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The 50 Biggest, Most Influential, Most Unforgettable Pop Culture Moments of the 2010s

From Lady Gaga's Meat Dress to the College Admissions Scandal, we're revisiting the moments that defined pop culture this decade.

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The 2010s were a decade of massive change. Yes, politically—we started the decade with Barack Obama and the ACA and ended with Donald Trump and impeachment; we saw gay marriage legalized and Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court—but also culturally. Before 2010, there was no Instagram, let alone TikTok. This decade brought us two royal weddings and four little prince/princesses. It saw many endings (The Oprah Show, Harry Potter, Brangelina) but even more beginnings (Girls, Frozen, Fenty Beauty). Kim Kardashian broke the internet and Black Panther broke the box office. And that's just a sampling. Ahead, the top 50 pop culture moments of the decade, according to Marie Claire's editors. We're sure we missed many of your favorites. There were too many controversial, hilarious, viral moments that occurred these past 10 years, and we had to make some brutal cuts. Is it too late now to say sorry? Hope not. Come along with us on a pop culture trip down memory lane.

2010 Video Music Awards - Press Room - Los Angeles
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2010: Lady Gaga's Meat Dress

Lady Gaga arrived at the 2010 VMA's in this carnivorous creation and people's minds exploded. Could the cowl-neck Franc Fernandez design really be made of...meat? Yes, the high-low dress was made of raw beef, and Gaga said she wore it as a form of protest. Today it lives at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and resembles beef jerky. To me, the '00s had J.Lo's iconic Versace dress, and the '10s had Gaga's meat dress. Enough said.

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2010: 'Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife'

When Antoine Dodson spoke to a local TV station about saving his sister from an attacker in their home, the segment went viral. Partially because of how angry he was, but also because he gave us the iconic line, "hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cause they're rapin' everybody out here." The interview grew so popular that the Gregory Brothers remixed it, and you bet the "Bed Intruder Song" hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Today, Dodson is a substitute teacher in Huntsville, Alabama.


Mobile Technology Applications
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2010: Instagram Is Founded

Remember life before Instagram? Us neither. Before early October of 2010, the only way you could really flex your photos digitally was through a Facebook photo album or Photobucket (how's that for a throwback?). Soon, things would change. We'd be introduced to a world full of double taps, sponsored influencer posts, Valencia filters, DM culture, and IG models galore. Now, the app has more than one billion users and is the second-most downloaded free app in the app store. Excuse me as I go down a scrolling-spiral on my explore page.


Royal Wedding - Carriage Procession To Buckingham Palace And Departures
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2011: Prince William Marries Kate Middleton

It was the first major royal wedding (with a reported $34 million price tag) since Princess Diana and Prince Charles tied the knot 30 years prior and, boy, did it deliver. The college sweethearts looked like a fairy tale come to life, and reinvigorated the royal family's popularity—especially here in the States, where more than 23 million people watched.

Oprah Winfrey Visits Australia - Day 7
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2011: The Oprah Winfrey Show Ends

Ah, Oprah. She got us through the '80s, the '90s, and the '00s, but in May 2011, the queen of day-time talk shows ended her 25-year run. And when we say queen, we mean queen: her program was the number-one talk show in America for the entire time it was on the air, and was watched in 150 countries. No longer would all those people hear, "You get a car! And you get a car! Everybody gets a new car!" because, sadly, all good things must come to an end.

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2011: Beyoncé's Epic VMA's Pregnancy Announcement

When Ms. Knowles unbuttoned her sparkly Dolce & Gabbana jacket and rubbed her stomach while performing 'Love on Top' at the 2011 VMAs, we were shook! The moment literally triggered 8,868 tweets a second (yet another Queen B record). The world would later be introduced to her and Jay-Z's first-born, Blue Ivy Carter, on January 7, 2012.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 - World Premiere - Inside Arrivals
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2011: 'Harry Potter' Ends

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 hit screens in the summer of 2011, marking the end of a era for wizard lovers everywhere. It was the highest grossing movie of the year, making $1.3 billion worldwide. Team Gryffindor 4ever.


E. L. James Signs Copies Of "Fifty Shades Of Grey"
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2011: Women Everywhere Read 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Whatever your opinions are of Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic Twilight fanfic that introduced much of mainstream America to BDSM, you simply cannot deny the chaos that followed the publishing of the first book in 2011. It seems everyone and their mother (literally) read the steamy novels and book club will never be the same. The tome sold more than 150 million copies worldwide—in the United States the trilogy holds the top three spots for bestselling fiction books of the decade—and gave us three questionable movies starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.


Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries, Kenny Wormald And Leann Rimes On "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"
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2011: Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries's 72-Day Marriage

Kim Kardashian announcing in October 2011 that she was divorcing NBA player Kris Humphries just 72 days after their televised OTT wedding, was somehow both predictable and shocking. Since the premiere of Keeping Up With The Kardashians in 2007, we've seen a lot of antics from the Kardashian-Jenner clan, but this one takes the (wedding) cake. The video of Kim crying in a white robe as she realized she didn't love Kris anymore is forever engraved in our memories—and meme culture.

