The 2010s have been an interesting time for pop culture. We’ve had major powerhouse franchises and “cinematic universes” take over. It seems everything has been part of a larger web lately. Many people decry modern pop culture for its lack of originality. They say we’re in reboot hell. But to be honest, we’ve gotten some amazing things from the 2010s. The trend of rebooting every nostalgic thing producers remember from their childhoods is no different from what we’ve done here at The Daily Fandom in this series.
Plus, rebooting means a chance to update problematic themes and give more diversity, and that’s a good thing. Ahead, find the final installment of our retro collaboration series. This time, we discuss things that are a little less retro. We may still be in the 2010s, but we’ve seen a lot happen and can speculate on what is yet to come. Read on for our powerhouses of the 2010s decade to see what has shaped our current pop culture!
1. Marvel TV
Superheroes on the silver screen are nothing new. My 90s childhood was shaped by the fantastic X-Men and Spider-Man animated series. But live-action superhero TV shows really came into their own this decade. DC may have some great things going on with the Arrow-verse, but Marvel has had some really impressive television powerhouses.
The Marvel/Netflix partnership obviously comes to mind. The five shows created for the Marvel Netflix ‘verse are some of the best television this decade, hands down. They’ve all had their hits and misses — season 2 of Jessica Jones I was not a fan of, and let’s not even talk season 1 of Iron Fist. But we’ve also gotten some great TV out of it.
But the Marvel Netflix ‘verse is not the only hit from Marvel on TV. While some of their other offerings are more clearly misses (Inhumanswhomst?), Marvel has had many great shows across different networks. Runaways is in its second season and doing well, and Agents of SHIELD has dodged the executioner’s ax yet again, renewed for a sixth andseventh season.
These shows have sadly not crossed over much into the MCU, but provide excellent nuance to a large and often crowded world of superheroes. Between Luke Cage’s discussion on race, Jessica Jones’ portrayal of PTSD, and more, we’ve gotten the chance to see Marvel present more depth than they can in a two-hour movie, and it’s well worth the watch.
2. Sitcom Renaissance
The half-hour comedy has never really gone away. But there was a time when it seemed like a throwback to another age. Family-friendly, feel-good comedies were dwarfed by grittier, darker TV. But the 2010s have shown us how much people still crave that half-hour of laughter. And that the sitcom need not stick to its canned-laughter past, but can push boundaries and tell stories as weird and inventive as any fantasy series.
Riding on the nostalgia wave that seems to have permeated the back half of the 2010s, recent years have seen reboots of classic sitcoms. Fuller House, Murphy Brown, Will & Grace [and the ill-fated Roseanne, now rebranded The Conners]. The success of shows like Fuller House demonstrates not only the cyclical nature of TV but the enduring appeal of family-friendly comedy.
Personally, I think the real sitcom gems of this decade have been those that prove they don’t need to be treacly-sweet and corny to be feel-good. Sitcoms like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation, and The Good Place. These are proof that comedy can be laugh-out-loud, funny, and inventive, while still remaining kind. The Good Place, in particular, continues to push the boundaries of the sitcom genre, reinventing itself practically every episode. We can only hope future sitcoms take inspiration and continue this trend.
3. Star Wars
Another return to an old favorite comes with the revitalization of the Star Wars franchise. For most of my life, Star Wars has been stagnant. Aside from the… interesting prequel trilogy, there hadn’t been much added in a while. Star Wars fans were limited to the Expanded Universe novels for content. No longer. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I was beyond thrilled to hear that Disney had purchased the rights to the franchise and was deciding to continue it. While I was, admittedly, pretty ticked that they scrapped the EU (a longtime favorite of mine), the prospect of more Star Wars had me pretty happy.
Admittedly, the new franchise has been a little hit and miss. The Last Jedi is more memorable for its fan controversies than anything actually in the story. Solo is a fun but forgettable movie. But The Force Awakens still gives me chills as a reintroduction to my favorite universe. I stand by the claim that Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie, and you can fight me on that.
Despite some people who hate the new films, the rebirth of Star Wars has brought us into a better age in a galaxy far, far away. With more diversity and ideas galore, we are finally getting a chance to expand the galaxy beyond the same white people Skywalkers.
4. The Rise of Podcasts
Although podcasts were invented in the 2000s, I think it’s fair to say they became a phenomenon in the 2010s. From a niche subculture, podcasts have become mainstream — even having movies and TV shows based on them. They’ve staked out their place in the pop culture landscape as something people obsess over and discuss endlessly. In some ways a throwback to radio and, in others, a whole new genre, podcasts prove that people still crave audio storytelling. They cross genres — from fiction, to talk shows and news programs, to chilling true crime. All it takes to make one is a microphone, an internet connection, and an interesting topic. And so podcasts can also give voice to perspectives marginalized in more traditional pop culture.
As a true crime junkie, I might be biased. But one of the breakout stars of the podcast genre has been true crime. While it’s always been popular, podcasts like Serial, My Favourite Murder, Casefile, and Someone Knows Somethinghave become viral hits. Along with the resurgence of true crime documentaries, podcasting has put true crime back in the public eye. And often with fresh, new perspectives. With more and more people cutting the cord and moving away from broadcast TV, I wouldn’t be surprised if podcasts continue to be a powerhouse genre into the 2020s.
