"Piracy. It's a crime." — colloquially known as "You Wouldn't Steal a Car" — was an anti-copyright infringement PSA campaign co-created by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that appeared on many commercial DVD's sold between 2004 and 2007. That campaign almost immediately dates itself to the mid-2000s with its Nu Metal music, "in your face" on-screen text, and grungy aesthetic.
Anime and Manga
Azumanga Daioh is mostly free of such moments, but there are some jokes that make little sense nowadays, especially in its first volume, which dates back to 1999-2000. Like Chiyo, a Child Prodigy, having no knowledge on how to use a computer (itself sporting a boxy 4:3 monitor and treated as an unusual addition to a classroom), a reference to the then-new Virtual Pet craze, and a jab at the Yomiuri Giants' losing streak, which was broken shortly after that specific strip's publication. Even after the first volume, there's still a few period-reliant moments like Osaka making a reference to Yoshiro Mori, a prime minister whose controversial tenure was still in recent memory at the time (the strip was published after his resignation and refers to him as the former prime minister, but it still relies on one having a fresh recollection of his time in office). What's perhaps most noticeable is the near-total absence of cell phones throughout the series, Tomo being the only character indicated to own one— with a very blocky late 90's/early 2000's design, to boot.
Despite being set 20 Minutes into the Future, an episode in the first season of A Certain Magical Index where the whole world goes through a body swap has Shirai Kuroko switching with what is clearly Barack Obama (complete with her saying "YES WE CAN"), who had just become the President-Elect at the time and was just about to become the 44th POTUS. In addition, the series has everyone with flip phones.
The second season of Darker Than Black, the first episodes of which were set in Vladivostok, quite firmly pins itself in the winter of 2007-2008, because the city has since experienced a building boom that radically changed its skyline just a year later.
While Hiromu Arakawa has sworn up and down that they're based on the Ainu people she grew up next to as a farm girl in northern Japan, the Ishvalans of Fullmetal Alchemist and their parallelism to Muslims in the early (and very xenophobic) days of The War on Terror makes some people wonder. The politicization was then taken Up to Eleven in the 2003 anime adaptation, thanks in part to its director, Seiji Mizushima, having an obsession with being "topical". The Middle East references are laid on much thicker (the opening arc has the town of Lior changed from a geographically-vague mountainous region to a Middle Eastern desert, for starters), overt references are made to the rape and torture of prisoners and civilians at the hands of the military (likely inspired by the real-life cases of military abuses making headlines at the time), and much more attention is given to Edward's and Dante's atheistic views (at a time when speakers like Richard Dawkins had gained large cultural relevance).
Genshiken became a snapshot of the Japanese otaku subculture as it was during the early 2000s before it was Un-Canceled with Nidaime. The references are contemporary, and it notably deals with the moe boom and (to an extent) the "mainstreaming" of otaku-dom around the start of The New '10s. The gap between the old guard and the new generation is increasingly evident in Nidaime, where the idea of "otaku" has gone from something of an internalized, somewhat shameful identity to a (relatively) unstigmatized descriptor of someone who enjoys their hobbies with a shameless, fiery passion.
The infamous English Gag Dub of Ghost Stories was recorded in 2005, and boy does it ever sound like it. It's filled with references to the George W. Bush administration as well as the then-current political landscape of the USA (particularly Texas, where the dub was recorded), the then-still-powerful Fundamentalist Christian groups, Hurricane Katrina, Scientology, certain now-long-dead memes, and name-dropping of several prominent media personalities of the time, up to and including Lindsay Lohan being called attractive unironically. One particular Cold Open that, in the original Japanese, had been silent, had that silence filled with a news-radio broadcast that culminated in referring to popular CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as a closeted homosexual, at a time when admitting to be gay was still controversial, particularly in the case of public figures. This became Hilarious in Hindsight a few years later when Cooper actually did come out.
The anime adaptation aired in 2007 and was quite reliant on mid-to-late 2000s anime, manga, and gaming references, most notably to Haruhi Suzumiya which was at the peak of its popularity during that year. As a result, it's become a perfect snapshot of what Otaku culture was like during that period.
Any jokes about phones firmly date the series to the late 2000s. While texting is in use, the characters' cellphones are all flip phones and all of their households still have landline telephones which they use more often when they're at home. At one point Kagami and Miyuki talk about the uses of caller ID, with the punchline being that the Hiiragi family's main phone doesn't have it.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Many of the conflicts in the show are heavily based around real-life ones that had been in the news at the time (the anime, unsurprisingly, was directed by Seiji Mizushima). Caricatures of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are featured as the first and second presidents of The Federation. Amusingly, the show directly featured the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers (an insurrectionist group in the Sri Lankan Civil War) despite being set 200 years in the future; by 2009, only two years after the show premiered, the Sri Lankan government had quelled the insurgency.
Batwoman's origins as a former soldier who was kicked out under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" dates her series to before that policy was repealed in 2010.
The Boys is about a black-ops group tasked with keeping the psychopathic, hedonist Smug Supers of the work in check. It's also an indictment against superheroes and the state of the comic book industry. As such, the comic relied a significant amount on how things were back when it was published between 2006 and 2012. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is Payback, the resident stand-in for The Avengers. The whole joke about them is that they are a second-rate team perpetually living in the shadow of The Seven, the Justice League expies, and are considered disposable by their bosses. A pretty spot-on assessment of the position of Marvel's Super Heroes team at that time. Nowadays, though, with the smashing success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the difficulties the DC Extended Universe has encountered trying to catch up, the Avengers are just as popular as the Justice League, if not more so, as far the public is concerned.
The Cartoon History of the Universe: The final two books, titled The Cartoon History of the Modern World, were completed during the George W. Bush administration, and it shows. The Professor makes a few references to controversial political issues of the era, including criticizing Private Military Contractors and "freedom fries," while covering events from hundreds of years ago.
Due to the author being a New Yorker and featuring plenty of Scenery Porn, the Girl series such as Girl — The Second Coming nails it as a pre-9/11 NYC with shots of the Twin Towers still intact and the city being nicknamed "Rudy's shooting gallery," referring to the previous mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The 2004-2005 Vertigo series The Losers is in a large part British writer Andy Diggle's scathing indictment of the state of the post-9/11 US, written at more or less the exact moment majority public opinion turned against The War on Terror. The US is portrayed as a twisted, hypocritical nation secretly ruled by a Shadow Dictatorship composed of big corporations and the CIA (themselves depicted, with the exception of Marvin Stegler, as smug, cowardly gangsters who cheerfully sign off on the deaths of innumerable innocents from behind their comfortable desks), and the Big Bad, Max, is a shadowy, amoral power broker who thinks conventional morality doesn't apply to him and that the highest good is expanding America's wealth and power, damn the consequences. His master plan is to create a pro-American nuclear rogue state in international waters to cow the developing world, especially the Middle East, into towing the American extreme right's party line under threat of genocide. Various conspiracy theories that were popular at the time but massively declined in prominence in subsequent decades also feature as major plot points.
The Marvel Mangaverse is dated pretty heavily to that period in the early 2000s where manga was officially having its first real mainstream boom, but hadn't really trickled into Small Reference Pools yet. The how-to-draw-manga artstyle (in fact, one of the artists did do such books) is the main giveaway. There's also the rather Shallow Parody feel of a lot of the series, which seem to be more based on general Japanese culture ideas that had also been somewhat mainstreamed at the time (Kaiju, Super Robots, samurai, ninjas, geisha), rather than parodying any specific series or genre, reflecting a time when mainstream anime outside of heavily-dubbed shounens didn't really exist and finding it was somewhat tricky. One of the few exceptions to that rule is its version of Fantastic Four, which is a pretty close riff on Neon Genesis Evangelion—a show that is certainly still well-known and well-regarded, but was at the height of its prestige in Western anime fandom at the time.
Marville hasn't aged well at all. There are numerous references to AOL Time-Warner, portraying it as a powerful Mega-Corp that rules the world in 5002. There are also "jokes" about Marvel's staff and comics in the early 2000s, for example, showing Peter David, who was making a bet with Bill Jemas to see who could sell more comics, as a poor man (David won the bet). And the title and issue #1 references Smallville, which had recently come out. But it isn't even a good representation of the 2000s because of errors like Ted Turner and Jane Fonda being married (and somehow still alive) in the year 5002, when they were divorced at the time of its publication.
Runaways Vol. 1 can be firmly placed as being set between 2003-2004, due to its clothing styles, cell phones, and references to Saddam Hussein and the Iraq War.
Scott Pilgrim has gradually become this over time though in surprising ways. The first book came out in 2004 and finished in 2010 though the events within the story take place over a year. This makes it a bit ambiguous on when it takes place except for the early-mid 2000s, which was shown with things like the types of games and music seen (action films being big, Scott having a PSP, and so on). However, the bigger element is seen in retroactive portrayal. Scott was written to be portrayed as this sort of hapless loser for not having much of a career or life despite going to college, and his friends are presented as in a similar boat to a lesser degree. However, a decade after its final book, Scott's situation is a lot more commonplace regarding young adults being able to establish a life and the overarching reasons (such as the economy and so on) are more pronounced, especially with things like the aftermath of the Great Recession, the rise of the next wave of Internet culture, social movements and so on. This makes Scott and his friends more relatable and sympathetic than perhaps O'Malley intended at the time.
The entire Ultimate Marvel line has this going for it. Created in the early 2000s, a part of its appeal was that it averted several superhero tropes at the time and "modernized" several elements of Marvel lore. However, the way it went about this was to apply copious amounts of 2000s superhero tropes (Darker and Edgier interpretations of characters, Bloodier and Gorier moments galore, Beware the Superman being prominent, everyone being Unscrupulous Heroes at best, Civvie Spandex or black costumes almost exclusively and lots of Hotter and Sexier), which have retroactively dated the entire line (aside from Spider-Man). When you see the leather-clad Ultimates (the Avengers under a different name) and Ultimate X-Men murdering people while casually talking about their sex lives, it's very clear what era they're from.
For a more specific example, The Ultimates Volumes 1 and 2 are very much products of The War on Terror. The story begins with "What if Captain America was resurrected during the 2000s" and goes from there. Cap himself in this continuity is basically the living embodiment of post-9/11 "national unity" and his infamous "You think this letter [A] on my head stands for France?" was an obvious jab at France after the country opposed the invasion of Iraq. Bush himself even appears in a few scenes. Hawkeye and Black Widow's infiltration of an office building is straight out of The Matrix, Thor's Conspiracy Theorist characterization and the shape-shifting Chitauri are both inspired by David Icke, and Volume 2's plot revolves around the Ultimates being made to fight terrorism in the Middle East and winding up in the crosshairs of an anti-American supergroup known as the Liberators, whose members include two Chinese agents, an Azerbaijani and a North Korean. And Loki.
While The Boondocks was launched in 1999, its turn for the political after 9/11 firmly welded it to the zeitgeist of The War on Terror, particularly the opposition to it. Its presentation of African-American culture is likewise very much of its time, especially with its hatred of BET, which became a major focus of criticism by black leaders in the 2000s. Riley's personality was already dated by the mid-2000s, hence why the animated adaptation changed his character and look so much. This trope is also true of the animated series, to a lesser extent.
Diamonds in the Desert goes to show it was made and takes place in 2007. Todd uses a PDA (these had only just begun to be displaced by smartphones) for various purposes such as electronic music and going online with a hacked external wireless modem. Nowadays, hardly anyone remembers PDAs anymore, and everything his fancy customized device can do would be possible out of the box with a smartphone.
The very first episode of Dragon Ball Z Abridged has a gag where Piccolo checks his MySpace page. The series began in 2008, when MySpace was still all the rage and Facebook was only beginning to take off. However, the joke still somewhat works if you interpret it as Piccolo being so lonely and isolated that he still uses MySpace. Lampshaded in a later episode when he says he upgraded to "Spacebook".
Eddie Rath's NarutoFilk Song rap "Gaara The Sand Assassin" gets dated to the 2000s with the line "Caramelldansen is the same as Cascada—they're both fucking annoying". The song was written when Caramelldansen Vids were most popular and Cascada fanvids were epidemic in the Naruto fandom.
Even ignoring the fact that Cori Falls wrote fanfiction of the Orange Islands and Johto seasons of Pokémon, it's abundantly obvious that her story "Heroic Hearts" was written shortly after the contested 2000 U.S. presidential election: the villain is a very obvious stand-in for George W. Bush, who goes by "W. Shrubb", referencing two of his nicknames that were only really common in the very early 2000s, and who Cori's heroes argue only won the mayoral election through corruption — an accusation that was certainly most prevalent immediately after Bush v. Gore. In addition, Shrubb's speech contains word-for-word copies of the original Bushisms, and mention is made of a website that is a parody of the long-defunct "Bush or Chimp".
Another giveaway comes in if you're a My Chemical Romance fan (since they tend to be the band mentioned most in the fic), as most of the songs by the band mentioned in the story are singles off of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, MCR's second album and their first big mainstream release. Amusingly, the story never mentions any songs off of MCR's more obscure first album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, which came out in 2002, showing that even Tara sticks dominantly to mainstream "punk" and "goff" bands. The story makes no references to any songs off of their even more successful third album The Black Parade, released in late 2006, either, meaning most of the story was likely written prior to its release.
A Pikachu in Love takes place during the Johto arc of the Pokémon anime, with no subtle nods or mentions of anything that would come after it to indicate that the story was written later. Even with that though, there's still some minor things that point to its age, such as its unconventional font, being only found on Pokémon Towers (a website that in itself is a time capsule to 90s / early 2000s web design), and unironically has Pikachu worrying about the fact that one day Ash will grow up and possibly leave him in the process. Considering Ash would eventually become one of the most infamous cases of Not Allowed to Grow Up in anime history...
The Rainbow Connection is from 2005. You can tell it's prior to cellphones becoming commonplace by Alice asking to use the payphone at a restaurant. In a more subtle case, Stormy mentions that she's been looking for Alice for 20 years. Rainbow Brite came out 20 years prior.
When Rocket Member began, Ash's Pikachu from the Pokémon anime had an Ambiguous Gender. A popular theory was that it was female. Pikachu in the comic is a girl, but since then the anime has confirmed Pikachu as a male.
This trope was part of the motivation for the Sonic X: Dark Chaos rewrite. The original, which was started in 2007, included several references to Internet memes and games from that era (most notably Team Fortress 2). It also had numerous Take That! jokes aimed at 4Kids Entertainment, which ended up going bankrupt soon after the story was finished.
Shark Tale is very much a product of 2004. It has an especially large focus on "urban gangsta flavor" and features celebrities who were at their peak among its cast: while Will Smith and Angelina Jolie are still well-known, Katie Couric (at the time a host on Today before anchoring CBS' evening newscast) and Renee Zellweger faded from the spotlight years later (although the latter would make a comeback of sorts in the late 2010s), and Peter Falk (whose final Columbo TV movie was made in 2003) would develop Alzheimer's before dying in 2011. The soundtrack also involves numerous artists who were really big at the time, but have since declined like Pussycat Dolls and Jo Jo.
In 2012, all televisions featured are of the CRT variety. Whilst it's not too much of a stretch to imagine a convenience store with one — despite happening after analog television was discontinued — it seems unrealistic to believe that a state-of-the-art cruise liner would have a CRT television rather than a flat-screen television. Noah's hair is also a swooping fringe that comes straight out of the late 2000s. Granted, the film is called 2012 and was released just three years prior to the year in question, so it's pretty blatantly not going for a timeless feel.
The 2005 Judd Apatow comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin is very explicitly a product of the early-to-middle part of the 2000s. The electronics store where the main characters work (the two products we see them pitch are a combination VCR/DVD player and a bulky, pre-LCD big-screen TV), Trishs business selling other people's items on Ebay, the extended PT Cruiser driving sequence, the low-rise jeans and sequins-heavy fashion, the pervasive trans- and homophobic jokes... all point blatantly to the turn of the millennium. On the other hand, Andy's fanboy-ish passion for classic nerd properties like Marvel Comics and Star Wars, his interest in computers and the fact that he rides a bike instead of a car—while intended to show how pathetic and undesirable he is—would hardly be marks against him in The New '10s.
13 Going on 30: Jenna works at a fashion magazine, and any mention of celebrities falls under this trope — examples include a young Eminem on the rise and Jennifer Lopez at her peak. The soundtrack and the fashion also combine to place the Present Day scenes squarely in the early aughts. The opening is set in the 80s, with Jenna turning thirteen, and her turning thirty in the third act would place the movie in the 2000s.
The 2006 satire American Dreamz. The plot revolves around a U.S. President based heavily on George W. Bush deciding to read the newspapers for the first time, causing a nervous breakdown as his black-and-white worldview is shattered. To get him out of his funk, his Chief of Staff (based heavily on Dick Cheney and Karl Rove) books him as a guest judge on the finale of the titular talent show, a parody of American Idol hosted by a Mean Brit in the vein of Simon Cowell. The show's two finalists are a Bitch in Sheep's ClothingFarmer's Daughter who exploits her boyfriend, a wounded veteran of the Iraq War, to win the sympathy of viewers in Middle America, and a jihadist who infiltrated the show to launch a terrorist attack after his mother was killed in a US bombing in the Middle East — and now realizes that he can nail the President in that attack. Every single point in that plot description firmly ties it to the era when reality TV ruled the airwaves and The War on Terror dominated the political agenda.
Antitrust was filmed at the height of the dot-com boom of the late '90s/early '00s and hit theaters in 2001, only a short time after the bubble started leaking. As such, the hacker and geek culture this film portrays is an excellent snapshot of the salad years of the bubble in 1999-2000, when one could literally program a good idea in a garage and be able to get millionaire venture capitalists ready to front money on almost a moment's notice once they saw it. The film's use of a parody of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates as the Big Bad, together with the heavy amounts of Product Placement for Apple that the film carried, also reflects the widespread public antipathy that existed among tech geeks towards Gates and Microsoft at the time, with Microsoft seen as a monopolistic Mega-Corp that would destroy the nascent free internet and Apple seen as a plucky underdog rival that was used by creatives, schools, and almost nobody else. Nowadays, their reputations have completely flipped. Gates, having long since retired from Microsoft's day-to-day operations, has rehabilitated his reputation through his charity work, while Microsoft's products are now seen as Boring, but Practical rather than The Antichrist. Instead, it was Apple, having turned itself around in the '00s under a returning Steve Jobs, that became the go-to point of reference for writers satirizing the modern Silicon Valley Mega-Corp due to its dominance of the American smartphone market as well as for being practically the only computer brand existing in fictional works (and its overall influence in the industry) and the "walled garden" ecosystem it created on its App Store — one that, incidentally, resembles the closed-off network that Gary Winston and NURV planned to reshape the internet into in the film.
