The trends, the entertainment, the politics, the technology — it all influenced us on a personal level to some extent, whether we’d like to admit it or not. And yet, it still feels like there’s a gaping hole where there should be a bridge.
What’s missing that should be here today? And more importantly, why has this seemingly recent part of history been whitewashed to seem more distant than necessary?
Sure, it wasn’t all glamorous — the OJ murder trial, mass genocide in Rwanda, and the Columbine school shooting come to mind, but every decade has its black-eye moments. Does the severity of the tragedies really warrant such a complete and total break from things such as boy bands, Super Soakers, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air?
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that these things are gone forever — we still pay to see Justin Timberlake entertain us (maybe just through a different medium); we still love water-blasting guns (hooray, Nerf); and, yea, we can see re-runs of that old-school West Philadelphia-based sitcom on TBS (thank you, nobody). The problem is there’s a noticeable and intentional separation from a decade that had so many positive attributes.
It’s like the larger significance of these cultural artifacts was swallowed whole by the fear of Y2K and somebody forgot to return them to the shelves after the threat was actualized as absolute bullshit.
Anyways, here are nine things from the 90s that the world’s mostly forgotten about but we wish were still relevant today:
From grunge rock [Editor’s Note: Fuck yes, grunge!] to hip hop to everything in-between, the 1990s were a totally underrated music decade, especially by comparison to anything dated after 2000.
To be fair, the grunge scene petered off long before the Y2K tidal wave even got the chance to side swipe it. Hip-hop, on the other hand, seemingly died right as the two decades collided into one another. Sure, there were some remnants left over in the following years (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z), but the damage was already done.
Without Tupac, Biggie, the Wu Tang Clan and NWA, the influence of hip-hop shrunk exponentially as we got further and further away from the 1990s.
It’s hard to rank which loss has meant the most to us, but in hindsight, the drop off in music is extremely worrisome.
Will we ever return to 1990s level? It’s not looking likely.
The U.S. Economy
Similar to the aforementioned question pertaining to music, will our economy ever rebound and eventually exceed its 1990s apex? It’s looking even less likely.
You may be reading this wondering how could our two-decade old economy possibly still be relevant in today’s ever-expanding global world?
It’s a good question, but allow me to retort: a period of economic boom that was the longest expansion in the history of this great country will always be applicable no matter how distant in the past. Not only have we since torched any progress we made from March 1991 to March 2001, we continue to drill ourselves deeper and deeper into a seemingly inescapable abyss.
Who here remembers Surge? Jolt? How about Josta?
I mean, how could you not if you were born anywhere between 1982 and 1992 — these drinks were hallmarks of your childhood and, most likely, your adolescences (and forgive me if I’m off a bit on the years).
What else was on the grocery store shelves back then? I’m glad you asked because it’s easy to forget: there was Crystal Pepsi, Fruitopia, Orbitz, Hubba Bubba soda (yes, the bubble gum company), Hi-C Ecto Cooler (green-colored orange juice) and, everyone’s favorite, Squeezeit.
Oh how we all subconsciously long for those sugar-fused days after school where everything tasted better and life was just more innocent.
While we’re on the subject of taste…
In 1992, the geniuses over at Butterfinger came up with an idea – copying successful candy companies like Whopper – to come up with a product line of their delicious candy that was shaped like little marbles.
Everyone remembers the advertisements; everyone remembers eating them in the back of a movie theater around the age of 9 or 10; and, most certainly, everyone remembers the deliciousness that came from popping a few of them BB’s in your mouth. It was like something that came down from the gods.
I’m starting to salivate so let’s move on, but before we do here’s some honorable mentions: French Toast Crunch, Doritos 3D, Rice Krispies Treats cereal, and WFF Ice Cream bars (you know exactly what I’m talking about).
To the companies that turned these products away from us, shame on you.
To the lost, we say: rest in peace.
For those of you who didn’t fill binder after binder with sports cards when you were a kid, you mine as well move on to the next subject line because this is a very touchy subject for some of us bros.
While the drink and food options listed above are long gone – along with our thriving economy and Tupac, there may not be a more irrelevant thing on this list than trading cards.
Why? Because they actually still exist today but just at a small fraction of the popularity they once had in the late 1980s and 1990s when every boy in America went to spend his allowance at the local card shop – at least I know I did – to see if he could get the Michael Jordan Tops Finest (yea, that flashy, reflecting card that had like eight colors) or some other top-priced card.