5. The Wizarding World
Yet another franchise that seemed over but returned this decade is the Wizarding World of J. K. Rowling. After the final Harry Potter book (2007) and film (2011), it seemed we were destined to have the magic back only in fond memories.
Not content to leave the magic behind (or the cash flow, if you’re feeling cynical), Warner Bros. and Rowling have given us new content in the 2010s. Between the cursed play The Cursed Child and the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, we had some good new things to enjoy. The real bonus, however, came with a new film franchise, Fantastic Beasts. The first film, which came out in 2016, was a glorious return to a more magical world. The franchise has since been plagued by accusations of cultural appropriation and the inclusion of an accused abuser but continues to try to bring magic back to our lives.
6. Game of Thrones
While fantasy had already become mainstream by the beginning of the decade, Game of Thrones turned it into a must-see TV. When the show premiered in 2011 it was far from a sure thing. Fantasy had rarely seen blockbuster success on TV, and the complex plot and plethora of characters were intimidating to new fans. In fact, the original pilot was reportedly so bad it almost killed the show before it began. But they didn’t. And the rest was history.
Game of Thrones has become a worldwide phenomenon, even sparking viral videos of people reacting to its most infamous episode, “The Rains of Castamere.” Whenever a new episode airs, it takes over Twitter. For the rest of the time, message boards are filled with discussion and speculation. The show has produced innumerable memes and quotes from it have become part of the Internet dialect.
Although it was hardly the first fantasy series, the phenomenal success of Game of Thrones paved the way for a resurgence of fantasy on TV. With the final season airing in the spring of 2019, Game of Thrones is coming to a (hopefully satisfying) end. But no matter what, its impact on the history of pop culture is indelible.
7. The Rom-Com Renaissance
For years, people have been saying that the rom-com is a dead or dying genre. Certainly, the golden age we’d seen in the late 20th century slowed down significantly, and rom coms were being produced less and certainly marketed less. They were seen as more of a gamble than a blockbuster action film, and only appealed to a niche market.
Then, only recently, suddenly rom-coms are making waves. Films like Crazy Rich Asians, Love, Simon, and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before breathed new life into a dying genre, revitalizing an entire field of film. What caused the rom-com renaissance? Were we just ready, in the mid-2010s, to accept love again? The real difference comes through more diversity and more progressive values. Gone are the cheap, tacky characterizations of old rom-coms (How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, anyone?) and instead we have rich, well-developed characters and minority representation. Turns out, the rom-com wasn’t the problem; it was the heterogeneity (mostly white, straight couples) of the genre.
8. Get Out
Most of the items on this list have either been pop culture trends or big franchises. But I thought Get Out deserved a special place on this list because it is one of the best examples of breaking trends that this decade has to offer. The horror genre has long been an overwhelmingly white one. When black characters did appear it was typically either to be quickly killed off or to serve as the comedy relief. Horror movies overall were not concerned with the experiences and stories of black people.
Get Out changed the game. Not just concerned with representation, Get Out weaves its horror around the microaggressions and racism black people experience daily. Terrifying in the mundaneness of its early scenes, the movie shows the pervasiveness of white liberal racism. The monsters here aren’t over-the-top caricatures, but a white, nuclear family that we are much more accustomed to seeing as protagonists.
Jordan Peele’s brilliant script shows us a monstrosity that can lurk behind a facade of normalcy. And it does it in one of the best-constructed horror movies of all time. Get Out makes the case for how the horror genre can continue to be relevant. And if you’ve seen the trailer for Peele’s next movie, Us, it’s clear that Get Out was just the beginning.
9. Marvel Cinematic Universe
There would be no way to do a retrospective on 2010s pop culture without mentioning one of the decade’s biggest powerhouses. As unbelievable as it seems now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a huge gamble. While it wasn’t the first time different movies had existed within the same cinematic universe, the scope and complexity of the MCU was unprecedented.
No one knew whether it was going to pan out – particularly with a roster of superheroes who were far from box office certainties. But it was a gamble that paid off. And how? Eighteen movies under their belt, at least three more planned for 2019 and holding the top two spots in the 2018 box office. The MCU has proved once and for all the enduring appeal of superheroes.
In the past couple of years, the MCU has made important strides toward correcting its biggest flaws — the lack of heroes who aren’t white men. But with the massive success of Black Panther and the upcoming Captain Marvel, the MCU is hopefully on course to keep telling more inclusive and diverse stories. To quote the great Stan Lee, who we sadly lost this year, “comic books are fairy tales for grown-ups.” And in a world as complicated and difficult as ours is right now, those fairy tales seem to be more important than ever.
10. Lastly, The 2010s’ Live Action Disney
Rounding out our list of nostalgic childhood memories reborn in the 2010s is the trend of Disney making live-action adaptations of their classic movies. It started, fittingly enough, with Disney’s first animated feature: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, which in 2012 got not one but two live-action adaptations.
Neither live-action Snow White was produced by Disney, but they started a new phase in Disney movie productions. Seeing the potential of remaking their old classics, Disney started production on a number of live-action remakes, the first up being Maleficent in 2014. A retelling of Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent proved that films could be successful.
With follow-ups of Cinderella (2015) and Beauty And The Beast (2017), Disney had some hits on their hands. The films attempted to bring the old classics to life in a thrilling new way, while also updating some of their outdated themes and messages. Some were more successful than others, but they’ve all done well enough to get us several more remakes slated for the future.