Bandslam came out in 2009, and features teens taking pictures and recording videos via digital cameras as opposed to smart phones. There's also Will's mother's attitude towards the kids at his old school bullying him — she doesn't ignore it but it's treated as something they must live with, and no one ever intervenes to stop it. The band promotes themselves through MySpace and there's barely a mention of social media otherwise. Charlotte was once considered cool because she has her own Wikipedia page, and that's where Will finds information on her, as opposed to Facebook. He finds out about her father's sudden death from a teacher and wouldn't have known otherwise, when in the days of social media and smart phones being the norm, there surely would have been a status update about it or well wishers posting on her Facebook page.
The Beach reveals the time of its creation right off the bat, and not just with its Y2K-era soundtrack and style.
It opens with the protagonist Richard describing Southeast Asia as a place where "dollars and Deutsche Marks get turned into counterfeit watches and genuine scars". Two years later, Germany would retire the Deutsche Mark as its currency upon the introduction of the euro. A later scene also has Richard imagining that he is in a video game — specifically, a PlayStation 1 game, complete with a filter designed to make the film resemble the blocky, primitive 3D graphics of the time. The closing scene takes place in an internet cafe with a long row of G3 iMacs, a computer whose bubble-like design was then on the cutting edge of The Aesthetics of Technology but which is now seen as a time capsule of early 2000s computing (Apple itself moving on to its more famous aesthetic not long after).
Most importantly, however, Sal's effort to keep her island paradise a secret could only have worked in a time before smartphones capable of remotely uploading pictures directly to social media, and with it the attendant "influencer" culture of Instagram et al., became the norm. Françoise is seen using a disposable camera in one scene, while Richard makes a call on a pay phone; today, both of them would be using smartphones for such. This last point arguably makes Sal even more of a Tragic Villain, as a modern-day viewer knows with the benefit of hindsight that, despite all her best efforts, her island will eventually be discovered and exploited by the outside world. Tellingly, this is in fact what ultimately happened to the actual island that the movie was filmed on, largely because the film turned it into a popular tourist destination, such that the government of Thailand had to restrict access to it to help restore the environment.
Be Kind Rewind (early 2008) is based on a video store that only sells VHS tapes, currently on the verge of going out of business in the face of DVD. In 2006, VHS was dead on its feet and Blu-Ray (which isn't mentioned at all in the film) was already starting to creep its way into stores, and in 2008, Blu-Ray was starting to decisively beat DVD, making the film somewhat dated even upon release. Of course, the film more or less operates as a swansong for the format, and it's made clear that the store owner is a Disco Dan who's sticking with the obsolete format out of stubbornness, making it a fairly intentional one.
Bend It Like Beckham is based around a women's soccer team in Britain, and two characters are trying to get scholarships to play for the Women's United Soccer Association in America - which ceased operations in 2003. The film is obviously set at the time when David Beckham was at his peak as a player, and a scene at the airport near the end captures the 2000s media frenzy surrounding 'Posh & Bex' as a power couple. Jules's mother is likewise portrayed as cluelessly embarrassing because she believes her daughter is a lesbian for playing football - when even ten years later, this attitude would make her seem intolerant at best and abusive at worst.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is the sequel to The Blair Witch Project (which actually was a period piece, being set five years before its release). Due to the fact that it satirizes the media frenzy surrounding the Blair Witch, it's placed squarely in the very early 2000s - where Burkittsville was overrun with tourists who were fans. One character is a camera man, and all the cameras he uses are late 90s/early 2000s technology - with a plot point being the tapes that everything is filmed on. Two other characters are writing a book and bring the manuscript with them - with mention that they've only backed up their notes on a computer; even six years later, they'd be using laptops for everything. None of the five twentysomethings seem to possess a cell phone, and only communicate remotely through email. Jeff's fashion is also straight out of the Y2K era.
The 2004 action-thrillerCellular starring Kim Basinger and Chris Evans was one of the first films to acknowledge the popularity of cell phones and to use it as a plot point. However, because technology is the film's driving force, it was destined to become dated very fast. The movie rested on the idea that the movie's kidnapped heroine (Basinger) would have a working, active landline that she could finagle and use to communicate with the outside world. According to Forbes, landline phones were still fairly common at the time of Cellular's theatrical release. Today, however, the majority of American households don't use them at all. The heavy reliance on a Nokia 6600 phone (a clunky, proto-smartphone with a tiny screen, a grainy camera, no wi-fi, and no lights) also made the film age really fast. Had Cellular been made at least five years later, then Kim Basinger's lifeline would no doubt be an iPhone or even an Android.
Cloverfield stands as an example of a Post-9/11Kaiju Movie, the monster's rampage through New York explicitly designed to call to mind the 9/11 attacks and the state of emergency that New York was under at the time. Furthermore, its portrayal of New York was of a city in the middle of the Bloomberg era's gentrification, with the days of The Big Rotten Apple long behind it but the twenty-something protagonists still being able to afford apartments in Manhattan. And finally, there's the fact that the entire film is shot on a traditional camcorder, with cell phones only used to send and receive calls and text messages. Even though there was a scene where bystanders were taking pictures on their cell phones of the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty, they still used flip phones as opposed to a smart phone.
The 2005 film Cry_Wolf deals with high school students spreading rumors about a serial killer on the loose. Their main method of doing this is via emails and AOL instant messages. It's quite obvious that this was made in a presocial media era, as the kids having phones that can access AOL is meant to show that they're richer than average before cell phones in general and eventually smartphones became everyday devices for average teens. Additionally there's a scene where Mercedes sends a photo via her camera phone to Lewis, and he has to wait for it to load.
Cursed is an example of a film that became dated right out of the gate as a result of its Troubled Production. The protagonist Ellie works as a production assistant on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, with the late night host making a cameo in one scene. By the time the film was finally released in 2005, after two years of delays and reshoots, Kilborn had left the show and been replaced by Craig Ferguson.
While Daredevil was surprisingly forward-thinking in a lot of ways (something best demonstrated by the director's cut), it also has a lot of things that inextricably tie it to the early 2000s. The gratuitous overuse of Nu Metal and Post-Grunge (the former of which was already on its way out at the time, and the film's soundtrack was one of its last stands) is a big one (especially the product placement of Evanescence, which alone would be enough to tie it to that time period), while the Hell-Bent for Leather costuming, heavy usage of wire-fu, and quite a few of the dialogue choices are also extremely reflective of the time it was made.
The early Fast and the Furious films were a loving revue of early-mid 2000s extreme sports culture, especially tuner/car racing culture. Later films in the series (starting with the fourth) tend to be less obvious about it beyond the characters' choice of Cool Cars, and seem to be more of an homage to the era. It may seem a bit bizarre that the original film's main conflict is over the theft of DVD players, which mostly (but not completely) went out of style a decade later in the face of emerging next-gen media formats like Blu-Ray, with streaming media threatening to put the idea of a physical "player" out to pasture.
In the original Final Destination, the under-reaction to a guy saying a plane is going to explode, especially when it turns out to be true, clearly shows that the movie was made before 9/11. The two agents investigating Alex and the other survivors do suspect that he had something to do with the crash given that he knew about it in advance (thanks to his premonition), but they never once use the word "terrorism"; had the film come out just two years later, they most certainly would have. To drive it home, in Final Destination 5 (made in 2011), the police having the same under-reaction to the opening disaster as the agents in the first film is one of the ways in which it's foreshadowed that the film is a Stealth Prequel.
This one doesn't seem very contemporary with the outdated technology that Dr. Tess Coleman uses so frequently. It's used to suggest she's a workaholic who keeps herself on call much more often than she should for the sake of her family, a theme that might be harder to convey with a simple smartphone that would replaceallof those gizmos had the movie been made even ten years later.
Her daughter Anna performs in a rock band whose music is in the pop-punk style that was emerging in popularity back then.
On a lesser note, the House of Blues venue she dreams of playing in and does in the climactic concert scene has moved to a different building nearby since this movie was made.
From Justin to Kelly, a 2003 fame vehicle for American Idol first-season winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini. It portrays the internet as something that only nerds used, an idea which was hilariously outdated even in 2003. Also, the film's whole MTV-styled Spring Break premise also dates it. MTV has a looser grip on pop culture than it did even in 2003, and the Great Recession has made the idea of such a glamorous spring break seem less believable. The whole setting comes across as Totally Radical now.
The Girl Next Door drops the bombshell that Danielle is actually a former porn star about half an hour in, after Eli had to search around and find a film. The movie came out in 2004, before the internet was a vital part of a teenager's life, and there's no mention of social media at all. The third act involves them shooting a home porn movie that's actually a sex education video and having to distribute it via video tapes. If the movie had been made in The New '10s, they could have done so digitally or at least had DVDs made instead.
It's very obvious The Glass House is set in the early 2000's (it was released in September 2001); Ruby and her friends use pagers to communicate rather than mobile phones (which are also scarce amongst the rest of the cast), some of the teen characters' clothing and hairstyles follow late 90's and early 2000's fashion trends, Ruby has an iBook G3 laptop which was launched in 1999 and discontinued in May 2001, and Ruby uses dial-up to connect to the internet, among others.
Somewhat amusingly, Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) tried to modernize the Xilien aliens for audiences in the 2000s when it brought them back as the villains, after they hadn't been seen since 1965's Invasion of Astro-Monster. Instead of the form-fitting, Raygun Gothicinspired Space Clothes that they originally wore, they get shiny, monochromatic black trenchcoats with Goth-inspired hairdos... which are pretty obviously inspired by The Matrix. Ironically, the Xiliens' "modern" look is arguably more dated than it was in 1965.
2002's Halloween: Resurrection tried very hard to be "modern" by bringing the Halloween series into the world of Reality TV and the internet. Instead, it winds up badly dating itself to the early 2000s. Survivor, The Osbournes, and Pulp Fiction are name-dropped or otherwise referenced by the characters, and more importantly, the film's then-slick portrayal of the era's technology is now positively antiquated — most notably with how the film treats text messaging and mobile email as something novel and revolutionary (the Final Girl being the only character with a cell phone/PDA that can do that).
While it was intended to reflect the period, Michael Almereyda's 2000 film version of Hamlet is better as a retro period piece than as the ultra-contemporary vision it was at the time of its release. Every communication device that existed back then gets its turn with Shakespeare's words, including the cell phone, fax machine, answering machine, computer, and video camera. The posh New York home of ruthless CEO Claudius, trust-fund brat Hamlet, and the rest of the characters carries a stronger air of doom now that we know the political and economic events on the horizon. In hindsight, even the Blockbuster store where Hamlet gives his most famous soliloquy is headed for death.
While characters use dating sites, they are actual websites accessed through browsers on desktops or laptops. Sites such as these (for example, OKCupid) still do exist, but as the years went by young adults began to favor smartphone apps like Tinder.
All the main characters still had landline phones in their homes, and had work numbers that they gave to their dates. Everyone had and used cell phones- but they had not replaced landlines yet.
Voicemail messages are the primary communication method. Texting is used, but not so popular since smartphones are not in common use yet.
Mary said she was rejected on seven different devices. Smartphones would eventually consolidate other devices into less.
MySpace was still in relatively common use. In The New '10s, it would be completely overshadowed by Facebook and other newer social media tools, such as Instagram and Twitter.
The entire High School Musical series. The fashion, styles, and music in the film trilogy seemingly go out of their way to mark them as being products of the mid-2000s, almost as though they were Grease-esque nostalgia trips made for the decade as a whole.
A branch of the supermarket chain Somerfield features prominently in Hot Fuzz. By the summer of 2011, all branches had been either renamed to Co-op or had been sold to other chains.
The film takes place in a world where boy bands and girl groups are the biggest things in pop music, the major labels wield near-supreme control over what becomes popular, MTV is still thought of as a music network first, and everyone gets their music from brick-and-mortar record stores. File-sharing isn't even mentioned, despite the fact that Napster was at the peak of its popularity and infamy when the film came out.
One of the main Running Gags in the film concerns an over-the-top parody of Product Placement, with virtually every setting being utterly plastered in brand names/logos and many lines of dialogue littered with mentions of specific brand names. Quite a few of these brands have faded from relevance, most notably Moviefone (while still technically active today, its original use during that era has been rendered obsolete by the internet), America Online (rendered obsolete by high-speed internet), and the Sega Dreamcast, which had just been discontinued a week before the film's premiere. What's more, this product placement is plot-relevant, as the Big Bad's Evil Plan involves using Subliminal Seduction to drive pop culture trends and turn the youth into consumerist sheep. And get people to think the villain Fiona is cool, but that's a different story. Made in the wake of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests and the publication of Naomi Klein's No Logo, the film's villains serve as an encapsulation of the fears of the anti-globalization and anti-corporate movements of the time.
The film also updated the titular band's sound to Pop Punk, which was on the ascent in the early 2000s. While Josie, Melody, and Valerie's outfits and videos are reminiscent of Destiny's Child and early Britney Spears, the actual music sounds more like Avril Lavigne or Good Charlotte. On a similar note, it also predicted how that style of pop-punk would sweep aside the bubblegum teen pop that was at its peak at the time the film was made, with the Fake Band DuJour (a parody of the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC) quite literally going down in flames at the start of the film, to be replaced by Josie and the Pussycats as MegaRecords' new superstar band.
Kick-Ass with its many references to MySpace, which had already become dated between the time the movie was filmed and when it was released. It wasn't as dated in the source material, which had been released in 2008.
The King of Kong was filmed over the course of 2007 and 2008. Everyone uses flip phones, people competing for video game high scores record their performances on VHS tapes, and nobody has a digital camera. What really marks it as being from that era is that, only a few years after the film's release, Billy Mitchell, one of the competitors (and the film's "villain"), was exposed as using emulators to achieve his scores, leading to him being banned from submitting high scores in the future, with later evidence proving almost his entire career as a professional gamer was a con. It certainly makes the ominous tone of his scenes in the film Hilarious in Hindsight.
Linda Linda Linda does generally a good job in avoiding being a period piece, but the scenes set in the music classroom show it having posters of bands that only were popular in that period, such as The Music.
The Prime Minister's opening monologue openly references the 9/11 attacks, which happened just two years before the film was released. When watching it after 2010 or so, it's pretty clear that the monologue was written when the attacks were still in recent memory.
Bill Nighy's character (an aging rockstar) elicits stunned reactions from a talk show audience when he claims to have slept with Britney Spears. The movie was made in 2003, during the last window of time when Spears was widely viewed as a sex symbol; within about a year of its release, she began having some widely publicized struggles with mental illness, which mostly turned her into a punchline in jokes about "crazy" celebrities.
Though unnamed, the fictional US President in the film (played by Billy Bob Thornton) is pretty clearly a parody of George W. Bush, and the (fictional) Prime Minister's subplot is partly based on the public perception of Bush's relationship with Tony Blair at the time. The subplot ends with the PM standing up to the President after feeling disrespected by him, which earns him enthusiastic applause from a crowd; at the time, much of the British public was upset about Bush (arguably) taking the American-British military alliance for granted after his decision to invade Iraq, which was highly controversial.
The PM's list of 'great things about Britain' includes references to David Beckham's right foot (and left foot). In 2003, he was captain of the England football team, and overall an important figure in English sport as a player. In 2006, he stepped down as captain, and retired from international football in 2008, before retiring from football altogether in 2013.
Billy Mack's entire storyline is based around releasing a track and getting to the top of the Christmas Top 40 music charts (a very big deal in the British music business). But The X Factor started the year after the film's release, and between 2005 and 2008note and again in 2010, 2013 and 2014, the winners of that show always got the UK Number One.
Ant and Dec appear in one scene As Themselves, where they interview Billy Mack in front of an audience of teenagers. The movie was made when the duo still primarily hosted kid-oriented programmes, though they stopped shortly before the film was released.
The 2003 John Whitesell film Malibu's Most Wanted is essentially two hours of Jamie Kennedy mocking hip-hop culture while portraying a wannabe white rapper who embarrasses his upper-class family with his attempts to pass himself off as "ghetto". Even if the music, slang, and fashion weren't clearly dated to the early 2000s, its portrayal of the Culture Clash between the upper-class white denizens of Malibu and the lower-class black denizens of South Central L.A. definitely would be. Considering the lingering effects of the Great Recession and the national conversation surrounding racially motivated Police Brutality in the following decade, it's hard to imagine a movie playing such a subject for laughs a decade later.
Matchstick Men ends with a dramatic plot twist where the main character's long-lost teenage daughter is revealed to be a con artist posing as his long-lost teenage daughter. The twist is foreshadowed in an early scene where Roy and Angela first meet and exchange contact information, and she gives him a number for her "private line"—providing a cozy excuse for why she and Roy's ex-wife have different phone numbers. The movie came out during the last window of time when it was considered rare for teenagers to own cell phones. If it had been made even five years later, Angela would presumably have just given Roy her mobile number, and the issue of her "mother" having a different phone number than her wouldn't even have been an issue.
The 2001 Disney movie Max Keeble's Big Move shows its age not only from obvious factors (i.e. the music, fashion, etc.), but also by having a plot point involving the theft of a Palm Pilot PDA from antagonist Dobbs and showing an iMac G3 computer in the bedroom of title character Max. If you want a specific example on music featured in the movie, the leitmotif of Max's crush Jenna is the Britney Spears song "...Baby, One More Time", which plays almost every time she appears onscreen. The opening dream sequence features a cameo from Tony Hawk, giving more proof that the movie came out during the early 2000s, when Tony Hawk was at the height of his popularity and extreme sports were in the pop culture spotlight.
