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Editors: Cynthia Johnson and Lawrence W. Baker
Date: 2012
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Decade overview
Length: 3,025 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1300L

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A New Millennium


At midnight on January 1, 2000, the clock ticked over into not only a new decade but also a new millennium, and the world wondered what lay in store for this new age. During the 1990s, new trends in business and entertainment had emerged to feed America's unprecedented prosperity. The first decade of the 2000s would see continual development of these trends to the point that they exerted a major—and in some cases, negative—influence on people's lives. Though the end of the Cold War (1945–91) had left the United States as the world's only superpower, the decade would also see a new threat—foreign terrorism—emerge in place of communism.

As January 1, 2000, approached, computer programmers had warned of the possibility of a bug in old computer code causing mass breakdowns in computer mainframes around the world. Thanks to the diligent effort of thousands of programmers working hard to fix the problem, the so-called “Y2K” bug failed to emerge, but it left its mark on popular culture.

As it turned out, worries about a major shift in the global political climate were not far off the mark. On September 11, 2001, the real bogeymen of the decade emerged, and they were all too human. A group of nineteen religious extremists, acting on plans masterminded by al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden (1957–2011), hijacked four domestic passenger planes and flew them into the World Trade Center,

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2000s At a Glance

This term for flashy jewelry or accessories made its way from a 1999 hip-hop song called “Bling Bling” into widespread use by the middle of the first decade of the 2000s.

Bounce: To leave, as in “I've gotta bounce!”

Hella: This uniquely San Francisco Bay Area term (a contraction of “hell of a lot”) went national and international in the first decade of the 2000s thanks to the 2001 No Doubt hit song “Hella Good.” It was used as an adjective to express positive or superlative opinion.

My precious: Catch phrase uttered repeatedly by the creature Gollum in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings films, this quickly became a cultural touchstone, often parodied and spoofed.

OMG: The first decade of the 2000s saw the use of Internet acronyms enter the mainstream, not only online but in conversation. “OMG” is one such example and is short for “oh my god,” used to express surprise.

Shock and awe: A military doctrine first advanced in the late 1990s, the phrase gained major attention when it was applied to the United States' invasion of Iraq. Products from video games to shampoos adopted the phrase in their marketing and country singer Toby Keith (1961–) released an album playing off the term, Shock'n Y'all, in November 2003.

Showmance: Appropriately for the decade that spawned the reality television explosion, this word blend of (TV) “show” and “romance” was coined to describe two reality television contestants meeting and falling in love over the course of the season, a surprisingly common phenomenon.

Whale tail: During the low-rise jeans fad of the first decade of the 2000s, some women made a fashion statement by wearing thong underwear in such a way that it would rise above the low waistband, resulting in a visual that looked not unlike a breaching whale's tail.

The Da Vinci Code (2003):
Reviled by critics, Dan Brown's (1964–) conspiratorial pot boiler was a smash hit among casual readers, residing comfortably on the best-seller list for years after its release and leading to a blockbuster film adaptation. The novel, with its focus on murder and conspiracy in the Catholic church, stirred up controversy among religious groups who claimed the book was both anti-Catholic and anti-Christian.

The Kite Runner (2003): Khaled Hosseini's (1965–) thoughtful and intense portrait of life in Afghanistan became an instant smash among a Western reading public who found themselves hungry for a glimpse into a part of the world suddenly made relevant by the War on Terror.

the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. The events of 9/11, as that dark day came to be called, scarred America and its allies deeply. Within days of the attacks, President George W. Bush (1946–) had announced a new War on Terror, an international effort to wipe out terrorism.

Domestically, the trend towards globalizing business operations that had begun in the 1990s continued at a rapid pace. The Internet came

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The Harry Potter and Twilight series: The first decade of the 2000s was one in which young adult fiction came into its own. J. K. Rowling's (1965–) seven book Harry Potter series sold millions of copies during the run-up to its final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007), one of the most hotly anticipated and hyped publishing events in decades. Stephenie Meyer's (1973–) Twilight series did for gothic horror what Harry Potter did for fantasy, redefining the genre for a whole new generation. What was truly remarkable about both series was their crossover appeal to adult audiences; never before had grown-up readers embraced fiction aimed at middle schoolers with such enthusiasm.

The “Japanese invasion” continued with Japanese cartoons (called anime) making solid inroads among young viewers. Series like InuYasha, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Naruto redefined the aesthetic of television animation and launched a bevy of marketing tie-ins.

