The best pop culture moment from every year throughout the decade

From “American Idol” to “Game of Thrones,” here are the highlights of pop culture from the decade.


(Arine Papp / Wikimedia Commons)

Chloe Lindahl, Writer

It’s no secret that we love celebrity news. Whether it be a recent scandal, an outstanding performance, the end of a series or the unexpected union of two superstars, we’re here for it. As the decade comes to a close, I decided it to take a look at some of the most defining moments of pop culture. Whether they be good or bad, these events helped shape the decade’s history. Without further ado, here are the biggest moments from the 2010s.

2010: Simon Cowell leaves leaves “American Idol” 

“American Idol” first premiered on June 1 , 2002 and quickly garnered massive success. The explosion of Idol happened almost overnight, and the dynamic cast of Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson gave audiences a range of personalities and performers that quickly grabbed their attention. 

Winners such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood went on to be enormously successful in the music industry. The show’s ratings were unheard of and it quickly became one of Fox’s most successful franchises. Then, 2010 hit and Simon Cowell announced his departure on the ninth season. Ratings plummeted dramatically, gone was the surely, brutally honest judge that held the show together. 

Although Idol remains on television today, it’s hardly the powerhouse it once was with the absence of it’s head coach. Cowell originally announced his departure from the show in lieu of “X-Factor,” which was widely successful in the UK. Cowell’s goal was to bring the program to the states which went smashingly.

 Although Cowell originally cited that he had no beef with “Idol,” he later expressed his displeasure on the show’s restrictive age policy in an interview with HollywoodLife; “How can you say, ‘You can’t be a star [because of your age],’” Simon stated during the interview. “And I found the word ‘Idol’ obnoxious to be honest with you. And why isn’t a 35-year-old as great as an 18-year-old? I just got to the point where this is not real, which is why I moved on.” 

The “X-Factor” currently has no age restrictions and allows anyone to showcase their talent. Although he remains the hard cracking judge we know and love, his departure from American Idol was truly one of the defining moments in pop culture that kick-started the decade.

2011: The Royal Wedding of Kate Middleton and William Windsor

For some reason, Americans are utterly captivated by the British Royal Family. It was no surprise when an estimated 22 million tuned into one of the 11 networks offering coverage of the event. 

The stunning ceremony took place in Westminster Abbey and the procession of carriages that followed took wedding party members to continue festivities at Buckingham Palace. 

William is the eldest of the royal siblings making it the first royal wedding to occur in the royal family since 2005. Audiences were enraptured with every detail from the florist to the dress, the designer of which was kept a secret until the day of. 

Media outlets still continue their coverage on the royal family, documenting every outing, vacation and child they’ve had since their marriage. The ceremony shed light on one of the most iconic couples of this decade and their adorable family has created a splash in global media.

2012: “The Avengers” launches the Marvel Cinematic Universe 

It’s hard to believe that “TheAvengers” first came out close to eight years ago, but the launch of the franchise lead to a Marvel frenzy that consumed cinema throughout the decade. 

There had previously been five single Marvel movies released including “Captain America,” “Iron Man,”“Iron Man 2,” “Thor” and Edward Norton’s version of “The Incredible Hulk” before “TheAvengers” was released. 

“The Avengers” became the eighth highest-grossing film of all time pulling in $1.5 billion globally. The movie combined all the characters from the previously released films (with the exception of Edward Norton who was replaced by Mark Ruffalo) along with a variety of new faces as well. 

This was the first case in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where heroes were thrown together to solve a problem. The result was 23 movies released in total to carry on the MCU, creating one of the most intricate, well thought-out and longest franchises in movie history. 

2013: Miley Cyrus twerks on Robin Thicke during her MTV awards performance 

If you grew up in this decade, there’s a good chance you were devoted to “Hannah Montana,” the captivating Disney show about a young girl played by Miley Cyrus who lead a double life as a teen pop-star. 

Cyrus was funny, likeable, innocent and charming during the show’s six-year run. Who would have thought just two years after the shows final episode, she would appear at MTV’s award show in a two-piece matching beige latex contraption, a chemical cut, holding a foam finder and twerking her heart out on Robin Thicke while he sang his hit classic “Blurred Lines.” 

Gone was any image that had been conceived of Cyrus’s “good girl” status and here was the beginning of a new image for the star, one filled with brazen drug-filled songs, a love of marijuana and outfits that caused the public to take a second glance. 

She’s opened up about her sudden change in chatacter, noting in an interiew with Elle Magazine, “The minute I had sex, I was kind of like, I can’t put the f***ing wig on again,” she added. “It got weird. I grew up.” 

For a while, Cyrus was simultaneously touring as both Hannah Montana and herself which might explain the need to create distance between the persona cultivated for her by Disney executives and the person she wanted to be.

2014: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West get married 

Perhaps one of the most iconic couples of the decade, Kim Kardashian had her third and hopefully final wedding to rapper Kanye West on May 24, 2014. According to calculations by E! News and wedding planner Jinane Kafrouny, the wedding cost upwards of $2.8 million. 

The ceremony took place at the gorgeous Forte Di Belvedere in Florence, Italy. Famous stars including Lana Del Ray and Andrea Bocelli gave performances at the event for the happy couple and their 200 guests. 

Unlike Kardashian’s previous marriage to Kris Humphries, the event was not televised on “KUWTK,” most likely due to Kanye’s aversion to being seen on the show. 

The powerhouse couple are still constantly taking center-stage with West’s questionable antics and Kardashian’s major business ventures. Whatever the two are doing, they always seem to make an appearance in the spotlight, their wedding being just the start. 