Whitney Houston
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2012: The World Loses Whitney Houston

It's safe to say a hole was left in the music industry when Whitney Houston passed away in early February 2012 from accidental drowning. To know pop music is to love Whitney Houston. Songs like 'How Will I Know' and her cover of Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You' for the Bodyguard soundtrack are forever engraved in our hearts. She's the only artist to have seven consecutive number-one hits on the Billboard Top 100 charts, and the only artist with eight consecutive multi-platinum albums. She's such an icon that her Hologram tour kicks off in late February 2020, for those who miss the queen of pop.


Kony 2012 (officially KONY 2012 or Kony2012) is a short film created by the non-governmental organization Invisible Children, Inc
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2012: KONY 2012 Goes Viral

In the spring of 2012, this poster was all over your Facebook feed, and was maybe even your profile picture. The short documentary film and ensuing internet campaign advocated against Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony for his heinous war crimes, including kidnapping thousands of children to use as sex slaves and soldiers. The doc garnered more than 100 million views in just five days, and helped the org behind it, Invisible Children, raise more than $30 million; it was even shared by Rihanna. But it also received much backlash, and Invisible Children shut down roughly two years later due to lack of funding.

2012 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Inside
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2012: Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise Divorce

Headlines read that Katie and Suri were free at last, when Ms. Holmes filed for divorce in June of 2012, kicking Cruise and his scientology to the curb and ending "TomCat" (a terrible portmanteau that was doomed from the start). It begged the question: Was Cruise's couch jumping on Oprah real or no?

Now 99.7 Triple Ho Ball - San Jose, CA
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2012: Carly Rae Jepsen Gifts Us 'Call Me Maybe'

The song of the summer that went viral like no other. Canadian singer, Carly Rae Jepsen's pop earworm became the soundtrack of internet gold, inspiring dance videos from the likes of the Harvard Baseball team and Justin Bieber and Selena. Ah, 2012, such an innocent time.


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2012: 'Girls' Premieres

Creator and star Lena Dunham sold the idea of the show (follow the lives of four 20-something friends in New York City) to HBO on a one-and-a-half page script when she was just 23 years old. Notable for its boundary-pushing sex scenes (even for premium cable), the show also helped start conversations off-screen on topics like abortion and drug addiction. It would go on to run for six seasons and skyrocket some of our favorite actors today (um, hi, Adam Driver) to fame.


FROZEN, Elsa (voice: Idina Menzel), 2013. ©Walt Disney Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
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2013: 'Frozen' Inspires Girls Everywhere

The question "Do you wanna build a snowman?" can now only be sung, thanks to Disney's Frozen, which hit theaters in November 2013. (Ditto for "Let it go.") The tale of two princess sisters is the highest-grossing animated film of all time and winner of two Academy Awards. It has its own Broadway musical, holiday specials, and a sequel that made $130 million in its opening weekend. So, obviously, the cold never bothered us anyway.


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2013: Game of Thrones Airs the 'Red Wedding' Episode

First off, they didn't have to do my man Richard Madden like that. Secondly, they didn't have to do us like that! When the season three finale of 'Game of Thrones' slashed what seemed like half the cast, including Catelyn and Robb Stark and his pregnant wife Talisa, it was major. Obviously, because it's G.O.T. far worse things have happened since, but at the time, it was the most engaging episode ever, with more than 700,000 mentions across social media.


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2013: Prince George Is Born

For Royal family lovers, Christmas came in July when Prince William and Kate Middleton walked outside the hospital where His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge was born. The third in line to the throne weighed in at 8 pounds, 6 ounces, and it's said that around $300 million was spent by fans celebrating his birth. The now-6-year-old is way cooler than any of us will ever be, even taking private tennis lessons from Roger Federer.

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show
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2013: Miley Cyrus's VMA Performance

The 2013 VMAs was Miley Cyrus's official going away party for Hannah Montana and the old Miley, and a signal to fans that the Bangerz era (arguably her best album) was in full swing. The hyper-sexualized performance had moms of tweens clutching their pearls. And the image of her grinding on Robin Thicke in a nude latex two-piece—the inspiration for many Halloween costumes to come—can never be erased from our memories.

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2014: John Travolta Calls Idina Menzel "Adele Dazeem"

An Oscar moment for the ages: John Travolta was tapped to introduce Frozen powerhouse Idina Menzel before her performance of the movie's nominated song. But rather than hearing the Tony Award–winner's name, audiences witnessed the Grease actor call her "Adele Dazeem." Travolta would go on Jimmy Kimmel Live and explain that the error came from the fact that her name was spelled phonetically on the teleprompter. Ah, now it all make sense.

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2014: That One Time in an Elevator...

It's the event that spurred the iconic Beyoncé lyric: "Of course sometimes sh*t go down when it's a billion dollars on an elevator." After a surveillance video of Solange Knowles yelling and hitting her sister's husband, Jay-Z, in an elevator at New York City's Standard Hotel following a Met Gala afterparty leaked, fans of all three artists went crazy, wanting to know what inspired the outburst. It wasn't until 2017 that fans got some insight: Jay-Z became the first of the group to address what went down that night, calling it a "disagreement." Whatever it was, it inspired parts of three incredible albums, Beyoncé's Lemonade, Solange's A Seat at the Table, and Jay-Z's 4:44.

York Races
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2014: The Ice Bucket Challenge Takes Over Social Media

From Justin Bieber to Nina Dobrev, it seemed that everyone participated in the #ALSIceBucketChallenge to help raise money and awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The gist: Dump a bucket of ice water over your head or donate to the ALS Association (most people actually did both), then nominate someone else to do the same. In an 8-week period in 2014, $115 million was donated through the viral trend; overall the organization saw a 30 percent increase in funding. Sweet!

Public Response To Bill Cosby Allegations
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2014: Accusations Against Bill Cosby Are Finally Believed

More than 60 women came forward with accusations of sexual assault spanning six decades, but it took until late 2014 for the news to impact the once-beloved comedian and star of The Cosby Show. A barrage of stories from women, including Janice Dickinson, that Cosby raped and drugged them flooded the news in November 2014, and inspired a powerful New York Magazine cover that introduced us to the #TheEmptyChair movement. The 80-year-old would go on to be found guilty and sentenced to three-to-10 years in prison.

ABC's "Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2015"
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2015: Misty Copeland Becomes First Black Principal Dancer of ABT

The ballerina made history when she became the first Black principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, one of the world's most prestigious companies. Since the announcement, she's written a memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, and has been named one of TIME's 100 most influential people. Could she get any cooler? Oh, yeah, she has her own Barbie doll.


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2015: The Great Dress Debate

Do you see white and gold or blue and black? It's a question that seriously divided the internet. On what would have been an average day in 2015, Buzzfeed posted an article featuring an image of a striped dress and asked viewers to vote on its color palette. At one point, more than a million people were on it, with celebs from Tay Swift to Gaga voicing their thoughts like it was the 2016 primaries, and we were for it. The hubbub sparked many conversations (and even scientific investigations!) about human perception. Eventually it was revealed that the dress is, in fact, blue and black (we know!), but the debate was fun while it lasted.

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2015: The World Meets Caitlyn Jenner

After years of speculation that Bruce Jenner was transitioning to female, on June 1, 2015, Vanity Fair dropped their cover feature the Olympian and Keeping Up With The Kardashians star's new identity: Caitlyn Jenner. The iconic shot was taken by none other than legendary photographer, Annie Leibovitz. The photograph was next-level class, but the reveal wasn't completely smooth. It was revealed in a mini-doc from Vanity Fair that Jenner had to keep a low profile in her house for three months to avoid being seen by paparazzi.

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2014: Kim Kardashian Covers 'Paper Magazine'

With the Winter 2014 issue, Paper Magazine and the world learned never doubt the power of Kim Kardashian. The reality TV star posed nude on the cover featuring a cheeky coverline encouraging her to break the internet, and then she literally did just that. On the day of the issue's release, the site received more than 50 million hits, which equated to 1 percent of all U.S. internet traffic that day. Crazy, we know! The cover sparked memes and Halloween costumes galore, reminding us that Kim is the unofficial queen of the world wide web.


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2016: David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, and Prince Pass Away

Twenty-sixteen is the year the world got a little duller. Each time we heard the news of the passing of another iconic artist—first David Bowie, then Prince, and then Carrie Fisher—it was like mourning the death of a close friend. Each person brought such color and creativity to our worlds, and their legacies will continue to live on in their films and music.

88th Annual Academy Awards - Show
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2016: Leo Finally Gets His Oscar

Watching Hollywood A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar (for his role in The Revenant) was like watching your favorite team score the winning point...or learning that your friend finally went on a date with that cute guy from the gym. We were ecstatic! The heartthrob had previously been nominated six times. (We know!) Of course, in Leo fashion, he talked about climate change in his acceptance speech and even made his Titanic co-star Kate Winslet tear up.

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2016: 'Lemonade' Drops

The nine-time Grammy-nominated visual album arrived on the music streaming platform Tidal in concert with Beyoncé's HBO special, Lemonade, and we were never the same. The conceptual album was kept so secret that supermodel Winnie Harlow, one of the stars in the film, didn't even know what she was filming, just that it was for the Queen B. Needless to say, it was all worth it: The album debuted at number-one on the Billboard charts and in June 2019 was certified as 3x platinum—and still gives us chills every time we listen.


The 58th GRAMMY Awards - "Hamilton" GRAMMY Performance
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2016: 'Hamilton' Makes History Hot

Who knew a musical about one of the founding fathers could be so fun? Heartwarming? Catchy? Lin-Manuel Miranda, that's who. The 16-time Tony nominated musical and winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama reminded us how good the arts can make us feel—and how much they can teach us. It's one of the highest-grossing musicals on Broadway, making $3.3 million for eight performances in a single week. (The same week President Trump asked people to boycott the show as a result of VP Mike Pence being booed upon arrival.) Excuse me as I listen to the soundtrack on repeat.


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