NerdyPoC’s Best of the 2010s series comes to a close!
Thank you for joining us on this walk down the decade’s memory lane. This is our fourth and final installment of our Best of the 2010s series: everything else, a compilation of books, anime, comics, music, and pop culture.
(Note: The list is presented in chronological order.)
1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)
Original idea by Siobhan Dowd
A Monster Calls is a tale of fantasy, self-growth and tragedy. It tells the story of a young boy named Conor O’Malley who is struggling to deal with the inevitable death of his mother, who is suffering from terminal cancer. One night at 12:07 he is visited by a yew tree which has taken the form of a giant man. The monster tells Conor that he will tell three true stories and after which Conor must tell a fourth story.
(By Jordan Simmons)
2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)
This retelling of Homer’s The Iliad reminds us that ancient tales can still tell us something important about ourselves and our present world, especially when we dig deeper into the stories and voices cast to the periphery. The Song of Achilles tells the love story between Achilles and Patroclus with great tenderness, and its investigation of the passions of humanity is emotionally gripping. Miller’s writing feels both classic and modern; it’s a lyrical yet accessible page-turner at the same time.
(By Wu Xueting)
3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
This story is a compelling and immersive examination of the transatlantic slave trade and its lingering effects over generations. Through an ambitious structure of interlinked stories alternating between Ghana and the United States, and between different members of the family, Homegoing asks us to think deeper about how we tell history and how institutionalised racism built up over time. It doesn’t shy away from portraying violence and trauma, while also celebrating the spirit of African-Americans.
(By Wu Xueting)
4. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (2017)
This purposefully controversial title is a fascinating exploration into not only what it’s like to be a person of colour in the United Kingdom, but what it’s like to talk about race and racism. Eddo-Lodge explores British-Black history seemingly eradicated from British knowledge, white feminism, and the political link between class and race.
The book also teaches the reader to be open to a conversation about race and racism with individuals who may not be willing to even think about such things.
(By Jordan Simmons)
5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
Inspired by the shooting of Oscar Grant and the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas writes an engaging story about Starr Carter, a 16-year-old African-American girl who witnesses a white police officer shoot her friend.
After the policeman is not indicted by a grand jury, Starr’s world takes a turn she never thought it would when she becomes the face of the riots and protests following the court hearing.
(By Jordan Simmons)
1. Psychic Detective Yakumo (2010)
This anime only had one 13-episode season, but it was a good season. Saitou Yakumo is a detective that possesses spiritual powers and solves murders. Think Light Yagami, but less morbid and narcissistic in a sense.
This darker-toned anime is one of the most underrated out there, and given its short run, it should have earned a second season.
2. Tiger & Bunny (2011)
Another great anime that sadly only received one season, Tiger & Bunny takes place in a world of superheroes. The only difference is the superheroes are like celebrities, celebrity superheroes who fight crime on reality TV.
Main characters, Kotetsu Kaburagi and the young Barnaby Brooks, Jr. are assigned to be partners. This creates tension, laughs, and a friendship that can’t be broken.
3. The Devil is a Part-Timer (2013)
If you haven’t watched The Devil is a Part-Timer!, what are you doing with your life? Seriously though, what are you doing?
One of the best comedic anime of the decade, The Devil is a Part-Timer! does not disappoint. This is one of the funniest anime out there because of how ridiculous it is. In my opinion there aren’t many anime like this that can still focus on the plot, but still keep the comedy going at a breakneck pace.
4. Black Butler II: Book of Circus (2014)
If you’ve been on social media for the past decade then you know the phenomenon that is Black Butler. Black Butler II: Book of Circus, takes place a year after the events in the first installment, bringing the faves are back in all of their cuteness.
Ciel Phantonhive and Sebastian Michaelis have more on their plate and they can’t seem to catch a break to just relax and sip tea. The best part of this anime wasn’t the characters, but the passionate, talented fandom that made it so popular.
