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Opinion: “Only ’90s Kids Will Get This”

Does this generation of high school  students deserve the chance to be nostalgic for a time that it can hardly remember? The 1990s were, by all accounts, a simpler time than now. With the Cold War officially concluded, the domestic economy in a surplus for the first time in history, and the original run of Saved by […]

Does this generation of high school  students deserve the chance to be nostalgic for a time that it can hardly remember?

The 1990s were, by all accounts, a simpler time than now. With the Cold War officially concluded, the domestic economy in a surplus for the first time in history, and the original run of Saved by the Bell gracing television screens nationwide, the ’90s were a great time to be alive.

But who am I to make this claim?

I was born at the tail end of 1996, meaning I was only four years old come the turn of the century. My memories from the decade come mostly from stitched-together stories that my parents have passed on, and I knew nothing about the the culture, politics, or general goings-on of the world.

Needless to say, four year old me would be a very poor judge of the quality of the decade.

Enter the “’90s Kids” movement: a generation — my generation — that has taken to social media sites in order to proclaim its patriotism for the previous century.

Fueled by the seemingly unlimited energy source of teenage nostalgia, these ’90s-centric Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts, and Tumblr blogs have collectively amassed millions of dedicated followers.

Photographs with the trademark ’90s noisiness, followed by the exclusive caption of “Only ’90s kids will get this” (or something of a similar vein) have made more than regular appearances across the gamut of social media outlets.

Slime Time

A typical “Only ’90s Kids” Picture (courtesy of Buzzfeed)

But what gives someone like me, who only caught the latter quarter of the decade, and can only recall even less than that, the right to reminisce?

Quite to my surprise, CB’s resident ’90s expert Mr. Tony Caselli ‘97 recalls the decade as “somewhat of a pessimistic time.”

“The Eighties were poppy,” he explains, “and the naughts were somewhat defined by a post-9/11 patriotism, which the ’90s didn’t have.”

Mr. Caselli, a self-described “media guy”, explains that this sense of overall cynicism was most obvious in the music and television of the day.

“Even a show like Seinfeld, which we see as happy now, was somewhat dark for the time,” he claims. “There was an unwritten no hugging rule enforced.”

Senfeld

The cast of Seinfeld.

If such an iconic show as Seinfeld could be emblematic of the bleakness of the times, perhaps it is a sign that we’ve been looking at the decade through rose-tinted lenses; that is to say that our view of how things were, and how they actually were, are not always one and the same.

“Nostalgia is all too present in things to make them truly accurate,” Mr. Caselli clarifies.

Which raises the final question for our ’90s expert: Does this generation of high school  students deserve the chance to be nostalgic for a time that it can hardly remember?

“Well, technically no,” Mr. Caselli chuckles. “But I think that everyone has the right to enjoy an idealized version of a time that they didn’t live in.”  

One does not need to be a psychology expert to know that the place, time, age, and circumstances in which each experiences something — in this case, ’90s American culture — play a major role in how we perceive it.

For us students, the last of the “’90s Kids”, our nostalgia has manifested itself in the neon-on-black color palettes, the plethora of cheesy family sitcoms, and the droning whir of the VCR that has come to represent the decade.

But I would argue that these things really aren’t important.

Hypothetically, if high school students in the late ’90s had access to the same social media that we do today, they would just as likely share their love of ’80s cinema. In the ’70s, they would probably identify with the rock music of the ’60s.

When we remember the ’90s, whether it be through spirited costumes, a homecoming dance theme, or even a Tweet, we are never really celebrating the object in question, but the feeling that it stirs within us.

Which begs the final question: What might the children of the future celebrate about today?

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