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The Millennial 100

From Beyonce to Bernie Sanders, we look back at the people, the music, the cultural touchstones, the movements and more that have shaped a generation

millennial 100 list harry potter britney spears titanic george bush

Illustration by Sean McCabe for RollingStone.com

Photographs used in illustation by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Warner Bros/Everett Collection, Scott Gries/Getty Images, Merie W. Wallace/20th Century Fox/Paramount/Kobal/REX Shutterstock, Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Jeff Daly/FilmMagic

What defines a millennial? We’ve been called “Generation Me” for our presumed narcissism and the “Peter Pan Generation” for our delayed adulthood. We’ve been accused of killing entire industries, like department stores and chain restaurants. But the only thing that may really define a millennial is that we’re indefinable. For people born between 1980 and 1995, our lives have been marked by some of the fastest-moving shifts in the world’s economy, political landscape and culture. We were radicalized by profound tragedies like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, as well as the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were stung by the financial crisis in 2008, just as many millennials began to enter the workforce — and we’re still feeling the fallout. And, of course, we’re the last generation to witness life before and after the dawn of the Internet age.

The push into an all-digital world has been key to how we’ve grown, matured and consumed the world around us. From the early days of blogs and instant messaging through the arrival of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we’ve been sharing our lives. Companies like Napster, iTunes and Spotify, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu have democratized entertainment, giving us more choices than ever before. We’re millions of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, effectively raised on the idea that everything we want can, should and will be available at the click of a button.

At times, this deluge of culture and content feels splintering. Even the difference between “younger” and “older” millennials can seem vast. Those with stronger memories of a pre-digital era feel more grounded in shared experience with our predecessors in Generation X, sometimes longing for the existence of monoculture, while Nineties babies relate more to the faster-paced, still-forming culture of Generation Y, embracing streaming as both a lifestyle and a preference. That divide even within our own generation, and the way millennials have responded to the rapidly changing world we’ve inherited, means we’ve been blamed for the loss of many experiences. We don’t have the same appetite for post-recession luxuries — like diamonds and mortgages — and are threatening to make even smaller indulgences — like albums and movie theaters — obsolete.

It’s not entirely fair, but that blame is a price to pay for our increasing authority and stronger cultural and political voices. For as much as millennials have supposedly taken away from the world, we’ve also given back tenfold. Optimistic and inclusive, we helped elect America’s first black president, Barack Obama — twice. Provoked by tragedies like Sandy Hook and the killing of Trayvon Martin, we’ve started sociopolitical movements to address systemic racism and gun violence. Spurred by social media, we’ve expanded our cultural language, pushing for an increase in minority voices in everything from political offices to media.

As our power grows, time will prove just how much more we can accomplish. While every generation seems to worry about how to adjust to life’s faster pace, we’ve been thrown into the deep end for as long as we’ve been alive. This list looks at 100 moments, artists, events, movements and more that have helped form the millennial identity. How we’ll continue to shape-shift remains to be seen — but you can be sure we’ll defy expectations. Brittany Spanos

Andre 3000 of Outkast performs "Hey Ya" at the VH1 Big In '03, airing November 30, 2003 (Photo by KMazur/WireImage for VH-1 Channel - New York)
69

OutKast’s ‘Hey Ya!’

The video for “Hey Ya!” was a perfect reflection of the song’s massive space in early millennium music. For the clip, André 3000 plays each member of a band in a re-creation of the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Instead, it’s an American band breaking through on British television and sending the crowd of girls into hysterics. But really, just shake. “Shake it! Shake it, like a Polaroid picture!”

