By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
The Naughty Aughties are over, and I'm LMFAO. It will be remembered, if at all, as the decade of the TMI generation. The 15-second fame gang. The micromanaging maniacs. The attention-whoring-for-lunch bunch. The iPhone, iPod, iMac, IMAX, and eye-lift folks. The people who have already forgotten this paragraph.
Breaking news about every possible global brain fart was instantly accessible, and you spent most of your time sneaking a peek down at your BlackBerry to read it during intimate dinner dates. Everyone was a star, a critic, and a victim, and—as traditional media dwindled and reshaped—they were journalists, too, from the guy who dressed like a pimp to entrap ACORN to the man with a camera who got tossed out of Gypsy when Patti LuPone screamed, "Who do you think you are?"
Social networking became the way to catch up with old friends you'd avoided for years and to tell the world about your latest mood swings, moviegoing experiences, and bathroom achievements. Even celebrities—who'd long built up a wall of privacy by hiding behind lying publicists—couldn't help Tweeting their every thought, caught up in the universal need to connect, to emit, to admit, and to bore.
Unfortunately, the news wasn't all good. The decade was defined by 9/11, a horrific humbling that disrupted our false sense of well-being and turned our country's libertarian ethics topsy-turvy. As traumatic as the event itself was the paranoid aftermath: the terrorist alerts invoked whenever the Bush administration needed a boost; the anthrax scares, which had our mail being surreally delivered with surgical masks and tongs; and the racial profiling, which prompted people in turbans to suddenly sport American-flag pins. Worst of all was the terribly managed war in Iraq, which was presented as payback—though it didn't seem as if we were getting back at the right people. (And those supposed weapons of mass destruction? ROTFLMFAO.)
After eight years of stolen elections and ritualized lying, the Republicans finally lost ground as the Dems experienced a showdown between a woman (Hillary Clinton) and a man of mixed race (Barack Obama), neither seeming like the easiest concept to sneak into office. But despite having once chatted with Bill Ayers, Obama got the nod, and with a big boost from Sarah Palin, he historically rose to power, only to realize that the only war on anyone's minds anymore was the one against their credit-card debts.
As a result of corporate greed, too-easily-attainable mortgages, and a mass blindness comparable to the one we all shared on September 10, the market caved in and suddenly no one was buying Green Acres lunch boxes on eBay anymore. Or anything! People were even going back to regular coffee! OMG. Who needed terrorist attacks when our own capitalist system could handily destroy itself?
A mere year later, pundits' pronouncements started claiming that everything was stabilizing, but that didn't factor in the reality that unemployment had reached a 26-year peak, creating a jobless army that a lot of those very pundits were, poetically enough, about to join. What's more, the tiny bump in sales was only because of Cash for Clunkers, and the mild rise in real estate purchases was mainly due to foreclosures, rock-bottom prices, and temporary tax incentives. Still, the breathless need to keep reporting brushed past the facts and right into our Google search engine.
The entertainment world's reaction to the demands of economics had long been reality shows, cheap-to-produce exercises in trickery disguised as documentary truth, which catered to the trend toward making everyone famous, even if they had to eat worms and battle bad singers to grab their fix of stardom.
In the past, schlock actors used to go into politics (Reagan, Schwarzenegger, the Love Boat guy), but now it was the reverse, as politicians went into schlock performing (Blago, Tom DeLay) and didn't act sufficiently embarrassed about it. For
disgraced personalities like these, reality TV became a catharsis, a comeuppance, and a perverse chance to stay relevant at any cost.
From Survivor to The Osbournes and beyond, the country thrilled to brazen fame addicts revealing it all in dire circumstances, even if there was a trailer filled with panini waiting two yards away. Amid safety fears, money woes, and anxiety over the evaporating environment, America enjoyed sitting back and watching other people degrade themselves for the camera en route to the lecture circuit and/or the Home Shopping Club.
You had to turn to cable news for something meatier, with fiery commentators preaching political wisdoms aimed at the fiery commentators a few channels away, while HBO became the go-to place for quality series about urban angst (The Sopranos, Sex and the City), which suddenly made it cool for smart people to say, "I'm staying home tonight and watching TV."
For a palate cleanser, everyone clicked on Perez Hilton and TMZ's news on the messy pop tarts—the blonde girls who had everything except an idea of what to do with it. These prematurely Botoxed hot messes were the real-life equivalent of reality shows—walking train wrecks who seemed to gleefully self-destruct for the public's delectation. And we comforted ourselves in their Grand Guignol breakdowns, from Lindsay Lohan's ear-splitting public fights with the girlfriend to Britney Spears shaving her head, her husband, and her career before getting it together to be wound up again and sell more records.