5. Psycho-Pass (2014)
I picked this anime specifically because I also thought it didn’t get enough credit. A Japanese cyberpunk anime that was more than good. It was great, and one of the best mature anime out there if you want to think about it. It contained human psychology, murder, gore, and violence. Psycho-Pass doesn’t end up on a lot of Best anime lists probably because of its premise, but it’s well deserved because of the story and it’s main characters.
(All ‘Anime’ items by Portia Lightfoot)
1. Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples (2012-present)
Saga is a beautiful and dangerous space opera brought to life by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. This universe is filled with danger, sex, violence, magic, spaceships and more!
This incredible comic book world’s sense of adventure and unpredictability rivals Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings.
(By Ariel Rada)
2. Gotham Academy (2014-2017) Brendan Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, Adam Archer, Sandra Hope, MSASSYK
One of the best YA books to come out of DC in recent memory, Gotham Academy follows the adventures of Olive Silverlock and friends as they look for clues to the many mysteries surrounding the titular academy. Throughout its two-year run, the title manages to maintain an ever growing pace of twists and turns while never once losing its whimsical spirit or getting bogged down by tie-ins and events.
(By Bobby Dean)
3. Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphana, Jake Wyatt, Sarah Pichelli (2014)
Easily one of the most influential and popular Marvel titles in the past decade, the new incarnation of Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, was a big step in the right direction for Marvel in terms of having its comic book heroes reflect the people that read them.
With an ever rising fanbase, several animated and video game appearances and even an upcoming live action series, there is no denying the critical impact this book has made in pop culture.
(By Bobby Dean)
4. Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughn, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, Jared K Fletcher, Dee Cunniffe (2015)
Paper Girls follows the strange time traveling adventures of a group of four friends that work a paper route together in the 80’s. Capping off at 30 issues, the story is an amazingly tight tale of war, science fiction and teenage self-discovery.
It’s an unorthodox coming-of-age epic that put it on par with Vaughn’s work on Saga. Don’t tell anybody I said this, but it’s pretty much the superior Stranger Things.
(By Bobby Dean)
5. Mister Miracle by Tom King & Mitch Gerads (2019)
Mister Miracle isn’t exactly at the top of the superhero popularity rankings, but he is probably atop the “Best Comic Book of the Decade” ranking.
Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle is an emotional and complex tale of parenthood, mental health, and what it means to be a hero.
(By Ariel Rada)
1. channel ORANGE by Frank Ocean (2012)
Before “Thinkin Bout You”, not that many people knew the name Frank Ocean. But by the end of 2012, a tornado flew through everybody’s living rooms, and it seemed like overnight, Ocean’s mellifluous drawl and understated beats had become a verified musical phenomenon.
In a music scene overstuffed with mindless club bangers and over-generalised feelings of love, Ocean revamped music as a storytelling medium, painting pictures of long desert drives and abandoned white-marbled mansions. “Super Rich Kids” is particularly illustrative, drawing the listener deep into an entrancing, almost haunting vision of summertime ennui from the very first detached chord.
Listening to Channel Orange from start to finish is the musical equivalent of watching a movie written, directed by and starring Frank Ocean—one that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
(By Melissa Lee)
2. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (2015)
On March 15th, 2015, Kendrick Lamar released an album that sent shockwaves through the United States and, more importantly, throughout the Black community. With songs like “I”, “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”, “Hood Politics” and “Alright”, Lamar personified what it felt to experience collective Black trauma, happiness, and hope.
The album took home three Grammy awards for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance. In 2017, the album became one of four hip-hop albums that will be immortalized in Harvard University’s library as one of the most culturally important albums of this decade.
(By Antravis Bryant)
3. Hamilton – Original Broadway Cast Album by the cast of Hamilton (2015)
Lin-Manuel Miranda followed up his excellent musical In the Heights with an American history-inspired musical based on Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The musical at first gained widespread notice for its choice to cast actors of colour to play prominent historical figures like Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, but the initial curiosity was quickly overtaken by genuine admiration for Hamilton‘s underdog story and lyric-heavy, catchy music. In no time at all, Hamilton was a cultural phenomenon, sparking a wave of numerous rap challenges and references all over social media that lasted a good number of years.