Avril Lavigne in a Metalica T-Shirt
70

Hot Topic Rebels

So you decided to become a tweenage rebel. As any alternative kid knew in the late Nineties through the 2000s, the most rebellious thing you could do was buy yourself an identity completely based on the inside of a store at the mall. After all, how would anybody know you were a die-hard fan of Marilyn Manson — or at least his two singles you downloaded illegally off LimeWire — if you didn’t own one of his T-shirts two sizes too big, much less the G-rated Vivienne Westwood bondage pants to go with it? Identifiable by their gratuitous piercings, Manic Panic hair dye and obscure band tees, Hot Topic employees played cultural oracles to nascent bad kids in the suburbs. Frequent buyers carried black and red stamp cards, of which 10 coffin-shaped stamps would grant them a sweet discount. The store was later immortalized in a 2008 episode of South Park, in which the infamous Goth Kids set fire to the local Hot Topic. (“Burn down Hot Topic,” goes the Danzig-esque song playing in the background, “Don’t let ’em steal your soul away! Take control!”) Meanwhile, the nostalgic metal tees and fetish-lite wear have more recently gone the way of the mainstream, becoming sartorial essentials for Top 40 artists such as Lil Uzi Vert and Justin Bieber. —S.E.

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 27:  Atmosphere during the Ultra Music Festival at Bayfront Park Amphitheater on March 27, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
71

Partiers Want ‘Pure’ Fun

While Gen X ravers had no qualms getting blissed on Ecstasy and exploiting its confessional powers while on the dance floor, the next generation was wary of the contaminants that could appear in MDMA and wanted an “improved” party drug for EDM events. Enter Molly, which has a reputation for being more “pure” and is enjoyed for its ability to break down inhibitions and increase sociability. With the FDA potentially granting clinical trials to study the effects of MDMA as a therapeutic drug for post-traumatic stress disorder, perhaps we’ll see it return to its roots as a treatment in psychotherapy.

Madonna, Ray of Light era
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Kabbalist Madonna

In 1985, Madonna’s navel ruled the world. That year — which opened with “Like a Virgin” perched at Number One and would later see “Crazy for You” knock “We Are the World” off the top of the charts — she boiled down her philosophy, her definitive worldview, to one phrase. It kicked off “Into the Groove,” perhaps her most sublime single ever (also the theme to Desperately Seeking Susan, still the only good movie she’s been in). Over the most Eighties-sounding synthesizers imaginable, she proclaimed, “And you can dance — for inspiration.” Twenty years later, the world’s most famous Kabbalist found other ways to seek enlightenment, and as Confessions on a Dance Floor illustrates, Madonna never lost her faith in the power of the beat. And it made perfect sense that the millennial’s got a self-help, self-care, self-improvement version of the Material Girl to adore. —JP

Amy Lee - EvanescenceEVANESCENCE PERFORMING ON THEIR 2004 TOUR, AMERICA - 2004
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Evanescence Brings the Doom to Life

Love it or hate it, Evanescence’s 2003 hit “Bring Me to Life” is one of the most popular songs in metal to have ever existed, period. Sure, the female members of bands such as Norway’s Theater of Tragedy and Italy’s Lacuna Coil had already been cranking out gothic metal for years before Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee entered the picture. Perhaps in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States needed to answer for its own Dark Ages with doom-laden music. Yet the band’s first and biggest hit was sadly the result of a misogynistic hostage situation, in which Wind-Up Records label head Ed Vetri refused to release Evanescence’s album, Fallen, unless their lead single featured a male rap-rock vocalist, who happened to be Paul McCoy of the Christian rock band 12 Stones. “The rap was a compromise in many ways,” Lee said. “I remember having many talks with the suits [about my femininity] being a negative thing.” Evanescence would not only earn multiple Grammy wins the following year for their multiplatinum hit, but they also would make it safe for feminine artists to flaunt their dark sides for years to come. —S.E.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock (1934848f)Logan Lerman and Emma WatsonThe Perks Of Being A Wallflower - 2012
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The Infinite ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’

Was it a battle cry of the introvert? Or just fodder for precocious high school freshman snowflakes? The story of Charlie, a quiet kid who attempts a social life after getting discharged from a mental health facility, the 1999 coming-of-age novel by Stephen Chbosky spoke to a generation of clinically depressed, if not simply shy teens, who preferred the company of their diaries to that of their peers. Few Perks readers could forget the mixtape central to the story, which introduced scores of bands like the Moody Blues, Procol Harum and the Smiths. The 2012 film starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller breathed new life into the story, with Paul Rudd even playing Charlie’s beloved young English teacher, Mr. Anderson. A fleeting, yet complex narrative on sexuality, masculinity and trauma, Perks profundity culminates in Charlie’s closing lines as he drives off into the night with his best friends: “And in that moment, I swear, we were infinite.” —S.E.