Avatar (2009): The first decade of the 2000s was in many ways one when spectacular computer-generated special effects trumped story, and nowhere was this more evident than with James Cameron's (1954–) 3-D sci-fi masterpiece. Not just the highest grossing film of the decade but the highest grossing film of all time to date, Avatar, despite criticisms of weak plot and lack of character development, proved enormously popular and spawned a new fad for 3-D movies.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000–): Another show to set the trend for the remainder of the decade, CSI and its spin-offs reinvigorated the police procedural drama, one of television's oldest dramatic formats, with flashy and lurid presentation of forensic investigation. The series stirred controversy for its graphic violence and sexual content, but these elements are largely what made the series and its imitators such a success. The impact of the series on popular culture can be seen in the so-called “CSI effect” observed in courtrooms, in which jurors in the first decade of the 2000s began expecting to see more forensic evidence presented by prosecutors.

The Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies: The eight Harry Potter movies (2001–2011) and three Lord of the Rings films (2001–2003) were the unquestioned blockbuster movie events of the decade, and together they brought legitimacy to the long-neglected fantasy genre, particularly in the case of the Lord of the Rings films, which earned critical accolades and recognition, netting a total of seventeen Academy Awards.

Survivor (2000–): The reality show that launched a thousand imitators, Survivor was an immediate hit upon its summer 2000 premiere. The first decade of the 2000s saw an explosion of so-called “reality television” in the form of Survivor-clones and talent competitions such as American Idol (2002–).

into its own during the first decade of the 2000s, speeding the process of globalization as it no longer became necessary for employees to gather together in the same location in order to conduct business. China and India in particular benefited from the outsourcing of American business overseas, and it soon became commonplace to hear an Indian accent on the phone when calling a corporation's technical support or

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2000s At a Glance (continued)

Eminem (1972–):
Dubbed “The King of Hip-Hop,” Marshall Mathers III, better known as Eminem, became the most successful rapper of all time in the 2000s and helped lead the genre to a dominant position in the music industry. In between turning in a succession of multi-platinum albums throughout the decade—The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), The Eminem Show (2002), Encore (2004), and Relapse (2009)—he turned actor in 2002's 8 Mile; the song “Lose Yourself” from the movie's soundtrack became the first hip-hop song to win an Oscar.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003): The major label debut of rapper 50 Cent (Curtis James Jackson III; 1975–), this Eminem-produced album became one of the biggest hits of the decade, selling over six million copies by the end of 2003 and spawning the worldwide hit “In da Club.”

Indie rock: Growing out of the do-it-yourself, low-fidelity ethics of punk and the emotional earnestness of emo, so-called “indie” music

emerged towards the end of the first decade of the 2000s as rock's next big thing. Thanks to digital downloads and viral videos, indie bands were increasingly able to bypass the traditional music industry channels and market themselves directly to their audiences. By decade's end, in fact, so many indie bands were competing for attention that some critics complained of the glut of sound-alike acts, dubbing them “the indie landfill.”

“Jesus, Take the Wheel” (2005): Carrie Underwood (1983–) was the winner of the fourth season of the reality show American Idol, the first country singer to win the show and by far the show's most commercially successful winner of the decade. Her 2005 debut album, Some Hearts, from which this hit single was taken, was the best-selling debut country album on record, going on to earn recognition from Billboard magazine as the fourteenth best-selling album of all time.

Beyoncé Knowles (1981–): After getting her start in the pop-R&B group Destiny's Child, Beyoncé became an international superstar with the release of her 2003 solo album Dangerously in Love. Her 2008 single “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” quickly became a cultural anthem, with over four million downloads. The accompanying video was noted for its choreography, starting an “Internet dance craze” based on its distinctive J-Setting choreography.

Britney Spears (1981–): In the late 1990s, Spears, who had gotten her start as a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel, broke out among a new pack of teen pop superstars. In the first decade of the 2000s, she rebranded herself, moving from “pop tart” to superstar.

customer service phone number—there was even a TV show, Outsourced (2010–11), based on the premise.

The rise of the Internet also heralded massive changes in the ways Americans sought their entertainment and even communicated with one another. E-retailers like Amazon.com and the Apple iTunes Store offered consumers the ability to shop from the comfort of their home. In the

case of digital music, book, and movie downloads, consumers could even enjoy instant access to their purchases. Digital music, in particular, had a major impact on the music industry and how people listened to music. With the ability to download selected songs individually, the age of the album came to a close. MP3 players allowed people to carry around libraries of thousands of songs in their pockets. Up-and-coming artists

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After the 2003 release of her In the Zone album, however, she became more notable for a series of tabloid scandals and personal meltdowns. Her career seemingly over, in 2009 Spears launched one of music's most remarkable comebacks.

White Stripes: The early part of the first decade of the 2000s saw an explosion of back-to-basics rock that music critics dubbed the “garage rock revival.” Detroit two-piece band the White Stripes were among this field, producing primal rock with just a guitar and drum kit. Notable for their red and white wardrobe and the rumor that the two members were brother and sister (they were actually ex-spouses), the White Stripes managed to rise above the other garage rockers and enjoy continuing success throughout the decade thanks to guitarist Jack White's (1975–) eclectic understanding of American music, melding blues, folk, country, and punk into a seamless whole.

