The Big Picture: The 90's Didn't Suck

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Zombie Sodomy:
It's interesting to think that I lived through that decade and can't remember a single thing about it.

what drug was "big" that decade? ;)

Anoni Mus:

Casual Shinji:
The 90's is when anime peaked - It slowly tilted downhill come the new millenium.

I remember quite loving the 90's. Looking back at it most of it was superficial as hell, but then I was a teenager so I didn't notice most of it. Except for Power Rangers. I never got the popularity of that show and I was it's target audience.

Bullshit, give me a list of 90's great animes and I'll double that list of animes from the 00's.

Though, the 90's didn't suck, in terms of videogames was awesome, Super Mario 64 and Zelda Oot ftw.

And bob didn't talk about the awesome WWII movies that came out in the 90's. Nor Fight Club or American History X.
The 90's and 00's are the best decades for movies. Way better than the slow movies of the 70's and 80's.

Anime was probably at its financial peak in the late 90's as a cultural export, though I'd say 90's-early 00's is probably more accurate. There were a lot of great anime from the 90's though, and it definitely hit its stride in the states during that time.

Ah! But what about the 1900s and the 1910s? Where are they in popular American culture?

1900s: The new century and the rise of a new empire and economics in the US.

1910s: The debut of the new empire on the global stage and the horrors of war (WWI).

Anoni Mus:

Casual Shinji:
The 90's is when anime peaked - It slowly tilted downhill come the new millenium.

I remember quite loving the 90's. Looking back at it most of it was superficial as hell, but then I was a teenager so I didn't notice most of it. Except for Power Rangers. I never got the popularity of that show and I was it's target audience.

Bullshit, give me a list of 90's great animes and I'll double that list of animes from the 00's.

Did I say all anime from the 00's sucked? No. But on a whole the medium slumped into complacency with the turn of the century.

I was born in the early 90s (93, to be precise) and if i was asked what that decade was all about, experiencing it as a child growing up i'd say... well, i suppose i will be considerered the rise of the information age. And the birth of a generation that grew up with the internet, viewing it as less of a tool and more of a second reality that allows us to communicate with people we'd have otherwise never known. I like to believe that some day people will remember this generation... well, my generation for being among the first people who reached a level of global understanding that none of our ancestors were able to. And maybe that's what the 90s werde. The beginning of an era of communication and understanding that started with the end of the Cold War.

Now, for a better question: What were the 00s all about?

I'd make the argument that in the U.S. (since we're mainly talking about American culture here), the 00s were about us collectively realizing that America is not as great or invincible as we once thought. Obviously 9/11 and the paranoia that came with it were a big part of that, but not all.

So the 90's were a vacuum. We create a vacuum in a machine called a vacuum cleaner to suck up dirt. Thus by being a vacuum the 90's sucked compared to the other decades.

Sure there were some gems to be found in the mediocrity of the 90's but a few good cartoons and a few good songs just isn't enough to give personality to a decade without a personality.

The 90's was the rise of the information age and online social networking. Bob glosses over it like it's not a big deal, but look at how much online internet has revolutionized the entire modern world, not just in the United States (where most of these "trends" of decades were exclusive to us alone).

Every last facet of our lives basically stems from the boom of 90's era online information being integrated into our homes and business, and now it's practically essential to have an online identity or email of some sort to do even the most basic and rudimentary things. You can pay your taxes online, go to college online, shop for whatever you what and find and buy it online, reconnect with lost friends from decades ago online, find relationships online, get all your news online, visit entire libraries online, have entire online jobs, watch movies online, read comics online, play games online, and find the entire back-catalog of Playboy porn online.

The very fact that Bob has a show on a gaming website where he talks about movies is directly because of the 90's online boom and the spread of the information age. When something is THAT powerful and that actively integrated in your very lifestyles as to become inseparable, the decade that spawned it definitely has its "theme". But, unlike the other themes of prior decades, this seems to be a theme that is enduring and thriving and lasting, unlike disco...

And I'm sure the infinite pictures of LOLcats will do us proud far into the future.

The Gentleman:

Ah! But what about the 1900s and the 1910s? Where are they in popular American culture?

1900s: The new century and the rise of a new empire and economics in the US.

1910s: The debut of the new empire on the global stage and the horrors of war (WWI).

But going back to my amended point: here in the UK that period in history, for all it's warped interpenetration, has been revitalised because of soap opera level historical dramas. This gives it a rose-tinted view in the collective consensus.
How does it stand in the States?