The film's plot would also have to be extensively rewritten after social media became commonplace; with Max not only being able to quickly find out about the changes in his family's moving plans, but the ruse of his going-away party would be impossible to pull off.
The film also presents a very early-2000s depiction of bullying not just from other students, but from the school principal as well. Not only would this be far less likely to happen nowadays, but faculty members taking such actions would likely be fired and face potential legal charges.
It's telling that, in a Deconstructive Parody of high school cattiness and how even nice people get caught up in it, cyberbullying is never mentioned once, despite it becoming a hot topic by the end of the decade. Gretchen's cell phone (which only shows up in one scene) is a then-cutting-edge flip phone that's used to demonstrate how rich she is, the characters interact with and spread rumors about each other almost entirely through "low-tech" means (such as the "Burn Book", which is a physical, pen-and-paper journal as opposed to a private webpage or online group), and a "three-way calling attack" could only work in a time when landline phones were commonplace. In the early-mid 2000s, even teenagers were just starting to get used to the internet and cell phones being omnipresent forces in their lives as opposed to novelties — MySpace had been launched just nine months before the film was released, and had yet to really take off — and this film's portrayal of technology marks it as a clear product of that immediate pre-Web 2.0 time.
The portrayal of the Ambiguously GayCool Losers Janis and Damian illustrates the prevalent attitudes towards LGBT people among teenagers at the time. Regina suspecting that Janis was a lesbian was enough to get her to kick Janis out of her social circle and spread rumors about her sexuality, leading to her present outcast status, while the Plastics list Janis in the Burn Book as a "dyke" (a term that wouldn't be acceptable after 2010) and Damian as "too gay to function". This sort of casual homophobia on their part was shown as a sign of their Alpha Bitch tendencies even in 2004, but characters with such tendencies in 2014 would be portrayed as downright bigoted rather than merely callous, given that nowadays homophobia is seen by teenage girls as roughly on a par with racism, at least in the American Midwest where the film is set. It illustrates how, while tolerance of LGBT people had come a long way from the teen movies of The '80s where such attitudes were often treated as normal and went without comment, full equality and acceptance was still several steps away (this was the year when Massachusetts became the first US state to legalize same-sex marriage, an occasion that sparked controversy and moral panic), and being gay, or even Mistaken for Gay, could make somebody an outcast.
The scenes of Coach Carr's health class, in which he hysterically warns his students that they will die from STDs and pregnancy if they have underage sex, are a parody of abstinence-only sex education. This was pushed heavily by religious conservatives in the '90s and 2000s as The Moral Substitute for more conventional and comprehensive sex education in response to the "teen sex epidemic" of the era, but was later discredited as ineffective and has mostly been replaced outside of the South.
The first film subverts this in a key scene where Greg is escorted off a plane for uttering the word "bomb". The film was released in 2000, one year before 9/11. Nevertheless, this is played straight with Pam's younger brother, who has posters of then-popular acts in his bedroom, including Li'l Kim.
The third (and final) film, Little Fockers, was made between 2008 and 2010, featuring Greg using a high-end Nokia (the smartphone revolution being just around the corner) and Jack using MySpace in one scene (which had recently surrendered its social media crown to Facebook).
The 2006 zombie film Mulberry Street is a time capsule of New York in the middle of the Bloomberg era that uses its Zombie Apocalypse as a metaphor for gentrification. The protagonists are a group of working-class people who find themselves slowly being pushed out of their apartment on the titular street in Manhattan's Little Italy, watching their community grow increasingly unrecognizable as their local bars crawl with yuppies and hipsters and their rents keep rising.
My Name Is Bruce, that came out in 2008, begins with two couples of emo teens that were having a date at the local cemetery inadvertently unleashing an ancient Chinese spirit. The rest of the film avoids being dated to a specific period, but the inclusion of emos makes it clear that it is set in the mid-late 2000s.
Napoleon Dynamite weaves in and out of this trope thanks to taking place in an Idaho town that is several years out of date where "modern" pop culture has yet to reach. As a result, the film's fashion, music, and overall aesthetic make it resemble a place where all the used, worn-out, "retro" hand-me-downs of The '80s gathered together and kept right on going, with songs from the '90s and 2000s sticking out like sore thumbs and used for deliberate effect. Kip's internet is also a pay-by-the-hour dial-up service. While broadband was spreading rapidly by the mid-2000s, it was still a luxury in many rural areas if it was available at all. Ten years later, even the most remote places were guaranteed to have access to at least DSL on computers (which is carried through phone lines) and 4G LTE data on cell phones, with the remaining dial-up providers existing mainly as legacy services for older people who didn't want to upgrade. A modern version of that scene would have Kip worrying about data usage.
The New Guy. The Alpha Bitch Courtney getting Tony Hawk (making a cameo As Himself) to show up at her party is presented as a sign of how cool and popular she is, one major scene takes place in a now-defunct Sam Goody record store, and Creed is portrayed unironically as a band popular enough to get people to turn out for a homecoming concert to see them. The protagonist's ruse also would've fallen apart in a day if he'd tried it in the age of social media.
Premonition came out 2007 and it shows: The cellphones are flip-styled, there are still answering machines, the TV in the house is still a bulky CRT and the characters are shown using their cellphones while driving like it's normal ( which causes the fatal accident of the movie), in contrast with today's strict traffic rules to curtail distracted driving.
The film Old School, released in 2003, begins with a scene of Mitch (Luke Wilson) being held up at airport security after inexplicably triggering the new security measures. At one point a man from the National Guard is summoned, pointing his rifle at Wilson while he is scanned. While most of the post-9/11 security measures are still in place, the National Guard was a fairly temporary measure.
Odd Girl Out does deal with cyberbullying, having come out one year after Mean Girls, but still dates itself to the mid-2000s, especially with regards to how social media never comes into the equation. All of the bullying is conducted via instant messages, and the Girl Posse create a website specifically to mock Vanessa. Likewise, one stunt is telling Vanessa there's a party on somewhere when there isn't. In the age of Facebook, when almost everything is done with an Event Invite, Vanessa would have likely found out before she arrived at the empty building. Furthermore, she's recorded getting taken into the ambulance by a guy with a video camera, rather than a smartphone. Finally, a minor plot point is the bullies not getting outright punished because the principal can't prove that they're behind the threatening messages (thanks to them using screen names), with the Beta Bitch ultimately getting off scot-free; by the end of the decade, bullying was taken a lot more seriously.
One Hour Photo was released in an era where film photography was already starting to be replaced by digital photography. These days, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who regularly needs to get film developed. This makes the main character even more pathetic, knowing with the benefit of hindsight that he's devoted so much of his life to a dying industry.
Phone Booth was released just as the last phone booths in New York City were beginning to be removed. Even five years later, the plot would have been impossible. Phone booths still exist (and some were even put up in the 2010s) but they're much rarer then they were at the time of Phone Booth's release.
The 2002 film adaptation of Queen of the Damned attempts to give a Setting Update to the original 1984 novel by having Lestat's band play contemporary Nu Metal (which the studio had hired Jonathan Davis of Korn to write) as opposed to '70s/'80s hard rock (Anne Rice specifically cited Jim Morrison as inspiration when writing). However, not only was Nu Metal on its way out by 2002, but the filmmakers didn't update the rest of the setting to match, leaving a film that grew painfully dated to the early 2000s as time went on.
Redline, a little-known Fast & Furious rip-off from 2007 (not to be confused with the 2010 anime filmof the same name), could only be filmed during 2006. It was produced by Daniel Sadek, a Lebanese-born tycoon, with the sole purpose of showing off his many super-sport cars, to give his then-fiancee (a soap actress back when these still had some recognition) a chance at stardom and to save his crumbling mortgage empire (as the housing bubble had cooled off). The film ended up crashing, as did Sadek's business after the subprime crisis. The film's most memorable anecdote, an accident involving one of the film's actors wrecking an Enzo Ferrari during a promotional race, became known as a major example of the excesses of the era.
Saved! is a satire of Christian youth culture in the 2000s, a time when evangelical Christians had reached the apex of their political and cultural power. It's most apparent with the attempts by the school's youth pastors to appear "hip" to their students, and in the subplot involving Mary's boyfriend Dean being outed as gay and sent to reparative therapy (a treatment that is nowadays extremely controversial, and in a number of states banned for people under 18) in a failed attempt to turn him straight.
Saw VI, released in 2009, is notable for having a plot far more political than any other films in the series. The Jigsaw killer's main victims in the film are workers at a health insurance company that denied people (including Jigsaw) coverage for having pre-existing conditions, while the opening victims are two predatory lenders who gave out bad loans to people who they knew wouldn't be able to pay them back. As such, it's a clear relic of a time when health care reform and the subprime mortgage crisis were both at the top of the American political agenda.
The Scary Movie franchise, over the course of its long run, parodied such pop culture touchstones as Bullet Time, Budweiser's "Whassup?" ads, Nike sneaker commercials, celebrity sex tapes, Michael Jackson's sex scandal, the original iPod, and more, as well as whatever films (horror or otherwise) were popular in the time when each movie came out.
A major feature of the Scooby-Doo movie was its snarky jabs at the slang, music, fashion, and general behavior of college students around the late '90s and early 2000s... except that what they were mocking was, for the most part, already on the way out by the time the movie was released in 2002.
In School of Rock from 2003, Dewey Finn's ploy could not work in a world with the internet/social media. A glance at his friend Ned's Facebook (or, LinkedIn, Facebook's more "professional-oriented" counterpart) or a YouTube video of Dewey with his first band would immediately tip the school off.
The French action movie Skate or Die, from 2008, whose entire plot hinges on the year's mobile phone technology level: Most phones were able to film short videos but were not yet able to upload them by themselves, so the protagonists need to buy the time to stop at a desktop computer long enough to get the video out on the net, without their pursuers catching them mid-upload.
In Snakes on a Plane, an important plot point hinges on the fact that the Rich Bitch Mercedes is the only person on the entire plane who has a Cell Phone that can both take pictures and send them without plugging into a computer first. Mercedes herself is a parody of Paris Hilton and other socialites, particularly with her purse dogMary-Kate, while the rapper Three G's is a parody of mid-2000s bling-era rap.
Snow Day has a soundtrack that's filled with many turn-of-the-millennium pop singers like Hoku and 98 Degrees.
The scene where a bunch of New Yorkers comes together to Spider-Man's aid and one shouts "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!" definitely serves as a reminder of the post-9/11 patriotic sentiment prevalent at least until it turned out al-Qaeda exaggerated their claims (it would disappear by 2006 as the conflict turned against the West). Especially given that that particular scene was added in post-production, after the attacks had occurred.
While the pop soundtrack ages as all pop soundtracks do, the appearance of pre-backlash Nickelback and the cameo by Macy Gray are standouts.
Stick It, released in 2006, has all the elite gymnastics routines scored out of a 10-point maximum. This surely made sense at the time, as the "Perfect 10" scoring system was, after all, the system that had been in place for decades... but it also happened to be the system that was phased out in elite gymnastics that very same year in favor of a new open-ended scoring system.
Stop-Loss is obviously set towards the tail end of the Iraq War (it came out in 2008), and the scene where Brandon finds out he's been stop-lossed has him say "the President himself, he says this war's over". He's also asked if he's "gay or pregnant" when he protests being sent back to Iraq, referencing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.note It prevented discrimination against closeted gay military personnel while barring openly gay applicants, a compromise solution put forward in 1994 to allow gay people to serve in the military without spooking conservatives. Before this, the military saw gay soldiers as a security risk vulnerable to blackmail, and actively attempted to root them out. The policy was repealed in 2011 when openly gay people were permitted to enlist and serve. The soldiers also make their home movies with video cameras, all the cell phones are flip phones, and Brandon has to use a payphone at one point.
Stormbreaker, the film adaptation of the Alex Rider books, wears its 2006 setting proudly; Alex Pettyfer sports a 2000s surfer dude hairstyle and uses a flip phone to text his love interest. When he's being given his spy gadgets, one of them is disguised as a Nintendo DS, and a gag is that he's given Mario Kart to play. The cinematography showing off the Millennium Bridge and the soundtrack further places this in the 2000s.
The Sum of All Fears is based on a 1991 novel about Arab terrorists detonating a nuclear bomb on American soil and misleading the U.S. government into thinking that they were attacked by Russia. The film would have remained surprisingly on point, had the execs not decided that Arabs pulling this stunt was unrealistic and that it was more believable to use a secret cabal of Fascist-leaningEuropeanbusinessmen as the villains. If you are surprised to see the film here and not in The '90s section, it's because it actually hit theatres in 2002, and was alreadydated upon release.
Superbad burlesqued the much-ballyhooed loose morals of 2000s-era teenagers (contrast this with the fact that, in the 2010s, young people became infamous for their relative prudishness and shunned such typical American rites-of-passage such as losing their virginity, getting a driving license and pretending to be older to buy liquor). It is also a prime example of the era's odd fascination for '70s-era aesthetics that would be regarded as weird in the eyes of the 2010s. The humorous portrayal of the inept, power-drunk cops is firmly entrenched in the 2000s as well, something unimaginable after the much-publicized cases of police brutality occurred during the ensuing years.
S.W.A.T. came out in Fall 2003, right at the height of the George W. Bush administration — and it shows. Tellingly, the villain is a thoroughly despicable French criminal who's repeatedly subjected to anti-French epithets (back when the French were still Acceptable Targets because they opposed the invasion of Iraq), while the Latina Token Girl on the S.W.A.T. team is called "J. Lo" at least once (back when Jennifer Lopez was still a household name, and before Gigli put her career on the decline). But far more telling is the portrayal of the rough-and-tumble methods used by the S.W.A.T. team. LL Cool J's character bashes a civilian for her "liberal" views after she dares to criticize him for roughing up an African-American perp in South Central, and there's an extended scene where the two main characters mock a S.W.A.T. candidate because he's never had a civilian complaint against him, and prides himself on handling every past situation nonviolently. Considering the large-scale controversy and protests against Police Brutality and the militarization of police beginning in The New '10s, which made police reform a hot-button issue, these scenes couldn't possibly have passed a test audience a decade later.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: NASCAR, while still reasonably popular in the Sun Belt and rural areas, is nowhere as relevant as it was during the time the film was made. It's attitudes towards homosexuals and the French also date it to the mid-2000s.
The Terminal shows us 2004, an era in which people still buy books from Borders, still buy expensive trinkets and gadgets at Brookstone, still use payphones and only use their cell phones to make voice calls.
The 2002 film The Tuxedo not only features a lot of early 2000s-era fashions and trends, but the plot also involves an scheme regarding water supplies years before this became a major problem, not to mention bottled water is referred to be pricier than gasoline, which firmly puts the film in a time before the oil crisis.
Undercover Brother's main plotline follows an African-American general played by Billy Dee Williams, who plans to run for president, and the villainous scheme to prevent him from entering the White House. This aspect of the film (just like the Chris Rock film Head of State from around the same time period) naturally became dated the moment that Barack Obama actually became America's first black chief executive in the White House.
Underworld, with its central "Vampires vs. Werewolves" premise, seems to have been conceived (in part) as a modern update on the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s and 1940s. So instead of black velvet evening gowns and spooky organs, it featured a whole cast of characters in Matrix-inspired black latex trench coats, and its soundtrack prominently featured Evanescence's Amy Lee just as she was becoming a goth icon. It still maintains a pretty loyal cult following (there's a reason it spawned four sequels, after all), but most of what made it seem "modern" in 2003 now makes it seem nearly as dated (if not more) as the old-fashioned horror films that it was updating.
V for Vendetta may be set in 2020 but it was made in 2005 and it shows! There is reference to "America's war", talking about the Iraq War - which is shown to have raged on for years (in reality, US troops left Iraq in 2011). For something set in 2020, there is a conspicuous lack of smart phones and social media, which of course were not mainstream when the film was made. It also portrays Sutler's England as persecuting gay people to the degree that they are taken away to concentration camps, and Gordon Dietrich has to remain closeted for his own safety. Seemed plausible in the 2000s, where society was still largely intolerant to LGBT people, but rights improved significantly in The New '10s - making this part of the film look particularly startling.
Whip It's soundscape is a loving review of popular indie rock music in the late 2000s. There's barely any mention of social media, and the roller derby team promotes themselves through a dedicated website rather than Facebook. Bliss also finds out about Ollie's exploits through his band's website — and has to use a payphone to call him at one point.
A minor example is the 2008 road movie The Yellow Handkerchief. Set and filmed in Louisiana in the same year, the setting contains many references to Hurricane Katrina. There's constant references to the storms, public transport gets suspended and overall the movie captures the feeling of Louisiana's people trying to put their lives back together. More superficially Martine's cell phone is a 2000s flip phone, Gordy takes pictures on a disposable camera (which he gets developed at a one-hour-photo place) and the two teenagers don't mention social media once.
You, Me and Dupree is from 2006 and firmly implanted in an early-mid 2000s setting. Lance Armstrong is frequently referenced in adoring terms and even makes a cameo appearance as himself, something unimaginable after his disgrace. A minor plot point involves a videotape collection of porn, which even a couple of years later would be at least be lampshaded as not being on DVD or the internet (in fact the internet is not mentioned at all at this stage). The soundtrack includes Coldplay's then-brand new song "Fix You" (at a time the band was basically unknown in the US). Molly's wealthy father is involved in a massive housing project, placing it before the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
This film came at the tail end of an era where you could theoretically become wealthy with a home made sex tape. With the expansion of the internet in full flux and adult content, both professional and amateur, widely available, this doesn't seem to be the case now.
The numerous pop culture references that the characters make to The '70s and The '80s makes this a rare example of a work that dates itself with what was nostalgic at it's time. Most Millennial viewers may find themselves wondering where any references to the 90s are, not realizing that the movie was released only nine years after that decade had ended.
Cell is really blatantly a product of this era, especially in its portrayal of the cell phones central to the plot. All of them are shown as 2000s-era flip phones. Smartphones never get so much as a mention, and neither does any kind of social media, which would doubtlessly have shown up in a story like this if it were written today.
