Worst.  Decade.  Ever.



Do you know anyone who didn’t have the worst year of their life in 2009?  I certainly don’t.  Except for all the people who had the worst year of their life in 2001 or 2005 (the people in that picture, for example).  In any case, this was the worst decade in history.  Okay, maybe the 1340s, when the Black Plague killed 60% of Europe, was worse, or whatever decade we count the End-Permian Event as having happened in.  But as far as decades that living humans have anything approaching a frame of reference for, the Oughties were a big fat zero (see what I did there?).

The good people at VH1 are doubtless already in production on I Love the ’00s (well, have you seen Michael Ian Black anywhere recently?  That’s because he is already over at VH1 Studios in a “Vote for Pedro” t-shirt, cracking wise about t.A.T.u.), only they are going to have to call it something else because no-one loves the ’00s.  I Hate the ’00s is the obvious choice, but honestly feels too weak.  Maybe they should sell the distribution on this one to HBO so they can call it Fuck the Fucking ’00s in the Ear.

...Although, I just want to say real quick, if anyone from VH1 is reading this, I very badly need a job and certainly didn’t mean to imply that I would be averse to writing I Love the ’00s for you.  Seriously, how does this grab you for an intro: “DO YOU REALIZE that ZAC EFRON is floating in space?   Would you accept a BAILOUT from DR. HOUSE?  Well, don’t DEFRIEND us, you METROSEXUAL…  This is I LOVE THE ’00s!”

Not bad, right?  Come on, VH1.  Old Gil really needs this.

Anyway, obviously not everything from the ’00s was terrible.  There was even enough good stuff for me to cobble together some Top 5 Lists.  Not merely of my personal favorite stuff, of course, but rather of the objective “Greatest” stuff.  I.e., when an upper-middle-class white male just lists his personal favorite stuff but is skilled enough at composition, argument, and condescension to make it appear as if he is using some kind of infallible cultural calculus that is simply inaccessible in principle to anyone who disagrees.  And that’s me all over, so here goes!


        1.  Moulin Rouge! / Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Tie)
        2.  The Dark Knight
        3.  The Royal Tenenbaums
        4.  Lost in Translation
        5.  There Will Be Blood / Little Miss Sunshine (Tie)

The first thing I did was immediately pop Fellowship and Dark Knight into the two top slots.  Then I leaned back and thought, “Seriously?  Those are my two best movies for a ten-year stretch?  What am I, twelve?”  Apparently so.  (Although at least I didn’t puss out by counting the whole LotR trilogy as one movie.  And yes, Fellowship is the best one.  Why?  Because all the Shire shit from the beginning is the best stuff in any of them.  That’s right; I said it.)  Luckily, I remembered that Moulin Rouge!, which is massively influential both because it brought back the musical and is the reason why every American woman between the ages of 20-35 is now a burlesque performer, was actually from this decade, and also that it has an exclamation point in the title, like Jeopardy! or Panic! at the Disco sometimes.  Wow, italicized exclamation points look terrible.  The Royal Tenenbaums is probably the closest thing to a defining movie of this decade (more on this later).  Lost in Translation I barely remember but was this big huge deal whenever that was that it came out.  Little Miss Sunshine I didn't even liked but was also a big deal and seems to capture the vibe of the decade nicely.  There Will Be Blood is actually better than Lost in Translation, but I thought it was cute to have the two movies that one kid was in tied at #5.  Man, I couldn’t believe that was the same guy, could you?  He is a good fucking actor.

        TV Show:

        1.  The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
        2.  Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
        3.  The Wire
        4.  Arrested Development
        5.  House, M.D.

Buffy and The West Wing are disqualified because they came on in the ’90s.  The Daily Show gets the top slot for being the only thing that kept 50% of the country from committing suicide for like six years.  Obviously, if you saw Queer Eye once you saw it a million times, but gay stuff was to this decade as Black stuff was to the ’60s, so it is like putting Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner or In the Heat of the Night on a ’60s movie list.  And yet I didn’t put Brokeback Mountain on my ’00s movie list.  Weird.  Well, fuck that; I am not doing it over, and I already cheaped out with ties twice.  The Wire is largely unrelated to any kind of decade zeitgeist, but is quite possibly the best TV show in history from a formalist perspective, so it has to be on there.  Arrested is the funniest sitcom ever except for The Simpsons at its peak, and was also majorly in tune with the zeitgeist.  And House is not only a great show, but for a while there was very nearly the only TV show anyone could name that wasn’t a reality show.  TV might just be all reality shows now if it hadn’t been for House.  It is like the Alfred the Great of scripted shows.  Plus Cuddy has insane cans.  Which reminds me, I forgot Mad Men.  I don't watch it, but I hear women are really turned on by all the sexism.

Lisa Cuddy    Joan Holloway
You know, maybe I do love the '00s...


        1.  “Hey Ya” by OutKast
        2.  “Do You Realize” by Flaming Lips
        3.  “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
        4.  “American Idiot” by Green Day
        5.  “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé / “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse (Tie)

The Oughties were slim pickings for music.  For better or worse, the decade’s legacy will likely be that of decent rock effectively falling off the map (or should I say falloutboying off), and hip-hop and pop merging into just-plain-old-music.  The anthem of that merger is “Hey Ya,” and it also happens to be not at all a bad song on its merits.  “Do You Realize” is probably the closest thing this decade produced to a meaningful rock (or at least band-with-guitars) ballad-anthem on the order of “Stairway to Heaven” or “Losing My Religion.”  Eminem is, believe it or not, the best-selling artist of the Oughties, and “Lose Yourself” is his best song.  “American Idiot” is the most prominent Anti-Bush song.  “Crazy in Love” and “Rehab” are just two impossibly catchy songs that everybody likes.  For what it’s worth, my personal favorite music of the decade was Regina Spektor.  Not only is every single one of her compositions heart-meltingly beautiful musically, but in my opinion she is also the most skillful lyricist since Kurt Cobain.  Furthermore, she is bewitchingly adorable.  Like, she seems like the kind of girl who, in the Autumn, would suddenly jump into a pile of leaves while wearing a ballgown or, in the winter, would stand under a streetlight at midnight and look up at you and you wouldn’t know whether those were snowflakes melting on her face or she was just tearing up because she was so happy and then she would whisper something dirty to you half in Russian and kind of giggle and step back and spin around in a circle and slip and almost fall but you would catch her.  And smart, too.  The kind of girl who would really appreciate good web-based sociopolitical essays.  I’m just saying.  