The allure of course was built around collecting, trading, and, eventually, selling the cards. It was most of our first experience with making deals and netting profits – and we probably have never even realized it, which is a skill all of us use today (some of us better than others).
It’s hard to really say why the card boom went away, but it did big time: I know that the mall closest to me used to have two sporting card shops alone as well as multiple other card shops for fads such as Pokemon (not sure if we’ll cover them elsewhere, so here’s your shout-out to the other trading cards of the decade). Today, the same mall has none of these shops and it’s not just a regional trend.
(Note: the 1990s were filled with classic athletes across all four of the major sports, ranging from Barry Sanders in football to Charles Barkley in basketball to Ken Griffey Jr. in baseball to Mark Messier in hockey.)
Where there once was a value placed on these material items, they have been deemed as essentially worthless in today’s world. This reality is unsettling and devastating to those who spent so much of our childhood sitting on front porches trying to swap a Brett Favre’s rookie card for an Emmitt Smith jersey card.
I’m already starting to breakdown thinking about all those cards I have boxed up in my basement. Let’s move on.
This covers sitcoms in general, which, in case you haven’t realized, have nowhere near as much influence and impact on our culture today than they did back in the 1990s. Everyone in the country was huddled together to watch Jerry and the gang or the couples on Friends. That unity no longer exists, and probably never will again.
I realize that bros have better options than they’ve ever had before when it comes to TV shows that make us laugh (South Park, It’s Always Sunny, Archer, etc.), but there has been a noticeable drop off in network sitcoms since the 2000s rolled in, and there’s no denying it. That’s why Modern Family has won 99 Emmys in the past five years while the rest of the crop twiddle with their thumbs and attempt to be more creative.
The problem isn’t with creativity though – and it’s shockingly not our shortened attention spans, which should actually be helping shorter-length show; rather, the issue here is that we just lack funny people.
Once Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld packed up their bags, the networks didn’t have anyone to replace them. They scrambled, they fretted, and, eventually, they settled on a mind-numbing approach that we still see being used today: greenlight as many new shows as possible, hope one of them is a hit and overhaul the lineup by the time the next fall season rolls in.
The odds are undoubtedly in the TV execs favor, so you can’t blame them for opting for this lazy tactic, but the results have been infuriating for those of us awaiting the next Seinfeld. It’s been more than 15 years, damn it, I don’t think it’s coming.
TRL (Total Request Live)
I had a feeling we weren’t going to refrain from touching on music once more in this post. Although TRL was a late 90s show (it started in 1998 I was shocked to learn) and it lasted way into the 21st century, there is still a strong argument to be made that we wish it were still relevant today. I mean, just look at whatever is playing on MTV right now and tell me with a straight face you don’t think TRL is a ten-time better show.
Even at its lowest and weakest moments, the teen-based show was a drastic improvement from the self-labeled musical television network, which, by the way, doesn’t play music anymore. I know, I totally let the cat out of the bag on that one.
Friday. The Fifth Element. Rush Hour. Chris Tucker’s career was surging heading into the 21st century, but since has lost all relevance. His IMDb page has him credited in only 14 movies; I repeat: 14 movies! And three of those are Rush Hour sequels (yes, there’s another one in the pipeline).
While there are a lot of 1990s actors whose career have shrunk or been derailed (see anyone in the Baldwin or Arquette families), Tucker has to be the poster boy for biggest drop off. He was in so many bro classics there for a stretch in the mid-to-late 90s that it seemed impossible that this is where he’d be today.
Come back to us Chris, we miss you.
I know it sounds blasphemous to say it with all the advancement in technology, but cartoons in the 1990s were just better. If you don’t believe me, check out this clip from Street Sharks, which had a terribly unjust lifespan of two years in the mid-90s.
On that same line of thought, here are some other things that didn’t get better with the tech boom: video game systems (N64 still tops Xbox1); recess games (butts up and dodgeball vs. ga-ga ball, I have no words); and toys (Power Rangers, Bob It, Sockem’ Boppers, Tamagotchi). Whatever kids are playing with today, I just feel bad for them: they’ll never know what it’s like to punch or kick a Furby doll after a long day at school. That used to be the ultimate release of frustration; no wonder kids today have more psychological problems.