While Cloud Atlas is meant to transcend all of time as a parable of the human condition through the ages, The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish became dated quickly. Supposedly set in 2004 at the book's publication, no references are made to cell phones or social media, not even in a "kids these days" style rant. Also, Timothy's business as a vanity publisher is getting replaced more and more by self-publishing, which the book does not acknowledge at all.
The Millennium Trilogy manages to date itself thanks to Stieg Larsson's insistence on giving detailed specs on Lisbeth Salander's computer. He had intended to make her sound like a cutting-edge hacker with top-of-the-line equipment. Nowadays, she would come off as a Luddite with an Apple fetish.
Pikachu's Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon is a 2004 book about the popularity of Pokémon. As the name implies, it also documents the supposed "fall" of the franchise. The book was created shortly after the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire in 2002. Pokémon was seen as "dying" during the late Gen 2 period and throughout Gen 3, though what was really occurring was that the fad was dying. The merchandise and games were still top sellers, but Pokémon wasn't quite as rabidly popular as before, so the book cited it as a "dead series" due to its marketing not being as visible to the general public outside of the fanbase (and thus no longer constantly reminding people of its existence). Popularity Polynomial came into effect just a few years later during Generation 4 just another two years after the book came out, and the series was boosted back into the gamer spotlight, where it's remained since.
A minor bit near the end of The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch has Ponder Stibbons shocked that the London Natural History Museum keeps its statue of Charles Darwin in the North Hall cafeteria. (Ridcully takes the view that this ensures everyone's going to see it.) This dates that scene (other Roundworld scenes are set at various points during Darwin's life) prior to May 2008, when the statue was returned to the top of the staircase of the main entrance hall to celebrate his upcoming bicentenary. (Darwin himself identifying one of the displays as "Robert Owen's diplodocus carnegii" also dates it to before 2017, when Dippy was replaced by Hope the blue whale.)
Jay Asher tried to defy this trope when he wrote 13 Reasons Why. He deliberately chose to have Hannah record her suicide note on cassette tapes, as these were already an obsolete technology by 2007 (which gets lampshaded by Clay)note Ironically, audio cassettes have made a minor comeback in some niche music communities since then, albeit not as large as the similar comeback made by vinyl records. and would prevent the story from aging out as quickly as if she'd recorded it on a more high-tech medium. This was also the reason why he had Tony drive a classic Ford Mustang, instead of a more modern sports car that would date the book to the mid-2000s. That said, it doesn't fully escape this. Much like the Mean Girls example above, the mere concept of cyberbullying is never mentioned in a Teens Are Monsters story, chiefly because people were only just starting to face its implications, something that Asher noted in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. The TV adaptation, made a decade later in 2017, had to alter the story to include cyberbullying as part of its Adaptation Expansion.
The first Twilight book came out in 2005 and it shows with the technology. The internet was becoming popular but it wasn't the cornerstone that it was to become in a few years. Bella doesn't use computers much and her dad still has dial-up (although that could be somewhat justified by the fact that they live in a small and somewhat secluded town). The characters also use CDs and CD players to listen to all their music.
World War Z. The Zombie Apocalypse is supposed to begin at an unspecified point in the early 2010s, and while the book makes some decent guesses as to what the world would look like by then, other guesses stamp it with the mid-2000s time in which it was written.
The pop culture references don't help either. Jamie Lynn Spears is referred to as a big enough celebrity to have a line of sneakers, marking the book as having been written before her Teen Pregnancy scandal destroyed her career. Several minor characters are also thinly veiled expies of personalities such as Howard Deannote As "The Whacko", a former rising star politician from Vermont who was disgraced by an outburst of emotion on the campaign trail, only to later be selected as Vice President for the wartime national unity government, Karl Rovenote The character is named "Grover Carlson", in case it wasn't obvious who the former White House chief of staff is based on, Colin Powellnote A black war hero from the opposite party as "The Whacko" whose family came from Jamaica, and who gets named President to lead the wartime government, Ruben Studdardnote An overweight talent show winner who gets blown up with a grenade, Bill Mahernote A political talk show host and comedian who claims that the Zombie Apocalypse is the revolution that will bring down the lies that the "old way of life" was founded upon, in between ranting about high-fructose corn syrup and the "feminization" of America, Ann Coulternote An older blonde woman and ideological foe to the aforementioned talk show host; as the celebrity fortress they're in is overrun, they start having sex like there's no tomorrow. In real life, Bill Maher and Ann Coulter are known to be close friends despite their huge ideological differences., and Paris Hiltonnote A Spoiled Brat heiress who, while watching news footage of the zombies overrunning New York, mocks one guy she sees who was Too Dumb to Live, all of whom enjoyed their greatest cultural prominence in the early-mid 2000s, while there's also a reference to Larry the Cable Guy and his "Git-r-done!" Catchphrase (rendered as "Get it done!").
Max Brooks correctly predicted that touch-screen and voice-assisted computers would exist by 2013, but he completely missed the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, which are conspicuous in their absence; instead, we see desktop PCs using those technologies (and that's to say nothing of the reference to the Nintendo GameCube, when by the real 2013 it had been succeeded twiceover). More importantly, he greatly underestimated just how big the online media, and social media especially, would become, something that actually plays a role in the story on more than one occasion. The only online news sources mentioned are 2ch in Japan and the AOL homepage in the US, and one interviewee states that, in the run-up to the Zombie Apocalypse, alternative media outlets were scorned as untrustworthy and appealing either to an elitist, "latte liberal"PBS/NPR audience (referring to the left-leaning, anti-Bush blogosphere of that era), or to unwashed computer nerds who would never be taken seriously by the mainstream (referring to sites like the aforementioned 2ch). A version of the story written today would likely portray the opposite scenario, with misinformation about the zombie plague running rampant online and making the Great Panic worse.
In the book, the core of much of the national survival/continuity of government plans involve a retreat to an easily defensible safe zone where the government and military can get enough breathing room to reorganize. The US' safe zone is the West Coast and the Rockies, Britain's safe zones include northern Scotland and the Isle of Man, and Ukraine's safe zone is centered on... the Crimean peninsula. Following Crimea's vote for independence and union with Russia in 2014, the chapter on Ukraine easily falls into this trope.
Brooks predicted that Iran would have nuclear weapons by the early '10s, as evidenced when the refugee crisis caused by the zombie outbreak leads to a nuclear war between Iran and Pakistan. Iran's nuclear ambitions were a subject of much debate and punditry in the 2000s, as many people feared that their acquisition of The Bomb would destabilize the balance of power in the Middle East... and they remain a subject of much debate and punditry into the present day, with many future predictions of Iran being "months away" from becoming a nuclear-armed state still having never panned out as of 2020.
In Skeleton Key (2002), the third Alex Rider novel, the Big Bad is an embittered former Soviet colonel who wants to return The New Russia to its former glory by orchestrating a coup d'état against the Russian government. In hindsight, the book was pretty clearly written early in Vladimir Putin's reign, before his reputation as a global powerhouse really became established. The President of Russia is a blatant No Celebrities Were Harmed parody of Boris Yeltsin, and Russia itself is portrayed as a chaotic post-Soviet Republic that just wants to embrace democracy and move past its old rivalries with the West. That portrayal became pretty outdated by the end of the decade, after Putin's aggressive policies actually did return Russia to superpower status, his increasingly authoritarian leadership caused the most Western pop culture to portray Russia's government as a dictatorship, and the country's antagonism with the West went back to square one after Putin was accused of (among other things) conspiring to influence the 2016 United States Presidential Election.
In a more minor example, in the fourth book, Eagle Strike (2003), the only thing that gives Alex reason to suspect that the Big Bad is international celebrity Damian Cray is that he finds Cray's personal phone number on a hired assassin's unsecured mobile phone. Indeed, due to the Comic-Book Time nature of the series' timeline, in Scorpia Rising (published 8 years later in 2011, but set less than a year after Eagle Strike), a smartphone that can't be unlocked because it needs a passcode is a minor plot point.
Captain Freedom dates itself to the mid-aughts with jokes about Kazaa, the War on Terror, and the "dinosaur flatulence" theory of climate change. There's also references to "Mad Moses", a Bible-obsessed former judge turned supervillain, who was obviously inspired by Roy Moore, who was still a judge back then.
24, being a Post-9/11 Terrorism Show that ran until 2010, it was arguably an example of this while it was still on the air. By the time its original run ended, America was well into its withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and was just a year away from finally catching Osama bin Laden.
In the third season, the references to the Iraq War are so specific that they tie the show to that exact time period. For example, GOB's wife is shown posing a la Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib infamy, and one episode has Michael meeting a group of Saddam Hussein lookalikes that wound up jobless after Hussein's then-recent capture. There are also several references to the Enron accounting scandal, and William Hung from American Idol makes a cameo in Season 3.
In the fourth season airing in 2013 (a full decade after the first season aired), the writers gleefully took advantage of the Time Skip to lampoon The New '10s just as mercilessly as they had the previous decade. To whit, the Housing Crisis turns out to be a big plot point in Lindsay and Tobias' story, drone warfare turns out to play a major role in Buster's story, Michael gets a job driving the Google Street View camera car at one point, and a No Celebrities Were Harmed stand-in for Herman Cain is a major supporting character.
Band of Brothers is a strange example. While it is an actual period piece — about the real-life exploits of the 101st Airborne in World War II — certain things in the present-day portions of the episodes date it to the early 2000s. For example one of the interviews in the first episode says "our country was attacked" to rationalize why so many people volunteered. The episode in question aired two days before 9/11. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue talks about the people who are still alive — or were back in 2001. Dated History also comes into play, as the show depicts two things that were widely thought as true (and had been reported in the book on which the show was based) — namely that Joe Liebgott was Jewish and that Albert Blithe died of his wounds in 1948. Those two facts were debunked by the real-life family members of the men after the show aired — Joe Liebgott was actually Catholic and only assumed to be Jewish by his comrades, and Albert Blithe lived for another twenty years but just never showed up to reunions (making everyone assume he had died). Such facts would be considerably easier to find out with most veterans having Wikipedia pages and multiple books are written since showing the miniseries was made in a mostly pre-internet age.
Birds of Prey (2002) featured many recent inventions (PDAs, portable CD players, wireless earpieces) that look considerably low-tech ten years on. In particular, the supposedly high-tech enormous computers that Oracle uses look laughably old-fashioned, although this could be put down to budget constraints. The soundtrack also counts, especially the final episode which contains a t.A.T.u. song.
Chappelle's Show can be very topical for its time frame of between 2003 to 2006, with jokes about Howard Dean's outburst, the Tom DeLay anthrax attack, Diddy's Making The Band, and R. Kelly's scandal.
Cold Case. In case doing the math with the interviewees' ages isn't enough, there are episodes with references to the Iraq War, the Catholic Church's then-recent pederasty scandals, or the one with a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of young Barack Obama.
A number of early episodes featured killers who were Armored Closet Gays, willing to commit murder to safeguard their secret. Now that the LGBT community encourages coming out to a much greater degree, this being a motive for murder seems almost narmy.
Gilmore Girls is a zig-zagged example, and also one of how comedy ages poorly. Beyond the usual fashion and technology, the comedy relies heavily on pop culture references. About half of these are fine, as they're esoteric and not related to the year the episode aired, but the other half are definitely of their era. For example, Lorelai asks Rory in one episode to guess who just broke up and Rory responds with "Brad and Jen?" to Lorelai's horror. In addition, a lot of laughs were mined from subjects such as body weight and sexuality, like the episode "Die, Jerk," which has Rory write a scathing editorial about a ballerina centered mostly on her weight—the joke is that she can't fit into her leotard and her partner can't pick her up. The aesop of the episode is Rory needing to develop a thicker skin in response to her articles when confronted by the ballerina in question. This came back to bite Amy Sherman-Palladino hard in the 2016 reboot, which hit the same comedic beats, but was ripped to shreds by critics and fans—many regarded the humor as some of the worst parts of the mini-series, and felt it made Lorelai and Rory come off as rather unlikeable.
An early episode has Ted and Robin accidentally taking each others' cell phones as a plot point. The phones were silver Motorola Razr flip phones — extremely popular when the episode aired but hilariously outdated now.
Not to mention, the idea of accidentally picking up and unknowingly using someone else's phone is laughable. The high degree of personalization and customization that smartphones allow — from screen backgrounds to app layouts — as well as their increased security (passcodes and later biometrics), would make it instantly obvious that one has picked up someone else's device.
Early in the first season, Ted uses a dating agency, which hookup apps and dating websites all but killed off in the 2010s.
Nip/Tuck — Hearts 'N Scalpels was a Grey's Anatomyrip-off, and the final season began with an episode that outright references the 2008 recession.
Rescue Me was firmly based around the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The men of 62 Truck had lost four of their brothers on 9/11, and the finale aired just four days before the tenth anniversary of the attacks, which came up throughout the final season.
While The Shield was usually good about avoiding this, only making a few references to current events, it still slipped and let its 2000s-ness show on occasion. One of the characters nearly loses her job after she makes racist remarks to an Arab woman whose husband was killed by a racist after 9/11, references are made regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California, and there's a reference to the housing crisis in the last couple of episodes of the series.
Several episodes have revolved around Carmen's (and less often, Max) instant messaging causing problems for her. At the time, social networks had not quite caught on and there still were fears that online chatrooms were full of child predators. While internet safety is still an issue with especially for teens, regulations have changed due to the increasing prevalence of social media.
Another sign of the show being a product of the 2000s was its episodes about George's father-in-law Vic, and the latter's background as an immigrant from Castro-era pre-Thaw Cuba. Many episodes have Vic and Angie speak of Castro in the present tense, especially when discussing his rule over Cuba. One episode, in particular, has George, Ernie, and Vic attempting to rescue Vic's brother Octavio after Castro refused to allow him (Octavio) to leave the island. Another episode has George buy Angie tickets to Cuba to see her grandmother's village. Angie tells George that she promised her father that she would not visit Cuba unless Castro was out of power. Both of these episodes were released in 2003, which clearly date the show to before Castro's stepping down in 2008 and death in 2016.
The show's first couple of seasons uses the fact that the principal casts have cell phones that can send pictures as a way of showing how rich and privileged they are. It's very telling that the eponymous columnist operates from a website rather than a social media account. Social media would probably make it hard for Gossip Girl to even exist, as the teens could probably just tweet the gossip themselves. With social media, it would make Serena's sudden disappearance to boarding school at the start of the series a little harder to take — it's easy to not return Blair's calls but ignoring her on social media would be tricky (MySpace is mentioned, but it wasn't as widely used as Twitter or Facebook would be), and Serena would not have been able to completely avoid her friends that way.
Additionally Jenny is a budding fashion designer and has to pay her dues sorting thumbtacks at an internship whereas in the age of social media she could easily promote her dresses through Facebook, Instagram, and/or Pinterest. She does have a brief storyline in Season 2 where she and a model called Agnes try to market her dresses online, but they need Agnes's photographer friend to take high-quality pictures. Overall the flamboyant lifestyle reeks of a pre-2008 recession age. More superficially, the soundtrack is comprised of the most notable pop hits of the day.
VH1's I Love the 80s sparked a wave of "celebrity-bashing" shows often featuring lesser-known comedians and the odd forgotten celebrity, an influence that extended to not only VH1, but also many other cable channels by the second half of the decade. In a few years however, insulting celebs in general with no apparent motive became unfashionable (unless one did or said anything controversial) and much of the very politically-incorrect humor would be considered "unfit" for mainstream media.
The series' New Millennium installment was made in 2008, before the decade it was supposed to be nostalgically looking back on was even over. This, of course, presented some problems in hindsight. The show is fascinating now as a time capsule for what people thought would be memorable and lasting about, say, 2007; some things apply, but some look laughably dated, even just a year or two down the road. And yet, it's almost more apt for the sort of nostalgia the show was made for. VH1 made up for this in 2014 with I Love the 2000s.
Pick out any episode of any MTV reality show from the 2000s, and you will find an encapsulation of the decade's flashy pop culture.
Becoming featured fans remaking the music videos of their favourite artists. While some of the artists imitated have endured over the years (Britney Spears, Eminem), a lot of them quickly faded away like O-Town, B2K, Dream — and it was a time when Justin Timberlake was more famous for being part of N*Sync. The show is essentially a time capsule of what music was popular in the early 2000s, as well as a time when MTV was still, at the very least, known for being a music channel first.
MTV Cribs was a show built entirely around exploring the lifestyles of the rich and famous by exploring their homes. Not only did its existence speak to the worship of luxury and celebrity that helped define pop culture in that decade, but the style and technology in the homes were often so 2000s it hurt.
My Super Sweet Sixteen also hearkens back to an era, pre-Great Recession and Occupy movement, when flaunting immense wealth was in style and something it was thought there was even a point-and-laugh audience for.
Ditto for Pimp My Ride, whose aesthetic was a mix of The Fast and the Furious and mid-decade Glam Rap. The titular Pimped Out Cars all resemble something out of one of its host Xzibit's music videos, with giant rims, bright paint jobs, massive sound systems, and video game consoles (all from the Sixth or Seventh Generation) installed. Watching it today, viewers often have to pinch themselves to remember that, yes, this was once considered the pinnacle of coolness.
Meanwhile, Teen Mom would become a relic of the teen pregnancy "epidemic" of the 2000s, a time when underage sex was constantly in the news.
Nathan Barley is overwhelmingly an example of Values Resonance, since Nathan's obnoxiously over-featured mobile phone and vocation as a minor internet prank video celeb turned out to be well ahead of his time, rather than the passing fad the show's creators were expecting his lifestyle to be. However, it's weird watching bell-bottom low-slung jeans coupled with boxer shorts an inch below the armpits, transparent technology, and the extreme sports and anime aesthetics coexisting with characters that appear like modern hipsters, the overall feel coming off like a Retro Universe version of The New '10s as imagined by people in the 2000s who have had that decade's culture described to them but not shown. The most obvious anachronism is Dan's horrid style magazine, Sugar Ape, which represented an industry and young contemporary art scene that (thanks to the Recession and the internet) stopped existing only a few years after the show aired. Nathan's conspicuous consumption and limitless (implicitly parental) money supply is also something you would not see in a modern hipster portrayal, who, even if they were moneyed, would be trying to appear guilty about it. (A second series with a more 'Millennial' tone, showing Nathan being cut off from his money and trying to get a house, was floated but never made.) What really jumps out is that the Hosegate idiots are shown to be doing what they do as self-expression rather than an exercise in branding or getting clicks — even the sleazy magazine boss seems to feel part of a legitimate art scene.
