Aside from the obvious truth that failure to live in the present is one of the biggest, most dangerous psychological pitfalls there is, and that we’ve already talked at length about reasons this current wave of 90’s nostalgia-bating needs to end, and all the evidence presented by Spin’s excellent, comprehensive list of the decade’s worst moments. Even without all those factors, the 90s? Not that much to get worked up about. And apparently most Americans think so, too.
Slate has a confused write-up of a new poll asking people what decade they’d most like to go back to, and most of the results are fairly predictable: people just loooove the 50s (oppressive) and 60s (frighteningly chaotic), but nobody’s all that eager to go back to re-visit the Depression. The big ‘surprise,’ though, was that people didn’t seem especially eager for a chance to go back to the 90s, and rated the decade only a bit higher than the 40s. The 1940s! A time when our nation was entrenched in war and healthy, innocent young people died all the time.
Matt Yglesias objects, calling the Clinton years “objectively speaking the best decade,” and I mean, nothing wrong with appreciating things that were good. Re-watching The War Room still makes me feel like someone’s wrapping me in a huge down blanket and telling me all about how happy and prosperous life’s gonna be from here on out. But as rule, nostalgia doesn’t hold a ton of water with me. Like, the fact that I haven’t popped out a baby roughly every year for the past decade—or just died in the process!—is a relative historical novelty. So is being allowed to have a credit card, and a job, and prescriptions subsidized by my employer and mailed to me every month. Not that those were necessarily the going concerns for women in the 90s, but point being, for most people, the passage of time has been pretty helpful.
And look where we are now! A lot of stuff is horrifying, sure, but the internet’s around and fully functional, gay couples can legally get married in some places, and a few sick people are now allowed to smoke their medicinal marijuana in peace. The 90s gave us DOMA, the war on drugs, and clunky, embarrassing technology it’s now fun to make jokes about. The people who voted in this poll were right to shun the 90s. And all the other decades. Step away from the listicle about the best sugary cereals you can’t get anymore—maybe because people are more aware of high fructose corn syrup than they were 20 years ago, and are just now starting to turn the tide against a crippling, destructive obesity epidemic?—and know that things are fine just as they are. Or at least, better.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.