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What Happens When Gen-Z Tries To Analyse the ’90s

It’s truly difficult to accurately describe an era you didn’t live in.

I was born in 1979, making me a child during the 1980s and spending my formative years in the 1990s. Everyone gets nostalgic and believes that things were way better back in the day, but if you want to see the rainbow you’ve got to put up with the rain. When it comes to music for example, for every Nirvana, Kyuss, Ween or Mr. Bungle we had back then there was also Snow, Rednex, Ace of Base and Right Said Fred. No era is perfect, but today I was reading the November issue of Singapore’s Juice, a throwback issue focussing on the ’90s, and I came across this on the final page, an article pointing out the worst aspects of the decade:


Don’t worry if you can’t read it, I’ll be breaking it down piece by piece.

When you read the article it seems like it was written by someone who may have barely even developed basic cognitive and motor skills toward the very end of the decade he is referring to. Hey, I was alive when Ronald Reagan was shot, but I doubt I would be qualified to write a first-hand account of his attempted-assassination’s cultural and political influence, given the fact that I was only 18 months old at the time.
To be honest, the author of this piece has a Western name, Trent Davis. If he were Singaporean then writing this would be too easy, because nobody here is in a position to call out anyone else on bad music, fashion, hair, dialogue or a culture of catering to the masses. Those aspects here and now are terrible. Instead, this reads like it was written by some little hipster piece of shit and those guys are the absolute bane of my existence.
Hindsight is never 20-20, but most people my age would agree that this is an absolutely terrible time in human history, especially from a cultural point of view. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely things that I love and have embraced from our present era, but even a blind pig can occasionally stumble upon a truffle in a field of excrement. The average millennial is so thin-skinned that you almost need to carry them around in a bucket, so let’s analyse each section of this article and see how it compares to the cultural black-hole we currently live in. These twenty-somethings are going to beg to be locked in their little safe-spaces with their emotional-support pets when I’m finished!

Let’s begin with the introduction:

I think using adjectives like “over-the-top”, “overloaded”,”colourful” and “confusing” to compare the 1990s to the teenies is a little contradictory and while some of those terms describe small segments and subcultures during the decade, they certainly can’t conclusively sum up the entire ten-year period.

  • Any generation that produces Lady Gaga, Nikki Minaj and the Kardashians doesn’t really have the right to describe another as “over-the-top”.
  • “Overloaded”? One word: Sharknado.
  • As for “colourful”, then yes, we had bands like Color Me Badd and there were periods where people wore hypercolour t-shirts and Cross Color jeans, but we had a ton of goths who only wore black, grunge fashion was plain as hell and let’s not forget that Schindler’s ListClerksPiPleasantvilleEd Wood and Dead Man were among some of the most popular films to come from that decade and they were predominately shot in black and white! Let me also point out that a lot of video games today, as well as some TV shows and movies, have seizure warnings now due to flashing lights and colours.
  • When it comes to “confusing”, it would only seem that way if you weren’t there at the time, because in hindsight, life was basic as hell when compared to now. A good example is that most professional athletes back then would spend the bulk, if not all, of their career with the same team instead of changing every other season, making it so much easier  for the casual fan, rather than the need to be absolutely fanatical to keep up to date of who plays where. Also, “other” wasn’t an option when selecting your gender on an application form and don’t get me started on Apple products and their constant need for updates and upgrades now.

Now I’m going to take a look through the topics one by one, see how accurate the writer really was and do a nice little comparison to today:

This one is so simple I almost feel bad. Almost. The author makes an excellent point about slang not aging particularly well, but trying to listen to a millennial speak can almost make you physically violent. Whether it’s due to laziness, illiteracy, dyslexia or all of the above, a lot of people today sound like they are having a stroke when they talk! Speaking in acronyms such as “YOLO” is just plain annoying. Saying “OMG!” requires the exact same amount of syllables as enunciating the actual words and saying “LOL” instead of laughing is just a blatant lie. I understand when you’re on Twitter and have limited characters, but it’s a little insulting when you are speaking to someone and can’t be bothered saying the words. Purposely mispronouncing words in the way they are commonly misspelt, ie. “bae” and “yas” are surefire ways to make yourself sound completely undereducated and incompetent and ironically, my spellcheck didn’t even pick up on “bae”, apparently it’s a real word now, yet it called me out on “teenies” earlier. Phrases such as “I can’t even…” give the impression that you’re terrible at expressing yourself, but not due to exasperation, merely from sheer idiocy. But those are just the tip of the iceberg; Imagine an article being published in 2036 by someone who currently hasn’t seen light of day calling out people now for using words such as “fleek”, saying “literally” when you actually mean figuratively, or phrases like “totes amazeballs!” So many feels, amirite?

I commend the writer for mentioning One Direction and there are still quite a few other terrible boy bands floating around, especially with the world embracing k-pop. However, mercifully it seems the boy band era is essentially over, but it has been replaced by the terrible-solo-artist-without-a-single-discernible-talent era. These “musicians” are so bad they can’t even sing or play an instrument! As long as you have the look or were once in a reality show, any imperfections can be fixed up with autotune in post-production. Whether they are shitty pop stars or wannabe gangstas, the sheer amount of mediocrity seems almost infinite. In fact, I think I’ll make a list of my own — Justin Bieber, Riff Raff, Flo Rida, Psy, Asher Roth, Jason Mraz, Cody Simpson, Wiz Khalifa, Li’l Wayne, Dierks Bentley, Kid Cudi, Chris Brown, Tyga, Drake, Trinidad James, David Guetta, Big Sean, Will.I.Am, Sean Kingston, Buck 22, Future, Brad Paisley, Li’l Jon, Soulja Boy, Waka Flocka Flame, Skrillex, Mike Posner, Bruno Mars, Jason Derulo, Trey Songz, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Mystic, Rae Sremmurd, Young Thug, Andy Grammer… and that’s just the guys!

Just like language, fashion is constantly evolving and we will always cringe when we reflect on what we used to wear back in the day. Grunge came about as a lack of funds, but it’s nice to see K-Mart purposely join in at last. We all know that hip-hop fashion was awful, as was whatever the hell Blossom was wearing, but the ’90s were one of the last decades to still have true fashion icons. Hell, even I can name some and all I ever wear is a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. When it comes to fashion, who will go down in history from this current generation? Lady Gaga? Possibly, but more due to absurdity than style. But if you want to focus on faux pas then I’m sure there are more than enough now that a lot of millennials will most likely look back on and want to forget. There are the obvious ones like super-skinny jeans and ironic pedo-staches, but then there are the looks people have assumed to give a completely false impression of themselves to others. Why pop your collar and wear glasses without lenses when you can just read a book if you want to look intelligent or geeky? And even if you wear a flannel shirt, suspenders, have a big beard and a man-bun, nobody is going to buy that ‘outdoorsman’ persona you so yearn for when you live in an inner-city studio apartment, but why would you want to give off that vibe anyway? It’s just cattle and creepy uncles in the country. Oh, and to anyone who has one, septum piercings are just hideous.

Hair in both the ’90s and now has had so many bad looks that it deserved its own section. There’s no denying that there were some tremendously awful hairstyles 20 years ago. Most guys wanted long hair or dreadlocks, but your hair would just stop growing for a while when it reached a certain length, rendering it too short to tie up but long enough to be annoying. There was a whole generation of dudes with hair similar to Liza Minnelli’s as a result. I was no exception, I had an undercut with a centre parting and each time I had it cut I resembled a giant, caucasian Kim Jong-un! The frosted tips came about after people eventually got the dreadlocks they always wanted, realised that they smelled so bad that they were never going to get laid and eventually shaved their collective heads and went for a different look, but for an unknown reason some people still rock it today. Other bad looks around these days are guys and girls shaving one side out of their head, a la Miley Cyrus and Skrillex. I’ve already mentioned man-buns even though one of my favourite basketball players, Joakim Noah, has one, and emo fringes just look stupid too.

img_1027Discovering New Music
This guy can’t really be serious, can he? First, let’s do a little fact checking; By mentioning The Proclaimers, the epitome of a one-hit-wonder, the writer is clearly referring to the song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), a single released in August 1988. The USA and Canada missed the boat on that one and it didn’t chart there until it appeared in the film Benny and Joon five years later. This is like being told that Elton John’s Candle in the Wind was only released as a single in 1997, when in reality it was released as a single worldwide except in the US, who opted instead for Benny and the Jets, in 1974. Princess Diana died in 1997, Elton decided to change a few words and make the song about her, as opposed to Marilyn Monroe, and cash in by releasing it again. Doesn’t change the fact that it came out 23 years prior.
But back to the matter at hand –Advertising. You can’t really complain about generations past not utilising a medium that didn’t even really exist at the time. That’s why I heard about Frank Zappa’s death in 1993 on TV as opposed to Twitter (although I don’t even have a Twitter account now, so it wouldn’t matter anyway), however, there are a few points here that are a little messed up or missed entirely. To start with, we currently live in a world where we are absolutely bombarded with advertising, If you look at the top and bottom of this page you’ll probably see some click-bait. The author states that the internet is “how the new generation comes to discover the countless masterpieces created by the likes of Nirvana, Radiohead, Pearl Jam; the list goes on.” Well, oh knowledgable one, thank you for listing three household names, two of which still tour and have released albums in the last three years. When I was growing up I loved Black Flag, Mr. Bungle and Kyuss, none of whom got any airplay and weren’t advertised on what you think was our our sole media platform, television. We were also sans internet so how did I find out about them? The same way Black Sabbath became a platinum-selling band without any charting singles –Reading, word of mouth, community radio and mixtapes. We read reviews and interviews in magazines, artists talking about their influences, that type of thing. We would also tape a bunch of songs we liked onto a cassette and swap them with friends. If all else failed, we started a band of our own and made the music we wanted to hear and you know what? Indie and alternative music were at their popular peak, despite little airplay. As for compilation albums, I think the writer may have got that one the wrong way around; The Pixies were probably put on that compilation CD to introduce people who liked The Proclaimers to something great that they probably wouldn’t normally listen to. Now we just have manufactured pop music saturating everything. If only compilations were around today that put Drake next to Dead Meadow or One Direction next to OM, the general public might have better taste and great music would flourish once again.

