Despite all of our many medical advances over the decades, there’s now a dangerous new sickness sweeping the land, infecting the brains of people born in the mid and late 1980s. Doctors haven’t named it yet, but we will: It’s called Ninetiesopia, and it’s a condition that limits your ability to see the entirety of the 1990s only through the Vaseline-smeared lens of nostalgia and declare even the most justifiably forgotten aspects of the culture to be so great as worthy of a kingly tribute.
Do you suffer from Ninetiesopia? Ask yourself the following: Have you been on the edge of your seat waiting for the Full House sequel? Did you wait on the line to get into a promotional recreation of Central Perk? Most importantly, are you foaming at the mouth at the chance to buy a VIP ticket (or a ticket at all) to Williamsburg’s 90s Fest, the newly announced festival dragging out Smash Mouth, Tonic and the corpse of Blind Melon for a big payday? Too many people are going to answer “Yes” to one or maybe even all of those questions, and it makes me sad. It makes me sad because I had a hope, maybe a foolish one, that we weren’t going to repeat the mistake our parents made and desperately try to hold on to our youth and pretend that it the era we grew up in was the only cultural era worth preserving.
We’re reaching a tipping point though, one we won’t be able to pull ourselves back from soon if we don’t take a stand today. Especially in a city where our cup already overfloweth with 90s humping, from a Saved By the Bell themed night out at the ballpark to monthly 90s dance parties at the Bell House to monthly 90s sing-alongs AND dance parties at Union Hall, the existence of an entire festival devoted to the 90s seems like just the thing to push us over that precipice of permanently being afflicted with Ninetiesopia. Repeat after me, and repeat it loudly: “Death to the fucking 90s.”
It’s only natural as a whole population gets older that they would look back at how things were when they were younger in a fond manner. Being older and having more life experience can give you a new perspective and appreciation for things that were genuinely groundbreaking, things you might have loved when you were younger but didn’t fully understand, or even for things that were unappreciated in their era. In our mining efforts down into the 90s, we’ve definitely come up with some gold: bringing Pete and Pete some new appreciation, understanding the impact In the Aeroplane Over the Sea had, finding Keenan Thompson a spot on Saturday Night Live. As confirmed by last year’s Simpsons marathon, we also know the last good season of the show was in the 90s.
BUT you can only dig so deep before you hit nothing but worthless rock, and this is where we find ourselves these days. Just look at the website and lineup for the 90s Fest. Fanny packs, pogs, the Windows 95 logo, Smash Mouth. Fucking Smash Mouth! The two biggest things Smash Mouth has done in the last 10 years being pelted with bread and getting bullied by the internet into eating 24 eggs by @fart. Coolio was last seen looking old, sad and tired as he turned “Fantastic Voyage” into an ad for PornHub and Blind Melon’s lead singer died the very 90s death of a heroin overdose.
Smash Mouth, Tonic, pogs. These were blips on a cultural radar, one of which was kept alive by the lucky break of having a cover of another old pop song appear on a Shrek soundtrack. We’re at the point of the nostalgia cycle where a genuine appreciation of the old greatness becomes an ironic shield to distract ourselves from the fact that we’re getting old and a new generation using words we don’t understand is coming up behind us. Do you really love Smash Mouth? Do you really want to be on a boat with holdovers from the third-wave of ska, an event that’s somehow completely different from the 90s Fest? Are you really that fascinated by the prospect of following the continuing adventures of the Tanner family or pretending you went to Bayside High School? Or are you just afraid that you’re getting old and you’re finding yourself holding on to these cultural memories like a charm against aging? How is it that a whole generation that grew up to sneer at Baby Boomers’ disappearance up their own asshole is now doing the exact same thing?
Can you imagine? Force feeding our kids into swallowing myths like that mediocre bootlegging clan the Kennedys are something like American royalty? Not being happy with a radio station unless it plays the same combination of 104 “greatest songs ever” just in a remixed order for every Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day Christmas and New Year’s countdown? Enforcing the kind of stranglehold on culture that allows us to fancy each of us a Forest Gump, and our generational exploits so incredible and awe inspiring that despite having been gone over ad nauseum, they’re also worthy of CNN’s The Sixties AND CNN’s The Seventies?
If you want to avoid this fate, get your Ninetiesopia treated today, because if you don’t, this is how it ends: with you shelling out $200 to see a supergroup made up of the guitarist from Sugar Ray, the bassist from Fastball, the drummer from OMC, TLC’s backup dancers and the literal decayed corpse of Bradley Nowell performing a medley of B-sides from the top selling artists of the 1990s while standing on top of the No Limit tank.
“Remember the 90s?” is now a question so deeply ingrained into the internet, I wonder if the #content industry could even survive without the occasional look back at how 90s child stars grew up to be ugly or attractive, immersions in overrated movies, or the use of the phrase 90s kids will remember (9,840,000 results). It’s a risk we have to take though. If not being yoked to nostalgia means destroying huge chunks of the Western economy, then it’s the kind of purging that the Earth needs.
We don’t have to do this anymore though. We can embrace the present, which has plenty of great movies, music and books to offer. We can embrace the future, secure in the knowledge that while we don’t know what’s coming, neither do young people with tight bodies and hopes and dreams that haven’t been crushed under the tank treads of reality. You can enjoy things like Run the Jewels setting the world on fire at Northside or Brooklyn’s comedy boom happening right now in front of you. Enjoy and celebrate the TV we have now, like Veep and Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black and Bojack Horseman. Especially Bojack Horseman, since it chips away at just how sad a life powered by nothing by vapors from 20 years prior is.
If you’re down in a well of 90s nostalgia so deep that you’ve got a Change.org petition for Netflix to make a sequel to Home Improvement, take heed of the worried looks from your friends. Consider this your rope with which to climb out of the well of the past and join us here in 2015. It isn’t all great, but truth be told, neither is any decade.
Follow Dave for more enthusiasm for the present at @DaveCoion