Bob, have you tried watching stuff from the 80's? Cartoons like He-Man, Thundercats, GI Joe and Transformers? There almost embarrassing. I'll take any of the 90's cartoon's you mentioned over that.

I can't believe people actually get worked up over Bob's frequent quote of that line, but then this is the interwebs...

Anywho... as someone who actually experience through the 90's (was in jr high in 1990, graduated university in 2000) I couldn't help but join in. Yes, kiddies, 'Animaniacs' et al were fun, but there was more to the decade than that...

I remember the 90's as being a lot about "It's the end of the Century!" and so there was a redux of almost everything. I recall that the culture celebrated was excellent, but upon further retrospection it really was largely Gen-Xers rediscovering past [and largely forgotten] classics. Still there was some great works of art and pop culture in the 1990's, if only because independent and fringe elements of nearly every part of the media started to gain ground.

AV Club had a great list of 1990's film:,86304/,86361/,86467/,86534/

Another example of Batman being artistically retro-minded: the use of dirigibles.

Another example of 90's retro-ism: the most attention The Offspring ever got was when they were accused of ripping off Agent Orange, which ironically is also the most public attention Agent Orange ever got.

We're talking about a decade that began with war and recession and ended with apocalyptic paranoia. That tends to color things a bit, in addition to being the time when the people who were kids in the saccharine 80s and are currently the chief opinionmongers of Western culture, were going through the hellacious adolescence to which Bob was referring, and to which I can relate.

so the 90s were a decade that had an identity crisis like a teenager to trying to find themselves. Sounds about right

Well, I think Bob skipped the biggest factor that made the 1990s. That is "the lost generation" which is "Generation X". We knew coming up into the 1990s that simple socio-economic fact was that the Baby Boomers were going to live longer than any other generation before them, and stay more active due to increases in medical science and technology. Up until this point we pretty much had a very clear situation where one generation would pretty much raise the previous one as direct replacements who would gradually move up and into their slots in the social heirarchy as the older generation retired. That simply didn't happen, the Boomers lived long enough and stayed active enough where they weren't going to step down until the generation AFTER that of their own children, Generation Y.

The 1990s were the time when kids born during the 1960s and 1970s were hitting their teenage years and young adult through adulthood. For example I was born in 1975, my childhood was during the 80s, but I was 15, a teenager, during the 1990s which is also when I was supposed to start coming into my own during the latter part of that decade.

The 1990s were however a time when we on one hand had a bunch of 60s and 70s-era optimism about the future being piped into people by way of "Self validation" in school while at the same time you had sociologists and teachers in those same schools telling you "well hold on, all of this "you can do anything" stuff doesn't apply to you, because your generation is being skipped and here is why...". As a result there was an almost entirely downbeat, angst-driven, culture among the youth, with most culture as Bob points out focusing on the future when there was more hope, or into the past where again there was more hope. This also tended to be mirrored in the desire to cater to the baby boomers who were themselves mired in their own nostolgia or their own forward-moving careers, who also held onto the money. Products and such were generally aimed AT baby boomers as being the most profitable demographic, even things aimed at Generation X tended to be aimed that way secondhand through the Baby Boomers who were the generation that was seen as having to support Generation X.

The 1990s were a time when it became fairly common for the youth to be living off their parents well past the time, the whole "kick them out of the nest" thing not working because there really was noplace to go. Things generally aimed at, or created by/for Generation X tended to be dark, depressing, and full of angst, as befitted that generation. The whole "slacker" mentality, and point of view inherant in say "Kevin Smith" movies was less about pining over an earlier era (though I suppose there was some of that based on the success it could bring with it) but the whole 90s attitude of "why bother to try my best, it doesn't matter, I simply can't go anywhere anyway". An attitude that while exagerrated for cinema was not uncommon, and actually tolerated because on a certain level the Baby Boomers themselves understood the issues.

With the new millenium/2010s you have Generation Y taking off, and that's a generation with hope, and the media and culture represents this. This is why it's easy to look back at the 1990s and say "wow that sucked" and make fun of all the Emoness and Angst, people who weren't there in the right age bracket just don't get it, and never will get it.