img_1028Franchise Video Stores
Saying that “Blockbuster came to town and muscled every independent rental store out of business across entire continents” is the same as saying that there are no cafes anymore because of Starbucks. Yes there are, you just need to look for them, but for a lot of people it’s just easier to go to Starbucks. This is coming from someone who drinks a fair bit of coffee, has never stepped foot in a Starbucks in their life and isn’t a coffee snob. I just think Starbucks are assholes, just like Blockbuster. But what this piece misses out on is the fact that Blockbuster stores were huge so you actually had a better chance of finding those cult B-movies there than you did at the tiny independent stores. Even better, they sold off a lot of extra copies of those very same films ex-rental for a dollar or two a tape so you had the option of actually owning your favourite bad movies. How do you think I got my first VHS copy of Top Secret?  As for late fees, all stores, independent or chain, charged late fees, that’s the basis of the entire concept of renting. Renting videos, as opposed to illegal downloads, is a large reason why we still had a lot of great films in the ’90s, it helped the dollars keep rolling in after films finished their run in the cinemas. But who would want to pay to see endless bad remakes, “reimaginings”, pointless sequels, shitty superhero films or cheap CGI-based pop-culture crap? Yes, there are independent films still being made, but they are even harder to come across now without video stores, Blockbuster included.

How can this person lambaste collecting Beanie Babies, yet justify being a ‘brony‘, male fans of My Little Pony for the uninitiated, in the same poorly-constructed paragraph? Brony weirdness aside, at least Beanie Babies were an actual physical object. I understand that paying thousands of dollars for a mass-produced stuffed toy is not a particularly sound investment, but people who collect things are willing to pay anything for the object of their desire. That’s why as of October 26 there have been 10 deaths and 49 major injuries worldwide attributed to playing Pokémon GO according to the Pokémon GO Death Tracker. For those who live in a bubble or perhaps even have a social life, Pokémon GO is a game where the player uses a mobile device’s GPS capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. That’s right, people are currently putting their health and safety on the line to collect things that don’t actually exist. Paying a grand for a Beanie Baby doesn’t seem quite as stupid anymore.

It’s a valid point, mix-your-own bubblegum wasn’t a particularly bright idea, but describing the diet of ’90s kids as “blatant disregard for human health” seems a little hypocritical. First off, this stuff wasn’t available absolutely everywhere, but you know what is now? Junk food, particularly for breakfast. Twenty five years ago it was really only McDonald’s that served breakfast in most countries. Now breakfast is also available at White Castle, Burger King, Del Taco, Wendy’s, Subway, Taco Bell, Bojangles, Sonic, Jack in the Box, Chick-Fil-A, Whataburger, Dunkin’ Donuts, Carl’s Jr, Tim Horton’s, Roy Rogers, Hardee’s, Taco Bueno and KFC just to name a few. Yes, KFC for breakfast. Now that is blatant disregard for human health.

Overall, this article was a little off the mark, but Trent Davis brought up some good points, the ’90s weren’t all rainbows and unicorns; The first Gulf war was one of many that kicked off, most of your favourite celebrities were junkies and the USA’s massive revival of the death penalty were among many horrible events that occured during that decade. However, when compared to the world we live in today, where people are offended by and scared of the slightest things, where the average person is an egomaniac, a voyeur and a sociopath all at once and we are constantly fed a stream of propaganda and fake news, I’d take a trip 25 years back in time any day.

4 Comments on What Happens When Gen-Z Tries To Analyse the ’90s

  1. Interesting article, the same thought has crossed my mind about numerous articles like this I’ve come across, about both the 80s and the 90s (I’m sure they’ll be ones about the 2000s soon enough). Though, before you go picking on those millennials, it might be worth considering that you’re almost a millennial yourself. Everyone born after 1982, according to the person that coined the term, apparently. Which makes me one. Which just doesn’t feel right, if I’m honest, but there you go!

  2. I see where you’re coming from, but the age-range for what is classified as a millennial is a little too broad in my opinion. According to an article published in July this year, the link for which I will post at the end of this comment, “We put the exact date range of millennials as those who are 18-35 today – basically today’s high school graduates to 35 year olds. That’s a big, big range.​” Now, I know plenty of people who had babies in high school, but including both them and their kids in the same generation is just absurd, especially in an era of such rapid change! And what ever happened to ‘Generation Y?’

    Millenial Age Range

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