2015: Caitlyn Jenner comes out as transgender and graces the cover of Vanity Fair 

The Jenner/Kardashian family really just can’t help it; they make waves wherever they go. With perhaps the biggest shock from the family yet,  Bruce Jenner announced he was transgender in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer in 2015

Subsequently, Jenner went on to star as the first transgender women to grace the cover of Vanity fair  with a photo spread shot by Annie Lebowtiz. The spread was accompanied by an article that covered gender dysmorphia, struggles over identity and public pressure that defined Jenner’s life.

This was a truly progressive moment for pop-culture and the many strides our society has taken towards acceptance. Here was a celebrity famous for their success in sports suddenly turning a page and coming out openly about their identity. 

The article dives into the struggles that her decision made on the family, specifically between the kids and the three ex-wives of Jenner. The article and the photo shoot are candid, open, honest and insightful, offering a new look into  rising conversation surrounding the matter of transgender identity and acceptance. 

2016: Beyonce performs at the Super Bowl 

Arguably the best half-time performance of all time, Beyonce brought forward her unparalleled performance skills and put on a show like no other combining all of her hit songs. 

The cast of back up singers, dancers and band members were predominantly women of color and put on a beautiful and powerful display of feminism and female empowerment. 

But most importantly, Beyonce made sure to get her political message across.

In relation to the BlackLivesMatter Movement, she had her dancers come out wearing all black outfits in berets rocking their natural hair which was reminiscent of the outfits worn by the Black Panther movement from the 60’s. Beyonce herself wore a bandolier of bullets across her chest in protest. 

The performance took place right after she released her new single “Formation,” which was shot in New Orleans and holds scenes that support “Black Lives Matter,” shedding light on some of the economic disparities people of color face. 

Moments in the video include a sinking police car with the graffiti “Stop Shooting Us” on it and shots of the devastation of hurricane Katrina. She replicated the video during her show stopping Superbowl performance, bringing forth a powerful political message to a platform of massive proportions. 

Activists applauded her message and breaking of the status quo in an industry that largely punishes those who take a stance. 

Although the headliner for the half-time event was actually Coldplay with guest appearances by Bruno Mars and Beyonce, it’s no secret it was Beyonce who truly stole the show with her outstanding performance skills, vocals and powerful message. If you haven’t seen the performance in its entirety, make sure to do so here. 

2017: Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial goes down as one of the most controversial ads of the decade 

Whoever approved the idea of this commercial for Kendall Jenner truly did her a disservice. The ad featured Jenner, a well known supermodel, in the midst of a photo shoot while a protest occurs, presumably for the BlackLivesMatter movement. 

People took to Twitter to express their frustrations at Pepsi’s careless view on the BLM movement. Martin Luther King’s daughter chimed in as well remarking “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.” People were calling for a boycott of all Pepsi products until the company issued a formal apology. 

Pepsi originally defended their choice of ad in a statement to Teen Vogue claiming “The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple story lines converge in the final advert. It depicts various groups of people embracing a spontaneous moment, and showcasing Pepsi’s brand rallying cry to ‘Live for Now,’ in an exploration of what that truly means to live life unbounded, unfiltered, and uninhibited.” 

Pepsi ended up pulling the ad a day after it aired due to public backlash and issued an apology. People accused Pepsi of trivializing the issue of police brutality and the racial disparities that occur in this country. Jenner has since apologized for her contribution to the advertisement but the impact it made was resounding. 

2018: “Black Panther” makes history

“Black Panther” made its debut February 16, 2018 and the predominantly black cast quickly started breaking box office records. 

People were hungry for representation and diversity in the MCU franchise and Ryan Coogler’s beautiful film did not disappoint. 

Coogler is already signed on to direct a second film soon, much to the public’s excitement. Although we had glimpsed T’Challa for a brief period in “Civil War,” this was the first standalone moment where audiences got to understand the rich backstory and beautiful plotline.  

The film went on to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the first superhero movie to do so. 

Additionally, the film made $1.3 billion worldwide, becoming the 11th highest-grossing film. The presence of “Black Panther” and its enormous success is hopefully an indication of change when it comes to diversity and representation in the world of cinema. 

2019: The epic saga of “Game of Thrones” comes to a close. 

(Spoilers disclosed below) 

The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” came to an end this year, leaving it’s rabid fan base disappointed. 

The series was based on George R.R Martin’s best selling series, “A Song of Ice and Fire” and is perhaps one of the most tedious yet riveting series in history. 

With over 100 characters and enough plotlines for each to have their own separate show, “Game of Thrones” altered television history.

From its start, the show wrapped in viewers with an estimated 19.3 million tuning in for the finale, setting a record for the series. However, the ending was not what fans expected. 

In one swift sweep, the writers managed to kill off almost every character that had clawed, fought, schemed and manipulated their way to where they are now. 

Jaime and Cersei Lannister died unremarkably beneath a crushing castle of crumbling brick, Lyanna Mormont was squeezed to death by a giant, Theon Greyjoy was stabbed by the Night King, Jorah Mormont died on the battlefield and perhaps the most shocking of all, Danerys Targaryn was murdered by Jon Snow after she rampaged through Kings Landing on her dragon. 

Fans were so upset by this apparent rushed and terrible end to a beloved season that they even started a petition to change the ending which currently has over 1.8 million signatures. Whether you love it or hate it, “Game of Thrones” made a lasting impact on viewers in a way that no show has been able to replicate.

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