It’s easy to look back on a decade that seems so distant, so long gone. But when you look back on ’90s pop culture, there’s a lot about it that rings true today. For instance, we’re still subsisting on a fairly strict diet of celebrity culture and sarcasm. The economy remains in the toilet. And young people are the most influential, especially when it comes to the consumer dollar.
Maybe that’s why lately we haven’t been able to resist reflecting on, and often reappraising, the ’90s. Because some of us have a natural curiosity to understand what led to where we are today. And some take a more critical eye, interrogating why the ’90s went down the way it did — from the casual racism and homophobia that turned into tropes on TV and in films and magazines, to the entertainers and other public figures who tried, and sometimes failed, to respond to it.
For those of us who experienced the ’90s, we have to hold multiple truths at once. We have an affection for the decade because it’s our lived past. It’s a reminder of the bold-faced names that made us smile, the pair of flared jeans we saved all summer for, our favorite TV show or song that we still can’t get out of our heads.
We also have to come to terms with how we helped perpetuate or were complicit in some of the ugliness and exclusion throughout the era. Like how we allowed problematic brands to thrive or undervalued and destroyed people in equal measure. We turned a blind eye as the toxicity in real life was mirrored on screen and everything else that has had a resounding effect on who we ultimately became.
Because this was the ’90s — the good, the bad and the shit we’re still trying to process.
Here are the first stories in the series: