Since the conception of Pop Culture Died in 2009 in late 2013, the blog has existed as an Internet anomaly. Functioning primarily as an early 2000s pop culture digest, PCD2009 has spent the better half of this decade enshrining the pink-sequined, Ed Hardy-douched, Von Dutched charm of the aughts within the matrices of tabloid journalism and periodical gossip blogatry. If you ever need an encyclopedic recount of any and every Ashlee Simpson lip-syncing scandal, PCD2009 has you covered.
Unlike other media outlets that treat the beloved early 2000s nostalgia trend as a cheap novelty, PCD2009 views celebrity tabloid culture as a political force. Instead of reducing the distinctive personality of that era to Forgotten Early 2000s Fashion Trends You’ll Have To Explain To Your Kids!, the blog focuses on the key element that characterized it — calculation. PCD2009 reminded the Internet that the advent of the celebrity-obsessed reality TV empire marked a monumental shift in the way that the public viewed the Cult of Celebrityhood. By cataloging and documenting the anatomy of that celebrity-obsessed empire with a fresh, unironic voice, the blog keeps the integrity of the aughts alive.
However, what truly separates PCD2009 from the surviving tabloid and gossip websites is the wholesome nature of the blog. In contrast to the often-condescending and splashy style of reporting that has become the norm in the world of tabloid journalism, PCD2009 serves as a relatively progressive source of celebrity information. As a genuine fan of what he is covering, the mastermind behind PCD2009 celebrates the glamor and low-brow glory of every personality that was caught up in the celebrity celluloid of that era. PCD2009 never mishandled its reporting.
In an interview with DirtCast, PCD2009 articulated the reason behind its unique style of sympathetic reporting, stating that: “TMZ and a lot of other sites definitely a put a lot of bias into [their reporting]. They’re very harsh on females — especially celebrities. I wanted to create one source where people could get unbiased stuff because TMZ was using a lot of words that were just so…[offensive].”
Aside from the periodical celebrity #dirt updates and celebratory On This Day In History… memorials, PCD2009 is notorious for its occasional exposés, some of which include the truth behind the fabrication of Lucia Cole and a thorough investigation into Bella Thorne’s “mean girl” blind item. Although impressively comprehensive, PCD2009’s exposés are not necessarily pieces of controversial journalism; each article usually regurgitates information readily available on the Internet or found in brick-and-mortar tabloids. Even when the blog broke stories that other publications had yet to report on, it never leaked any blip of information that it was not supposed to publicize.
Although PCD2009 is sympathetic of most of the celebrities that are featured on the blog, it has no problem condemning celebrities and public figures that have committed some act of perversion or immoral wrongdoing. Johnny Depp, Casey Affleck and Woody Allen were disparaged in any published piece that required their mentioning.
In the wake of the inflowing Harvey Weinstein allegations, PCD2009 recalled Michael Bay’s uncivil treatment of Megan Fox in a lengthy blog post published on Oct. 14. The post, which detailed the nature of Fox’s tumultuous relationship with Bay and her eventual termination from the Transformers franchise, concluded with a chilling statement: “It’s not just Weinstein.” Inevitably, the post went viral, gaining 17,000 notes within a three-day period.
Four days later, PCD2009 disappeared from the Internet.
Other than the fact that he began the blog in high school and is now a film school student in New York, not much is known about its creator, Matt James. This anonymity is what made the power of PCD2009 appear to be unfathomable; how could one single person — particularly, someone who was barely old enough to comprehend current events that occurred in the aughts — know so much about that era? Even Nicole Richie questioned the all-knowing power of PCD2009 in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, to which James answered:
“Growing up, I was surrounded by that celebrity culture […]. That was the interesting thing about the 2000s, that it was just kind of everywhere…whether you were conscious of it or not.”
The popularity of PCD2009 came as a complete surprise to James. For a blog that started out as an Amanda Bynes defense initiative, the massive popularity of its unique content was an unexpected outcome. It was clear that PCD2009 was the pride and joy of its creator. To quote James: “I don’t have a social life. Literally whatever is going on in pop culture, that’s what’s going on with me. The blog definitely got to the point where I just didn’t expect any of this to happen. I didn’t expect when I was starting this in 2013 to be sitting here right now […]. I’ve definitely become defined by this [blog].”
At the time of the account’s termination, the online presence of PCD2009 was just beginning to reach new audiences. Just five months ago, Matt was featured on Jezebel’s DirtCast podcast, which marked the first and last time he has ever been vocally interviewed. That same month, he co-curated an exhibit focused on Nicole Richie’s Memorial Day barbeque at the THNK 1994 Museum in Brooklyn. The exhibit garnered a massive amount of publicity and even led to Paris Hilton voicing her excitement for the event in a now-deleted tweet.
So why would James, the sole creator and proprietor of the massive PCD2009 Universe, suddenly decide to deactivate the account without prior explanation? Of all times, why now?
Backed by a cult following, the blog’s sudden disappearance resulted in the circulation of a number of theories to explain exactly why the account was terminated. Notable PCD2009 ally and pop culture icon Spencer Pratt was one of the first people to speak up about the sudden disappearance, addressing his concerns in a stream of Snapchats on Oct. 18.
Pratt said: “My boy — my alter ego — popculturediedin2009 deleted his IG, Tumblr and Twitter. He wouldn’t do that. Whichever celebrity put their legal team or whatever reason he had to delete, you just took Katy Perry’s spot on my beef list. Do not mess with popculturediedin2009.”
In the same vein as Pratt’s outrage, a mob of Twitter users expressed their confusion and offered their own theories. One user on the popular ARTL music forum highlighted that something strange had been going on with the blog for a while, expressing: “A bunch of their posts about Bella Thorne all got wiped from existence and the Tumblr kept being made secret. They said they wouldn’t be posting as often nowadays as it was too time consuming but something definitely happened for all traces of it to be removed.”
what happened to popculturediedin2009? twitter, instagram, and tumblr are all down. need pcd2009 back. pic.twitter.com/lWSS5orIdv
— Bryce McMurray (@BryceM88) October 19, 2017
However, the majority of the outraged fans emphasized the unlikely connection between PCD2009’s Michael Bay post and the account’s eventual termination. Although unproven, the prospect of Bay purposefully shutting down the account is plausible. What happened to Harvey Weinstein’s career in a matter of five days is evidence enough to convince Bay and his PR team to remove any sudden news of sexual misconduct before it spreads like wildfire.
In a tweet posted in early November, journalist Eleanor Tremeer stated: “Considering I once wrote an article about [Michael Bay’s treatment of Megan Fox] and Bay pressured Movie Pilot to take the piece down, yeah, that sounds about right.”
Michael Bay’s mistreatment of female actors is not necessarily well-disclosed and can be traced throughout his entire career. To name a few notable instances, he recorded Megan Fox washing his Ferrari as an audition tactic for Transformers, filmed an underage Fox dancing underneath a waterfall for Bad Boys II and reportedly instructed Kate Beckinsale to lose weight during the filming of Pearl Harbor if she wanted the role. Women do not necessarily look to Bay films to feel empowered.
To quote Shia LaBeouf: “Mike films women in a way that appeals to a 16-year-old sexuality.”
What makes PCD2009’s post-Bay exposé termination so coincidental, however, is the timely announcement of Bay’s involvement with the live-action Dora the Explorer film. On Oct. 23, five days after the mysterious disappearance of the blog, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Bay’s production company has signed on to produce the Paramount project.
The absurdity of his involvement with the film momentarily muted any emerging discussion of his misconduct that PCD2009’s post may have sparked. The Internet devoured the news and quickly turned it into a running joke.
“Producer of Dora the Explorer film is Michael Bay”
Dora in the Movie: pic.twitter.com/es1LfUwmub
— ᴄᴏᴍᴇʙᴀᴄᴋ ᴋɪɴɢ (@volsungs) October 24, 2017
What better way to mute any further allegations than to make the Internet fall in love with you all over again?
Although further controversy has yet to arise that regards his sexual misconduct, Bay continues to walk on eggshells during this critical window for sexual harassment allegations. The threat of the domino effect looms over his career, and any sudden undesirable news would be extremely damaging and unconducive to his future projects, his production company and, ultimately, his career.
Though the theory remains unproven, it is irrefutable that James would not have terminated the blog unless some outside force coerced him into doing so. However, a hope for the return of the blog still remains: sometime between the dates of Oct. 30 and Nov. 10, PCD2009’s beloved Instagram and Twitter pages were reactivated. The Bay posts remain undeleted. Although the rest of James’s social media accounts remain deactivated, one can only hope that he will reemerge with a detailed explanation that recounts the context of his sudden disappearance.