Emojis
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The Language of Emojis

In 1999, Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita created the first set of emojis — smiley pictographs that were used to convey messages without language — and they are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Since then, emojis have become popular across the world, and the number of available images continues to grow each year. Apple recently announced the introduction of more than 70 emojis, including bald and curly-haired emojis, a bare foot and a problematic bagel. Some popular emojis have become famous in their own right: the Face With Tears of Joy was chosen as the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2015, while the meh face was the focus of The Emoji Movie, a critical flop that caused Jordan Peele to quit acting when he was offered the role of Poop (a role that was eventually filled by Patrick Stewart). —Linnea Emison

Freaks and Geeks - 1999
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The Power of ‘Freaks and Geeks’

In the fall of 1999, Freaks and Geeks aired its first and only season on NBC. The teen-angst dramedy was created by Paul Feig and executive-produced by Judd Apatow, and it spawned the careers of actors James Franco, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps and Rashida Jones. Despite being a critical darling, it tanked in the ratings and the network pulled the plug. After it was canceled, Apatow remained loyal to his cohort of misfit actors, casting them in basically every film he’s been involved with, including Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bridesmaids. “Everything I’ve done, in a way, is revenge for the people who canceled Freaks and Geeks,Apatow has stated, and we thank him for that. —Jack Irvin

HANNAH MONTANA, Miley Cyrus, 'Sweet Home Hannah Montana', (Season 4, aired July 11, 2010), 2006-. photo: Craig Sjodin / © Disney Channel / Courtesy Everett Collection
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Hannah Montana Begets Miley Cyrus

Long before the albums Bangerz, Dead Petz and Younger Now, Miley Cyrus starred in the late-2000s television phenomenon Hannah Montana. In addition to record-high ratings for the Disney Channel, the show launched Cyrus’ career with three Number One albums under Hannah’s name, an arena tour and a major motion picture, Hannah Montana: The Movie — all within five years. Hannah Montana may have taken the world by storm, but Cyrus shed that image when the show officially ended in 2011 — as well as that wig — and started singing about molly and sexual discovery. —Jack Irvin

Netflix Netflix customer Carleen Ho holds up DVD movies, "Talladega Nights" and "Pirates of the Caribbean' that she rented from Netflix, at her home in Palo Alto, Calif. Netflix said, that its Internet video service added 2 million U.S. subscribers during the final three months of the year to produce an unexpected profit for the company. Here's a breakdown of Netflix Inc.'s subscribers as of Dec. 31 and details on its forecastEarns Netflix, Palo Alto, USA
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Netflix and Chill

Before streaming services existed, Netflix practically invented binge-watching with their mail-order DVDs. In the 2000s, three red envelopes in the mail meant a lazy weekend watching Battlestar Galactica on the couch. The only drawback: You’d occasionally have to wait for the next disc to arrive to continue the marathon. Dating rituals also changed: No more wandering the aisles of Blockbuster for hours together, arguing over which rom-com or horror flick would get you in the mood. Instead, it was all about sequestering yourself with whatever arrived in the mail from your carefully (or not) curated list of titles. In a few years, everything would change again as Netflix’s streaming service started in the United States and would grow worldwide — along with a creepily precise algorithm that predicted things you wanted to watch based on what you’d already devoured. The company continued to evolve by creating its own original content as well as working with A-list talent like the Obamas, Martin Scorsese and Bruce Springsteen. All available for the optimal chill. —AW

Justin Timberlake, 2017
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Justin Timberlake Is More Than ‘Justified’

After moving on from Justified and his ever-so-public relationship (and breakup) with Britney Spears that most of this era revolved around (remember the Britney look-alike in the “Cry Me a River” video?), Justin Timberlake decided it was time to bring “SexyBack.” The track, written and produced by Timberlake, Timbaland and Danja, reached Number One in the United States in September 2006 — only about a year before Spears would release her infamous Blackout album, coincidentally also produced by Danja. “SexyBack” propelled Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds album to debut at Number One in the United States and eventually produced two more Top 10 hits, solidifying his position in the top tier of pop music. —Jack Irvin