        1.  “truthiness”
        2.  “defriend” (+ variant “unfriend”)
        3.  “metrosexual”
        4.  “green”
        5.  “postracial”

Most of these are self-explanatory.  I only used words that were actually coined — or used in a completely new sense — in the ’00s, so that disqualifies stuff like “bailout” and “chad” (as in “hanging”).  Comic Genius and National Treasure Stephen Colbert tops the list by giving us “truthiness,” a word that sums up in ten letters what I spent thousands of words trying to explain for the first year or so that this website was up.  Speaking of websites, pretty much every internet thing is from the ’00s, and “defriend” seems like the most culturally significant web neologism.  Speaking again of websites, some people are including a “Web Video” category in their Decade Lists, and I was initially going to do that too...  But honestly, if you find yourself deciding that the #3 spot on a list goes to a video of a fat guy in drag running around saying “shoes” and “betch” over and over, then you may want to consider the possibility that this is not a list worth making.  Also, I would imagine that Regina Spektor smells like a combination of citrus fruit, lipstick, and old books.  Sigh.

But whatever few precious jewels we can pluck from the head of the Oughties toad, this was the worst decade in a damn long while.  Honestly, what was the last decade that sucked as much as the ’00s?  It was bookended by 9/11 and Great Depression 2: Bailout Boogaloo, and the whole middle was a presidency so disastrous that these days it’s easier to find someone who’ll admit to having bought the CD single of “Jenny From the Block” than someone who’ll admit they voted for the guy.

Sure, other decades had stuff that sucked, but they also had good stuff to balance it out.  The 1930s had the (first) Great Depression, but they were also #1 in Movies (maybe tied with the 1970s).  The ’60s had Vietnam and the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, and sucked in TV, but they are #1 in Music by such a wide margin that there’s no way they can be last overall.  The ’90s were not #1 in anything (except arguably TV) but are not last in anything either; respectable showing in every category.  I put the question to my friends, one of whom came up with this eloquent response:

I submit that the ’40s were immeasurably worse than the ’00s.  WWII and the Holocaust killed a total of between 50 to 78 million people (roughly 4%  of the world's entire population at the time), which makes me feel so awful and empty inside to think about, I don't even have a concept for how awful it is.  We hit the species-significant low of using nuclear weapons, twice, both times with dubious necessity; and a ridiculously huge number of the 50-78M dead were dead for literally no god damn good reason at all like simply being born into a certain ethnic group.”

And this is all true.

…On the other hand, he is obviously forgetting about that scene in Gilda where the guy comes in and says “Are you decent?” and Rita Hayworth flips her hair and raises her eyebrow and goes “Me?”  I think that offsets like 25-30 million of those deaths easy.

The last decade that even possibly sucked as bad was the 1910s: Titanic sinking, World War I, Spanish Flu, “the troubles,” and nothing else as far as I know.  Literature was good, but was just a lead-up to the ’20s and then instantly gets beat by the ’20s.  Of course, there was no TV, no movies (to speak of), and no music (that anyone has any fucking clue about), so we can only even dub the 1910s equally shitty on a technicality, because we are going back too far to know about any good stuff.

Jesus Fucking Christ, I can hear that fucking commercial with the Sarah McLachlan song and the MILF from Just Shoot Me and the fucking abused dogs in the other room again.  That is like no shit the seventh time it has come on while I was writing this.  And it’s not like I spent a whole lot of time on it, as you may have intuited.

Anyway, you know what I think embodies this decade better than anything?  It’s not a Movie, or a TV show, or a Song, or a Word.  When I think of the Oughties — which I will only ever do again as long as I live if someone pays me (VH1, please…?) — what I think about is an aesthetic.  The best way I can put it is that it’s a certain combination of wistful, deadpan, and twee.  Usually, there’s cutesy faux-retro indie music involved, and quite possibly elements of animation, or at least prominent superimposed fonts (this is largely the legacy of Wes Anderson, which is why I had Royal Tenenbaums so high on the Movies list).

I had this epiphany upon seeing the following Kindle commercial, at which point I exclaimed “Wow, this fucking Kindle commercial IS this decade.”

See what I mean?  So I guess the ’00s are the first decade to be better captured by a commercial than by a movie, song, or book.  And it is a commercial for a retarded fucking gadget on top of it all.  How fitting.  (Actually, I should probably mention that the commercial is just a shameless rip-off of this one Ditty Bops video, and so technically it is that Ditty Bops video that best captures the decade, but my point works better the first way.)

For my part, I am not sorry to see this decade go, and am looking forward to FUCK ME THE ABUSED DOGS COMMERCIAL IS ON AGAIN!!

Sorry.  Okay, anyway, for my part, I am not sorry to see this decade go, and am looking forward to better things in the Teens.  I will see you all there.

Regina Spektor
Regina Spektor will be composing the music for a Broadway
adaptation of Sleeping Beauty slated for the 2011-12 season.  Sigh.

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