Osama bin Laden (1957–2011):
Sworn enemy of the Western world and what he perceived as its meddling in the affairs of the Islamic world, bin Laden became the most infamous terrorist in the world when he coordinated the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States that resulted in the destruction of the two towers of the World Trade Center and the deaths of nearly three thousand people. This led to U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, part of the so-called “War on Terror.” He was eventually found and killed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALS in 2011.

George W. Bush (1946–): Through his two terms as President of the United States (2001–2009), the son of the forty-first president, George H. W. Bush (1924–), set policies for America both at home and abroad that for better or for worse defined the country's role in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Beginning with the contentious and extremely close-run 2000 election against incumbent vice president Al Gore (1948–), Bush became a majorly divisive figure, ushering in an increasingly partisan and bitter era in American politics. It will be some years before Bush's legacy can be fully measured, but there is little doubt that his War on Terror became the defining event of the first decade of the 2000s.

Barack Obama (1961–): Fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement got under way in America, the United States elected its first black president, once an unthinkable proposition. Obama's race was the least of America's worries, however; the Democratic senator from Illinois was elected in November 2008 on a platform of “hope and change” amidst the worst economic crisis in America since the Great Depression.

case of digital music, book, and movie downloads, consumers could even enjoy instant access to their purchases. Digital music, in particular, had a major impact on the music industry and how people listened to music. With the ability to download selected songs individually, the age of the album came to a close. MP3 players allowed people to carry around libraries of thousands of songs in their pockets. Up-and-coming artists

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2000s At a Glance (continued)

Jon Stewart (1962–): The first decade of the 2000s marked a time of increasing political fractiousness and cynicism. Stewart, as host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show (1999–), became an unlikely political pundit during the 2000s. The show provided a wry and satirical overview of American politics but despite its comedic bent, it soon became considered a legitimate source for political news among its young demographic and many politicians and media personalities began appearing on the show for humorous interviews with Stewart.

Mark Zuckerberg (1984–): At just twenty years of age, Zuckerberg co-founded the social networking site Facebook. He went on to serve as the company's president and chief executive officer through the rest of the decade, amassing billions of dollars in his personal fortune. The Web site he helped create and helm fundamentally changed the way people communicated with each other.

also no longer needed to resort to seeking out the support of major labels in order to get their music heard.

Similarly, the advent of blogging sites and micro-blogs like Twitter gave people the ability to quickly and easily post their thoughts to the Internet with little to no knowledge of computer code required. As with the music and book industries, the world of journalism was rocked by this new technology. Suddenly amateur bloggers were scooping veteran reporters and helping to drive the news cycle.

These new technological changes may have made life easier for the consumer, but they heralded difficult times for the businesses that found their models suddenly outdated. Newspapers, book and music stores, and even major publishers and record labels could see that they needed to adapt rapidly to the new ways or perish. By giving everyone a voice, it ironically became harder to get noticed among the other competing writers, artists, musicians, and bloggers. The rise of social networking sites like Facebook, which was founded in 2004, provided central meeting places online for people to interact and share bits of their personal lives. Social networking, blogging, and web shopping, though convenient, led some critics to wonder if Americans were becoming too disconnected and decadent.

Matters did not improve when the world slipped into its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression at the end of the decade. Costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unregulated speculation in

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the housing market, and a variety of other factors combined to plunge the United States into economic crisis in 2008. Although Europe had been making strides towards a stronger economy, notably with the introduction of a continental currency called the Euro, the crisis hit certain countries like Greece and Iceland particularly hard. As if all the economic worries were not enough, the last years of the first decade of the 2000s also played host to intensified debate over the cause of and solution to the problem of climate change, popularly known as global warming. As the decade came to a close, many Americans began to question the impact their way of life was having on the world and started looking for ways to cut spending and living beyond their means.

In many ways, pop culture, as it had in the 1930s and 1970s, reacted to the tension and uncertainty of the 2000s decade by alternately focusing on spectacle and the brutal realities of life. The world of cinema was dominated by special effects blockbusters, starting with the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003) and culminating in the visually stunning 3D extravaganza, Avatar (2009). Documentaries like Supersize Me (2004), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), and An Inconvenient Truth (2005) also drew large audiences and major awards, despite their dire critiques of consumer culture, American politics and the War on Terror, and the environmental crisis, respectively.

Dance and pop music enjoyed tremendous commercial success, as did gritty hip-hop and emotionally earnest rock music. Television continued reality TV, a type of programming that had debuted in the 1990s (it turned out it had very little to do with reality), while more traditional types of programs such as Family Guy (1999–2002, 2005–) and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000–) pushed the boundaries of good taste with graphic violence, sexual situations, and crude humor. The first decade of the 2000s was a turbulent period fraught with great uncertainty. As always, popular culture reflected the spirit of the age.

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Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX1303400107