Saturday, January 2, 2010

Decadence: A Decade's End

As 2010 crawls to a start, I can't help but reflect on not just the past year but, the last decade. I can't help but imagine that in history books, the 2000s will go down as a time of extreme materialism and for lack of better term ... decadence. In the words of Britney Spears, the official motto of this decade should have been "Gimme gimme more."

For me, the last 10 years have been completely transformative, as I started the Millennium as a pimple-faced adolescent. So for me, it's almost hard to imagine a time before the Internet. I honestly can't believe that I've only had a cell phone for the last 6 years because texting is now just the fastest way to communicate with someone. And my goodness, I don't even know what college students did before Facebook and YouTube. They probably got out more often. Or just were drunk more often. Either way, these advents have come to define my generation.

Here's a look back at what I mean about the Gimme More years.

The Web

The Internet has taken over our lives. But with every advance, it seems that we are always want things to be faster, stronger, more accessible. Pretty much every cafe, library and even public parks now offer wi-fi, a concept that was just not conceivable (at least to me) 10 years ago.

I didn't have access to the Internet until I was in high school and now, I don't know what I would do if I lost access to it. It's just so much easier to hide behind an e-mail than to put yourself out their face-to-face.

I know some people might call Gen. Y the "Look at Me" generation because, let's face it, technology normalized our self-absorption. Blogs have pretty much replaced diaries and bonus! - we can now broadcast our feelings to the whole world. Depending on how self-obsessed we are, we can tell people what we're doing pretty much any time of the day. And as I said before, it's hard to believe YouTube has only been around for a half-decade. Viral videos are so prevalent in our culture now. It's hard to imagine the college experience without the joy of the Pearl/"Landlord" video or egads being totally and utterly disgusted by just the mention of "Two Girls and a Cup." And like YouTube, Facebook brought procrastination to a whole new level. Hours upon hours can be spent on Facebook, if you have the time and don't burn your lap with your laptop. You can invent a whole new cyber persona, friend people you haven't so much as spoken to in real life, and stalk crushes through this medium. If that's not enough, you can create party invitations, organize photo albums, and carry on entire conversations with friends without so much as talking to them. And you can lie in bed the whole time you're doing this.

And now, you can do all these things from your phone! It give me a headache just to think about it.


There have been quite a few trends in films this decade including the Manchild movies (ie: the Hangover, the 40-year-old Virgin, and anything starring Will Ferrell), tween flicks (anything starring anyone from the Disney Channel) and the re-emergence of the musical (Moulin Rouge, Rent, Nine). But the one constant has been epic special effects movies. The stories are simple: superhero stories (Spiderman, Batman, Ironman), the archetypal hero's journey (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) and most of these stories are adaptations from comic books and popular novels. The equation's always the same = simple plot, strong characters, and big, huge explosions. Movies were all about demonstrating technical mastery, not of the craft of acting but rather, the developments of computer-generated technology. Each and every action film seems to be trying to outdo the last.

And even simple cartoons got in on the action. One-dimensional cellularly constructed cartoons grew nearly invisible by the end of the decade. Pixar and Dreamworks owned children's movies and every year, computer animated films got more precise, more realistic looking.


The 2000s was the decade of overproduced, overpackaged musicians. In my opinion, women reined supreme this decade. But most of these women were created by men. They were taught to sing (or at least lip sync) with over-the-top gesturing, dance like pros, flirt with men and women alike and just generally sell their brands. Britney and Christina were pumped out of the Disney machine. Beyonce and Jessica were cultivated by their fathers. Pink went from punk to pop-music mold. The top group of 2009 was the Black Eyed Peas, a "band" made up of mostly producers. And keeping with the mechanization of our society, synthesizers and auto-tune took the place of vocal talent.


The idea of bigger is better ruled this decade. It's now wonder Hummers became an unofficial symbol of our culture. As a society, we became hyper-consumers, we wanted it all. Anything we could get our hands on.

After the longest period of peace in the United States, we entered into not just one but, two wars at the same time. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, 'civilian casualties' became a daily part of our lives. Thanks to all the money pumped into the military complex, the country entered into a historical level of debt.

And it wasn't just the government that couldn't control it's spending. As objects got shinier, our collective credit card bills grew out of control. Personal debt skyrocketed. Our eyes got bigger and bigger and we strove for items we knew were completely out of range, such as houses with mortgages that were completely unaffordable. It was only a matter of time until our spending caught up with us, which it did the last two years. And now, even our numbers of unemployment are outrageous.

I could go on and on. But I'm going to stop here. I want to hear from you, do you agree with me or am I totally off-base?

Either way, I hope the new decade provides something of a social cleanse.

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