Never Did Me Any Harm — a short-lived British documentary series where a father forces his four boys to conform to 1950s style discipline — is instantly recognizable as a 2000s show. The oldest boy Theo is instantly recognizable as a 2000s death metal lover, social media is never mentioned, the family's TV is analog and the games consoles they have all look outdated. One hilarious sequence has The Dandy of the family Joe enduring a Traumatic Haircut to get a short Edwardian-style cut worn by "Teddy Boys". He whines about it looking "so old-fashioned", when those haircuts came back into fashion a few years later.
A lot of 2000s shows on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel are becoming this, especially ones from the early 2000s. Technology in the 2000s changed rapidly, so you can tell when a show was made by what they're showing.
Drake & Josh, particularly in the case of Drake, whose devil-may-care personality might be perceived as borderline lecherous and narcissistic in the more straitlaced 2010s (the fact he fronts a garage rock band has become quite dated as well). Meanwhile, the timid Josh was often the fall guy for his half-brother's schemes, much in line with stereotypes about these kinds of characters during the 2000s.
iCarly looks dated to around 2005/2006 due to the long time between the first season was produced and its 2007 premiere. This happened because of the in-universe response of it being "crazy" and unexpected that the characters could create, film, and have their videos go "viral" and that tens of thousands of people will watch them. By 2007, YouTube had already established the YouTube Partnership program which enabled popular web stars to make a lot of money via YouTube advertising and by the turn of the 2010s there were new viral videos and memes being hatched weekly.
While avoiding (or at least, parodying) many of the traditional tropes of Nickelodeon's tween-coms of the era, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide is still an obscenely mid-2000s time capsule thanks to the lack of social media or the scarcity of cellphones in the middle school environment (Ned himself only gets a phone during the final season and rarely uses it), along with lacking modern technology schools use (Cookie's tech-savvy credentials are confirmed by his having a laptop with 1 terabyte hard drive, at a time most computers had 40 to 60 GB disk space... at best). The "garage rock" (read: The Hives and Green Day)-inspired soundtrack and the school kids' fashion sense (low-rise jeans and fuchsia for the girls, high-waisted trousers and hockey shirts for the boys) just confirm it is a product of the times in case there was any doubt.
Mind of Mencia comes across as this for the mid to late 2000s. Mencia frequently parodies celebrities and public figures such as Paris Hilton and George W. Bush.
The Office (US) is one for the mid-late 2000s/very early 2010s, especially with regards to the technology and pop culture references. In Season 2, the most coveted gift at the office secret Santa exchange is an iPod 5G (and understandably so: Ryan remarks that it costs $400). Jim and Pam's wedding in season six is an extended Shout-Out to a then-popular YouTube video. Characters are frequently shown using BlackBerries and flip phones, and several storylines center on Dunder Mifflin's declining sales in a world full of big-box retailers, and later on, the rise of online shopping and the increasing move towards being more "paperless". On a darker note, much of Michael Scott's behavior toward his female subordinates, while always Played for Laughs in the show, would not fly well at all after the #MeToo movement and the continuing exposure of workplace harassment and abuse since the Harvey Weinstein revelations in 2017.
Parking Wars ran from 2008 to 2011. On top of the 2000s-era parking meters and phones, Blockbuster is also featured in several episodes.
S Club 7 and their TV show has several plots that date it to the 2000s.
The main premise — a struggling pop band trying to make it in America — and the group don't market themselves online, through YouTube or Facebook. In the first season, they're easily conned and tricked into working for what they think is a luxury hotel in Miami, when a quick Google search could have told them it was a dump. There's a lack of cellphones among the group, which causes entire episodes involving them getting stranded somewhere or separated from everyone else.
An episode of LA 7 has Paul getting them to make a movie, and the joke is that he shoots it all on a cheap video camera. Fast forward a few years when home technology has advanced, and that would actually be a rather sensible idea. And in LA 7 and Hollywood 7 the group try to find a manager and then shoot their first video — whereas with today's technology they'd try to shoot their own videos first in the hopes of attracting a manager.
The movie Seeing Double also has as its plot a mad scientist trying to clone the pop stars of the world. S Club, in particular, have their clones trotted out on stage while the real ones are stranded in Barcelona. Such a thing would be harder to pull off in the days of smartphones and social media, and the group could have exposed the ruse much sooner. Among the pop stars cloned include Gareth Gates, (runner-up to the first season of Pop Idol), Michael Jackson (who passed in 2009)note Although the scientist is shown to have James Dean and Marilyn Monroe's DNA, so having a Michael clone isn't that jarring and Posh Spice (who was still sort of releasing music at the time before she ultimately focused on her businesses instead). The film also has a Take That! to Tom Green who was still mainstream at the time. The movie also references "President Bush".
Screenwipe is a "programme all about television", but as it was in the late 2000s. As well as reviews of specific shows that were airing at the time, most of which have been forgotten by history, it's a good time capsule of telelvision as it was after the boom of reality TV and the launch of multichannels but before streaming services gained popularity.
One Scrubs episode centered around The War on Terror when a soldier previously wounded in Iraq was admitted to the hospital and his presence caused a rift between pro-war and anti-war hospital residences, and Dr. Kelso's attempts to control the situation. At one point, Kelso also attempts to control the situation by bringing up the then-recent news that Pluto had been downgraded from planet to dwarf planet. Oh, and at the end of the episode, The Janitor says that he believes the US should look for Osama bin Laden (then at large) in Pakistan.
Skins will always be rooted in that time in the mid-late 2000s when teenage sexual mores in Britain were almost at a national crisis point and chlamydia was a standing joke; the expression "Skinsparty" left the lexicon almost as soon as it arrived. Interestingly, they actively tried to avert this by refreshing the core cast every two seasons; instead, this resulted in each generation feeling even more specific to its own period. (Cook's episode in season 4 frequently features Rock Band 2, something Tony would never conceive of and Nick would consider passé.)
The Smoking Room: The series can be dated to the early-to-mid 2000s by the appearances of both the characters and the titular room, by the relatively nonchalant attitude the other characters have to Robin's sexuality, and by the fact that the smoking room exists (an indoor smoking ban took effect in England in 2007, and indoor office smoking rooms were thereafter prohibited).
In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "11:59", Janeway mentions how the Y2K problem was nothing to worry about, and neglects to mention anything else notable around the beginning of the 21st century, such as the World Trade Center attacks, or the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Star Trek: Enterprise is clearly a product of the early Aughts. Two of the main characters are strongly reminiscent of George W. Bush, Trip physically and Captain Archer in mannerism. The main villains of the first two seasons are the subtly named "Suliban". The third season opens with what could accurately be described as 9/11 in space, and contains a subplot where alien terrorists attempt to deploy a biological WMD in the United States (reminiscent of the 2001 Anthrax attacks). Another subplot involved Vulcans contracting the psychic equivalent of AIDS and included an overt PSA during the final commercial break.
Armando Iannucci has repeatedly said that he will never make any more of The Thick of It despite requests because it belongs to a 2000s age of political discourse, when there was still a curtain to hide things behind, and still a general feeling that the political system worked despite its many flaws. Even the fourth series, which features the Coalition (a result of the growing resentment of the political class) and an increased role of social media, comes off as charmingly dated in the 'dumpster fire' political discourse of the mid-2010s.
That'll Teach Em — a British reality show about modern teens enduring 1950s schooling — dates itself immediately as a 2000s show. For one, it was made during the height of Point And Laugh Shows that involved bratty teenagers being punished on a routine basis. The trend died out as soon as the decade ended and there was a collective backlash against what pretty much amounted to child abuse for entertainment. More superficially the teens wore then-current fashions which look slightly dated now. Hilariously the boys all have to get "Teddy Boy" short-back-and-sides haircuts, most of whom complain about them looking so old fashioned. Said haircuts would come back into fashion during The New '10s.
If you ever need a refresher on what was happening in 2006-2007, watch the first season. A particularly good example is in the episode "The Fighting Irish", when Pete tells Liz that "you look like that lady astronaut who tried to kidnap that other woman." This refers to a then-headline news story involving Lisa Nowak, which you either forgot about or never heard of.
The first two seasons make several jokes about the Bush administration and the upcoming 2008 election. They even managed an accidental It Will Never Catch On joke when Jenna hears that Barack Obama is black and sarcastically dismisses the idea that he has a chance of becoming president.
Trailer Park Boys firmly became this in Canada after the legalization of marijuana in October of 2018, firmly setting the series for good as a depiction of 2000's-era weed culture.
Much like the Genshiken example above, Train Man (2004) screams early-to-mid 2000s Otaku culture in Japan. Various stores that appear in the background at scenes that take place in Akiba, most notably electronic stores, have since been replaced by game centers and anime related stores that have been prevalent as the Otaku culture was being de-stigmatized. The lack of smartphones and social media is also telling. In fact, part of why the culture was de-stigmatized has to do with the success of the franchise.
Although Veronica Mars aged remarkably well in many other respects, the use of technology such as flip phones grounds the show firmly in the mid-2000s. There are also plot points that wouldn't work in the era of smartphones, such as when Veronica's father asks her to send him a photo of the art gallery where she claimed she was, and she has time to rearrange all the pictures on the walls of the motel room she's actually in before taking a picture with her camera, uploading it to her computer, and emailing it to him. In modern times he would get suspicious if he didn't receive a smartphone selfie from her within a minute. There's also an episode when Veronica uses a webcam, and in her voiceover explains what a webcam is with the assumption that most of the audience would be unfamiliar with this technology.
Although The West Wing doesn't technically take place in our timeline, being a political show, its episodes often focus on politically relevant topics of its time (the late 1990s and early 2000s). At the same time, a lot of the topics are still relevant today. For example:
The subplot about the space shuttle Columbia in the 1st season finale (in 2000) is definitely Harsher in Hindsight considering that in 2003 it disintegrated while coming back to Earth, killing everyone on board.
One early episode focuses on the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gay people serving in the military. This can easily be dated to when it was made, since the policy was overturned in 2010.
Like the Spider-Man example above, the attacks on 9/11 came just before the third season of The West Wing began. The first episode was a Very Special Episode hastily written to address the anti-Muslim sentiments in the aftermath of the attacks, and the third and fourth seasons in particular are heavily influenced by 9/11. Watching these episodes nowadays, you almost have to remind yourself that this was how people felt at the time.
Many of the characters are expies of real-life politicians of the era: Governor Ritchie is George W. Bush, Dr. Jenna Jacobs is Doctor Laura, Matt Santos is Barack Obama (two years before he ran for President, mind you).
As Vox TV critic/reviewer Emily VanDerWerff pointed out on the series' 20th anniversary, the politics of the show was a pretty good encapsulation of the center-left/bipartisan way of thinking that was much more in fashion in the time it was made. However, between the leftward turn Democrats have increasingly made since the 2010s and the increasing polarization on both sides of the aisle, much of that mentality has become old hat in the eyes of many.
The technology used dates it pretty firmly to its 2002-08 run. In Season 1, the detail's investigation into the Barksdale Organization is driven by cracking their network of pager signals to justify wiretaps on pay phones the gang uses to communicate. By Season 2, the street has transitioned to burner cell phones ("the latest in yo-tech" in Kima's words) — to the surprise of many cops (who don't realize how cheap phones have gotten), and the Greek is using text messages on a BlackBerry. As the series goes on, the crooks get more sophisticated in using mobile technology — and the cops get ever more sophisticated in using the technology to track them down. It's also dated to the 2000s by the absence of two key technologies: true smartphones and social media.
Starting in Season 3, there's increased reference to the Police Department's "ComStat" system for tracking police performance (a fictionalized version of the CitiStat system actually implemented in the early 2000s, based on New York's CompStat). While data-driven policing is still a thing (and CitiStat still exists in Baltimore), the arrests-driven approach is definitely an artifact of the 2000s, before more recent policy trends towards criminal justice reform.
Season 4 makes heavy reference to the "No Child Left Behind Act" and its effects upon the education system.
Throughout the series, street-level dealers gave their product topical brand names like "Troop Surge", "WMDs", and "Pandemic" (i.e. bird flu).
Several figures are slightly time-shifted versions of late 1990s-early 2000s Baltimore pols:
The most prominent is Tommy Carcetti, a white councilman who becomes Mayor of Baltimore and then Governor of Maryland, who is a pretty obvious stand-in for Martin O'Malley. O'Malley did the same thing 1999-2007, although, to his credit, O'Malley served two full terms as Mayor before seeking the governorship rather than skipping out after two years like Carcetti.
Council President (and Carcetti's eventual successor) Nerese Campbell appears modeled on Sheila Dixon, who was Council President during O'Malley's term as Mayor and eventually succeeded him.
The unnamed antagonistic Republican governor is pretty transparently supposed to be basically the same as Bob Ehrlich, who was governor during O'Malley's second term as mayor.
The Street (which aired on Fox in 2000) firmly dates itself to the pre-decentralization of Wall Street by having the characters reference it as something that's totally new and alien to them. One episode has a Writing Around Trademarks-knockoff of Viagra (only this time, it's a gender-flipped equivalent) that's played up as the hottest thing to hit pharmaceuticals in decades. Additionally, it has several moments of Technology Marches On (characters talking up Palm Pilots) and references to works like Gattaca and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?, by nature of being an improv show, dates strongly to the era it was filmed in—especially the American show. The ABC version with Drew Carey was filmed between 1998 and 2001 (the last filming date being a few days before 9/11). And as expected, it's full of Clinton jokes (especially references to the Monica Lewinsky scandal). Also, there are references to the Firestone tires debacle, South Park, The Blair Witch Project, Britney Spears, boy bands, Survivor's explosive popularity, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (there was even a game based on it), and jokes about George W. Bush's pop cultural perception as a dunce. And the choice of artists used in Greatest Hits often dates to the time as well. And the endless jokes about Friends, which aired opposite from it on NBC. The CW revival will soon be dated as well, in the same ways.
Occasionally, Yes, Dear is a time capsule of late 90's and early 2000's child culture, featuring references to such shows as The Wiggles and Blue's Clues, with the latter episode even having Sammy watching said show using a VHS tape. In addition, one episode's plot was centered around Emily Warner's birth being covered by A Baby Story, a popular reality show during that era.
Several songs which came out shortly after the 9/11 attacks, including a great deal in the often-patriotic Country Music genre.
"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" by Toby Keith. This one has a fair bit of Narm Charm, and someday Americans will look back on it and swear that it must have been a parody. (Heck, some have thought that from the beginning.)
"Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?" by Alan Jackson is a subversion, in that it's framed as a look back to that important day.
"This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag" by Charlie Daniels.
Taking a detour into Hip-HopProtest Song territory, "Makeshift Patriot" by Sage Francis, a critique of the media and government response to 9/11.
And bridging the gap between it and the Iraq War was Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" It can be jarring to hear him singing "And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden" in modern times, which few people really said at the time. The most cringe-worthy line is about vowing to "get what's behind bin Laden"- meaning Saddam Hussein. In a few years, we would discover that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, and his involvement with al-Qaeda was mainly turning a blind eye while they operated training camps in Iraq. And that's all that will be said about that. But there's a reason why you don't hear this song anymore; the US pulled out of Iraq in 2011, and it's hard to "worry 'bout bin Laden" anymore now that he's dead.
A less polemic example from Worley is the late 2004-early 2005 "Awful, Beautiful Life", which despite otherwise being a fairly Slice of Life song, contains the line "We said a prayer for cousin Michael in Iraq / We're all aware that he may never make it back..."
Similarly, Phil Vassar's 2002 hit "American Child" has the line "My grandfather would've been 80 today / But in '45 he fell down beside an American child..."
"1985" is a song mocking a woman who was raised in the '80s and is still stuck in that era. The song contrasts her tastes with supposedly modern trends like Nirvana and Limp Bizkit. The song was originally recorded by SR-71 in 2000, but it was Covered Up by Bowling for Soup in 2004 when the "modern" references had already become quite dated.
The Beastie Boys' album To the 5 Boroughs, with its numerous criticisms of George W. Bush's first term, falls squarely into this territory.
"Mosh" is a protest song that was released as a single prior to the 2004 US Presidential election, and its lyrics heavily reflect that. Mention is made of Bin Laden still being considered a terrorist threat, Em voices frustrations about the Bush administration by saying that then-president George W. Bush should go fight in the Iraq War as a way to "impress daddy" (George Bush Sr.), and the final lyrics are of Em saying "Mr. President! Mr. Senator!", referencing the candidates of the 2004 US election (the aforementioned Bush, and Senator John Kerry). The music video even had two versions made (mainly just with different endings) and both are also equally as dated. The first one, released before the election, shows people showing up to vote between Bush and Kerry, and then the second version, released after the election, shows protesters breaking into the US Capitol Building while Congress is in session, with signs saying stuff like "Down with Bush!"
"White America" references Total Request Live in its chorus, firmly planting it in the early 2000s.
"Without Me" references then-vice president Dick Cheney, how the FCC tried to take him off MTV (which has long since died out due to Network Decay and the internet), and then makes a series of Take Thats to artists who haven't been relevant in years, specifically Chris Kirkpatrick, Limp Bizkit, and Moby (even stating the latter as being 36 years old). All of this screams 2002, the year "Without Me" was released. The video also sees him dressing like Osama Bin Laden.
Moreover, one of the pot-shots issued at Moby was the lyric "Nobody listens to techno". It was pretty accurate in 2002, when Electronic Music was a very niche thing in America (to the point that American DJs and electronic musicians had to go abroad to find success). Come to The New '10s, where EDM has become the sound of youth and has permeated several different genres, DJs are hailed as the new rock stars, and EDM festivals can pull in crowds numbering at over 100,000. Moby himself later noted in a 2016 interview how that particular lyric would be Hilarious in Hindsight later on.
"Ass Like That" mentions Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who hadn't been mainstream in several years, plus they're mentioned to be young adults. Even more noticeably, it mentions that Hilary Duff is underage, which would stop being the case just shy of one year later.
