I fucking loved the 90s. Obviously, when I say “I fucking loved the 90s,” what I mean is “I fucking loved being young, independent and free of major responsibilities, a state of affairs that occurred for me over a space of time that roughly coincided with the 1990s.” But that’s more of a mouthful.
Judgement Day itself was set to occur in 1997
But love the 90s I did, and with that love comes a love of everything associated with the 90s. I love 90s music – a quick census of my iPod reveals the following breakdown:
I love movies from the 90s, TV shows from the 90s – to some extent I even love fashion from the 90s. (The day coloured jeans come back I will wear nothing but. Current trends are mocking me by splashing 90s colours on the worst excesses of 10s hipster stylings – hooray for burgundy, but on 3/4 length chinos with rolled up fucking cuffs? If those pants had kidneys I would kidney punch them.) And that’s my understandably, justifiably biased opinion – a bias that makes it hard to decide if the 90s really were objectively awesome. I recently saw an image that sums up this dilemma perfectly:
(I’d give proper credit to that image’s creator, but the Internet.)
Certainly, the stats look good – the economy was doing well, for instance, and crime plateaued in the early 90s and has been trending downward ever since. It’s interesting to note how movies in the late 80s and early 90s assumed that by the late 90s society would have completely turned to shit – Escape from New York portrayed 1997 as a lawless wasteland, Predator 2 wasn’t a lot more generous in its depiction of the same year, and the opening scenes of Demolition Man showed 1996 Los Angeles in flames as unstoppable gang lords ran amok. Hell, according to the Terminator franchise, Judgement Day itself was set to occur in 1997. Instead, things went the other way, to the point that in The Matrix a facsimile of the late 90s is referred to as the peak of human civilisation.
It’s understandable that those earlier movies could have got it wrong – society did appear to be heading rapidly downhill throughout the 80s. Not only was crime on the rise, so was selfishness, apathy and the “greed is good” mentality*. In Reagan and Thatcher, we appeared to have raving lunatics in charge of two of the most powerful countries in the world. (I seriously don’t get the current lionisation of Reagan in right-wing circles – I may not have been old enough to pay serious attention to politics during his time in office, but even I knew the guy was a walking punchline.) Speaking of walking punchlines: 80s fashion. Fuck me.
This fits with my theory that decades, much like Star Trek movies, have been alternating between awesome and shit for a while now. After the 90s came the clusterfuck of the 2000s – 9/11, wars, global financial crises; before the 90s we get the rubbish 80s, preceded by the funk, style and “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the 70s. OK, the 60s were better than the 50s from what I can gather, but we can probably write off the entire first half of the 20th century as a disaster zone of war, depression, more war and its after-effects.
Assuming that there is a trend here (and it seems fairly clear – the only alternative would be the preposterous notion that this is all the product of one man’s gross over-generalisations and ingrained generational prejudice), I’m optimistic that the 2010s will turn out to be another good decade. If I’m wrong, we’ll all have died in at the hands of globally-warmed killer robot gangbangers anyway, so I’ll just claim the win now.
*Best summed up in The Simpsons by Reverend Lovejoy’s description of his attitudes towards his flock: “Finally, I just stopped caring. Luckily, by then it was the 80s, and no one noticed.”