sat 20/07/2024

The Cultural Highlights of the Decade, BBC Online | reviews, news & interviews

The Cultural Highlights of the Decade, BBC Online

The Cultural Highlights of the Decade, BBC Online

A decade when professionals were elbowed out by the public

The fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square: in Noughties culture, everyone had a say

This week the BBC News online magazine is running a Portrait of the Decade. Each day has brought a consideration of the words, the events, the people, the objects and, today, the cultural highlights of the decade. I was invited to consider those highlights.

simon-cowell-smokingIn years to come, when they look back on the culture of the Noughties, no one will struggle to identify the overarching theme. This has been the decade in which the professional, the trained talent, has had to budge up and make room. A decade ago, who’d have imagined that the biggest stars in pop would be sourced from a Saturday-night talent show? That they’d be casting West End shows by public vote? Or that a plinth in Trafalgar Square would be given over in hourly slots to anyone who fancied making an artistic statement?

But then reality has been the dominant force of the decade. While out in the really real world the decade was bookended by terrorist atrocity and financial Armageddon, television tried to keep our spirits up by asking which of us wanted to be a millionaire. Answer: anyone and everyone who queued to be on Big Brother, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and reality TV’s other offshoots. The Jerry Springer Show even found its cast of brawling attention-seekers turned into an all-cussing, profanity-packed opera.

jerry_largeNot that stardom necessarily came via television exposure. YouTube ensured that anyone could be the leading character in their own room. MySpace helped a new generation of indie musicians to bypass the music industry's front entrance. And thanks to the rise of the iTunes download, the streaming site Spotify and the consequent collapse in CD sales, they now all have to tour if they want to make money, giving rise to a teeming summer festival culture.

In another blow for democracy, the podcast and the iPlayer allowed people to consume The Office and Little Britain and The Ricky Gervais Show on their own terms, not to a timetable imposed from on high. The viral phenomenon of the internet validated everyone’s opinion via social networking and chatrooms.

gervais_40883tThe big losers of the decade were newspapers. With readers migrating online, they are still wondering how to charge for usage to keep themselves afloat. As people stopped wanting to pay, the freesheet reared its ugly head on trains and platforms. If the book trade has remained healthier, it’s partly down to the rise of the celebrity confessional and memoirs about childhood trauma and several Harry Potter doorstoppers as much as quirky successes like Schott's Miscellany and Lynne Truss's book in praise of punctuation, Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

Meanwhile, attendances for live performance and museums have never been higher. But even in the higher arts the biggest stories have been about people who have clawed their way up from under. Carlos Acosta, our biggest ballet star after Darcey Bussell hung up her slippers, comes from a poor background in Cuba.

dudamelFrom elsewhere in Latin America, classical music has been mesmerised by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela led by curly-mopped Gustavo Dudamel, the products of an extraordinary system designed to prevent disadvantaged children from falling into crime by giving them an instrument. With luck, a pilot scheme in Scotland will bear similar fruit. In further good news, British black and Asian artists have never been more seen and heard.

Not that the past 10 years have all been about keeping it real. In cinema, actors have conceded more ground than ever to CGI. In the biggest blockbusters, the biggest names get to act against blue screens, or provide the voices for Pixar’s immensely popular animations. You could argue that reality TV has produced its own cartoon characters, only on a much smaller budget. Which is what this decade has ultimately been about: making culture cheaper and available for all.

This article originally appears on BBC News online magazine, where readers can vote for their own selection. Read more about the Portrait of the Decade.

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1.The 100th year of the 20th Century and last year of the 2nd Millennium was definitely and indisputably 2000. 2.The 1st year of the first decade of the 21st Century and of the 3rd Millennium was definitely and indisputably 2001 - obviously. The clue is in the number '1'. 3.The 10th and last year of the first decade of the 21st century will be 2010 - obviously. The clue is in the number '10'. 4.The last day of the first decade of the 21st century and 3rd millennium will definitely and indisputably be December 31st 2010. There is a concerted effort by the BBC and other major media players to deny these facts for cynical commercial branding and packaging purposes. This is an abuse of their position of information stream control domination. Clear thinkers will ignore them and respect and express true and honest chronological facts and conventions. Rage Against The Machine!

In my opinion, the last decade was pretty much when everything turned to shit, thus producing a culture of politicaly-correct, socially insecure people, terrorised by legally-protected knife gangs lacking a sense of moral sentiment and good deeds. To put it bluntly, the British population have lost their sense of Britishness with the legal system focusing moreover upon the smuggling of drugs and the persuction of those deemed to have caused offence through verbal jokes and slander, rather than actual rapes and murder cases. Crime levels are at an all-time high, society has become computer-dependent and the praise of reality-television has made the population extremely shallow and mere slaves to celebrity-worship. Economic stability and mass immigration have both led to increasing numbers of unemployed as well as cultural disputes that have deemed the white English as full-blown racists. The welfare system put in place to help society has been taken advantage of by the youth culture and an immigrant proportion, with the NHS, the armed services and the education system suffering from cutbacks in expenditure. Apologies for the lack of optimism exuberated by myself upon the last decade, having seen the world change around me between the ages of 10 and 20. I am disinclined therefore to appropriate the decade's good features, on account of the fact that they seem to have been largely overridden by negative aspects.

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