Occupy Wall Street, 2011
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Occupy Wall Street Vs. the One Percent

Fox News boomer types love to blame all of society’s ills on the millennials, but this generational-divide rhetoric has always obscured a power imbalance between the one percent and the 99 percent — phrases made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Following two wars paid by credit-card debt, and bailouts for the banks that crashed the economy, America’s high deficits were used as an excuse to push painful austerity cuts onto an already-struggling populace. Millennials took to the streets, quite literally, living in encampments around the country, to protest against the class war being waged downward against ordinary working folk. Complaints about millennials ruining Western civilization may provide a useful scapegoat for the real assholes who are wrecking the world, but the Occupiers’ compass needle has always aimed in the right direction. —Rick Carp

My Chemical Romance, 2005
81

The Many Moods of Emo

It’s the genre that spawned a million fights in the comments sections of websites. There are different definitions of what counts as emo — as well as unwanted opinions about how much it sucks. Millennials who grew up going to shows at the local VFW embrace a huge variety of bands that get lumped together under this contentious genre, enjoying sounds ranging from Brand New to Kidcrash to Daïtro. Most casual listeners probably don’t care about whether Sunny Day Real Estate sounds totally different than My Chemical Romance, since they aren’t going to listen to either band in the first place. And something like Jeromes Dream? Forget it! But it’s their loss, as so many fans well know, because the multiple waves of emo have provided some of the most creative and varied acts of the 21st century, with genre-bending crossovers that incorporate everything from double-tapping math guitars to apocalyptic, GY!BE-style crescendoing post-rock. —RC

Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You - 1999
82

The Legend of Heath Ledger

Dying at age 28 in January 2008, Heath Ledger became one of millennials’ first significant Hollywood deaths — with his career cut short by an accidental overdose. Despite his brief time onscreen, he made an indelible impact. First debuting in the U.S. as the Aussie exchange student in 10 Things I Hate About You, he went on to box-office success with A Knight’s Tale and The Patriot. But it’s his roles as a closeted cowhand in Brokeback Mountain, the film where he met and started dating Michelle Williams, and as the Joker in The Dark Knight, the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, that continue to be celebrated decades later. The latter, which saw him play one of the greatest psychopaths onscreen, earned him a posthumous Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, making him a legend for countless fans. —SL

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
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Disney’s Domination or How ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Stole the Show

While the live-action retelling of Disney’s most popular fairy tales are all the rage now, there was a time when its 2D animation was considered canon. Sadly, that type of animation fell out of style thanks to Pixar’s 3D animated films, but not before the release of several that are classics to millions: Mulan, Hercules, The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, which became the first-ever animated film to be nominated for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture. While previous generations had their Snow White and Cinderella tales, Beauty and Beast, the timeless fable of a young woman falling for a cursed prince, made a generation fall in love with a singing teapot and a dancing candelabra. It was also the latest Disney favorite to get the live-action treatment, but it failed to capture the magic of the animated version. Sure, Emma Watson makes sense in the woke era, but we’ll stick to our wide-eyed, 2D princesses of yesteryear. —SL

View of NYC's ribute in Light for September 11th
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September 11th

While the government immediately took advantage of the 9/11 attacks to prepare to invade the Middle East and eviscerate civil liberties here, most Americans rather uncharacteristically embraced one another and mourned together. Many young people decided to join the military or volunteer or become active in their communities. But the solidarity proved temporary, as militaristic jingoism took over and the country soon went to war under false pretenses in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millennials enlisted in the military for a variety of reasons, and many others protested the Bush administration’s actions in the streets and on campuses. A new generation who had grown up in a more tranquil time would come to terms with constantly hearing vexatious warnings about terrorism. And as blowback continues to create global enemies who keep the country mired in conflict, the children of Generation Alpha are growing up knowing a world that has always been violent and hostile. — Rick Carp

ALL THAT, Nick Cannon, Kel Mitchell, Amanda Bynes, Kenan Thompson, 1995-2005. © Tollin/Robbins Prod. / Courtesy: Everett Collection
85

