The Defining Moments of Pop Culture: 2000-2009

11 Dec

The latest issue of New York Magazine is covering the decade that was 2000-2009 and they’ve come up with a fantastic timeline of defining pop-cultural moments. A Million Little Cultural Pieces: A smattering of moments that changed the way we entertain ourselves isn’t definitive (and nor does it claim to be), but it provides a great snapshot of the period. Check below for the abridged version.


January 21: Mary Harron’s American Psycho premieres at Sundance, presaging 2008’s Wall Street bloodbath. Star Christian Bale becomes aughts box-office wunderkind/anger-management poster boy.

February 1: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius catapults Dave Eggers into literary stardom; with McSweeney’s, introduces the Art of Twee.

March 22: NBC cancels short-lived but hugely influential Freaks and Geeks, firing ne’er-do-well creator Judd Apatow and cast members Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel.

May 31: Survivor debuts. Viewers elated, critics bewildered, pundits relieved: Subsequent reality-TV explosion becomes convenient totem for debating nation’s cultural maturity (or lack thereof).

July: Napster’s file-sharing rocks music biz when Radiohead’s Kid A is leaked three months before the CD is released. Ironically, it helps drive album to No. 1 on soon-to-be-irrelevant Billboard chart.

October 15: Curb Your Enthusiasm premieres; augurs cringe-comedy trend (The Office, The Comeback …).

October 26: Sony’s PlayStation 2 debuts, selling over 139 million units to date. Welcome, new generation of 3-D gaming!


February 6: FOX’s 24 debuts with TV’s first black president—and weirdly becomes propaganda organ for Bush administration’s policy on torture.

May 22: The Strokes release The Modern Age EP. New York rock revival is on (Interpol, the Walkmen, the Rapture …)! With the White Stripes’ White Blood Cells in July, revival goes national, blissfully ending nu-metal and boy-band chart domination.

September: Yeah Yeah Yeahs drop super-cool self-titled debut EP, igniting Williamsburg scene (TV on the Radio, Liars, Animal Collective …). Eventual by-product: hipster hatred.

November 10: Steve Jobs is God, Part 1: The iPod is released, changing media consumption, Apple’s core business, and the music industry.


May 18: Will Ferrell leaves SNL, paving way for biggest comedy career of decade, not to mention fellow fuzzy-haired spastics like Jonah Hill.

October 23: Kanye West survives car crash. Incident inspires breakthrough single, “Through the Wire,” recorded while his jaw is wired shut. Now all aspiring rappers know how to spell Louis Vuitton.


January 22: Dave Chappelle premieres galvanising Chappelle’s Show. Faster than you can say I’m Rick James bitch!, DVDs make millions. Faster still, it all ends when Chappelle inexplicably quits.

June 24: Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” then OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” in September, become pop songs of decade. Even stubborn rockists now admit chart-toppers are as critically relevant as sallow-faced indie dudes.

August: MySpace prototype launches. Ultimately fails as social-networking site but forever alters how music is marketed: by bands themselves.

November 14: Jay-Z releases The Black Album, hip-hop’s equivalent to Michael Jordan’s sixth championship: a perfect endnote from a titan. If only he had retired after this.

December 2: Soon after her leaked sex tape, Paris Hilton—high priestess of famous-for-being-famous—stars in vaguely legitimate claim to fame, The Simple Life, with BFF (then not) Nicole Richie.


February 22: Sex and the City ends. TV producers (including SATC creator, Darren Star) still trying to replicate show’s success.

September 28: Laguna Beach marks start of MTV’s new regime of “reality” TV. Music videos now quaint.


February: YouTube founded. The rest is history, in downloaded bites.

April: Brangelina and TomKat (with Cruise’s near career-killing couch-jumping on Oprah in May) push tabloid news onto front pages of legit papers.

August 19: The 40-Year-Old Virgin opens, launching inescapable Apatow movie machine.

December 9: Brokeback Mountain shatters limited-release records in New York, eventually winning three Oscars. Homosexual cowboys and Heath Ledger get some respect.


July 28: Celebrity site (started in 2005) gets first hit of credibility by breaking news of Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest. By 2009, it’s a source as trusted as (egads!) newspapers.

September 7: Sacha Baron Cohen unleashes Borat at Toronto Film Festival. Arguments (bigoted? Exploitive? Classist?) begin—and end with Brüno in 2009.

November 19: Nintendo Wii’s radical, easy-to-use motion-sensitive controllers create whole new gaming demo: women.


February 16: Britney Spears, decade’s tabloid tragedian, shaves head, a greater (if sadder) act of performance art than her kiss with Madonna at 2003 Music Video Awards.

June 10: Open-ended Sopranos finale sparks national debate. He was whacked, right?

June 29: Steve Jobs is God, Part 2: iPhone hits streets, and for once How did I live without that? feels meaningful.

July 19: HBO reject Mad Men premieres on AMC, rebranding the network, reviving gray flannel suits, Cosmopolitan girls, and the besotted allure of early-sixties Manhattan.

October 10: Radiohead rush-releases In Rainbows in pay-what-you-want format; freaks everyone the hell out. Future of the industry or one-off gimmick?


March 12: Hulu launches. Hulu + DVR = final nail in appointment TV’s coffin.

April 4: Jay-Z and Beyoncé marry, becoming First Celeb Couple of New York City and First Black Celeb Couple in America (at least until that other couple moves into the White House).

July 18: Christopher Nolan’s deeply dark The Dark Knight—fueled by bravura performance from Heath Ledger, who died in January—takes comic-book films to new level of fanboy hysteria and box-office glory.


April 16: Twitter becomes legit social networking for celebs when Ashton Kutcher reaches 1 million followers, beating out even CNN.

September 13: In most blatant (and entertaining) example of decadelong celebrity megalomania, Kanye “I’ma let you finish” West interrupts Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at MTV Video Music Awards.

November 20: In one momentous day, second Twilight movie New Moon opens and breaks box-office records. And Oprah announces she’ll end talk show in 2011. Now we’re talkin’ apocalypse.

Read New York Magazine’s full timeline here.


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