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Top Pop Culture Moments of the 2010s

Can you believe that 2019 is almost over? Not only that, at the end of the month we’re going to be closing out another decade? It seems insane to think about the end of the 2010s decade when I sometimes feel like 2009 was just a few years ago. So many things have happened between 2010 and now, from the rise of social media to all the weird trends (fidget spinners, anyone?). In this article, let’s take a deep dive back into all the crazy moments of the past decade, good and bad. 



Let’s start with 2010; when Blackberry was the phone and Apple was just starting to become a tech giant with the release of the iPad. Whatever device you used, you probably played Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies at some point. Facebook was everywhere; it just hit 500 million users and The Social Network, the movie about its origins, was a box office hit. Disney made us cry as Andy grew up in Toy Story 3 and made us laugh with Tangled, but the minions of Despicable Me were definitely the animated hit of the year. Glee (the slightly more adult High School Musical) made musicals cool for TV while Jersey Shore dominated reality television. Lady Gaga confused the public with her meat dress on the red carpet but everyone else started wearing skinny jeans, leggings and jeggings. 2010 was also the height of Bieber Fever, bringing fans everywhere “Baby”, complete with Justin Bieber’s floppy helmet hair. If you weren’t a fan, you probably listened to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” ft. Snoop Dogg, Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”, Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” ft. Rihanna or the then newbie Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are”. After the FIFA World Cup, nobody wanted to hear vuvuzelas for a while though.


It was the year of the royal wedding! Prince William marries Kate Middleton and millions worldwide tuned in to watch the fairytale ceremony, see the dress, and comment on all of the guests’ silly headwear. People also talked about Kim Kardashian’s wedding and subsequent 72-day marriage with Kris Humphries (before Kimye was ever a thing). Planking was the viral trend of the year, with millions posting their own creative planking pictures online. Fantasy and sci-fi found its place on television with the success of Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and Merlin. Meanwhile, the magic of the wizarding world (temporarily) ended as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 culminated the 10-year film series’ cinematic run. In the meantime, Bridesmaids opened doors for female-driven comedies in Hollywood and proved that women could be funny too. 2010 was also the year that the neverending game of Temple Run became popular and Beyoncé made her (first) iconic pregnancy announcement during her 2012 VMA performance. Adele’s sophomore album 21 was the soundtrack of the year, with songs like “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You” topping the charts and winning all the awards. Also, can you “Teach Me How To Dougie”? 



The world didn’t end in 2012, but the Twilight film saga sure did. The Hunger Games inspired every girl to wear a side braid thanks to Katniss, everybody covered the “Cups” song from Pitch Perfect, and the success of The Avengers established superhero ensemble movies in cinema. South Korean star Psy’s “Gangnam Style” started a viral dance craze and everybody played along because #YOLO. British boy bands were also the craze with the global success of One Direction (back when there were five members). They were among the artists that performed in the epic London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, along with The Who and Spice Girls. “Call Me Maybe” was the song of the summer and Jelena (Justin Bieber + Selena Gomez) made it go viral with a lip-synching video that (kind of) confirmed their relationship. It was also late in 2012 that we were introduced to Instagram and its filters that we put on all the food and nail pictures. Honey Boo-Boo became a star, Obama was re-elected but the real winner was Angelina Jolie’s leg at the Oscars. 



There were a lot of crazy dances in 2013: Ylvis’ “What Does The Fox Say”, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” and twerking. Speaking of twerking, remember Miley Cyrus’ performance of “We Can’t Stop”/”Blurred Lines” with the foam finger? With the help of the hit single and music video “Wrecking Ball”, she showed everyone that her Hannah Montana days were long gone. Justin Bieber made headlines with all his bizarre antics including peeing in a bucket and having a pet monkey. The Jonas Brothers broke up in 2013 (spoiler alert: they get back together later on). Beyoncé, with the help of a brief Destiny’s Child performance, absolutely owned her Superbowl halftime performance so much that we forgot the Superbowl was actually a football game. It might seem like a regular occurrence now but Kim Kardashian’s butt selfies were big news back then, and so was North West’s name and her engagement to Kanye West. Orange Is the New Black was the show to watch on TV but the ridiculous premise for Sharknado created a buzz for the movie. Total sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence became a household name, especially after stumbling on her way to receive her Best Actress Oscar award. It was so #relatable!



The success of Disney’s Frozen and the smash hit that was “Let It Go” couldn’t be escaped in 2014. The Fault In Our Stars made everyone swoon and cry as Augustus Waters made all of us fall for him (Okay? Okay.). The Marvel Cinematic Universe continued to expand with Guardians of the Galaxy, where Groot totally stole the show and Chris Pratt got totally ripped compared to his role in Parks and Recreation. Star Wars fans lost their minds upon seeing the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first of the new sequel trilogy featuring old and new characters. Lupita Nyong’o was the year’s breakout star, winning awards for 12 Years a Slave and fabulous red carpet appearances. Kim Kardashian’s butt on Paper magazine broke the internet and so did Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscars selfie. #AlexFromTarget, Solange fighting Jay-Z in an elevator, and Ariana Grande dodging Victoria Secret angel wings all became trending topics and memes. The Ice Bucket challenge was a great viral trend of the year that raised money and awareness for ALS worldwide. Taylor Swift left her country roots and went full pop with her 2014 album 1989 which brought us the hit single “Shake It Off”. Nobody was happy when they woke up with a free U2 album on their iTunes account with no way to remove it though. It was not #onfleek.



