Welcome the next installment of my year-long look back at a decade defined by its extremes. Rap versus grunge; mullets versus pixies; Saved by the Bell versus NYPD Blue – the 1990s had it all, and then some. Every other week I’ll be reminiscing about some facet of the 1990s, potentially drowning in some ill-forgotten nostalgia despite my best efforts otherwise. Serving as inspiration is an utterly ridiculous but nonetheless intriguing list created by Huffington Post — 1990 Things from the 90s to End the Nostalgia Once and for All – and I’ll be using a random number generator to pick each week’s “topic.” So don’t have a cow, man, if I ask you to talk to the hand while take this sweet ride through the 90s. Word to your mother.
Week 5: HuffPost list #1990 – “It’s the 90s!”
I have to admit that when I started this series, I really hoped that neither number 1 nor number 1990 would be generated, because I figured that both would be crap. With 1, you’ve got what would likely be the most hackneyed and uninteresting 1990s thing ever, and by the time you reach 1990, you’re scraping below the bottom of the barrel. While the jury’s still out on number 1, this week we ended up with…
Thankfully, HuffPost had an intriguing ace up its sleeve for its final entry in the form of It’s the 90s!. This phrase, or some turn thereof, is one that seemed to be uttered on loop across TV and movies of the decade. The video above does a very nice job of summing things up, and it’s kind of hilarious, besides.
I don’t really remember such touting of the 1990s on-screen, having been in the midst of it all myself, but it does remind me of how people used to similarly invoke the “20th century,” or “21st century” if we’re talking sci-fi, as the age of modernity. (I recall once begging my parents to get an “actual 20th century” push-button phone because the rotary phone we had was perfectly of the dark ages. Can’t say I was much aware of actual spans of time, then.) Anything of the past was uncool, boring, neanderthal-ish, and such. It’s the 90s, man! Get hip!
But seriously, put into perspective, the 1990s was quite a decade. For one, it was the final decade of the 20th century. The year 2000, to a degree, felt like a new frontier, and the years preceding it came with a heightened sense of wonder. At that point, the 90s really were the pinnacle, representing every aspect of how our society had evolved over the course of nearly 100 years. Economically, socially (maybe?), culturally, politically (well, maybe not), and technologically, we were then light years away from our Victorian ancestors. And that last topic, technology, is absolutely key. Because technological advancements made during the 90s in computing and the “disbursement” of the Internet to the general public pushed us out of our isolated communities and into a connected and inter-connected world. True that we saw such happening in the 1980s, but mainstream tech (affordable computers, pocket-sized cell phones, personal data assistants) didn’t really become a thing until the 90s.
With this so-called opening up of the world came with it the conceit that I mentioned, that everything and everyone in the 90s was smarter, faster, and better than what had come before. We were becoming more cosmopolitan, more open-minded, more attuned to plights and prizes of the people around us. Lines of communication began to change from analog to digital. Communities exploded into global networks. And yes, there was backlash, which, in the video above, is perfectly illustrated in that clip from The Sopranos where Tony says that it may be the 1990s outside, but in his house, it’s the 1950s. Not every was happy about It’s the 90s! But for the most part, we all escaped unscathed, firmly implanted with our iMacs, Nokia phones, and Blackberries.
While my knowledge of general pop culture has waned over the past few years, I can’t say that I’ve heard much invoking of it’s the 2000s! in the same manner. Maybe it’s because we’re all too busy curating ourselves online to notice the difference between what’s “modern” and what’s not. Or maybe it’s become there is no difference anymore. In the 1990s change was actually happening, if not a meaningful way, then in a way that made us feel something. And now, there’s nothing left to change? Well, at least we’ll always have It’s the 90s!