Everybody who didn’t get to see the show onstage at New York’s Richard Rodgers Theater definitely saw it online somehow, and judging by the sheer volume of fan-generated content to be found on the Internet, even the poor quality of the footage can’t take away from the musical’s compelling irresistibility. Miranda’s tongue-twisting lyrics are stuffed full of wordplay and rhymes and paired with a fusion of traditional Broadway and hip-hop instrumentals, creating one of the most unique and addictive musical experiences ever.
(By Ariel Rada)
4. Lemonade by Beyoncé (2016)
Since its release, Lemonade was the bestselling album of 2016 and is the eighteenth-most critically acclaimed album of all time. Beyoncé took what was evidently one of the worst times in her life and used her talent and her perseverance to give us a thematically coherent, genre-diverse, and vocally unique album.
With Lemonade, Bey spread her creative wings even wider than before to push her boundaries in all aspects of her art, but also continued to prove herself as one of the few popular artists today that can conceptualise and execute to completion a clear, singular vision. By combining her pain and her talent, Beyoncé created an album that not only celebrated Blackness but also explored difficult themes of infidelity, womanhood, religion, depression, and the strength of other Black women around her.
Lemonade showed all of us, even long-time die-hard Beyhive members, exactly how deep and wide her boundless talent and potential spans. Even more importantly, it showed us that she’s human. By mining the most intimate aspects of her life, she gave us not only an album, but a real, raw experience of humanity to relate to and empathise with.
(By Wu Xueting with Melissa Lee)
5. Melodrama by Lorde (2017)
Lorde is a talent like no other. She’s evoked many comparisons—Halsey and Billie Eilish, for example—but the hard truth is, there’s just no one like Lorde. In her sophomore album Melodrama, which she’d started writing in 2013 at the age of 17, the evidence of both her personal and professional horizons broadening is splashed all over the canvas. It’s an admirable feat, but admittedly a painful thing to witness at times, like when she almost wails, plaintiff and earnest: “I am my mother’s child, I’ll love you ’til my breathing stops”.
By the time the last track ends, you’re left with a curious mix of emotions: love, resentment, sadness and joy, all jumbled together in an entangled mess that’s somehow unequivocally beautiful. With Melodrama, Lorde cemented her position as one of the most important artists of the decade.
(By Melissa Lee)
1. Vine compilations
When it was first announced towards the end of 2016 that Vine would soon be no more, the Internet was abuzz with dismay and despair—but that was quickly stoppered with the explosion of Vine compilation videos. These inexhaustive, curated collections of six-second videos often rack up tens of millions of views, and are always chock full of iconic quotes, gestures, exchanges and dance moves that have seamlessly worked their way into everyday conversations both online and in real life.
Now at the end of 2019, we’re officially way past the point of “If you don’t know this Vine reference, please educate yourself”. Stickers emblazoned with iconic Vine quotes like “shooketh” or “and they were roommates” are on people’s laptops and water bottles, inimitable evidence of just how prevalent Vine’s impact was on pop culture and millennials/Gen Z and still is. These short videos prove that literally anyone doing absolutely anything has the potential to be ridiculously entertaining.
(By Emily Yoshida and Melissa Lee)
2. #OscarsSoWhite and industry awards scrutiny
In 2015, Twitter user April Reign started a hashtag that pointed out the glaring whiteness and lack of inclusive representation in the American movie industry’s biggest awards show: the Academy Awards. #OscarsSoWhite took off, with thousands and thousands of fellow netizens pouring in to voice their support (or unfortunate disapproval) for the criticism, which eventually provoked the Academy to take action, reviewing and revising its voting membership to rectify its diversity issues.
#OscarsSoWhite’s bold, point-blank criticism of inherent, institutional white dominance in the American entertainment industry led to other vocal criticisms by the public and industry figures alike (see: the lack of female inclusivity at the 2018 Golden Globes as voiced by Natalie Portman). It led to real change in Hollywood, creating more space for women, people of colour and other marginalised communities to have a voice both onscreen and off.
