The Disposable Decade

With more fads than participants at an So You Think You Can Dance audition, the past decade has been a difficult time to culturally define.

Top: Britney Spears showed she has legs

With more fads than participants at an So You Think You Can Dance audition, the past decade has been a difficult time to culturally define.

One day, everyone was updating their MySpace profiles while sporting Ugg boots and sipping cosmopolitans. The next, they were creating Facebook pages while donning Ed Hardy T-shirts and downing energy drinks.

Superheroes, disaster movies, reality TV, professional wrestling and Harry Potter weathered the decade’s ever-changing pop culture storm while others rode the aughts like a roller-coaster. Britney Spears was in, then out, then in again, morphing from teen queen to train wreck to pop diva within a 10-year span.

Others returned from yesteryear — or old space, as in the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises. Not every entertainment hallmark was so successful in overcoming revolving taste buds. Here are 10 things that were oh-so-hot at the beginning of the ’00s that turned totally cold by the bitter end:

• “Wassup?” Those once funny Budweiser beer commercials had the nation growling “wassup?” after the campaign debuted at the end of 1999. The wacky greeting went on to face a barrage of parodies in the new millennium. The original “wassup?” dudes reteamed in 2008 for a viral video marking President Barack Obama’s win before quickly fading back into obscurity.

• Napster. The free file-sharing service was the “it” way to grab digital tunes at the dawn of the 21st century. Created by 19-year-old Shawn Fanning, the program ignited a legal brouhaha with the recording industry. By the time Napster transformed into a subscription service, listeners had moved on to iTunes. Today, Napster is owned by Best Buy.

• Sport Utility Vehicles. When gas was still below 65 cents a litre, supersized rides enjoyed a passionate following among musicians, professional athletes and other celebrities who needed big cars to accommodate their big egos. As the green movement grew throughout the ’00s, many stars traded in their gas-guzzling luxury SUVs for sleek eco-friendly hybrids.

• Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? Fifty women vied to be the bride of mystery man Rick Rockwell, who picked nurse Darva Conger to wed in an impromptu 2000 ceremony that drew over 20 million viewers. The pair later annulled the marriage, and Fox opted against future installments. Viewers everywhere felt guilty for watching the sleazy TV spectacle.

• Magazines. Before the world was bookmarking blogs and social networking sites, glossy magazines were the pre-eminent place to learn about timely trends. The end of the decade saw the demise of publications including Gourmet, CosmoGirl, Jane, Blender, Giant, Cookie and PC Magazine.

• Nintendo GameCube. In 2001, five years before Nintendo revolutionized gaming with the Wii, the Mario mastermind plopped down the GameCube, the Wii’s itty-bitty precursor featuring a clunky controller. The console’s robust graphics initially piqued players’ interest, but the GameCube could not overcome Sony’s mega-popular PlayStation 2 system.

• Mel Gibson. The suave actor-director was riding high at the beginning of the aughts with The Patriot, What Women Want and The Passion of the Christ, but what he will likely be remembered most for this decade is his infamous slur-filled 2006 drunken driving arrest. After completing his three-year probation, Gibson’s conviction was expunged in 2009.

• Old Navy Performance Fleece. Complete with its own catchy jingle (“Old Navy! Old Navy! Performance fleece!”), it was the must-have affordable accessory. Now, no one would be caught dead in a “tech vest.”

• Pokemon. The “pocket monster” franchise was a full-blown craze with kids at the start of the ’00s, having already spawned several movies, TV series, video games and toys. Love for Pikachu waned, though, as tots turned into teens. Pokemon 4Ever, the third Pokeman film, flopped and subsequent sequels went direct to DVD.

• ’NSync. The boy band jump-started the ’00s with the album No Strings Attached, which continues to hold the record for biggest first-week CD sales at 2.4 million. Another album and a few tours later, the quintet quietly disbanded. They spent the rest of the aughts pursuing solo careers.

But what was that decade, anyway?

Ever since leaving the linguistic luxury of the ’90s, the double zeros of the past 10 years have been exasperating those who want to give the decade a label.

The 2000s or the Zeros have been tossed aside as terms too bland. The Double-Ohs and the Aughts have made an appearance but failed to catch on.

One name however, seems to be bandied around more than others recently.

Introducing “the Noughties.”

“The term has to sound good, it has to be quick and it has to roll off the tongue well,” said Rena Helms-Park, a professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto. “The Noughties is cute.”

Playing on the noughts, or zeros that appears in every year of this decade, the term is short, simple and some would even say, slightly sexy.

But is it appropriate?

“Economically, the name fits,” said professional futurist Richard Worzel, pointing to the dot.com market crash and the financial troubles that stand out as characteristic signposts of the past 10 years.

And the coincidental semantic pun that comes with the name, suggesting a time of increased social freedoms, is delightfully convenient, he said.

According to historian Desmond Morton, trying to slap a name onto a period that has yet to end might be jumping the gun, as often hindsight is what gives a term time to catch on.

Regardless, the first 10 years of the 21st century are not likely to get a bright adjective, said the University of McGill history professor.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press.

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