to capture their latest Ulta haul or wax poetic about their favorite Kylie Lip Kit shade. Members of the beauty vlogging community, some of whom have tens of millions of followers, even have their own villains and feuds, like when Tati Westbrook and James Charles had a very public spat over personal drama. But hey, at least their makeup looked great the whole time. -A.W.
Crazy Rich Asians, the first of a trilogy of novels by Kevin Kwan anchored in the richer-than-God circles of Singapore and Hong Kong, became 2013’s beach read of choice. Five years later, the film adaptation by the same title broke significant ground as the first film in 25 years—ever since The Joy Luck Club in 1993—to feature an all-Asian cast and Asian-American leads. Most of the world met stars Henry Golding and Awkwafina for the very first time. Constance Wu became a household name. And for 2 hours and 1 minute, we gawked at the .0000000001%, with their private-jets-to-bachelorette parties, their endless infighting, their opulent wedding ceremonies, their earrings that cost lots of millions of dollars (is it us or could Astrid have been styled a little more… chicly? Kwan goes all in on the fashion history in his books, including mentions of a vintage Vionnet piece. Gemma Chan did not get as informed of a wardrobe in the movie), and their careful and meticulous and ever-shifting rankings based on net worth. As Awkwafina’s Peik Lin says to Wu’s Rachel, when the latter is thinking of leaving her billionaire boyfriend: “Good for you. Walking away from Nick and his family's fat-ass property portfolio. You have no one, no net worth, but you have integrity. That's why I respect you.” Lol. -N.R.
There comes a day in every Disney star’s life when they decide to put their innocence in the past. For Miley Cyrus, that was August 25, 2013, when more than 10 million viewers watched the former teenybopper twerk her heart out at that year’s MTV VMAs. The performance—which Cyrus rounded out with various other moves, like simulating annilingus and getting frisky with both Robin Thicke and a giant foam finger—generated 306,000 tweets per minute. And the dialogue most definitely didn’t stop there. Looking back, Cyrus wasn’t so much “obviously deeply troubled [and] deeply disturbed,” as Mika Brzenzinski put it the following morning on MSNBC, as, well, just being Miley. -S.E.