His 2003 song "Couch Potato" (a parody of "Lose Yourself" by Eminem) references many shows like Fear Factor, The Sopranos, and 24 that were popular at the time of its release, but the vast majority have since then either ended or greatly declined in popularity. It also boasts about his TV "being HD-ready", a feat that was much more impressive at that time, as HDTV became publicly available the previous year.
His 2006 song "White & Nerdy" sees the protagonist of the story saying that he has people begging to be in the Top Eight friend spaces on his MySpace page. It his also stated that he enjoys collecting comic books and action figures, as well as other classic nerd things like Star Wars, none of which — along with editing Wikipedia — would be bad marks against him in The New '10s. Another classic nerd thing mentioned is being in a glee club, which would become mainstream by the end of the Noughties due to the popularity of both High School Musical and Glee. The final thing listed that shows its a product of his age is that computer programming is seen as being nerdy — it would later become both a useful skill being taught in schools and a lucrative career field.
Alan Jackson's 2000 single "www.memory", in addition to its title referencing the explosion of the Internet at the turn of the millennium, also features very 2000-looking graphics advertising an "alanjacksonmemory.com" site created as a tie-in to the single, plus a female protagonist driving around the video in a Chrysler PT Cruiser, a car model that was very popular at the time but faded from public consciousness a decade later (aside from currently having a reputation asan absolutely godawful used car or unwanted hand-me-down now that its initial novelty has long since faded).
Joy Electric's Favorites at Play, released in 2009. It's a Cover Album, except instead of covering the songs he considered influential (which would have resulted in yet another '80s nostalgia album), Ronnie Martin covered then-recent songs he liked. So the album is a weird little time capsule of songs that got played on the radio between 2003 and 2008.
Ministry's trilogy of albums protesting the George W. Bush administration.
His 1999 debut "Who Needs Pictures" is an example of this. The song is about a man who discovers an undeveloped roll of film and declines developing it in favor of cherishing the memories of the pictures taken. Only a couple years later, those photos would probably be on a digital camera's memory card instead (still justifiable if he has no means of reading the card), and only a few years after that, they'd be trivially easy to access on a smartphone.
Defied by his 2007 single "Online", which originally contained the line "Go check out MySpace". In concert, he now changes this line to the more timely "Go check my Facebook page".
Train's "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)" mentions Tae Bo, a "cardio-boxing" program popular in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
Gothic industrial band Lucid Dementia's 2008 album Trickery has a lot of Protest Songs, most of which relate to the Bush Administration and thinly veiled references to the Iraq War. It's especially noticeable when listening to their next album, released in 2013, which is mostly horror-themed and very light on politics.
Weezer's "Pork and Beans" has a music video that references a bevy of internet memes, none more recent than 2008. The various references just scream, "Hey, remember when YouTube was still new?"
Good Charlotte's hit "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" immediately dates itself with the lyrics "There's no such thing as 25 to life as long as you got the cash to pay for Cochran."
Gym Class Heroes' "New Friend Request" is filled with MySpace references, including Tom and the Top 8.
Blackhawk's 2000 single "I Need You All the Time" has the line "A call takes a quarter and dime". Payphones were raised from 25 to 35 cents in 1997, and they were already pretty much on their way out by the time the price jumped further to 50 cents in 2001.
A Southern Rap group by the name of UTP Playas had a hit song from their debut album The Beginning of the End. The song, "Nolia Clap", had a simplistic dance and was named after the Magnolia Projects in New Orleans, which was also the location where the song's music video was shot. While its demolition had commenced as early as 1998, it wasn't until 2008 that the place was completely razed. Harmony Oaks would also later be built in 2011 where Nolia used to be.
System of a Down's album Toxicity happened to be the number one album the week of 9/11, and its political views date it to its pre-War on Terror release. The most notable tracks are "Deer Dance", which references the anti-WTO protests in 1999, and "The Prison Song", which is dated by (a) the fact that prison reform and ending the War on Drugs have become a lot more mainstream since 2001, (b) the statistics are woefully out of date ("Nearly two million Americans are incarcerated in the prison system of the US." OK, sure...) and (c) the line "Utilizing drugs to pay for secret wars around the world", which is almost quaint, since the US has been fighting very expensive and very public wars since the album was released.
In the patriotic fervor of the year following 9/11, New York City-based Hardcore Techno artist Omar Santana released the Sept. 11, 2001 EP under the alias American Hardcore Alliance featuring mixes by himself and fellow Americans Dre Hectik and DJ Sabotage of a gabber track that notably samples George W. Bush's address to the nation on the night of the attacks. Santana would later use his American Hardcore Alliance alias again in 2004 for the Nowhere To Hide EP celebrating the capture of Saddam Hussein by coalition forces 4 months prior.
"The Last Ten Years (Superman)" by Kenny Rogers, released in 2006, relates a lot of pop culture related to the decade prior to its release, including Y2K, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina (2005), the Oklahoma City bombings (1995), Bill Clinton's run-in with Monica Lewinsky (1995-96), the rise of cell phones, the dot-com boom and bust, reality television, rising gas prices, satellite radio, hybrid cars, and so forth. It also references the deaths of Charles M. Schulz (2000), Ray Charles (2004), Johnny Cash (2003), Minnie Pearl (1996), Ronald Reagan (2004), Dr. Seuss (1991), George Harrison (2001), Pope John Paul II (2005), June Carter Cash (2003), and Christopher Reeve (2004). It also contains the line "The best golfer's black, the best rapper's white, and it's about damn time", a line that may sit uncomfortably with some after Tiger Woods' infidelity fiasco in 2009.
The Wilkinsons recorded the song "1999" in 2000, based around a "get with the program" hook of "This ain't 1999". It still could probably work if the target of the song is depicted as being very behind the times.
"26 Cents" is about a girl leaving home at 18 and finding a letter her mother wrote with 26 cents taped to it, telling her to call if she gets lonely. The change is "a penny for your thoughts, a quarter for the call." The Wilkinsons probably didn't imagine payphones would become obsolete in the years after the song's release, and the wording is vague enough that younger listeners probably have little idea what a quarter has to do with calling someone.
The Herd's most political songs, "77%" and "The King Is Dead", are both diatribes against former Australian PM John Howard, and you can place both of them to the year they were released without any trouble; "77%" is about the Tampa affair of 2001, and "The King Is Dead" celebrates Howard's election loss in 2007.
Ludacris' first single in 2000 "What's Your Fantasy" mentions the Georgia Dome, the then-home stadium of the Atlanta Falcons. With the Dome's demolition and replacement by Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017, this song became a period piece.
The video for the Matthew Good Band's song "Hello Time Bomb" features the lyric "My devil's on sugared smacks, down at the radio shack". This references the (then) well-known electronics chain Radio Shack, which is even shown off in the video (complete with a sign that says it's "Canada's Electronic Store"). At the time this video was released, the chain was already falling on hard times, closing off most of its concept stores and new locations in the late 90s and early 2000s. Fast-forward a few years, and the chain finally went bankrupt in 2015 in the face of stiff competition and mounting. While there are still a handful of locations around (known as "The Source"), Radio Shack is functionally gone from the public consciousness. Younger viewers of the video may not even know what the chain in question actually was.
FM Static's "Definitely Maybe" is a Break-Up Song about a guy trying to date a girl with a cheating boyfriend. It has the line "I saw what happened all those times he went for water when we were at the movie theater watching Harry Potter", which dates it to when the films were still coming out.
Morrissey's "America Is Not the World" suggests that the singer won't respect America until they've had a black President. In 2004, that probably seemed far-fetched, but just one election cycle later Barack Obama made it a reality. Even better, the singer also suggests a female President as an alternative for gaining his respect, years before Hillary Rodham Clinton would be the closest runner-up to becoming the 2008 Democratic candidate and then the Democratic candidate for 2016.
MC Lars' song "iGeneration" refers specifically to the earlier half of millennials, the ones that were in their late teens and early twenties in the 2000s (although the iGen moniker would be later used to refer to the centennial generation). It's also a pre-MySpace song with references to DVDs and the internet, but no social media or YouTube.
Minor example from "I Wanna Do It All" by Terri Clark. An early line in the song mentions "jotting things down on a Krispy Kreme sack", which seems like a generational-specific reference, given that Krispy Kreme had its explosive international growth around this time before overexpansion and Executive Meddling caused the chain to withdraw severely.
The opening track "The View From The Afternoon" has the line, When she's pressed the star after she's pressed unlock, which is a reference to the key sequence for unlocking several models of then-hugely-popular Nokia mobile phones. Only a few years later, Nokia's dominance would start to fade with the rise of the iPhone and (outside of North America) Samsung smartphones, and using a PIN, pattern or even biometrics to unlock a phone began to take over.
"Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured" name-drops Smirnoff Ice and Tropical Reef as drinks. Again, very popular for a few years, before disappearing almost entirely.
In general, many of the songs reference things common to the binge drinking culture that reached its height in the mid-2000s.
Not even the sleeves would be immune to this: I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floors cover features a sign clearly saying that the selling of tobacco products is illegal to under-16s. The age limit would be bumped up to 18 in 2007.
"A Certain Romance" describes the targets of the song's ire as wearing Classic Reeboks, or knackered Converse, or tracky bottoms tucked in socks, which was briefly fashionable among some groups of people when the album was released. The song also derisively claims that "There's only music so that there are new ringtones" when ringtones of or sounding like popular songs was a trend that faded out towards the end of the decade.
The music video for Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'" features the band playing atop the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The band actually received a letter from the owners of the World Trade Center congratulating them after they won "Best Rock Video" at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards... a letter that they received on September 10, 2001.
Feeder's "Buck Rogers" mentions a Cool Car having a CD player at a time when most car stereos had tape players. Car stereos with CD players became more ubiquitous as the decade went, but were quickly eclipsed by smart devices during the 2010s.
A rankings version - the Blender 50 Worst Songs Ever list (along with a similar list done in cooperation with VH1 around the same time), released in 2003, is chock full of 80s and 90s songs that have since been Vindicated by History (such as Europe's The Final Countdown), practically acting as an unintentional time capsule of the constant ragging on '80s and (non-Grunge) '90s songs in the 2000s. Some of the choices particularly reflect which artists were deemed okay to be pop culture punching bags at the time (such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown).
The 2006 SternWorld Poker Tour is a reminder of just how popular Poker (especially Texas Hold 'Em) was in this decade.
Robin Williams' 2002 comedy special Live on Broadway encapsulates the zeitgeist of the post-September 11th/pre-Iraq War period, with Robin discussing different topics such as the security measures enacted after the September 11th attacks and the war with Afghanistan, as well as gags about Lance Armstrong, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, and the Enron scandal.
His final special, Weapons of Self-Destruction in 2009, focuses on the first year of Barack Obama's administration, which includes humorously recapping the events that took place between Live on Broadway up to and including the beginning of the Great Recession, and ends with a joke delivered by Robin playing Walter Cronkite, who'd recently died.
Age of Aquarius Second Edition is easily identifiable as "so 2000s". Or, as Russians are more likely to identify periods, as "so Putin's first presidency". Certain events in the NPCs' backstories reference dates such as 2003, and the police still spells its name with a "mi" (which means it's not the Medvedev presidency which started in 2008). The first edition is so 1990s.
The Ace Attorney series is set between 2016 and 2027, but a lot of things in the game point to its 2000 to 2001 development cycle. Cell phones are depicted as the small plastic rectangle design of early-2000s phones, particularly Nokia.note While smartphones are currently popular throughout the world, there is still a large market share in Japan for "minibrick" and flip phones, especially among teenagers. The English localizations also tend to reference pop culture of the time, such as Apollo's mention of The Grid and Godot's outburst of "Know your role, and shut your mouth" dating them to the mid-2000s easily. On a meta-level, the concept of corrupt prosecutors who will do anything for a victory in the courtroom was a then-valid complaint about the Japanese justice system, which the games were designed to bring light to. The inclusion of juries in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney was due to the reappointment of lay judges, which had been in "suspension" since 1943. Starting from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, the game was given a much more futuristic approach with the introduction of sentient robots and holographic screens.
The 2002 game Aggressive Inline not only has the obligatory period "extreme sports" soundtrack (late '90s/early 2000s Pop Punk, Ska Punk, and Hip-Hop in its case), but one of the characters you can play as, a woman named Chrissy with blonde pigtails and a sexy schoolgirl uniform, is pretty obviously based on a young Britney Spears from the video for "...Baby One More Time".
It was fine on the original Japanese Nintendo 64 version; however, the international version was the rerelease on the Nintendo Gamecube, which came out anywhere between 2002 and 2004 depending on the region. Over a decade later, the "Pokémon Pikachu" is an obscure handheld, and the fact that the in-game characters only use the Game Boy Color is made noticeable by the fact a real-world Game Boy Advance is needed to unlock the Island.
The use of playable Nintendo Entertainment System games also dates the game's release to the time when nostalgia for The '80s was first starting to kick in among the general public, with unofficial NES emulators like NESticle having already made major headway online in the late 90's.
Outside of gaming culture, the game also dates itself by the fact that videotapes are an item occasionally used in fetch quests (and are treated as commonplace enough to be regularly loaned to neighbors), CRT televisions are the only kinds obtainable in-game, and the only stereo systems available are CD players, cassette decks, turntables, and a reel-to-reel tape player. Later games would introduce flatscreen LCD televisions and stereos whose designs could only feasibly make sense with digitally-downloaded music and streaming services, reflecting changes in commonplace technology in the years after the first Animal Crossing's release. That said, later games would still retain the original series of stereo furniture (due to a combination of the Grandfather Clause, the Vinyl Revival in the late 2000's making turntables fresh again, and CDs still maintaining a good amount of popularity in Japan).
Blacksite: Area 51, a satirical take on The War on Terror in the form of a first-person shooter, fell pretty painfully into this just a few years after it came out. The plot revolves around a failedSuper Soldier program created to fill the ranks of the US military with expendable Cannon Fodder drawn from disenfranchised groups (such as criminals and illegal immigrants) so that they wouldn't need to restore conscription and send the kids of middle-class voters to die in some faraway country. This was an explicit reference to the perception (especially among anti-war liberals and libertarians) that the war was disproportionately hurting the working-class people who made up the ranks of the military, as well as the fears of the draft being brought back that were common among those same groups at the time. Ambrose outright states the former in one scene, asking Dr. Weiss "oh, so it's okay for poor kids to come home in body bags?" when she lays out the goals of the Reborn program. Most of the mission titles are also references to media phrases and quotes from the Iraq War, such as "Regime Change", "Misunderestimate", and "Stay the Course".
Moving beyond the war, another component of the game's dystopian Next Sunday A.D. setting is gas prices at the exorbitant level of... just over $3 a gallon, which would become quaint just a few years later once gas prices started well surpassing the $4 a gallon mark. The player character also meets a Red Shirt civilian in Rachel, Nevada who chose to stay behind because he had a massive mortgage on his house and didn't want to lose it, referencing the free-wheeling home loans that, even before the Great Recession, were putting many people deep in debt.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, set Next Sunday A.D., falls into this partially because of its influence on other contemporary shooters. Call of Duty 4 was released in 2007 and set in 2011, but features a rather standard weapon list (M4, AK, MP5, and whatnot), nothing of which began production later than 2001 and not much different from the real-world guns they were modeled after. By the time 2011 rolled around in the real world, Call of Duty and its ilk were filled with various small arms that were covered in accessory rails and just starting development at the time the games were released, but were treated in the games as total replacements for contemporary weapons in every military present in them because their creators paid money to the developers or because the developers just thought they looked cool (leading to humor when one notices how many games ended up having militaries from the 2020s onward use prototypes of decades-old weapons as standard-issue).
Above all, however, there's the fact that the Modern Warfare games are Post-9/11 Terrorism Games, especially the first one, the plot of which heavily involved the Middle East. Both fans and critics of the series have described them as, essentially, post-9/11 catharsis, allowing players to personally get revenge on stand-ins for the people responsible for the attacks. Furthermore, as 9/11 fell out of the recent past, the Call of Duty series switched its enemies to such hot-button foes as Russia (invading America and then western Europe in Modern Warfare 2 and 3), China (engaged in a new Cold War with America and indirectly fighting them over various Middle Eastern and European countries in Black Ops II), Venezuela (leading a South American petro-empire in Ghosts), Private Military Contractors (growing out of control and attacking sovereign nations in Advanced Warfare), and eventually the rapid progress of technology itself (cyborg super-soldiers being corrupted by a rogue AI in Black Ops III) before moving straight on to pure fiction, actual period pieces, and battle royale clones before rebooting an earlier series.
For a more specific example, there's Modern Warfare 2, which released in 2009. Though ostensibly set in 2016, the first two missions have a pair of details that are hard to notice but clearly date the game to the late 2000s once you do catch them — namely, a reference to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which was repealed in 2010, and the fact that all of the Rangers using their phones to record an F-15 bomb strike on an enemy-controlled tower have flip-open phones.note Tellingly, the 2020 Updated Re Release has them using smartphones instead
Captain Rainbow stars several forgotten and C-list Nintendo characters, one of which is Little Mac from Punch-Out!!. This came out just shy of a year before the 2009 reboot game, which propelled Mac back into the mainstream and made him a popular Nintendo character again, enough to become a mainstay of the Super Smash Bros. lineup.
It should go without saying that the Def Jam Series was a product of its time. The rap game has changed exponentially since the 2000s, and the vast majority of rappers that were signed with Def Jam or another label at the time are no longer under them. It didn't help that many of the rappers and celebrities on the games are either one-hit wonders or once-famous people who have since faded from public memory. Joe Budden also retired from rapping in 2018 (with his last album, Rage & The Machine, having been released in October 2016), while Prodigy (one half of Mobb Deep) and Chris Lighty (who portrayed the character Baby Chris) died inThe New '10s and DMX succumbed to an overdose-induced heart attack in 2021.
Destroy All Humans! features a lot of sly jokes and references to George W. Bush and the Iraq War. Within a few years, both would be dated to the point that they risk being incomprehensible.