More importantly, it led to a wider awakening for the global public to be mindful of exactly what stock we take in industry awards and recognition, especially when it comes from an industry ruled and controlled by people who want things to remain a certain way for their benefit and continued advantage over people different than them.
(By Melissa Lee)
3. The K-pop explosion
Anyone who has been on Twitter knows just how popular K-pop is, and while some K-pop fans and fandoms may be extremely problematic, the cultural significance of this genre cannot be ignored. K-pop has always been popular beyond its native South Korea, but the genre exploded in 2015 thanks to Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” which became the most successful song from all of the Asian continent. Psy also became the first person to reach 1 billion views on YouTube—and then the first to reach 2 billion views later on.
The popularity of “Gangnam Style” allowed for K-pop music as a whole to garner more mainstream attention than ever before, with many Westerners discovering for the first time the appeal of Korean rapping, hyper-styled and polished idols, and almost robotically synchronised dancing. The new wave led to the rise of music giants like BTS (who became the first K-Pop group to win a Billboard Music award in 2017) and TWICE (who released the Best-Selling Album Page Two by a Korean girl group in 2016). Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find a viral tweet that doesn’t feature a K-pop fancam somewhere in the replies from an overzealous stan, and if that doesn’t convince you just how omnipresent Korean music has become, I don’t know what will.
(By Antravis Bryant and Melissa Lee)
What started out as a bunch of badly-drawn cartoons captioned with bold white font has evolved into so much more. Memes have taken on a much more sophisticated form over the last few years, often requiring hefty amounts of contextual knowledge to parse and comprehend. Screencaps from viral videos instantly cue up multiple layers of meaning for regular social media users, who often remember every word and frame from their source material and immediately apply it to the current context with no help or explanation required.
Memes are increasingly becoming widely used as entire modes of communication in themselves, and it’s not uncommon to see entire conversations on Twitter carried out using nothing but reaction images and/or videos. A significant portion of social media and Internet users owe the bulk of their Internet experience this decade to the likes of Tiffany “New York” Pollard, Wendy Williams and, oddly yet gratifyingly enough, The Great British Bake-off.
(By Melissa Lee)
5. Homecoming by Beyoncé (2018-2019)
The truly remarkable thing about Homecoming is how many different things it really was. It was a live performance, a Netflix special, a 40-track album, and a complete and total domination of a hugely popular but white-dominated festival by a Black woman (the first time in Coachella’s 20-year history) in her artistic prime. It was Coachella’s most viewed performance to date and the most live-streamed performance of all time. It was a tribute to Blackness, an educational experience of Black culture, identity and history, a unifying, rallying symbol for Black people in America, and so much more.
If you went to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), you know just how important homecoming is every year. With her Coachella performance and accompanying movie, Beyoncé celebrated the 182-year history and powerful legacy of HBCUs in America, the variety of Black bodies (in both shape and color), the multitude of talents possessed and the courage and power it takes to create your own space in a world that would rather see you drown than flourish. Homecoming carved itself a niche high above what any other musical event has managed to do in this decade or any other.
(By Melissa Lee and April Morris)
Disney buys Marvel (2009). AND Lucasfilm (2012). AND 21st Century Fox (2019)
No one so much as blinked when Disney bought Pixar in 2006. The two studios had worked closely together for decades to great success, producing a slew of box office hits like the Toy Story series and The Incredibles (2004). An official union seemed like the next logical step.
But when Disney began buying over other big companies in quick succession, people certainly began to take notice.
This honestly isn’t so much of a “Best Of” moment as much as it is a “holy shit what have we done” moment. By allowing a single company to acquire such a significant majority of the industry that produces most of what we see on screens all over the world, the stage is set for Disney to build and enforce their media and entertainment monopoly literally whenever they feel like it—and, if the advent of Disney+ proves anything, they definitely feel like it. Cinema is dead!