To be honest I kind of suspect Bob doesn't focus more on this aspect of things because it would make for a boring video, and I'd imagine that given his politics he probably doesn't fully agree anyway, perhaps having been somehow able to largely coast through the worst aspects of it despite viewing it as generally sucky.

i was born in 87 in the GDR, my 90s were defined by everyone i know being scared, angry or both that the country they lived in for 40 years vanished because people wanted bananas and people were treating them like they were idiots.
the 90s was also the first time Germany went to war, after the last time turned out so great.
it was also the decade of my childhood and my parents being really paranoid about what i watch on tv and what toys i play with because i guess 30 years of propaganda about how evil capitalism is trying to brainwash your children with spider-man doesn't wash off as easy.

It could probably be thought of as the middle point coming to the modern counter-culture revolution like it was with the 50's leading to the 60's, though ironically the extra decade is much like our culture's artificial extension of adolescence - it's taking us longer to "grow up." What I loved about it though and wish we could see more of now was this kind of period of self-reflection, where we really started analyzing our culture and either made fun of it through self-referential dead-pan humor (though the "Scream" movie could be debatable) or honestly try for thoughtful, meaningful content like the "dark" and "edgy" cartoons that had actual character arcs and themes and everything that makes for, y'know, GOOD stuff. It was also, as pointed out, the time of multiculturalism though globalization - that was definitely the period anime came into it's own not just as a style but a cultural exchange (pandering as it may have been): we got Toonami, Pokemon, and the RPG revolution through games like Final Fantasy 7.

It's also ironic, as well as paradoxical and just sad, that the '00s was the time that technology has allowed us more access to information and given us more vocal power than ever, yet at the same time focused on glitz, showmanship, and ideological gridlock that it just doesn't seem to matter.

This old documentary about trance music might be appropriate to this topic:

Well that was a pointless video, what was the point of that even? Am I the only person who doesn't get this over generalization of decades that everyone seems fixed upon?

For me the 90s were summed up in 1988.

How to generalify the nineties? It was a technological decade. Phones, cellphones, the internet etc.

Born in '84, the 90's were for me, all about cartoons, merchandise, pop music and brand clothing.
I hated it. A lot. I didn't learn anything, I was selfabsorbed and the only interesting thing was whatever new line of toys that came out. All kids are selfish, but I was a bad and stupid kid.

Worse yet, it had no defining sense of self. Growing up in the 90's was a very shallow period of my life.
Some Serb friends of mine who grew up in Belgrade during the bombing are some of the most wonderful people I've met. Through the fear came life appreciation and celebration, they were all out in the streets, living as if the next day was their last(although very little of Belgrade was actually hit - as far as I know).

Point is, for them the 90's were a defining era. Through adversity they grew.
So did my father, born in 1933, lived through WW2 in Denmark. They didn't have much, they feared for their lives, but they pulled themselves together and did just fine.

I'm not saying I wish I grew up during a war in my country, but I'd rather have faced serious issues and a lack of basic things than the 90's. I'm positive that I would've grown up stronger of will, have more character, discipline and a thicker skin. I might actually have appreciated school and highschool, I might have gotten more summer jobs and a better work ethic.

I'm not trying to sound like I lived or live a bad life, I'm fine, I'm well off, I have loving friends and family. I just think I'd be much more happy if I'd learned a basic thing or two during my childhood instead of now, where I'm nearing my 30's and a small identity/middle age crisis going fuckfuckfuckfuckwhatdidIdowithmylifefuck!
I looked for sympathy for a while, but honestly no one gives a shit, because I don't have an excuse to feel bad, which is the saddest part.

All you can do is laugh it off and seek out challenges.

It seems interesting that Bob makes a point that the 90s are a decade not really defined. I think this can be summed up by the millennials born in that decade. The first generation to grow up without at least some kind of global threat looming on the horizon. Most of us have strong relationships with our families, because the rigidity of the previous decades is gone, mostly because our parents had to deal with it. Not growing up in fear of a global threat led us to be less religious. Not having any major events left a lot of us wondering what we were going to do with our lives, culminating in the greatest lie ever told to a generation of children: "You can do whatever you want when you grow up". Leading us to be the most stressed out generation in the history of the united states.

But going back to my amended point: here in the UK that period in history, for all it's warped interpenetration, has been revitalised because of soap opera level historical dramas. This gives it a rose-tinted view in the collective consensus.
How does it stand in the States?

To my knowledge, that period barely registers a blip, a carry-over period between the Guilded Age and the Roaring Twenties, odd considering its incredible importance in establishing the US as a global power.

