Rebecca Schuman | Longreads | December 2018 | 11 minutes (2,795 words)
The ’90s Are Old is a Longreads series by Rebecca Schuman, wherein she unpacks the cultural legacy of a decade that refuses to age gracefully.
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The 1990s did not end on January 1, 2000. The monumental anti-climax of Y2K — a computer “bug” that was supposed to screech our Earth to a Scooby-Doo foot-cloud halt, but instead did bupkis — was a truly apt expression of the preceding decade. But even discounting Y2K, I’ve got some serious issues with the alleged “turn of the actual millennium” as the endpoint of the most intentionally underwhelming decade of the 20th century. And not just because 2000 (zero-zero) is so obvious and overplayed — though there is, of course, that.
The actual termination point of the ‘90s required an attitudinal shift that would decentralize the role of Generation X as the admittedly-petulant target of all culture and advertising — the thawing of the winter of the bong-ripping couch-slacker’s discontent; the disappearance of gin and juice from house-party bars; the centering of the hot tub on The Real World; the sobering realization that both men and women were from Earth and just sucked; the demise, for that matter, of Suck itself.
In point of incontrovertible fact, the 1990s would not end in the United States until the aughts’ resurgence of aggressive consumerism and even more aggressive vacuity came to dominate all aspects of sociopolitical and popular culture. So the only question is: When was that? There are more potential answers than squiggles on a Fido Dido sweatshirt.
Was it in 2001, when the original Fast and the Furious premiered? 1996, when Blur released that WOO-hoo song? Was it 2010 — you heard me, two thousand and ten — when enough grandparents had shuffled off the mortal coil to make the primary avenue of written news consumption digital rather than paper?
I have spent an unnecessarily and perhaps questionably extensive amount of time researching in this subfield, and I present my findings to you now in a perplexing new format (I believe it is called a “list-cicle”?) that is apparently the only thing young people are able to read.