‘All That’ Nick Cannon Stardom

In 1994, Dan Schneider landed his first Nickelodeon hit show with All That, a sketch-comedy show for children and teenagers that ran for 10 seasons. The show was structured like a half-hour Saturday Night Live, featuring sketches and musical guests, including TLC (who also performed the show’s theme song), the Spice Girls, Missy Elliott and Aaliyah. The show played a major role in producing the careers of Kenan Thompson (now the longest-running SNL cast member in history), Amanda Bynes, Gabriel Iglesias, Jamie Lynn Spears and Nick Cannon, many of whom went on to star in their own Dan Schneider-created shows, including Kenan & Kel, The Amanda Show and Zoey 101. Prominently, All That sent Cannon into stardom; he received a spinoff titled The Nick Cannon Show, which led to Cannon’s long-lasting television career on shows such as Wild ’N Out, America’s Got Talent and, most recently, Lip Sync Battle. — Jack Irvin

Cher performs on the "VH1 Divas Las Vegas", a concert to benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, 5/23/02. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect
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Cher’s ‘Believe’ and the Power of ‘Divas Live’

Do you believe in love after love? After love? After love? Whether you did or didn’t, there was no escaping Cher’s 1998 comeback single, which mainstreamed Auto-Tuning and forever changed pop music. It was also a relentless Number One song of the year, marking her place back atop of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Every decade got its own version of Cher, but the superstar’s return also coincided with VH1’s popular Divas Live series, which saw some of past generations’ best singers take the stage for a rousing celebration of all things diva. (The 1998 debut special is a treat worth watching all on its own.) Cher co-headlined Divas/Live 99 with Whitney Houston, also enjoying a comeback of her own, Tina Turner and diva-lite Brandy. Twenty years later, a new generation of fans would get their own Cher reemergence, as the ABBA-covering star of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.   —SL

Vaping
87

Vaping Replaced Cigarette Smoking

In the early 2000s, the Truth PSA campaign announced a “generation united against tobacco,” blasting orange-and-black ads across TVs, magazines and billboards, declaring that millennials would be the first to reject Big Tobacco. On the one hand, it worked: between 1998 and 2016, the teen smoking rate dropped from 23 percent to just six percent. On the other, many of those teens found a new, high-tech way to get high: vaping. Smoking changed forever— no longer was it about having a ciggie hanging from your lip, it was now a techie device that won’t ever feel quite different. And while the kids are now flocking to the Juul, a pocket-size device that resembles a USB drive, the vapes of millennials practically required a fanny pack. —EGP

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Miramax/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5878796d)Kirsten DunstGet Over It - 2001Director: Tommy O'HaverMiramaxUSAFilm PortraitComedy
88

Kirsten Dunst, the Muse

Making her debut opposite Brad Pitt in Interview With the Vampire, Kirsten Dunst — or Kiki among friends — became a sensation with the back-to-back releases of cult classics Dick, Drop Dead Gorgeous and The Virgin Suicides, and the box-office smash Bring It On. An eternal teenage dream and effortlessly cool, Dunst managed to sidestep child-star pitfalls and blossom into a formidable actress, with varied choices like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Melancholia, Bachelorette and TV’s Fargo, providing a roadmap for younger stars to follow. But Dunst has delivered her best work as director Sofia Coppola’s muse in The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette and The Beguiled. —SL

Buffy the Vampire the Slayer starring Sarah Michelle Gellar
89

The WB and UPN Birth a New Kind of Star

TV networks the WB and UPN — which merged to become The CW in 2006 — will always be remembered for producing some of the biggest young stars of the late 1990s and early Aughts, thanks to their many teen dramas: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl, Popular, Roswell and Veronica Mars. The rotating collection of young hotties also became the casting pool for many of film’s teenage romantic comedies and slashers that were popular at the time. James Van Deer Beek? He had Dawson’s and Varsity Blues; meanwhile Sarah Michelle Gellar bounced between Buffy and Kevin Williamson horror films. But the most defining element of this era were the network promos. Have you ever seen so many stars in one 60-second ad? Oh, what a night! —SL