Halfway through the decade and Zayn has broken the hearts of girls everywhere by leaving One Direction. Both Adele’s return with the super dramatic single “Hello” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” music video spawned numerous memes on social media. It was the year of the #squad, thanks to Taylor Swift and her clique of famous friends all featured on her “Bad Blood” video. We said goodbye to Paul Walker in Furious 7, with “See You Again” in the background bringing audiences to tears. Netflix and chill became a thing as the streaming service rose to popularity with the help of its original content such as Narcos and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Nobody could agree on whether the dress was blue and black or white and gold. In Kardashian news, Bruce became Caitlyn Jenner and Kylie released her lip kits online in a move that would later start her makeup empire. Man buns and the whip/nae nae were a thing back then too. Other trending topics include Rachel Dolezal, pizza rat, left shark and Rihanna as an omelette in the Met Gala. 



2016 was the height of superhero/comic book movies with the release of Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange. Meanwhile Stranger Things brought 80s nostalgia to screens and the kids were totally adorable. Leonardo Di Caprio finally won his first Oscar after being nominated and memed so hard for years. Ryan Reynolds face at Taylor Swift’s Fourth of July party got memed too, along with the short lived romance that was HiddleSwift. Other memes and trending topics that year were dabbing, Chewbacca mom, Harambe, the Spongebob caveman and #OscarsSoWhite. We spent a lot of time walking around on our phones with Pokemon GO. Drake paid homage to ‘The 6ix’ with his album Views, “Closer” by the Chainsmokers ft. Halsey was the song of the summer, and The Life of Pablo fueled the feud between Kanye West and Taylor Swift. Meanwhile, Beyoncé’s Lemonade celebrated #BlackGirlMagic, made bold statements on police brutality, and had everyone wondering who was Becky with the good hair. Colin Kaepernick takes a knee to protest systematic oppression and the Orlando Nightclub shooting devastated many. Donald Trump’s presidential election shocked the world. Many influential figures in entertainment said farewell in 2016 such as Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher to name just a few. 2016 was definitely a challenging year for a lot of people. 



Taylor Swift continues to take a stab at her haters as she releases “Look What You Made Me Do” from her sixth album Reputation. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN was the perfect rap album, while new artists such as Khalid, Julia Michaels, SZA and Daniel Caesar supplied new sounds. The music community was shaken by the news of the Manchester bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert and the shooting at a Las Vegas music festival. Netflix’s adaptation of 13 Reasons Why had mixed reviews but succeeded in bringing up the importance of discussing mental health to the public. Sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein surface, along with numerous more allegations in the industry giving rise to the #MeToo movement and fueling the Women’s March. Hugh Jackman bids farewell to Wolverine in Logan while Wonder Woman soars to box office success along with Get Out and It. The Moonlight/La La Land Oscars fiasco inspired many memes in addition to Kendall Jenner’s controversial Pepsi ad. Rihanna releases Fenty Beauty, revolutionizing the beauty industry with its extensive shade range. Fidget spinners and Starbucks’ unicorn frappe trended so hard while people wondered if Kylie Jenner was pregnant too. Beyoncé though was very pregnant (with twins) and we found out that there was gonna be another royal wedding with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. 



If people refer to 2017 as the year for female empowerment, 2018 was for diversity. The success of Black Panther (Wakanda Forever) and Crazy Rich Asians, both of which feature people of color as the majority in their cast and crew, proved that minorities have a place in Hollywood by breaking records. New York Fashion Week also gets more diverse by including a wider range of body sizes. K-Pop went global with BTS and BLACKPINK. Beyoncé continues to break barriers and promote Black excellence by headlining Coachella (#beychella) and taking over Vogue’s September Issue. A Star Is Born was the musical drama we never knew we needed and “Shallow” was played on every radio station ever. Fortnite dances go viral on social media, especially flossing. In addition, Drake’s “In My Feelings” went viral with a dance challenge, along with the beef between Drake and Pusha T that revealed Drake’s secret baby. Cardi B and Nicki Minaj had beef too. On the other hand, Pete and Ari got engaged and broke up while Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas got married (and had many weddings). Sadly, gun violence continued to proliferate (as presented in Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”) and young people responded with March For Our Lives. 



In 2019, the climate debate and issue gets bigger with people like Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier confronting government leaders and leading protests worldwide. Young people had enough of the older generation looking down on them and dismissed all arguments by saying, “Okay boomer”. People online decided to make an egg the most liked picture on Instagram, dethroning Kylie Jenner. Audiences are in the midst of a “streaming war” with the number of streaming services available such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney+. Fans say goodbye to their favorite characters as Game of Thrones, Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skyfall bring their stories to a close. Additionally, critically acclaimed R-rated movie Joker continues to climb the box office, inspiring thought-provoking conversations for many. Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”, Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” and (new couple) Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello’s “Señorita” dominates pop charts along with “Truth Hurts” by the newest pop sensation Lizzo. Also, the Jonas Brothers are back and better than ever (surprise).

This is just a brief summary of all the big pop culture moments that have shaped and defined the 2010s. Looking back, so many things have changed and have even improved for the better, but not without its challenges. Although the year isn’t over yet, it’s been great to have lived through such as fun and interesting decade. Here’s to the next being even better!

Dianne Victor is a Communication Studies student with a passionate flair for the creative arts. Currently in her third country of residence, she loves to explore the city and find new hidden gems.
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