The spinoffThe Anti-Bush Game, as its name suggests, is a political agitprop piece made in protest against the George W. Bush administration. It's firmly dated to 2004 by its references to the impending Presidential election and its endorsement of John Kerry in that election (including a link to his campaign website at the end), as well as political controversies and issues from the early 2000s like the war in Iraq, Bush's tax cuts, Janet Jackson's Wardrobe Malfunction, stem cell research, the Enron scandal, health care reform, same-sex marriage, and the power of the Christian Right. Notably, it doesn't contain any reference to controversies from Bush's second term in office, such as Hurricane Katrina, the housing bubble, or the onset of the Great Recession, due to the fact that none of these had happened yet. The fact that John Edwards, Kerry's running mate in 2004, appears in the game as a populist crusader for economic justice also rings Hilarious in Hindsight given how Edwards' career imploded in a sex scandal a few years later.
This trope wound up killing the planned third game in the series, Super Emogame III. It had become one of these to 2005-06, and it even had a demo released, yet it had been languishing as vaporware well into 2007 and beyond as Jason Oda's work commitments making advergames started piling up and eating into his time. It would've taken another couple of years to finish, meaning that, by the time of its eventual release, most of its humor and references (to things like MySpace, Ashlee Simpson, the original click-wheel iPod, and then-current emo bands) would've been very outdated. Any attempts to update the humor would've delayed production for even longer. Realizing this, Oda pulled the plug on it.
While the Sanity Effects of Eternal Darkness have held up well, there are some effects that take the player out of the experience a bit due to the UI effects utilizing features that modern televisions don't have anymore, but televisions in 2002 did. Examples include big green volume bars and a blue screen for the inputs.
Eternal Fighter Zero was clearly made in the early 2000s, with all its late '90s and early 2000s references that would go over the heads of many younger ones.
The opening cutscene of Fahrenheit, set in a Next Sunday A.D. 2013, features a shot of the Lower Manhattan skyline that prominently includes one of the earlier suggested concepts for the rebuilt World Trade Center by architect Daniel Libeskind. The actual One World Trade Center tower wound up looking quite different (here is a side-by-side comparison of the two), marking the game as having been made post-9/11 but before they started rebuilding the World Trade Center.
J2e's fan retranslation of Final Fantasy IV is loaded with pop culture references that were nowhere to be found in the original script, some of which (like a Pulp Fiction quote or a few lines of lyrics taken from "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)") firmly date it as being a product of the late '90s-early 2000s.
The original First Encounter Assault Recon, though set around 2025, dates itself to its 2005 release quite readily by background details. Chief among these, as it tends to be, is that in a game where 85% of the levels are set in the offices or super-secret underground laboratories of a Mega-Corp that's developed a battalion of cloned Super Soldiers and a genetically-engineered telepathic commander to lead them, almost all of the exposition is delivered through either voicemail from land-line phones or very bulky Alienware laptops; when mobile phones are shown at all, they're of a very 2005 design with a fixed screen over physical buttons. Another big detail is one of those voicemails left on Norton Mapes' phone, where he's asked to tone down the innuendo around a female coworker lest a sexual harassment case gets dropped on him — while taking a stand against sexism in the workplace (and quickly establishing a character as a bad guy by having him be sexist) is still very relevant today, the caller's almost-completely nonchalant attitude about the harassment in the first place (he even outright says he wouldn't give a rat's ass if not for the fact that such a lawsuit would bring unwanted attention to the secret task force they're all part of) is very much a product of an earlier time.
The Interactive Buddy Flash game is obviously a product from around 2004, as the caricatures you can choose to play with (or beat the hell out of) include George W. Bush, John Kerry, Michael Moore, StrawberryClock and Maddox, who were all at the height of their relevancy around 2004.
In I Wanna Be the Guy, one of the many obstacles is a fake error message which will drop down and kill the player if they don't realize the trick and move out of the way as soon as they regain control. Naturally, this is a Windows XP error message, dating the game to when XP was the current iteration of Windows, and ensuring no one will be fooled by it if they play the game on a later OS (even Vista, which came out worldwide the year of the game's release).
Kingdom Hearts II features the main character of Chicken Little as a usable summon. Both came out in 2005—which is pretty much the only year where a Disney product would acknowledge Chicken Little in such a significant capacity, given its generally awful reception. It also reads like a who's who of up-and-coming voice actors in the early-to-mid 00s, some of whom were eventually replaced and did not return (such as Christopher Lee after II, and Hayden Panettiere after 2.8).
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror prominently features the eponymous character wielding a blocky pink cell phone with an antenna, instantly dating itself to the mid-2000s. Perhaps tellingly, no Kirby game released afterward features modern tech to this extent; even the one based around a high-tech invasion, Kirby: Planet Robobot, focuses on fantastic machinery like cyborgs and Humongous Mechas.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is set in the not too distant future of 2014... where Snake has an actual iPod as his music player. That alone shows the age of the game, released in 2008. Especially so considering it appears to be a fifth-generation iPod Classic, neatly dating its inclusion to before the touchscreen-enabled iPod Touch took off in 2007.
The EA Black Box-era Need for Speed games are absolutely steeped in early-mid 2000s tuner culture, following upon the success of the early The Fast and the Furious movies. The slang, dialogue, and Excuse Plots are painfully evocative of the era, the cars featured can be customized extensively into something garish, and the soundtracks are filled to bursting with rock, electronica, pop, metal, and hip-hop of the period.
The inclusion of shows that were airing at the time of the games' release but have since ended such as Danny Phantom and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius solidly dates the Nicktoons Unite! series to the mid-2000s - while characters from said shows have appeared in later Nickelodeon games, it's unlikely they'd be the central focus if the series was made today. Especially notable with Toybots and Globs of Doom's focus on Tak and the Power of Juju, a series that only lasted one season, was critically panned and is highly obscure by modern standards.
Para Para Paradise was made in the early 2000s to capitalize on the Eurobeat and para para dancing trends of the time, which have since come and gone, not helped by Eurobeat hotspot Velfarre closing in 2007 (though it was re-opened as Nicofarre in 2011, dating the game even more). It even has a song titled "velfarre 2000". Seeing such a machine still running today can make one feel like they stepped back at least a decade in time.
Persona 4, released in 2008 and taking place in 2011 Japan, a rare example of a JRPG in an entirely modern setting, can sometimes fall into this; although a lot of it can be justified by Inaba being a backwater that is explicitly several years behind the times. At the same time, Values Dissonance is a large factor to be considered here, as Japan ended up having a different attitude towards DVD rentals and smartphones:
Television, and the influence it can have on the populace, serves as one of the underlying themes of the plot. With the rise of the Internet and smartphones only a few years later — just around the time the game actually takes place — as the main source of entertainment and news for many people in first-world countries, especially for those at the high school age all of the main characters are at, this may seem slightly outdated. It's very noticeable that the Internet is pretty much never mentioned by anyone, and there's nary a computer to be found in the game world. One that's even remarked upon in-game is the rise of HD TVs when most of the characters are still using old standard-definition sets, a few lamenting that they'll eventually have to upgrade. A wall of fancy widescreens sits in the electronics section of the local department store Junes, a contrast to the old sets the characters own. Funnily enough, the game itself was released on a mostly SD console a couple of years after its HD successor had already come out. Kanji's family upgrading to an HD TV is actually a minor plot point in the sequel, which was released in 2012 and takes place in the same year.
On a similar note, a major subplot in the game, as well as a major factor in a number of other subplots and social links, is the opening of a department store chain, the aforementioned Junes, in town and its various effects on the local economy. In 2008, this was a hot topic, even in the US with the rise of "big box retailers" and "Megastores" like Wal-Mart, Target, and others. A decade later, while the Big Box and Megastore age has not died completely, online retail through sites such as Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, etc. has taken a huge chunk in the business of physical stores, to the point that larger chains such as Macy's, JC Penney's, K-Mart, Sears, and Toys R Us have either closed a huge number of stores or been forced into bankruptcy.
The characters all rock simple flip-open cellphones, used solely for calling and texting. The first iPhone was released only a year before the game and smartphones would very quickly begin phasing out older cellphones not long after. Do note that Japan ended up having a slower adoption rate of smart phones with flip phones still well in use in the mid-late 2010's, with even anime in the 2020's such as Horimiya still having its cast use flip phones. Thus while it's strange to outside audiences to see modern teens use flip phones, it wouldn't dart eyes in Japan. Regardless, it's noticeable that the 2011 anime adaptation of the game retcons this a little, as some characters now use smartphones and there's even a song on the OST that makes an iPhone joke.:
"iBreak! Just might be the new app on your smartphone."
Kanji's questioning his sexuality is a major facet of his character, and his personal dungeon is a bathhouse with deliberately exaggerated Hard Gay overtones. While a hot button issue and the source of much social commentary and humor (which the game provides both of) at the time, only a few years later the idea of major and entirely-sympathetic LGTBQ+ characters in fiction would barely raise an eyebrow - although the concept of a teenager struggling to figure out their sexuality remains relevant. At the same time, this does reflect Values Dissonance in Japan over the portrayal of LGTBQ+ characters along with other details (none of the characters bring up the idea of Kanji liking both, which shows how other sexualities such as bisexuality often go ignored or not considered).
On a more subtle note, the several references to DVDs in the early game also dates it a bit. While DVDs and similar products still exist, the popularity of them are nowhere near what they were like in the 2000s, with streaming services becoming popular. Surprisingly enough, the next game, which was released in 2016 (2017 in the west) and is implied to take place in the same year, allows the player character to rent DVDs, perhaps because the system would be easier to implement in-game than a streaming service with a subscription fee. As with Persona 4, this is in part caused by values dissonance between Japan and the West; DVD rentals ended up surviving in Japan to a greater extent, meaning the game only appears as a period piece to non-Japanese audiences. In fact, DVD sales are still up there with streaming services in terms of direct ways of supporting Japanese content.
Resident Evil 5, released in 2009, has the Big Bad revealing his plan to exterminate most of the world's population and start it anew with him as a god, stating that six billion people would die to bring about a new balance. Not only was the world's population already over 6.8 billion at the time of the game's release, it grew to over 7 billion just two years later.
Saints Row 2 is supposedly set around 2011, five years after Saints Row (which was released and set in 2006), but since the game only actually released two years after it, its setting just screams 2007-2008, especially the fashion, music and cultural references within the game.
One of the more obvious reasons is that several of the random pedestrians include emos, Hollywood Nerds, and scene-esque punks around every corner, all things that were at their height around 2008.
The music is a big indicator as well: Gen X's playlist consists of mostly emo rock, a genre that fell by the wayside by the start of The New '10s, with several of the bands featured having since split up. The Krunch, meanwhile, features a song from As I Lay Dying, a band that would five years later temporarily split up due to the controversy surrounding its frontman's alleged attempt to hire a hitman to kill his wife, which is the kind of thing it would be basically impossible for a video-game radio DJ to let go unmentioned.
The technology also dates the game. Most NPCs still use older-style flip phones that would have fallen out of favor with the general public a few years later; while The Boss does have a smartphone, it's a chunky, blocky first-generation model with limited Internet access that is used for little more than making calls and acting as a GPS. Several NPCs also make mention of their cars' new CD players, and in-game music tracks are purchased through brick-and-mortar record stores that are embroiled in an all-out war against online music pirates.
The Infinity +1 Sword of the assault rifles is the AR-50 XMAC, a renamed copy of the Heckler & Koch XM8, a gun that was ubiquitous to the mid- to late-oughties for its intent to be the future of weapons design... only for it to fail at that when the US Army program it was developed for was shelved in 2005. Nowadays, even with the gun seeing actual service in real life in Malaysia, it's been all-but forgotten and almost never appears in video games anymore.
Tera Patrick appears in the Ultor Exposed DLC, due to her infamy as a porn actress — which she would retire from a year later. This is especially apparent for the PC version since due to circumstances regarding outside companies, they didn't get the DLC until a decade later, by which point several players may not even remember who Tera Patrick was.
There's also the Company of Gyros fast-food chain, the name being a reference to fellow THQ property Company of Heroes, which fell into this after THQ went bankrupt and the respective developers went to different companies (CoH's Relic Entertainment to Sega, Saints Row's Volition to Deep Silver).
Sonic Adventure 2 is dated to the very early 2000s due to its product placement of SOAP brand shoes (a brand that all but disappeared after 2001) and the use of the term "Weapons of mass destruction" in a family-friendly video game (although it's part of the Growing with the Audience thing). Had the game been released a few months later, it might've been seen as shocking in light of the 9/11 attacks and lead-up to the war on terror. Then again, the GameCube re-release Sonic Adventure 2 Battle came post-9/11 and didn't really attract any controversy despite being arguably more popular than the Dreamcast original.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell dates itself as a product of the 2000s almost entirely on its premise of a newly-formed secret wing of the NSA undertaking field operations for "aggressive intelligence gathering", which takes the form of stealth-based gameplay similar to what Metal Gear and Syphon Filter had been doing for a while. It dates itself not only in its rather nebulous and fantastical idea of what the NSA actually does, echoing the sudden prominence of, yet lack of knowledge about, the organization at the time (had the series started in just about any other time period, Third Echelon probably would have been part of the CIA or an entirely independent operation), but also for the fact that the games for the most part present Third Echelon and the NSA in a positive light,note even at worst, where the protagonist is embedded in a domestic terrorist organization in Double Agent, the NSA loses trust in him if he acts the part too much which would be completely unheard of following the scandal surrounding the real NSA's warrantless wiretapping. Amusingly, the fifth game in the series, 2010's Conviction, was ahead of the curve in some respects, as Third Echelon, under a new leader, takes part in a conspiracy to kill the in-game President, followed by Blacklist forming a new Fourth Echelon that answers directly to the President.
Relatedly, Tony Hawk's Underground 2 heavily leans on the style of destructive, dangerous pranks and stunts popularized by Jackass and similar shows, a trend that reached its nadir sometime around 2005.
The World Ends with You from 2007 is so full of street slang and references to the pop culture of 2000s Tokyo that the 2018 Switch remaster was marketed as an actual period piece. This isn't as bad as many examples though, as most of the game's Totally Radical slang was always Played for Laughs.
Even the Grand Theft Auto-inspired video game adaptation of The Warriors from 2005 falls victim to this thanks to its anachronisms. Yes, it's set in the late '70s and based on a movie from that time period (which was itself inspired by a book from the '60s, for that matter), and for the most part it's pretty good about being period-accurate... until you get to that level set in the South Bronx and see, amidst a bunch of punks with Afro and shag hairstyles, one guy with a veryTurn of the Millennium-appropriate soul patch. Plus, there's a comic relief scene set in Brooklyn with a thug mumbling in his sleep and suddenly moaning "I don't wanna ride the pony!" — obviously a Shout-Out to a similar scene in Toy Story (1995), which was still an ongoing film series at the time.
This demo video for the original Xbox Live is an obvious product of the very early days of the Xbox. Beyond the obvious, where part of the plot involves an American football game that very prominently displays the year 2003 in its title (and not to mention being a non-EA Sports title, dating it to before EA signed its still-ongoing exclusivity deals with the NFL in 2005) and the very late-'90s/early-'00s apartment (complete with both TV and computer monitor being big, boxy CRTs and a lava lamp near the TV), perhaps the biggest thing to date it is that the fast-paced, action-packed triple-A multiplayer game the viewpoint character invites everyone onto to prove their superiority over the antagonist is... MechAssault. A decently-big game in its own right at the time (being part of a big, ongoing franchise and having gotten a sequel), but in hindsight, not even close to as big as Halo would end up being.
The original Yakuza released and is set in 2005, and 4 chapters in Kiryu is handed a 2000s-era brick cell phone by Date to keep in touch. This becomes more of an intentional period piece in the 2016 remake, Yakuza Kiwami, which also adds a substory revolving around a flip phone.
Fate/stay night seems to be set around its release year of 2004, and much is made of Association Magi and their abhorrence of modern technology, with any magus who uses anything more sophisticated than a rotary phone being declared a renegade. Tohsaka Rin, in particular, had no concept of what a VCR is. At the time, this could be passed off as her just being from an overly traditional family. Within a decade, it's hard to imagine how she keeps up her perfect academic record while never seeing a PC until high school and being utterlyHopeless with Tech when she tries to learn. Later media in the franchise shed this to stay relevant, with the EXTRA/Extella timeline taking place in a digital space within a lunar supercomputer, and Fate/Grand Order including all sorts of esoteric Magitech.
Bonus Stage is filled with pop culture references that date it to the early 2000s.
Broken Saints features as one of its protagonists a programmer who boasts of recently helping to save the world from the disastrous effects of the Y2K Bug, irrevocably dating the work to the early 2000s at best.
Made during the Golden Age of machinima, The Strangerhood, made with The Sims 2, is arguably either this or an actual intended Period Piece. Its first few episodes could have arguably taken place anywhere at any time, but from the sixth episode onward, it quickly degenerated into "let's spoof this or that show from the 2000s for five minutes and see what happens." That Lost was spoofed but Heroes was ignored dates the miniseries even more to early 2006. The American Idol, Desperate Housewives, CSI: Miami, and Alias jokes seal the deal that this show could only have been made from 2004-2006, three years shy of the release date for The Sims 3.
There's a DVD exclusive email where Strong Bad discusses what would happen if his supervillain self Strong Badman got a movie, satirizing superhero movies in the process. Most of the satire in question is pretty clearly rooted in mid-2000s superhero film culture. The references to "head-to-toe black leather" is pretty clearly playing on the original X-Men trilogy, as is the mention of how such movies tend to redesign the costume to show the face (and to a lesser extent, it suggests a common joke about the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man Trilogy films showing Tobey out of the mask a lot). It caps off with a Take That! to the Halle BerryCatwoman (2004), at the time the most recent example of how superhero movies could go terribly wrong. All this pretty clearly dates this to the pre-Iron Man and MCU era, where comic-accurate costumes came more into vogue, and the current punchline for "failed superhero film" started switching around as the genre became more crowded.
