90's facts you might not know

Was the 1990s as unoriginal and meaningless as some think?
January 31, 2013
A lot of people criticize the nineties for various reasons. Whether it is because it doesn’t bring them the nostalgia that their schooldays in the eighties did or because they personally had bad experiences during the decade, people have always found something to criticize the era for. I’m going to address a few things about the 1990s that some people might be surprised to know.

Now before the wrong idea gets across, I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion on any decade. If you read this entire article and you still prefer the 1980s or whichever era to the 1990s, that’s not an issue. You’re entitled to an opinion. However, I do believe a lot of people misunderstand the nineties and what it represented, especially the second half.

1. Music

A simple search on Google and you can find forums that bring up comments such as “From mid-90s to today, there has been/still is an utter lack of originality and quality in music.” That particular comment was made in 2004. I won’t draw a conclusion on the year 2000 onwards because it isn’t relevant to this topic and I won’t draw conclusion of the so-called quality of nineties music, because that is purely opinion and taste. What can be said however is that there were definitely artists that were able to create their own music or even a new genre in the 1990s. Even if it meant an obvious spin-off of a previous popular style such as post-grunge was to grunge around the middle of the decade. In addition, the charts in the nineties were very diverse. There were teenagers such as Britney Spears and there were middle-aged performers such as Tina Turner. There were Seattle Sound grunge bands such as Nirvana and at the same time R&B singers such as Janet Jackson. You might think that such diversity is something you could say about the charts in other decades too, but the nineties is likely the most diverse of all. So regardless of someone’s likes or dislikes, the decade caters for a very wide range of potential music tastes – arguably to a greater extent than other times.

Here’s another typical comment “And don't get me started about Henson”. Firstly, it’s Hanson not Henson. Secondly, the idea that Hanson was just some random brothers given a bunch of meaningless lyrics to sing so that they could make a quick buck from a shallow pop song is simply inaccurate. In fact, I wonder how many of the people who disregard Hanson even know the lyrics to MMMBop (besides maybe the chorus). The song is about how you can have many relationships in your lifetime, but so few left at the end. It teaches to hold on to the ones who really matter or to potentially lose friendships if you don’t maintain them. If you beg to differ with me go right ahead, but I think there’s a good moral message there. Better yet, those lyrics were written by the Hanson brothers. That’s right. They didn’t just have someone write it out for them, they actually wrote the lyrics themselves – which is more than what many performers can say about the lyrics of the songs they sing. Maybe people can’t stand their high-pitched voices (which I actually like for this song) but it doesn’t change the effort and meaning behind what this group did. This is also not an isolated case. I could give more such cases, but I’ll keep things in moderation and only use MMMBop by Hanson as a prime example.
2. Movies

Some believe things along the lines of “the 90s gave us lame disaster films over and over and over again” and even often challenge the fact that the offerings were being praised by reviewers-“some people of those times just did not care at all.” At least from my observation and experience however, 10 Things I Hate About You tends to be a popular choice for English teachers of differing ages for school movie studies and ABC Family made a television series based on the film a few years back. The series was short-lived but it does show that at the very least, the film has left somewhat of a legacy no matter what opinion you have of it. In addition, while the film borrowed some content from older periods, it did give those unoriginal elements a modern twist – so I believe it’s still fair to say that it holds its own as a release. For what it’s worth, it is far from being my favorite film but I give it credit for what it stands for. Once again, I could give names of other movies and discuss what they bring to the table, but I'll just use this one as a good example.

3. Franchises

The 1990s introduced a fair number of franchises, for example Pokémon but one mainstream media source had this to say. “Embarrassing hobby used ‘Embarrassing’. It was super effective.” Maybe for some it was embarrassing but I will take this opportunity to debunk the common myth that Pokémon was merely a bunch of Pocket Monsters that just said their name. The anime (the original series at least) and the games both teach moral messages such as to put in the commitment required to achieve success. A complex elemental equivalent of rock, paper, scissors also teaches strengths and weaknesses of certain types of elements. For example, that fire can thaw ice. I believe it is no accident that as recently as 2011, two new Pokémon games became the fastest Nintendo DS titles to sell five million copies. The concept can not only be addicting, but educational too both on an academic and moral level. Pokémon has become a nineties-origin franchise that left a mark on the noughties and now tennies decades.

Maybe this article achieves something. Maybe it achieves virtually nothing. Either way, I’ve addressed a few aspects of the nineties in terms of their originality, meaningfulness and perceived quality. Hopefully, this brings an extra light on how the nineties are regarded as an era and the legacy it has already left to the first two decades of the twenty-first century and probably decades to come. Ultimately, I just hope the nineties are known before they are judged.
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