Britney Spears performs at the 2001 MTV VMAs
90

Britney Spears’ Hits and Misses

Emerging in the fall of 1998 with “… Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears quickly became the princess of pop, helping to usher in a new era for the genre that had gone dormant in the decade that followed New Kids on the Block. Bolstered by MTV’s Total Request Live, Spears would lead an army of pop stars — including Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync, Christina Aguilera and others — built on slick Max Martin productions, plenty of sexual innuendo and dance-heavy performances. From 1999 to the meltdown, Spears delivered hit after hit (“Oops! … I Did It Again,” “Stronger,” “I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Toxic”) on four consecutive Billboard Number One albums, becoming one of the most successful artists of all time — and a cautionary tale for a generation, whether they paid attention or not.  — SL

Serena Williams, Venus Williams Taken, at the London Summer Olympics, Serena Williams, left, and Venus Williams of the United States celebrate on podium after receiving their gold medals in women's doubles. The winningest team in Olympic tennis history has entered the doubles draw at this week's Italian Open to kick off their preparations for the Rio de Janeiro GamesItaly Tennis Williams Doubles
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Serena and Venus Williams

At the 1998 Australian Open, Venus and Serena Williams played each other in a grand slam for the very first time. (Venus bested her younger sister in the first of 30 total face-offs.) Two years later, the Williams’ would go on to dominate the sport, each winning a collection of grand slam trophies as singles players and also as doubles, creating an unstoppable force on the women’s circuit. Over the course of their careers, they pushed back on sexism, racism and what it means to be the greatest among men or women, with poise and grace — and yes, a bit of controversy at times. Forever changing tennis — both on and off the court — Serena and Venus Williams will go down as two of the greatest tennis players of not only the modern era, but also of all time. Plus, Serena is BFFs with Beyoncé, even showing up in her video for “Sorry,” forever cementing a generational bond. —SL

The Osbournes - 2002
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The Family Drama of ‘The Osbournes’

First there were reality competitions (Survivor, Amazing Race, ANTM), then came the celeb reality shows that tended to follow the domestic antics of D-list stars ranging from Anna Nicole Smith to Kathy Griffin. Among them was the unexpected MTV hit The Osbournes, which reintroduced prince of darkness Ozzy Osbourne as a bumbling, loving patriarch of a colorful family. It included the sharp-tongued, ruthless matriarch, Sharon, and the wildly different siblings Jack and Kelly, who did everything from tossing a ham into a neighbor’s yard to getting into brawls to seeing dog therapists. Following in her father’s footsteps, the show’s success led to Kelly’s brief singing career — remember her cover of “Papa Don’t Preach”? — before she would go on to find stardom on Dancing With the Stars and as a fixture on the E! network. —SL

glee
93

The Gay ‘Glee’ of Ryan Murphy Shows

Ryan Murphy is one of the two most-influential TV producers of the millennial generation (the other being Shonda Rhimes). He first created the short-lived teen comedy Popular and Nip/Tuck before conceiving the post-American Idol teen-TV juggernaut Glee, a musical dramedy about misfit students (played by newfound stars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Naya Rivera, Darren Criss) singing covers — and many, many mashups — of popular music while navigating the ups and downs of high school and battling it out at regionals. While that show skyrocketed into hate-watch territory, Murphy became a hit machine, producing shows like 9-1-1, American Crime Story, American Horror Story, Feud, The New Normal, Pose and Scream Queens, and making stars out of Sarah Paulson, Emma Roberts and Evan Peters, while reviving the careers of Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates. —SL

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
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Whatever Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Is Cooking

Part of WWE’s “Attitude Era” of stars, the Rock became the “People’s Champion” known for his catchphrase, “Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?” He soon made the jump to Hollywood, first as an Arnold Schwarzenegger descendant, starring in action blockbusters like The Mummy Returns and Doom, before making the jump to comedy with The Game Plan and Tooth Fairy. By the end of the Aughts, the world of WWE was far, far behind him, and Dwayne Johnson, renaissance actor and leading man, took hold as he became one of the most bankable stars not attached to a Marvel franchise. —SL

Texts from HIllary
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Tumblr as Culture Incubator