The series as a whole mostly plays with this by way of being deliberately dated—the majority of its content ran during the 2000s, yet parodies and pop culture references tended to originate from pretty much the entire latter half of the 20th century (and many avert Small Reference Pools—who here's heard of Mr. B Natural?). Even when the show did make a dated joke, it generally blended in with the jokes about decades-old films or videogames. Its style was also significantly different when compared to Flash cartoons of its era, meaning that it stayed fairly good-looking when compared to, say, early-days Pico. That said, one could also cite Two Decades Behind, as part of the reason the show favored outdated references was to create a sense that this was a world the creators saw as iconic—and that means a lot of references from the 80s and 90s.
Quake the Movie: Escape from the Bastille, first shown at QuakeCon 2001 and later published online, was a Quake III: ArenaFan Film created when machinima existed but had yet to be recognized as a genre, and made for a multiplayer game without scripts or customizable demos (features that the previous games allowed), predating the in-game recording techniques later employed by Red vs. Blue. Thus, it was a rendered 3D animation using in-game models — including the Strogg from Quake II — dating it right away. However, it also shows itself as a product of its time when Ranger fights the Strogg hand-to-hand, as it was produced when The Matrix was popular (it had only been out for two years) and thus no one in its intended audience would question why the hero of Quake would suddenly bust out kung-fu moves against the bad guys instead of just dumping rockets into them.
Early seasons of Ansem Retort avoided this by mostly just making jokes about the Kingdom Hearts series itself, but by early season 3 they were referencing 8-Bit Theater (which ended in 2010) and by the final season they were parodying Jersey Shore, which aired from 2009-2012. Topping it off, in the arc where time got completely fucked up, Jack Bauer ended up on the 20-dollar bill and Riku being able to remember that it was supposed to be Andrew Jackson was a major plot point. Not only does the Jack Bauer reference date it to the first decade of the new millennium, as of 2016 there's talk of moving Jackson to the back of the 20.
Doubling with Anachronism Stew, the Ciem Webcomic Series was written from 2007-2010. It is supposed to be set in 2020, but depicts technology that dates it to happen between 2004 and 2009, largely due to being made with The Sims 2.
Venus Envy is about a transgender high school girl. It began in the early 2000s, where trans people and especially openly trans teenagers weren't discussed often, and it shows in the way characters interact with Zoe.
Apart from the topical references in the Arthur, King of Time and Space contemporary arc, one early strip has Morgana refer to cosplay, with Merlin "translating" this for the principal as "hall costumes". A decade later, nobody familiar enough with fandom to understand a reference to hall costumes could possibly fail to know that this is also called cosplay.
Back in 2000, they ran an article titled "Area Man Consults Internet Whenever Possible". The idea was to satirize people who were obsessed with the Internet and made a point of using it for routine tasks. Some of the things Area Man uses the Internet for in the article are checking on movie times, getting directions, getting recipes, looking up colleges, and looking up word definitions — in other words, things that everybody would eventually use the Internet for all the time just a few years later.
Their 1999 article "I Don't Even Remember Writing 'The Tommyknockers'" pokes fun at Stephen King's famously huge body of work, suggesting that he sometimes gets his own books mixed up, and doesn't even remember writing some of them. While most of the article still rings true today, there's one line where King claims that he sometimes gets The Dark Half, The Dark Zone and The Dark Tower mixed up, and has trouble remembering which is which. In 1999, the books in the Dark Tower series were among King's least-known works, so it was somewhat believable that he would have easily forgotten about writing them. But since King finally finished the series in 2004, they've become among his best-known, with an accompanying line of tie-in comic books from Marvel Comics and a big-budget film adaptation starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey—and King has stated several times that he considers the series his most personal project.
Rob Dobi's Your Scene Sucks and How To Dress Emo are encapsulations of the underground fashion trends of the mid-late 2000s. Many of the entries are very dated, often mentioning MySpace and Livejournal as still being popular, as well as the whole idea around the "#1 Pete Wentz Fan", "Crunkcore Kid", "MySpace Whore" (who uses a T-Mobile Sidekick 3, a cell phone that was once hip and cutting-edge but which has been virtually forgotten since the rise of smartphones), and "Hot Topiccore" scenesters lampooned on the site. Since the site last updated in 2011, it's becoming more and more dated as time goes on; for instance, dubstep is mentioned in passing in the latest update dated June 8th, 2011, when it was just starting to break into the mainstream, but that entry has yet to make its presence, even though the dubstep craze has peaked and declined since then.
The peak of YTMND's popularity was in the mid-2000s, so most of the pages made for it would have been made around then. Any that are still online today can come across as time capsules containing 2000s memes and pop-culture references. Even the website's founder, Max Goldberg, acknowledged this in 2016, saying that he didn't have much interest in it beyond "good memories".
When it comes to longtime YouTubers who commonly do so nowadays, most YouTube videos that don't run at 60 FPS when in 720p or above. This is because YouTube videos running any higher than 30 FPS is a relatively recent thing in the grand scheme of the site's life (support for it first rolling out in late 2014, just shy of ten years after the site started). For that matter, videos can also be dated just by the resolutions available — most users back around 2005 to 2006 didn't know or care how to get higher resolutions, and a video available above 240p was usually an accident. Similarly, a lot of earlier Youtube videos will reference or joke about features that were eventually removed, like "rating 5 stars" and Video Responses.
The Million Dollar Homepage was created in 2005 and very much shows it, with ads for online casinos, Sudoku puzzles, a forum for the then-recently decided 2012 London Olympics, and very blatantly an ad that says "Free for 2006".
One episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series includes basically every meme from the announcement and launch of the PlayStation 3, including "599 US DOLLARS", "Giant Enemy Crab" and "Attack Its Weak Point for Massive Damage", dating it to the mid-to-late 2000s when such memes were still commonly circulating.
By the 2010s, the Rickroll has become infamous for being a key way to tell something on the internet was made in the mid- to late-2000s, much the same way that Zero Wing memes were an easy way to date something from the very early 2000s. Other memes obviously fall out of favor and become dated in the same way, but those two were the biggest ones of their respective eras. However, the Rickroll is still regarded as a "dead meme" by many people despite a semi-resurgence in the late 2010s.
Some pages on This Very Wiki date themselves to the 2000s and early 2010s with the pop culture references in the headers. Fridge Logic still features a reference to Alias in its header, and the reference remains there despite Alias being doomed to obscurity (much like other "big" drama shows of its time like Lost and Desperate Housewives) because it sets up the "weird wig" joke in the same header.
Wikipedia cites Encyclopedia Dramatica as "a repository of information and a means of discussion for the internet subculture known as Anonymous". This was during a time when Anonymous was affiliated with the larger Trolling community, before they mostly shook off that image with their later hacktivism efforts.
6teen is clearly a product of the mid-2000s. All the characters have cellphones, but they're flip phones. Video stores still exist, with two characters working at them for a long part of the show. Texting is big, but social media is rarely referenced. Illegal copies of movies are shared by selling discs, not online at the time (although it's still common in certain countries such as the Philippines and China). Also, the characters only ever have a little trouble finding new jobs with almost no references and are never particularly bothered if and when they lose those jobs, clearly dating the show to before the 2008 Great Recession, when competition for jobs made it harder for high school kids to be hired over unemployed adults for after-school work.
All Grown Up! Hoo boy... This retelling of the Rugrats as preteens has stuff like Angelica only using a flip phone and bulky laptop, the Java Lava being an Internet Cafe, referneces to boy bands, and of course, an episode devoted to "Yu-Gotta-Go".
American Dad! before the show shifted from politics to outlandish plots were very clearly set during the second half of the Bush administration, especially with the constant bashing of Bush and his administration's policies and references to events during the era like the War on Terror. Also expect the early episodes to have then-contemporary pop-cultural references as well, such as Scrubs and Kobe Bryant's rape trial, both of which were also mocked on sister show Family Guy during this time.
As Told by Ginger is obviously set post-1990s but before the late-2000s. There are references to VCRs and pagers instead of DVDs and cellphones (though the richer teens have cells to show how affluent and spoiled they are). The hairstyles and clothing worn by many of the characters are distinctly late 1990s-early 2000s, especially Courtney's hair, and wardrobe along with Ginger wearing bohemian-chic clothing that includes cargo pants and baggy jeans. The episode "The Right Stuff" featured a banner for a science fair proclaiming its then-current year: 2000. There is also the Gripling's ostentatious lifestyle (pre-Great Recession) and Mipsy's 13th birthday bash (again pre-recession and more or less similar to My Super Sweet Sixteen). There is absolutely no sign of any social media which certainly would have been a major part of the series if it came out a few years later.
The Boondocks, though not quite as overtly dated as the comic strip (Animation Lead Time makes that impossible) still wears its late-2000s timeframe with pride. The first season alone features Oprah as "the queen of daytime talk," BET being given no quarter, closeted gay rappers, R. Kelly's first trial, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a thinly veiled parody of the War on Terror, and that's just the stuff episodes center on. There's also things like Thugnificent's musical style, which is rooted pretty hard in the now much-hated crunk (and he even had his career take a dive at around the same time that crunk did). Funnily, Tom DuBois feels like a satire of Barack Obama, but he predates Obama's rise by some years, something the show itself joked on.
The robot vampire NOS-4-A2 is always called an "energy vampire", a word that (in the late 90s and early 2000s) was used to describe an appliance that continues to use electricity when left plugged in, even when deactivated, a media buzzword for the energy crisis.
Clone High has references to celebrities who were most popular in 2002 (Tom Green, Mandy Moore) but not so much since. The music played is a specific variety of pop-punk from that period. Also, nobody uses a cell phone, which became ubiquitous among teens half a decade later. Even for a show about historical characters, the setting isn't exactly modern enough.
Cyberchase is from the early 2000s, and boy does it feel like it.
The premise of the show, where three kids are warped into cyberspace to solve problems in that universe, can only work in late 90s and early 2000s, when the Internet was a relatively new thing. Speaking of, the computers that they have are very blocky, as was commonplace during the late 90s and early 2000s.
The first Chip Skylark episode had Vicky watching the concert on Pay-Per-View, which was already in the wane, being replaced by "Video On Demand" services.
The TV movie Channel Chasers falls into this quite a bit due to the fact that it was meant to parody a lot of television from the era (around 2000-2004). While some parodies are timeless and still fresh (mostly due to the fact that the shows they parodied were off the air), some are just really dated by today's standards. The manga/anime parodies also fall prey to this since the shows they parody have dwindled in popularity with its target audience over the years (even though teenage and adult fans still like them, as the Otaku community had been growing older and wiser). Then there was that parody of Strawberry Shortcake that was sort of a Take That! at the cheap Flash cartoons for girls that flooded the market; shows of that nature have increased in quality since then, so it either leaves you scratching your head or smirking slightly. The parody of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids especially hasn't aged well due to Bill Cosby's sexual assault allegations and effective erasure from pop culture.
The early seasons have a lot of this. Chip Skylark is based on early 2000s boy band singers and even voiced by N-SYNC member Chris Kirkpatrick. That style fell by the wayside in the mid-2000s and newer boy bands have a different aesthetic. The show also features a Britney Spears parody character based on Britney during her pop star days. Early episodes had a lot of internet jokes that were based around how relatively-new and obscure the internet was before it became a cornerstone several years later. And the episode "The Boy That Would Be Queen" makes a big deal out of Trixie being a Closet Geek; however, girls enjoying video games and comics has become more accepted since its release.
In the 2006 episode "Saving Private Brian", Brian and Stewie attempt to get kicked out of the military by pretending to be gay. "Don't Ask Don't Tell", the law that required the military to discharge openly gay service members, was repealed in December 2010, and the military's ban on gay soldiers was officially scrapped a few months later in 2011.
The third act of "Thanksgiving" is about the family and their guests arguing about America's stance in the Iraq War, which ended a month after the episode's premiere.
"The Juice is Loose" is about Peter becoming friends with OJ Simpson. Only problem is, it aired on March 2009, shortly after OJ was imprisoned in Las Vegas for armed robbery. Acknowledged with a title card saying this was a 'lost' episode from 2007.
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Nintendo GameCube systems (and a Nintendo Wii in a 2007 episode), Game Boy Advance systems (which would become a Nintendo DS later; Hilarious in Hindsight when we got games based on the show for both the GBA and DS), a pager/beeper in one episode (at a point when they'd already started to be displaced by different kinds of smartphones and tablets) and a lot of other technology references make it an obvious product of the mid-2000s. An episode of the first season (2004) featured Mr. Herriman trying to capitalize on his unexpected viral fame, however this was prior to the inception of YouTube in 2005 (which would be parodied in an episode of the final season in 2008).
Invader Zim: Even in a show set 20 Minutes into the Future, it couldn't prevent this. The plot of "Nano Zim" is centered around Dib sending a physical disk with incriminating photos of Zim to a TV show to expose him. A decade later, he could have emailed them directly to the TV producers the second they were taken. Meanwhile, citizens are shown looking on at scenes of destruction with a notable lack of cell phones being held up to record them.
Kim Possible: The early episodes are very early 2000s. Kim's fashion, including her iconic midriff-baring attire, are staples of contemporary fashion. It also had a boy band heavily influenced by the Backstreet Boys and N Sync, and Smash Mouth themselves had a cameo appearance. The theme also contains the dated line "Call me, beep me if you wanna reach me. If you wanna page me, it's okay", when pagers were largely displaced by cellphones by the mid-2000s.
King of the Hill: "Lost In MySpace". The entire plot revolves around Hank's workplace getting a MySpace page (which, at the time, had already been overthrown by Facebook) and then having it hijacked by a co-worker who was fired after a flash mob gone wrong.
Cartoon Network ran a promotion in 2001 where viewers could vote on pilots to be made into shows, and one pilot was for a cartoon called A Kitty Bobo Show. The plot of the pilot was that the titular Kitty had a new cell phone, he was the only one of his friends to have one, and it was enough to be a status symbol then. Most of the jokes were based around cell phones being new things for more people to own. Also, Kitty calls his friends "homie" a lot.
Martha Speaks: When Martha became an adviser to the President, both the First Family and the cabinet were clearly based on the early Obama administration.
For those not put off by The Nutshack's animation, the show's references are rather dated, especially since they usually rely on mid-2000s youth culture (such as the Pimp My Ride references in "Jeepney" and 2Quack and Snoop Duck are two examples, even though the former was long dead by the time the episode aired).
The Powerpuff Girls episode "Moral Decay" (aired in 2001) prominently features the gold Sacajawea dollar coin in a plot about Buttercup knocking out bad guys' teeth in a money-making scheme. The Sacajawea coin was only in general circulation in the United States from 2000 to 2001, with a brief revival from 2009 to 2011; otherwise, it has only ever been available to collectors. It doesn't help that Blossom outright calls it "the new Sacajawea dollar" when she first sees it, or that one of the coins clearly has the year "2000" stamped on it.
While it is set in a period eerily similar to the 1970s, Phineas and Ferb is probably a part of this, ranging from technologies, clothing, having mostly pop rock, skate punk and Pop Punk songs as the influences for the music (the theme song is sung by Bowling for Soup) to other things. Candace is frequently seen with a flip phone, though a 2011 episode gave her a smartphone, and smartphones were slightly more common in the show in its last season.
The Proud Family is a victim of this, from references of technology like Napster to its early 2000s fashion.
The first three seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants tend to get hit with this harder than the rest of the series, thanks to its greater grounding in the atmosphere of western society in 1999-2004. Most of this is visible in the technology present throughout the show, which includes pre-smartphone "shell phones" and landline phones being ubiquitous, computer monitors and television sets being boxy units with 4:3 displays, and the internet never showing up as a function of daily life (in fact, it's never even alluded to). Even the first movie shows its age with Karen's portable interface being a box monitor (though this design was later incorporated in post-movie appearances, with the aged design becoming a plot point in the episode "Karen 2.0").
The episode "Idiot Box" is kicked off when SpongeBob buys a brand-new television set so that he and Patrick can play in the box it came in. Before the late 1990s, the average TV screen would not exceed 24 inches in diameter (with the exception of extremely expensive rear-projection sets), while flat LCD and LED sets would take over in The New '10s. Thus, it was only in The Aughts when it was common to see TVs that were both large and bulky enough for someone (children at least) to fit inside their packaging.
A couple cases also occur for "The Sponge Who Could Fly", where a joke was made about SpongeBob gearing up to get some complimentary peanuts; due to greater attention towards peanut allergies in recent years, most airlines now give pretzels to customers instead. The live-action framing scenes also date themselves by videotapes still being commonplace, with the joke at the end about Patchy's tape of the episode getting chewed up being something that could've only worked without an explanation as late as its 2003 airdate, by which point DVD players were already rapidly supplanting VCRs— the last official SpongeBob VHS release was the "Lost in Time" package just three years later.
While Transformers Animated is set in the 22nd century and thus mostly has examples of modern/future technology, Sari is shown to own a flip phone in a few episodes.
What's New, Scooby-Doo? serves as a fairly accurate and realistic look at The Noughties for pre-teens, teenagers and young adults. It also has guest appearances here and there from then-current celebrities, some of whom have since fallen into complete obscurity, and the show's theme song got a Pop Punk rendition performed by Simple Plan. It's an unintentional period piece to the early 2000s, for the same reasons that the original Scooby-Doo was one to the 1970s.
Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi is a show that could only have only been made during the 2000s anime bubble, when Western cartoons and media in general were trying to cash in on the sudden global popularity of Japanese pop culture. Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi leaned heavily on anime tropes that were popular at the time, and was even based on a Japanese Pop Music band. However, not only would many of the anime tropes and ideas that populated the show fall out of use within Japanese works years later, but pop music from South Korea would come to absolutely eclipse J-pop in global popularity the next decade, while the Japanese band that HHPAY was based upon would fall back into obscurity even before that point.
Winx Club is a time capsule of the early 2000s with the colourful Y2K themed outfits the characters wear - especially Stella, who's The Fashionista of the team. The main characters are also modeled off notable female celebrities of the day; Bloom off Britney Spears (although the comparison there might not be as apparent since she's red haired), Stella off Cameron Diaz, Flora off Jennifer Lopez, Musa off Lucy Liu, Tecna off P!nk and Aisha off Beyoncé. Any cell phones that show up are flip phones, and Bloom's parents have an analogue TV, landline phone and blocky computer.