So, in the spirit of the recent Twitter meme of confessing unpopular opinions (which, well, I’d say a good half of my opinions are unpopular, I just don’t put them on Twitter, I say them to people’s faces because I’m a jerk), I thought I might get something off my chest and do so in more than 140 characters. Here it goes: I’m pretty sure we’ve reached peak 90s nostalgia, and maybe it’s time to just back away. Aahhh…I know. I know. That makes me the worst sort of crotchety old grump, but I am maybe starting to go a little bit crazy from the 90s-saturated Internet—especially when the writing is coming from people who weren’t even old enough to watch the Brenda years of 90210 when they originally aired.
Trend pieces on the 90s are everywhere now, and they have been for the last few years. I am fully guilty of doing one myself. Does it make it any better that I was old enough to watch the Brenda years when they aired live? (I mean, I had to sneak-watch them at my friend’s house because it was forbidden by my parents, which makes sense in retrospect because I was maybe too young at age 10 to have my friend’s wise and already world weary 16-year-old sister explain to us what statutory rape was and how her own boyfriend could get arrested at any time.) Anyway, no. It doesn’t really make it any better. But the types of 90s trend pieces that are proliferating right now are things like lists of the snack foods kids ate and how Saved By the Bell and the 90s as a whole ruined dating and articles looking back at musical acts from 1994 which include sentences like “Hootie and the Blowfish are a great cautionary tale for what happens to a band when it gets too big too fast.” What I’m trying to say is, the problem with many of the 90s trend pieces right now is that what they’re focused on is the bland, only-memorable-now-if-you-were-a-child-then totems of that decade. I mean, we all enjoyed Ecto Coolers and Kelly Kapowski’s orange crop tops (however, we absolutely did not all enjoy Hootie and the Blowfish), but it doesn’t mean we should still be obsessing over them, or giving them more weight than they ever deserved to begin with.
When I was vocally venting my frustration at this simplistic type of 90s nostalgia, I was reminded by others that all of this stuff, all of these 90s reference points, are nothing more than fun and harmless memories. But I think maybe that’s exactly the problem. Obviously the stuff that we remember from our childhoods are the fun and harmless things. And really, very few 5-year-olds were down with Bikini Kill and so are much more likely to register 90s music as being all about the Spice Girls or the Goo Goo Dolls. Which is fine (well, not to me, but whatever), and understandable, but also maybe why people born after 1986 just shouldn’t be writing that much about a period that they’ve reduced to being about little more than crappy (I mean, it’s fine to consume crap, but don’t pretend Saved By the Bell isn’t a terrible show) television and Lunchables. It’s just depressing to me that a whole generation of people is reducing a decade down to what they knew about as elementary school kids. Which, that would be like if the 60s were constantly defined in terms of television shows like Bewitched or The Beverly Hllbillies, instead of being notable for the movements of social and political change. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for pop culture worship, but it seems like that’s almost all that exists out there. And the worship is directed at the hopelessly banal, easy to digest crap that no one legitimately liked back then unless they were too young to know any better. I’m sorry but Lunchables, complete with sweating cheese, are really gross.
I’m not saying that the only people who can write about or correctly remember the 90s are those born before 1985 or anything. In fact, what’s interesting is that some of the more thoughtful, all-encompassing things I’ve read about the 90s have been from people who were actually born in the tail end of that decade, people like Tavi Gevinson. Perhaps that’s because having officially come of age long past the 90s, whatever the generation after millennials is called has more perspective than some of the people who actually lived through it. It might also just be that Tavi is smart as hell. Who knows. What I do know is that it might just be time to leave the 90s alone. Or at least, insofar as the 90s is representative of bad TV shows and crappy snack food, maybe back away from that and pay attention to the other things that were happening that decade, even the better forms of pop culture. Because, you guys. Melrose Place? Is a really good show.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen