Can you believe the ’90s were two decades ago? It feels like just yesterday that I was buying True Colors eyeshadow at the mall and listening to Aaliyah CDs on the bus (RIP). The older I get, the more respect I have for the ’90s. Indie rock, grunge and hip-hop ruled the radio, TV was relatively diverse and experimental and “grrrrrl power” was on the rise. Best of all, Donald Trump was naught but a guest character in Home Alone 2. As we talk about gratitude during Thanksgiving season, I took a moment to think of some ’90s mainstays I’m still thankful for today.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy completely redefined femininity for me growing up. She was short and sarcastic, had a mean spinning hook kick and went through an endless string of hot yet tragic boyfriends. She proved to young me that women can be the star of the show while still being vulnerable underdogs who like hanging out in the library after school.
If you wanted to experience literature without actually reading books in the 90’s, you had three options: CliffsNotes, the movie or Wishbone. To me, nothing could beat a classic work reenacted by a very chill Jack Russell Terrier. Thanks to Wishbone, I grew up with a vague understanding of books like The Odyssey, Don Quixote and Pride and Prejudice. When Wishbone wasn’t acting out literature, he was solving math problems with his human friends. We’re all a little bit smarter because of this one special dog.
Classic American Girl Dolls
Before the company’s “Girl of Today” turn, these Barbie alternatives were portals into completely different experiences and eras. Addy’s books taught young me about slavery and Molly’s about WWII. I still credit the American Girl Dolls with opening my eyes up to how big and unfair our world is. The fact that they’re retiring older dolls today is a shame.
While now we have iPad Pros with $100 styluses, in the 90’s we had Microsoft Paint. This simplified graphics software was the reason many creative people today first fell in love the computer-generated art. There was something so subversive feeling about making your my own graphics. The look and feel the program generated is still alive in art today. This year, it was announced that the program is being phased out. RIP old friend.
Beavis and Butt-Head
There are so many different types of 90’s comedies to be grateful for. Fresh Prince. 3rd Rock from the Sun. Seinfeld. But the one that rocked my world the most was Beavis and Butt-Head. There was something about that show that celebrated pure, stupidity in a way that was uniquely cathartic. It also poked fun at the adult world in a larger-than-life way that was just epic and fun. For young me, it was the perfect introduction to the world of adult potty humor in which I still live.
AOL Instant Messenger
I spent countless hours on AIM chatting with my classmates about everything from philosophy to homework to juicy gossip. Sometimes I would have to log off for weeks because of AIM drama, and other times I would have mind-blowing conversations that kept me up past my bedtime. Now it’s being retired and that is truly sad. Goodbye, to the best thing that AOL ever made.
remember when u’d hear the sound of the door closing on AIM signifying someone signing off and u were like “please don’t be ___” & it was
— Liz (@LizWelle) November 6, 2017
We don’t give Ally McBeal enough credit for how original it was. The dancing baby. The non-gendered bathroom. The quirky characters played by current heavyweights Jane Krakowski, Lucy Liu and Portia de Rossi. Most importantly, its “high-powered female lawyer” characters proved to young me that women can be defined by their careers, not just by their relationships with men.
Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album
Not only is Merry Christmas a super solid album in terms of performance and songwriting, but it’s a majorly delightful dose of nostalgia. Every time I put it on, it brings up memories of decorating the tree with my parents, big sisters and shaggy dog Nina. All I want for Christmas is to enjoy this album forever.
In case you’re wondering how the 1995 movie Clueless holds up, I’m here to reassure you that the answer is “very well.” I re-watch this movie every year and marvel at how ahead of its time it was in terms of casting, dialogue, and just ICONIC-ness. When I write pieces featuring quotes from movies, I often find that Clueless‘ script wins out in terms of pure quotability. There’s no doubt that it set the bar for all my favorite movies that came after it, from 10 Things I Hate About You to Mean Girls.
The California Diaries
I was truly #blessed when it came to having a vast selection of YA series to grow up with. But if I had to pick just one that helped nurture a love of pop-literature, it would have to be The California Diaries. The grown-up cousin of The Baby-Sitters Club, it was a selection of diaries that students were assigned to keep in the 8th grade for school. These kids’ lives were complicated and intriguing as they experienced everything from dying parents to anorexia. The series definitely inspired me to keep my own, much more boring diary, but hey, maybe that helped me become a writer today.
The Spice Girls
When you’re a kid, you spend hours on end with your neighbors, who are by proxy your best friends. What sealed that friendship for me and my childhood friends? The Spice Girls, duh! They gave us a way to be ourselves in a group, and to seal that identity through the medium of dance. I was Sporty, FWIW. Because of these musical artists, being a girl in the 90’s was 100% more fun.
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Becky Lang is a writer, creative director and occasional podcaster living in Minneapolis. She also likes to draw dogs and female protagonists.
BY Becky Lang - December 17, 2017
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
MICROSOFT PAINT. Man, I was good at drawing with that. With a mouse, too.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
OH MY GOD THE CALIFORNIA DIARIES. I forgot what they were called or that they were written by Ann Martin but I have always remembered the books themselves. (I just got so excited that I am leaving my first W&D comment!)
Becky Lang, you nailed it! I had such a great time reading this list. It made me feel like a teenager again. We could have talked for hours on AIM FOR SURE. I never read The California Diaries (I live in CA- how?), but I would add Christopher Pike to my 90’s list.
This is one of the best articles I have come across. Keep up the good work.