By Maya Kosoff
Front of book editor

Like most discussions of the “good old days,” 90s nostalgia is misplaced and, for our generation, kind of stupid.

I do not care how creepy you thought your Furby was. I do not care how many Tamagochis or Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers or Beanie Babies you had or how much you idolized Hanson or the Backstreet Boys. I do not want to hear you wax nostalgic about classic Nickelodeon TV shows. It’s fucking Friday and I want everyone to shut the fuck up about being a 90s kid.

In my sociology class this week, my professor brought up the idea of generational identity. He walked us through Gen X and the Baby Boomers (writer’s note: This could be a really good Beatles cover band name), but he confessed he didn’t know what our generation would be called. A girl across the room eagerly blurted out, “We’re 90s kids!” Fast forward three days and I’m still rolling my damn eyes. What was so good about the 90s that warrants us to label ourselves with the decade in which we were born? Why can’t we be the sexting generation, or the Justin Bieber kids, or the Egomaniacs?

Inevitably, once a week a Facebook friend of mine will post a Buzzfeed article reminding us all about the top 30 things about being a “true 90s kid,” or a rant about how Ke$ha and Lil Wayne suck, and when this particular Facebook friend has kids, they’ll only be allowed to listen to the shining examples of quality music from the good old days…you know, like Sugar Ray and the Barenaked Ladies and Britney Spears. The point is, we are so stuck on over-romanticizing a decade that most of us don’t have an objective and fully-conscious memory of.

When our crotchety grandparents complain about how everything was so good “back in the day,” they remember sock hops and Elvis. But when we look back at our grandparents in the 50s, we can easily discern the shitty parts of that era—there were a bunch of crazy politicians on a commie witchhunt, and we were in the midst of the Cold War, and segregation was still very much a thing. Our parents probably said the same blindly happy shit about when they grew up, but we can reflect on our parents coming of age in the late 70s and into the 80s and see a society dealing with epidemics like AIDS, crack cocaine, and the crushing reality of low-dimension, 8-bit video games.

Every decade has its own crappy social and political situations. The Bill Clinton scandal and impeachment, the Kosovo war, ethnic cleansing, and Princess Di’s death all played major roles the 90s — but we seem to let these things go when we think about that era, slipping on a pair of rose-colored glasses that allow us to focus on how silly dialup internet was and how much we totally miss VHS tapes because they’re, like, practically retro in 2013, despite their utter impracticality and bulkiness.

I also take issue with this claim that certain kinds of 90s music is something to be universally celebrated and put on a musical pedestal. I will agree that there were a bunch of really great artists and bands to come out of the 90s (Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters, Nas, Liz Phair, Radiohead), but the iconic popular artists that serve as the face of 90s music now and forever are not among them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with liking “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, but I’m still bummed that that song is one that, more or less, defines a generation, whereas Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” is relegated to one scene in The Royal Tenenbaums and that’s pretty much it.

We are so blindly nostalgic, grasping for comfort in the collective familiarity of pre-millennial youth, that we can’t even see the realities of the past. We’re always comparing the now with the then. We should be happily focused on living in the present — and leaving the esoteric, quirky stuff of the 90s where it belongs.

  • David Faes

    I really like yr use of the term “wax.” its kinesthetic value fits our experiences well. Whether its sexting, google search, barbies, the war on terror, the ______ crisis/issue, the icon of the monarchical presidency, pearl jam, profiles, newsfeeds, super soakers, pizza hut tie ins, furby, Justin beiber, playdough – it really all does have a wax-like texture.