Reviewing 2010's Pop Cultural Lessons

"It was the year of Facebook, Angry Birds and Team Coco," says one writer. "This year, Twitter became a key part of the pop culture landscape," says another. Popular culture was dramatically transformed in a number of ways in 2010, including a vast selection of new shows, technology, stars, buzzwords, and more. As we bid farewell to another year, some pop culture critics are doing more than reflecting on trends gone by -- they're speculating about what it all means. Here, the best explanations:

It was the year of the hero: One of the "classic themes of storytelling," says Sean P. Means in The Salt Lake Tribune, is "the hero who single-handedly" saves a group from "something far bigger." That theme appeared in more than just Clash of the Titans this year -- it showed up in popular music, TV, video games, and elsewhere. In "a year when too much bad news involved undifferentiated groups of people -- the unemployed, the government, the big banks, the immigrants, the tea partiers -- we were eager to find maverick heroes anywhere."

There was lots of noise without substance: "In popular culture, 2010 was an elephant's call unmodulated, a bleat, a squawk, a low-level blare. You put your fingers in your ears, and you still couldn't block it out," says Steve Johnson in the Chicago Tribune. "2010 was a vuvuzela, all tone, no rhythm, the operational definition of unearned attention." Even if there were a few bright spots, it was largely led by "mediocrities" like Katy Perry who provided a "soundtrack from hell."

We stopped seeking truth: "This was life in 2010, when it was hard to tell the difference between real and fake or figure out whether it mattered," says Geoff Edgers in The Boston Globe. From reality TV to innovative documentaries "raising questions about truthiness," we "wanted our truth heavily dusted with fiction. We embraced the synthetic, hybrid, and absurd." The most talked about movie of the year, The Social Network, "was ostensibly based on the real story of Facebook's origin, but screenwriter Aaron Sorkin made it clear he refused to sacrifice his storytelling chops for truth." But Facebook's founder called it "fiction." The line between the two has seemingly been eradicated.