I was only just made aware within the last week that not only does the end of this month mark the end of the year, but also the end of the decade. That made me stop and think because, in many ways it’s never really felt that this decade began. It seemed to whip past waaaaay faster than the two and a half decades of my life that preceded it. For a moment, it felt like only yesterday that we were celebrating the millennium. Then I realised that I’ve completely drifted out of contact with the three close friends I spent that night with and it dawned on me that the exact same thought had occurred to me on millennium night about the friends I’d lost touch with from New Years Eve ’89. I should stress that I’m not a habitual shedder of friends and stay in touch with loads of good friends from every period of my life – maybe it’s a decadal new years curse. Perhaps I should spend this one alone.
So, anyway, the end of a decade… On a personal level, it has been the best decade of my life, but that’s none of your business. What I’ll always return to within the confines of this blog is a ponderance on a cultural level. For me, this term that seems to have arisen of late ‘the noughties’ actually sums up the decade rather well. A willfully naff term that a dull populace espouses in a vain attempt at appearing whacky whilst actually just fuelling a mainstream hegemony of crapness. You can’t even say ‘noughties’ without over-extending the first syllable in a smugly un-humourous manner(‘so – ha ha – how were the ‘NOUGGGGGGHT-ies for you?’
A perfect example of a stupid nation thinking they’re being ‘different’ whilst actually being misguided and horribly mainstream is the current ‘victory’ being celebrated in the Christmas music charts. Apparently sick of X-Factor winners achieving the Christmas number one for the last four years (a fact that escaped me, I couldn’t name any of them and have long stopped caring about the UK singles chart – not being a 12 year old girl and having long been aware of the bollocksness of the charts), a questionably grass roots campaign has seen an old song by 90’s noisemongers Rage Against The Machine successfully downloaded to number one. And while the dull unquestioning victors celebrate their mighty blow against the mainstream, they seem blissfully unaware that Rage Against The Machine are signed to Sony – the company who owns BMG who exclusively sign all the X-Factor contestants. So, yes, the public have doubled the festive income of their actual sworn enemy. Genius.
But, however misguided, at least it was a rousing statement. I think the…. I’m not going to call them the noughties, how about the ‘ohs’ – said in a slightly confused and disappointed voice as if you’d just opened your Christmas present to find it was Justin Lee Collins’ recently published autobiography…. I think the ‘ohs’ were the decade that culture as we knew it finally died on it’s arse. A death in innovation – certainly, a death of creativity – arguably, it seems like every form of culture has festered under the weight of commerce and pretenders.
In television, we saw the rise and domination of reality TV. Skilled storytelling and performance were widely forgone for the instant and tawdry gratification of reality TV and the rise of empty celebrity. This country saw our own little microcosmic Jesus story in the media birth, rise, fall and death of Jade Goody. She died for our sins. She was born out of our sins. In a sense, she was Jesus and the devil rolled into one clumsy piggy-faced metaphor. Because although many welcomed her arrival and many mourned her passing, it can not be ignored that a HUGE amount of media time was given over to someone of no interest or import. I’ve even fallen into the trap – devoting the bulk of this paragraph to her. How endemic she is of a culturally malignant decade where so much of what was served up to us came from a nasty money-grabbing rather than artistic sentiment. Jade Goody was a construct of a wicked (in the bad sense) television company, a lazy television broadcaster and a dying, desperate print media.
In literature, we elevated Dan Brown to record-breaking bestseller status. An author with an undeniable lack of talent for plot, character, dialogue or sentence structure. But everyone read The Da Vinci Code because, it seems, everyone was reading The Da Vinci Code. What truly blows my mind is that anyone read anything of his subsequently.
Music changed beyond all recognition. The biggest band of the decade was apparently Coldplay – who didn’t have the grace to be shit and regrettable but instead, like some kind of cultural bacteria, decided to infect the decade with bland displays of homogenised stadium twaddle. It wasn’t political, it had no attitude, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t wild, it wasn’t artsy, it wasn’t colourful, it wasn’t anything that would define a movement or a decade, it was just uninteresting middle of the road pointless posturing. It was so safe and unchallenging whilst projecting the pretence of depth. I would take any era of U2 over this bilge. And while this was polluting the mainstream, the first truly apathetic generation of teenagers allowed corporate entities to combine every subgenre of music into a fetid swill of influences and references which saw youth culture distilled into one swoopy-fringed, black-hoodied, badly tattooed, pierced lipped twat in a black hoodie, tight jeans and displaying visible light self-harm scars as they queue up outside their corporate venues perfectly happy to participate in a profit-riddled faux veneer of what rock, punk and indie once actually stood for.
Film had it’s least productive decade ever. We seemed to not only stop but go backwards. The biggest franchises of the decade were all adaptations, remakes and prequels. Miramax finally spat out the bones of American independent cinemas, stripped entirely of meat, leaving us with a battered Coen Brothers, a mulched Tarantino and a complete absence of new voices coming through. It was the decade of M. Night Shyamalan being celebrated as both the highest paid AND shittiest screenwriter in Hollywood.
I think if I had to pick one defining moment of this decade it would be the weekend of August the 18th , 2006. Remember that weekend? No? It was the single most awaited weekend of cinema in the whole ten-year-stretch. It was the weekend Snakes On A Plane was released. What a bizarre phenomenon that was – and one which for me succinctly sums up the era. When word got out that Samuel L Jackson was to be starring in a lower-end budget studio thriller called ‘Snakes On A Plane’, it became a cult film before it had even been EDITED. Every internet-bound dullard enthused about what was to be the cheesiest film ever made. T-shirts were made, advance bookings filled cinema switchboards, the film company – realising that they had a smash they couldn’t even have hoped to have marketed as efficiently and successfully as the grass roots campaign which was building a head of steam based almost on the title alone – actually went back and did reshoots so upon opening, the film would be as cheesy as the crowds were baying for. The magazines, blogs, even the news were filled with speculation and anticipation. On the 18th of August, crowds outside cinemas went in costume and festooned with plastic snakes like a Rocky Horror midnight show crowd… but for a film they had never seen. Which turned out to not be very good. I haven’t actually seen the film but can imagine the electricity in the cinemas that night, the lights go down, the cheering and whooping go up. The film starts. It isn’t very good. The audience force themselves to laugh as loud as they can at any given opportunity but, an hour in, they realise… it’s just a shitty film. This is not the new Plan 9 From Outer Space. I imagine many of them left their snakes in the cinema and tried to feign enthusiasm when responding to their friends questions as to it’s quality. But, really, after that weekend… did you ever hear that film mentioned again? Did it become a classic? Just another example of a dull mainstreamed populace wanting to be a part of something significant without actually demanding significance of the culture they consume. Cart before horse. Plane before snake. ‘Whatever’
A bit of a write-off, as decades go, really. If eras can be defined by their wars, ours was pointless, unwanted, stupid and fuelled not by passion and pride but greed and laziness and ineptitude, tolerated by the masses.
Of course, it wasn’t all shit. We got The Office, Edgar Wright, David Tennant’s Doctor Who, the music of Frank Turner, Youtube, Wi-fi, the I-pod, Adam and Joe on 6 Music, Curb Your Enthusiasm and a whole bunch of other good stuff.
So, in the true spirit of grumptimism, I leave you with the guiding theme of this blog – that, yes, everything is generally rubbish but it really doesn’t have to be and I don’t believe it always will be.
Merry whatever and a happy new decade to you.