My 90s was very different, it was a combination of thriving dance culture and great brit pop. The club scene was awesome, the Ibiza years in particular. I was a bit young in the earlier Hacienda years but I was around for the rave years, riding up and down the motorways in battered MG Metros and Renault 5 turbos going from service station to service station trying to find the location of the rave. Went to Ibiza three years on the row, every weekend I was traveling to one club or another. Going LEEDS was the standard (bonus points for anyone getting that reference :P) the nights where filled with great music and loads of love and energy, chilling to 6am with girls and friends after the night was done. Watching the sun come up after a great night was always worth it. Then I traveled the country for two seasons with the fair and worked and partied.

We also had a war on terror going even then, the IRA detonated over twenty IEDs on the UK mainland during the 1990s. Some large some small, the sectarian violence in the Province was still happening and firefights with British soldiers where common along with assassinations of political and religious figures. Prominent figures in the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) where often targeted as well as judicial members.

How cool the 90s where depends on where you live and what scene you where in. My 90s was cool, I miss those years really.

In the end, assessments on decades are colored by personal experiences and the biggest events that took place during that decade. It's easy to say, for example, that "the 60s were about revolution" but in reality that was mostly just the late 60s, the early 60s looked a hell of a lot more like the 50s. But the 50s had some pretty pivotal civil rights battles that would culminate in the mid 60s... and the assessment on the 90s is just relating the US, as others pointed out, there was a whole lot of countries going through periods of instability and in some cases turmoil during the 90s, east Europe trying to restructure, western Europe trying to deal with economic unity post-cold war, Africa starting to come apart and things like Rwanda and the Ethiopian famine, Japan going through a depression, China going through a rethinking of what it's all about...

I went to middle and high school in the early-to-mid 00s, and even though a whole lot of crap happened during that time, it seemed just like a hollow time full of fear, not much in terms of cultural advancement. It sucked for me, even though the economy was doing okay. The 90s was a real high time for me, not just in terms of a golden age of kid's entertainment between video games, TV shows, and movies, but also because I had as many friends as you could ask for. Maybe the TV shows were better in the 80s, but you can't really argue that video games reached a golden age point, and the Disney renaissance would make an impact on movies for quite some time.

So when I hear it being called hollow or disoriented or lacking definition, it doesn't ring true to me, to me it seemed like it not only laid foundation for future technology and culture, but also did it well, at least where a kid might be standing. I might have a different perspective when I'm 80, but to me, the 90s were about hope and good times, the 00s were about fear, with everyone telling everyone else to be afraid, whether it being about sand people or the recession. So maybe the 90s sucked to a guy who went through the hellish gauntlet of high school during that time, but to me it could have very well been the best decade I can say I lived through the entirety of, which to be fair has only been 2 so far.

For me a person born in 85, the 90ties are Korn, Ultima Online, and Human Traffic(I still love it). Altough 2000 was THE year, Limp Bizkit, Linking Park(first 2 albums did not suck), the start of my clubbing adventure, hell yeah.

As I was a kid at the time, I can definatly vouch for growing up in the 90's. The cartoons were sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, but being an adult/young adult, yeah, I can see how that decade lacks any identity.

Also, fuck the Animaniacs, I found them obnoxious even as a kid... I didn't mind Minerva Mink though... I suppose I was a perv even back then.

I was born in 1991.
This means at least one good thing came out of that decade!!

I wouldn't list Power Rangers among the list of awesome stuff from the 90's personally, unless you're also going to list He-Man in terms of awesome stuff from the 80's... Also, how come you didn't mention anything about the Disney Renaissance?

But, whatever. I was born in 1988, so I grew up in the 90's. Anything that happened between 1990 and the early 2000s are ultra-nostalgic to me, though I'll admit, there were quite a few bad/lame things in the 90's. Not to mention, anything trying to be "cool" in the 90's ends up instantly dating itself and looking ultra-ridiculous today.

Wait, wait, wait... Bob used BLACKFACES on this show? How did I not notice that?

The 90 had some really cool music, it´s always fun to listen to 80s bands changing their style during the 90s until their 00s comeback. It resulted in some pretty interesting stuff.

Adding to Bobs ideas of Harking back to the past the defining force of "Grunge" never really existed.

There were a series of bands all looking back to their musical icons of the 70s and 80; Nirvana were in love with the Pixies and underground and stripped back blues/punk. Pearl Jam were always in love with The Who and Neil Young. Soundgarden were obviously in love with the 70s hard-rock of Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. Alice in Chains were more of an evolved 80s metal act etc etc. Most of 90s rock music was about getting back to a more 'authentic' sound of the past o building upon the the 60s and 70s like the 80s never happened.

