Cross Country Checkup

Pop culture experts share the film, music and book trends that defined the decade

As Canadians cap off 2019 and start a fresh decade, Cross Country Checkup asked three pop culture experts what defined the sounds, sights and words of the 2010s.

Media in the 2010s was driven by binge-watching, first-person stories and diversity

As the end of the decade approaches, Cross Country Checkup is asking for your favourite pop culture picks of the 2010s. (Shutterstock)

With the rise of streaming services for movies, television and music, the way people consume media has been turned upside down over the past 10 years.

What we want to watch, hear and read has changed too, thanks in large part to that evolving technology.

As Canadians cap off 2019 and start a fresh decade, Cross Country Checkup is asking for listeners' best pop culture picks of the 2010s.

Checkup has assembled a panel of pop culture experts to share their thoughts on the trends that defined the decade.

Film with Johanna Schneller

Johanna Schneller, freelance film columnist with the Globe and Mail, says the decade was defined by the diversification of films — largely driven by social movements and the rise of streaming platforms.

"Content has become so polarized," she said. "You're either getting super niche things … there's been a rise in queer cinema, black cinema." 

"Then there's this stuff that's for everyone still, but what's deemed to be for everyone are these big-budget, as I say, Marvel superhero extravaganzas."

Genres that were once niche, Schneller adds — particularly sci-fi and fantasy — have become mainstream.

Because of social media movements like #OscarsSoWhite and #TimesUp, Schneller says that the studios producing content are now looking to people of colour, women and LGBTQ storytellers to create new films.

"You give people a platform that they didn't use to have and you're going to get different stories. You're going to get different voices. You're going to get richer exploration. You're going to get stories that aren't as clichéd. You're going to get different stars," she said.

Films like Black Panther and Get Out proved that films made by diverse storytellers can have a wide appeal, Schneller said.

Music with Carl Wilson

Slate music critic Carl Wilson says music in the past decade can be split into two sections.

"From 2010 to roughly 2015, possibly 2016, the really dominant sound was a kind of dance music-oriented, big pop sound that was kind of inherited from the late years of the 2000s," he said, pointing to pop divas like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna.

That began to change in the latter half of the 2010s, particularly as music streaming gained traction, by a "low-key, emotional" and "mumbly" hip hop sound.

"It became dominant in the charts and the leading figure in all of that was really Drake," he added.

In that same shift, Wilson says, music saw a resurgence of women making "big impacts," with Lizzo among them.

Books and TV with Randy Boyagoda

Author and University of Toronto English professor Randy Boyagoda says that dystopian novels — especially those focused on climate and environmental crises — and first-person non-fiction books have dominated the bestsellers lists since 2010.

"Another one that perhaps we've noticed ... certainly in Canada, [is] a greater focus on Indigenous experience and exploring that in a variety of new genres, which I think is probably a very good thing," he said.

Literature finding a home on the small screen has also became a big draw for readers and viewers alike, Boyagoda adds

"Ten years ago we would be talking about novels: we'd be talking about The Handmaid's Tale, the novel, not The Handmaid's Tale, the TV series," he said, adding that the book's sequel, The Testaments, couldn't exist without the success of the television series.

Binge-watching shows like Fleabag or Game of Thrones or Westworld seems "to have supplanted, by and large, our reading lives with big, immersive stories and you have a sense of common conversation around them," he said.


Sunday on Cross Country Checkup, guest host David Common will take your calls on your favourite pop culture moments of the 2010s.

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