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lazygecko

Was there ever a time in pop culture as self referential about its own decade as the 90s?

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Today in random weird media trope observations...

 

It started pretty much right away at the turn of the decade. Atari's tagline for the puzzle game Klax was "It is the 90s and it is time for Klax". In the 1991 Bruce Willis film The Last Boy Scout one of the defining quotes was "This is the 90s! You don't just go around punching people. You have to say something cool first." Similar lines were written in several movies, like the first Austin Powers, usually talking about how enlightened, tolerant and/or high tech they are compared to previous decades. There are numerous songs directly referring the 90s in the title or lyrics, like Blackgirl - 90s Girl (1994)  or Max Coveri - Running in the 90s (1999)

 

But after the turn of the century this trend just seemed to grind to a halt. From the top of my head I really can't think of anything contemporary at the time talking about how hip the 2000s or 2010s are. Guess it just doesn't roll off the tongue as nicely? Was it all just because of the whole "end of history" zeitgeist at the time?

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It was a time where we could feel good about ourselves without any seeming illusions. Granted, Clinton's policies turned out to be utterly atrocious in some areas later, but during that time, prosperity was rising among basically everyone. The fruits the 80s had reaped in a number of ways were finally coming to harvest, and that for some reason included adding "XRTREME!" to everything. It was a decade of fun unlike any other before or since. It doesn't answer the original question, but it does provide some context on how positive people were feeling.

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My theory is that with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the old order had been upended and the United States felt like it could finally move on to a new cultural zeitgeist. We had no enemies anymore, so the feeling went, no more exterior threats. (Which is why, of course, conspiracy theories and aliens became the new hotness, especially after Bill Clinton was elected. I suspect part of it was also to avoid the elephant in the room of rising white supremacist and far-right types like Timothy McVeigh.) The 90s felt like a new world, full of optimism, which is also why it was so much more open about the kind of topics that popular media would touch on... though, regrettably, a lot of it took "we can finally talk about gay people" to mean "we can finally make jokes about gay people."

 

As to why it ended? Simple. 9/11. It changed the enemy, gave us a new external threat, which of course the far right worldwide has milked ever since (take a look at RT's brazen photoshopping of weapons onto pictures of fleeing Afghan refugees, just for an example from today.) 9/11 also depressed us tremendously, to the point where creators of movies, comics, even video games actually self-censored and removed anything that might remind people of it -- and, in a few cases, media pre-dating 9/11 actually had shots of the WTC altered to remove the buildings in question. Another example: 80s and 90s fashion was incredibly colorful, but after 9/11 dull colors became the norm, even in casual wear, and that's one of the post-9/11 cultural phenomenons that has lingered longer than most of the others. (Though there's been significant pushback in recent years, not least from trans and nonbinary folk.)

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Posted (edited)

Coming right after the awesomeness of the 80s, it's understandable that this decade felt a little insecure and needed constant validation.

 

And yes, it was followed by two decades that lacked a very neat and tidy name. I always kind of liked the term "the noughties" for its double entendre, but it never seemed to catch on. I somehow can't see people using "the twenties" to refer to the current decade, given that it is still used for the 1920s. The 2030s will probably get referred to as "the thirties" though, since the 1930s were kind of sucky (and not referred to by name so much), like the 2020s are shaping up to be.

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Posted (edited)

Well, I'm not going to put too much thought into it. 

 

But I think the zeitgeist of the 90's had a lot to do with a spirit of optimism for the future. It wasn't only the last decade in a century, it was the last decade in a millennium.

 

It kind of felt like the future was finally here, especially when computers became commonplace to the point that your average family could afford one. Albeit with saving up, but shit, that's true today.

 

But mainly, I think it was a sense of optimism, especially in America when the Soviet Union disbanded. People were excited about the future, looking forwards to the possibilities.

 

Perms were finally going out of style.

 

But yeah, 2000 hit, and it's been same shit different day. Except now I'm expected to be in constant contact with everybody and anybody all the time.

 

Used to be "sorry, I wasn't home", "oh, okay." Now it's "I had my volume off, or I left the phone in my car." "Why don't you have your phone on you at all times!" "Because if it was good enough for humans for the last 150,000 years, I think I can survive without it for an hour or two. And so can you."

 

I think I thought too much about the topic.

Edited by Jello

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Posted (edited)

Pretty sure that by the later half of the 1970s they were starting to mock disco, even though it didn't really die off until about late 1979, early 1980.

 

It lasted long enough to make a joke in Airplane!: At one point there's a radio station, WZAZ (a subtle nod to the creators, Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker), "where disco lives forever!"

 

Naturally, the plane smacks into the transmission tower. The lights on the lettering fade seconds later as the station is now silent.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

In the 1990's the mall was the center of town, whichever town you were in. It was the 16-bit revolution, don't you know...

It was a vaporwave nightmare in real time, we didn't know it then, but we know it now, and I was still friggin clueless.

Compact discs were $20 after taxes but you may well have had that to spend on them. It was a lot of fun, most of the time. It could also be mind crushingly boring. There was this sense that the future was just now touching down, and if you weren't on the cutting edge, you were going to miss out for all time.

I guess troll dolls, slap bracelets and pumped up kicks were our conception of the future.

Let's not forget that DOOM was right there on the ground floor. We knew DOOM, even back then. Just as well, seems like a premonition of things to come, ya know? DOOM didn't quite fit with a zeitgeist which furnished us with such other computer games as 'Mario Teaches Typing'.

I've seen pictures of myself thinking I was cool, because I'd finally just gotten a pair of turquoise and purple Umbro shorts, which all the popular kids were wearing back then.

I would describe the 1990's as a decade that recorded a rock song about itself, put a cassette tape of that song into a boom box, and then rode around on the bus all day long, rocking to its own music. No sense of irony, just pure conceit. Consumerism gone wild.

Edited by Sergeant G

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"Let me tell you something, this is the 1990's, alright? In this day and age a man has to have choices, a man has to have a little bit of variety." - Mickey Knox, Natural Born Killers (1994)

I have nothing substantial to add to this post. I'd never noticed it before and now it's like "actually YEAH".

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I always felt the 90s were all about anti-culture tbh. From the over-produced music of the 80s we got very crude and raw scenes: grunge, alternative, stoner rock, funk-rock, and more. Remember that this is the decade where rap became mainstream, and I have always loved 90's hip hop/rap more than what came after. The internet also had its first wave of popularity around this time.

 

I don't know... this decade feels so organic to me, compared to the 80s

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Grazza said:

Coming right after the awesomeness of the 80s, it's understandable that this decade felt a little insecure and needed constant validation.

"Awesomeness" is relative, given how the 80s also marked the beginning of the AIDS/HIV epidemic - which was (in many ways) purposely downplayed so it could decimate the LGBTQ community - as well as the catastrophic Reagan and Thatcher eras in general...

Edited by Rudolph

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On 8/26/2021 at 8:13 PM, lazygecko said:

Guess it just doesn't roll off the tongue as nicely? 

 

Pretty much. At the turn of the millennia, teenager me couldn't wait until 2020 so I could go back to saying it's the "twenties", but now culture has stagnated so whatever. Using the "current year" meme is more funny now.  

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