These big bands all had very different identities and sounds that i wouldn't really call a genre outside of "Alternative rock".

I was ages 6-16 during the 90's. Here's the word you can use to describe them:


The 90s was when that "information super highway" thing started and super "hackers" started appearing in Hollywood, like this gem: (Hackers from 1995)

EDIT: more hacker movies from the 90s:

The Net
Lawnmower man (more virtual reality, but still "invading" computers)
Pirates of the Silicon Valley (though this is more of programming than hacking)
The Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires

I'm psyched to see a mention of Francis Fukuyama in such a non-scholarly cultural context. I'm generally assuming that these decade characterizations are about what made up American popular culture at the time. My theory - a burgeoning global awareness. Not quite on par with the "end of history" thesis, but generally having Americans exposed to aspects of global culture (and valuing diversity and international teamwork). I have a few examples of this:

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Yes, I know that they got their start in the 1980s, but they really took off in the 1990s. These mutants were poster-boys of globalization not just in their popularity, but also in their composition - a group of mutant turtles that live in New York, USA trained in the art of Japanese stealth fighting and named after Renaissance European Artists. To fully appreciate TMNT, kid had to have a rudimentary grasp on the cultures of 3 continents. If nothing else, these characters were a jumping-off point for kids to explore the rest of the world. A (possibly apocryphal) story that I heard was that English-language dictionaries had to be altered in the 1990s to include the word "ninja" because so many kids were trying to look it up.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago? - Again, the video game originated in the 1980s, but the 1991 - 1995 kids game show is where it became a cultural phenomenon (with its catchy theme song in particular). This emphasized geographical knowledge as important and travel to other countries as easily within reach, no matter how exotic.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers - Clearly bounded between 1990 and 1992, this show had the theme of global environmentalism. A band of five kids from a variety of national backgrounds were brought together to combat ecological menaces each week (and always decided to stupidly split up for most of each episode even though they could only activate their one superpower in unison).

This is just a sample of the kids shows. 1990s Sci-Fi emphasized the value of diversity through Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5. Even comedies like Seinfeld had some of its funniest moments with cross-cultural misadventures (think of the Chinese Restaurant or Soup Nazi episodes).

All of these shows contrasted with the "us or them" mentalities that bookended the 1990s. There were the Cold War fears that had been presented before and the post-9/11 global paranoia after. Battlestar Galactica appeared in the late 70s/ early 1980s and then reappeared in the 2000s, both featuring an apocalyptic war between humans and Cylons. Star Wars movies emphasizing the plucky rebellion versus the evil empire had a similar hiatus. Macho American patriotism saw a lacuna during the 1990s as well (both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone did more comedies during that period or poked fun at their previous exaggerated action personas).

This is just my perspective, though. I don't know if this matches other people's experience. I felt more free to travel internationally during the 1990s than I did in the 1980s or have since 9/11.

So basically, if you were born in the 90's, you didn't notice how mediocre the 90's were. If you were born in the 80's, you dealt with jr. High, High School, first job, first firing from said job, getting booted out mom and dad's to be homeless and or going to college. In your teens, you're suddenly conscious of the fact that the opposite sex could potentially give you sex. You now have to work for things. School isn't just about drawing and gym class...and now instead of a $5 calculator, you need and $85 calculator. You start to notice how much of a dick your mom and dad are (they're really not because you are the dick). etc.

That's why the 90's sucked for me and why the 80's were awesome....

And to the guy that says the 90's had better movies...ha.. Remember Back to the Future, Big trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Revenge of the Nerds, Highlander, The Running Man, They Live, Platoon, The Untouchables, The Terminator (was that the 80's????), Die Hard, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters???? Remember those? And those are just cult classics but they're all better than Fight Club.

People only think of grunge and boy bands when it comes to 90s pop, but there's tons of it that still gets played a ton. At most of the stores I go to, they're playing a mix of 60s pop and 90s pop, with very little in between. Bob brought up Lisa Loeb; I still hear "Stay" on a regular basis.

Lenny Kravitz, Natalie Imbruglia, Goo Goo Dolls... these acts define the 90s just as much as grunge and boy bands.

R.E.M., U2 and Metallica had some hits outside the decade, but the 90s are when they all became megastars, and they all produced music in the 90s that is both radically different than their previous work, and generally well-received by the public.

I would say the 90's were a time of refinement. Taking aspects of previous decades and saying "we could do it better" Whether successful or not is debatable but the effort certainly was there.

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