There are events, items and personalities that become so absorbed in the culture, it is hard to believe they weren’t always there. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane to look at things we didn’t know we wouldn’t be able to live without, and it was only a decade ago come Saturday (give or take a chronological leap or two)…
Dave Steed – “Jersey Shore and the Beeb”: We were so anxious to see Snooki being dropped from inside the New Year’s Ball in New York’s Times Square, until it was revealed the stunt could never be allowed, probably for fear of Snooki’s safety… which was one of the reasons we would have watched.
And what of Justin Bieber, only a sprightly seven years old in 2001? His rise in 2010 was nothing less than meteoric, and it’s hard to see this rocket sustaining velocity much longer. Perhaps if he proclaims, “I’m gonna be on top forever!” (the perennial career curse, ‘natch).
Molly Marinik – “Acai berry, KFC double down, grocery store sushi, Wendy’s Frosties in flavors other than chocolate, coconut M&Ms, the terms “death panel,” “gate rape,” “mama grizzly”: For a brief, shining moment, the acai berry was the miracle weight loss superfood, endorsed by Oprah and it would even walk your dog and paint your house… In the end, the claims made by the proponents turned out to only be a little fruity (GROAN – Ed.)
The genius behind the KFC double down is not that it substitutes a bun for two slabs of deep-fried chicken, but that the product could singlehandedly solve future Social Security and health care costs by simply killing off a generation with heart failure.
As 2011 crawls in beneath the drunken haze, it will bring with it a band of new politicos, “the Tea Partiers,” who have sworn to hit ‘Obama-care’ where it lives. With it will likely be the resurgence of the term ‘death panel’, though it would be nice if that wasn’t the case. Sarah Palin will likely be leading that charge, with her “mama grizzlies” in tow, ready to ‘refudiate’ the claims presented. And to get there, she’ll need to fly from Alaska to D.C., needing to choose whether to be digitally peeped by new airport scanners or to get some two-handed touch security via TSA agents.
Robin Monica Alexander – “Facebook, iTunes, Netflix… Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The Rachel Maddow Show, Glenn Beck (on TV), The Colbert Report, and a black president”: While iTunes and Netflix were around, they were both considered risky ventures that only online geeks would be interested in. Why would anyone just stay in their homes and buy digital music without having a physical item to show for it? How could anyone choose renting videos through the mail instead of going down the street to Blockbuster and getting them right now?
Today, we no longer have Hollywood Video, Virgin Megastore, Tower Music, Sam Goody’s, and Blockbuster Video is a hair’s breath from non-existence. It seems that the one thing people want more than stuff right now is stuff you don’t have to break a sweat to go get. Makes you wish you had some stock options about now, don’t it?
Also, more than any ten year stretch in recent history, this was the season of punditry, where anyone with a soapbox and a megaphone could be the voice of a political scene, some for better, others for worse.
Jack Feerick – “New seasons of Doctor Who, Lady Gaga, a viable Chinese spaceflight program, Adult Swim (although some of the groundwork was laid in 1999/2000, the brand debuted in late 2001 and solidified over the next couple of years), The Red Sox winning the World Series within living memory. Twice.” Ask someone about Doctor Who in 2001, and depending on their understanding of everything BBC and geektastic, they would either mourn the beloved TV serial about the curious Time Lord, laugh about the limited production values, or ask “Who What?”
With a bit of a facelift, but a lot of respect to the original series, the Doctor now has a new lease on life and is quickly becoming an institution once again. The same can be said about the Battlestar Galactica reboot (and in 2001, people wouldn’t be caught dead using a nerd-term like “reboot” in any context other than talking about a Saturday morning cartoon).
Now, ask someone in 2001 if the crossbreeding of Madonna and David Bowie is a good idea. Odds are, they would look at you like you just farted in church, but one of modern pop’s biggest stars is very much a mix of those two personalities.
Robert Cass – “Back in 2001 the U.S. wasn’t involved in two foreign wars. But thank goodness we now have color-coded terror alerts!”
David Medsker – “The Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand…” & David Lifton – “…the rise of indie culture as the monoculture/mainstream collapsed”: There was a period when the lines were clearly defined as to what was indie culture vs. mainstream culture. Metallica was on Megaforce Records, then Elektra. They Might Be Giants was on Bar-None, then Elektra. Now Elektra is little more than another facade for the Atlantic wing of the Warner Media Group. Slint, Rachel’s and Calexico were on Quarterstick/Touch and Go Records, which doesn’t even exist anymore. The DMZ was stringently divided.
Now it is hard to say what is, and isn’t indie. Franz Ferdinand arrived on Domino Records, Arcade Fire on Merge, The New Pornographers on Matador, and the label is almost insignificant now as these bands go head-to-head with the Sony Musics, Universals and EMIs of today. A lot is about the level digital playing field, some of it is about these indies having major industry distribution now, but a great portion is cultural. Who would ever have guessed Sam Beam, his lo-fi recordings under the Iron & Wine banner, and a candy company would be at all compatible, but M&Ms used “Such Great Heights” nonetheless in a major advertising campaign. Vampire Weekend’s “Holiday” hawks Toyotas.
There are still pockets of the indie underground, embracing once again cassette tapes as the way forward while the “majors” look back to vinyl as a marketable niche. Will it last? It’s hard to say. When Disney bought Miramax, did it cease being Miramax? Now that they’ve sold it off, will the new owners be more, or less, indie? Are movies shot on hi-def camcorders any less a cinematic effort now that the rest of the film industry shoots, and more often displays, with digital technology?
Dw. Dunphy -“I’m thinking Kindle, iPad, Kanye West (as artist, not producer), and when did American Idol debut?”: Hard to fathom but, yes it is true. American Idol debuted in 2002 and we haven’t found a way to kill it yet; not with William Hung (who?), Clay Aiken (who?), Taylor Hicks (who??), or Sanjaya (oh, come on now, you’re making these up, right?) This tenth, upcoming season finds Ellen DeGeneres and the songwriting what’s-her-name (Kara DioGuardi? I mean, who?) out, as well as what may finally be the death knell for the long-running melismathon, the departure of British bitch Simon Cowell. Replacing them are Big Mouth MacGillicuddy (Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler) and Jennifer “Address me as your highness, peasants” Lopez.
The Kindle and iPad arrived, with the latter dodging tampon jokes to the tune of over a million units sold in under 28 days of the launch, and the former outselling standard paperback editions on parent company Amazon.com’s site. In both instances, those who said print would never suffer the same fate as music and video are now unemployed and squeegee’ing windows by the entrance to New York’s Holland Tunnel.
And the last word on all of this will have to be, if there ever was a doubt, “I’ma let you finish…”