Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: The ‘90s really were all that – Los Angeles Loyolan.
There is a Nintendo 64 system sitting below your TV. Said TV is playing an episode of “Hey Arnold!” And you’re left wondering just why they don’t make pop culture like they used to.
You are in the middle of what I like to call a nostalgia trip. This one is a favorite among college students today: a remembrance of the ’90s. Please keep all hands, arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
It’s unclear what exactly caused it – the new decade, perhaps, or the general quarter-life crisis that comes about in college – but this year has been overdosing on ’90s nostalgia.
It all started when Nickelodeon launched its brand new late-night lineup, titled “The ‘90s Are All That,” featuring shows like “Clarissa Explains It All,” “The Amanda Show,” “Doug” and, yes, “All That” every night from midnight to 2 a.m. on its sister channel TeenNick. Nickelodeon explained that major support for the shows on social networking sites like Facebook led to the development of the new programming block that immediately provided a 47 percent boost in viewers after its debut.
College students were reportedly the driving force behind the new programming block, and walking around LMU’s campus, it’s not difficult to see why. Conversations about how much better Nickelodeon’s and Disney Channel’s programming was in the ’90s are plentiful. Several dorm rooms house fervent gamers who, in addition to their “BioShock” games, will indulge in a little “Super Mario 64” to relive the past. Student Netflix queues are filled to the brim with episodes of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” Even during the production of this article, a 10-minute conversation about “Pokémon” broke out, with most participants admitting to keeping binders full of the trading cards inspired by the original pocket monsters.
What is it about the ’90s that holds such significance for this generation? Is it just the simple fact that it was our childhood? Or was there something about the period that simply makes it superior?
While the sheer number of collectibles from the ’90s, from said Pokémon cards to the seemingly infinite number of Beanie Babies, may never be explicable (or worth anything at all, so feel free to rip those tags off), some of the music and TV shows really were at a higher standard than those of today.
Where would our generation be without boy bands and girl groups? *NSYNC gave us Justin Timberlake and the addicting “Bye, Bye, Bye.” Destiny’s Child gave us Beyoncé and the kiss-off jam “Bills, Bills, Bills.” (There was a lot of repetition in the ’90s.) And where would we be without the innovator of modern dance-pop, Britney Spears, who first asked us to hit her just one more time in the ’90s? In fact, you can chalk at least four major pop culture icons of our generation to the ’90s version of the Mickey Mouse Club – Ryan Gosling would never have blown us away in “Drive” without that exposure! Sure, these songs were cheesy, but that’s what made them so great!
Before Disney found a strict model for all of its Disney Channel shows to follow (see: “Hannah Montana,” “Sonny with a Chance,” “Good Luck Charlie”), the network created shows with greater heart than any network sitcom. “Lizzie McGuire” made you want your own animated alter ego. “Even Stevens” made having annoying siblings seem fun, and of course, the Nickelodeon shows were what really solidified the ’90s as a golden age. “The ’90s Are All That” could run for years off the brilliance cultivated in that time period. They had game shows (“GUTS,” “Legends of the Hidden Temple”), sketch comedies (“All That,” “Amanda”), brilliant animated sitcoms (“Rugrats,” “Rocko’s Modern Life”) and the horror masterpiece that is “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” There was a diversity of programming not seen before or since, and it’s there that really shows exactly why TV was superior in the ’90s.
The ’90s were the last time the world considered kids more than one homogenous group with exactly the same tastes. If you didn’t like one kind of program, you could easily find another. These days, all Nick and Disney series fit the same model – all far too generic, not really capturing the spirit of yesteryear. That spirit is something our generation can claim that the current generation cannot.
Yes, maybe the music was cheesy. Maybe we put the TV shows on a pedestal they don’t deserve, and maybe we won’t ever get any good bids on eBay for our massive collections of Beanie Babies. But these things had heart, and we can hold those memories in our hearts forever.