Launched in 2007, Tumblr was first viewed as a social network where users could share, like and react to each others’ microblogs. Soon, the site became a breeding ground for memes and themed sites — from ”Fuck Yeah …” to anything involving Ryan Gosling and James Van Der Beek GIFs to “Texts From Hillary” and absolutely everything in between — which caught fire thanks to the site’s photo-heavy layout. The platform became so big, Tumblr replaced blogs, and the Internet hasn’t been the same ever since. While Tumblr lost some of its cache in recent years, memories of just about every major meme can be found as novelty books — usually sold by Urban Outfitters. —SL

Tyra Banks and the hosts of America's Next Top Model
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Tyra Banks and ‘America’s Next Top Model’

The reality competition created and hosted by Tyra Banks will likely be remembered more for the model’s antics than ever producing any legit superstars in the industry. Banks, with two photos in her hands, determined the fate of countless aspiring models, who wanted nothing more than Banks’ approval and adoration, while suffering through tear-filled makeovers, ridiculously-themed photo shoots and being berated by notoriously snarky and snarly judges — one of the world’s first supermodels, Janice Dickinson, Andre Leon Talley, PR maven Kelly Cutrone and noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker. If there was ever a winner of each cycle — and there have been 24 in total — it was and always will be Tyra Banks. —SL

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5862765a)Dave ChappelleDave Chappelle - 2004PortraitTv Classics
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Standing Up With Dave Chappelle

Glancing at his career before and after the groundbreaking Chappelle’s Show makes one thing clear: Stand-up is Dave Chappelle’s first (and perhaps only) love. After a pair of stunningly good early specials, his beloved Comedy Central show and a much-ballyhooed visit to Africa, Chappelle has not only reasserted himself in the game but also put himself right back on top. He talks race, celebrity and politics in a way that belies the incisive and ferocious nature of his observations; he is also a precocious child who can’t keep himself from using “pussy juice” as a punchline. He relishes the fuzzy line between truth and fiction, and delights in keeping the audience on the hook until they’re scratching their heads about whether a baby could sell weed and how one could masturbate to their own sex tape.

High School Musical poster
98

Zac Efron, Heartthrob

High School Musical is the Disney Chan­nel song-and-dance franchise about an unlike­ly love between a school jock (Zac Efron) and a brainiac transfer student (Vanessa Hudgens), who are rumored to be linked in real life. But how did Efron go from teen heartthrob to chiseled stud? His 2007 Rolling Stone cover may have signaled his leading-man status, but he still needed to shed his squeaky-clean image. Masturbating with Macy Gray in Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy — which later had the unforgettable moment of Nicole Kidman peeing on his face to help with a jellyfish sting — was a start. But confessing issues with sobriety was the next step, and then there was his role in the raunchy Neighbors. Teaming up with millennial fave Dwayne Johnson in the Baywatch flick helped cement his path, but where Efron will go next is still up in the air (like he was in 2017’s The Greatest Showman). Does this mean a superhero franchise is on the horizon? —JP

Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love - 2011
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Ryan Gosling: ‘Hey Girl’

With a lick of his lips, Ryan Gosling can make any girl — or guy — swoon. It’s no wonder that the actor, who won over hearts with The Notebook before going on to star in Oscar-bait such as Half Nelson, La La Land and First Man, became a meme several times over — Tumblr would be nowhere without “Hey Girl” or “Feminist Ryan Gosling,” while one of Vine’s biggest hits was “Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal.” In his 25 years of acting, he’s gone from the Mickey Mouse Club to a legitimate, serious leading man — he internalizes so much — that only Kate McKinnon can make him break on Saturday Night Live, much to the delight of fans everywhere. —SL

Veronica Mars: Series 2. - 2005
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The ‘Veronica Mars’ Revival

When it premiered in 2004, this CW show starring future-A-lister Kristen Bell didn’t turn many heads — the network gave it two and a half seasons before unceremoniously pulling it off the air. But there was something about the fast-talking, Blondie-singing teen detective that proved popular with millennials; she was independent, sexually active and relied more on her friends (including her adorable pit bull Backup) than on any of her love interests. With the advent of streaming services, Mars was given a second life by rabid fans, who brought her back for a movie, a series of novels and, it seems, a fourth season. — Elisabeth Garber-Paul