WHY ARE GEN Z KIDS SO OBSESSED WITH THE 90s?

1990s
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Alicia Silverstone plays Cher Horowitz in a 90s classic, Clueless. “Suddenly, a dark cloud came over me. I got a C in debate?”

1990s. It seems so long ago now that we’re in the year of 2024 of our universe. There were no cell phones (aside from the gigantic ones with the antenna if you were rich enough), kids played outside, no isms, phobias, censorship, cancel culture, online/literature trigger warnings, generally, no giving a shit at all.

1990s AND ONWARD.

We didn’t get the internet until later and it was chock full of slow dial-up speeds, AOL (even if you didn’t pay for the service or need the service, you still downloaded the useless CD-Rom from the mail to get into the chat rooms.), Fat Cat Cafe, You Don’t Know Jack (it’s a CD-Rom game, thank me later), Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and MySpace among others.

NO CENSORSHIP.

2023? Breathe and offend someone. 

The kids these days could never handle Beavis And Butthead, Space Ghost, Ren and Stimpy, MTV or the constant use of outdated terms. We didn’t really care about the environment as much, and if we did–we didn’t shove it down the throats of people who weren’t worth expressing our opinions to.

Free speech didn’t mean death, and once upon a time–we did have assault weapons banned and were fine with it. (This was of course after the Columbine shooting happened, which was such a terrible, tragic event I remember as a child, and it seems like it’s still a deja vu to all of the shootings we still have now.)

EVEN OUR MUSIC WAS SOCIALLY LOUD.

When rappers like Eminem put down women and objectified them in a sexual way and it was socially accepted and even considered a hip hop diss track. But why did listen to it? Because it was a good song at the time and most lyrics just went over our heads as kids.

If it was catchy, we were singing/rapping to it. Case in point? The Bad Touch by Bloodhound Gang.

Just don’t ask. As for all of the cancel culture we deal with now…

Quite frankly, we either ignored said people, or just honestly started a good ole’ brawl. Should you fight your battles with violence? Hell no. But sometimes, it’s just the last resort, in the 1990s-you had to or you would be eaten alive.

IMPROVING THE PAST.

Were there some things we definitely improved on? To an extent, yes. Now compared to then there were a lot of things that needed to be addressed. Such as real life bullying (schools care), the constant use of what we call slurs now, to tease or otherwise call something/someone unfavorable. (Which obviously would never fly today, nor do I think it should.)

WE JUST GENERALLY DIDN’T GIVE A FUCK.

If you protested about things, cool. If you didn’t, that was cool too. Pot really hasn’t changed either, and I still don’t like it or the smell of it. More power to you. The only thing that changed about it is that it’s legal in most places. Teenagers still chain smoked, which as disgusting as it was, it was healthier than all the goddamn vaping.

1990s
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A 1990s mean girl staple.

We didn’t care about trend as much, though they were still there through Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Clueless, Camy Baker’s How To Be Popular book series and Real World just to name a few. We didn’t have TikTok. Enjoyed music when it was on MTV/VH1 etc.

NO CANCEL CULTURE.

If you voted, that was cool. If you didn’t, that was cool too. People weren’t called out for saying something someone else didn’t agree with, they weren’t harassed and bullied because someone didn’t jump immediately for a certain social issue or agree with a television show, etc like on X (formerly Twitter which I no longer user due to toxicity).

Everything that we have online now, was in magazines then. Even Backstage (the popular actor’s audition listing) was in a newspaper at the front of Borders (like your Barnes and Noble, only cheaper and less corporate.)

OUR SOCIAL MEDIA.

While we did have Geocities, Livejournal (a little later), and good ole’ forums (or Harry Potter forums), nothing was as bad as it is now on social media. And as for movies like Mean Girls? The burn book wasn’t an actual thing, at least not where I was. We had diaries and probably the worst that could happen was if someone read it aloud to the class or passed notes about rumors here or there.

In middle school I once was greeted to a sign on my locker that said Happy Birthday Bitch. We were brutal then. And where I grew up, everyone was rich, white and lived off of their parents money.

And me? No. I was middle-class, sometimes even more poor than that, someone of color, and I always worked hard for everything. I was the one who floated job to job doing whatever I could to help out.

THE MUSIC.

We had a very wide variety of music and many of the same bands and song I still listen to (shout out to Third Eye Blind and Blink 182.) We had something called a mix tape, and later on… mix CDs. If you liked someone? You made them a mixtape. It was generally a cassette tape where you recorded songs from either the radio or the television.

Then you would handwrite the order they were in and the name of the song. Sometimes, it wasn’t all by the same bands/artists so you would have to scribble in those too. I had a lot of those, but the majority of my recordings were old episodes of Rugrats I had for car rides. Don’t judge.

Nirvana was also a big part of our culture and their lyrics often consisted of heavy topics such as rage and suicide. If anything, singing about triggering topics or listening to them helped kids get their own fears and frustrations out more than anything. (If you are feeling bottomless like that, always get help and know you are loved, no matter what age you are.)

Which is where our angry Limp Bizkit music and later Linkin Park came from.

 

YOU WERE NOTHING WITHOUT COLLEGE.

I can proudly state I didn’t go to college. Why? Because what I ended up doing as a profession didn’t even require it. I was never good at math, failed it three times in fact–but I excelled at English, History, and when I didn’t fall asleep in science (because I went to The Academy of Arts halftime and got home later), I did decent there too.

NEVER BEEN KISSED INSPIRED US.

Sometimes I watch Legally Blonde, Ten Things I Hate About You, Accepted or 21 Jump Street and think, man, since I can still pass as a teenager, maybe I should try to do college while I still can blend in? But the answer is, I just don’t think I would enjoy it. I hated school. And I know I can’t keep up with those subjects. I applaud anyone who is up to their ears in student debt and kicking academic ass, however. But it was brutal if you didn’t go to college or pick a college.

Most females from my graduating class were majoring in sociology. And these are people that had no business even working around people, never mind with people.

I firmly believe you should be able to do whatever you are passionate about and that parents who force their children to get perfect grades and pick an elite college are just asking for rebellion or a lot of resentment.

The only acceptable occupations in the 90s for kids were lawyers and doctors. Arts and music was frowned upon as a profession. At least if you had those types of parents.

SO, WHY ARE KIDS SO OBSESSED WITH THE 90s?

Honestly, I get excited when I see the clothes and style come back in fashion. I know others cringe. What I thought when I was a kid that we came up with, (smiley faces, Ying and yang symbols, flairs etc), my mother’s generation actually came up with in the 60s and 70s. At the end of the day, we’re always copying someone else or another generation.

But us 90s kids? We get it. Our bucket hats, plaid grunge wear, chunky platform shoes, combat boots, Tripp pants (ugliest things from Hot Topic on the planet.) and mesh shirts are such a hoot to wear. But don’t forget, the culture also goes with it.

So the next time you shame someone for not agreeing with your opinion, not speaking up on a social injustice issues or just plain be an asshole online—remember, others did it before you and lived through it, and we turned out just fine.

And so, no, Gen Z would never survive in the 1990s.

  Editor’s Note: The majority of this article is more adult oriented so you are stepping into a triggering discussion. I never tag my articles for triggers, but I’d like to cover my ass with this one.  

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About the author: Katie Harden is a professionally repped New York-based/bi-coastal musical theater, entertainment journalist, and indie film actress. She is proudly part of the Actor’s Equity Association and frequently interviews colleagues, friends, and celebrities, along with reviewing television and movies. Find her at the bottom of a can of Arizona sweet tea or in the ocean!

Work: AMC, Showtime, HBO, The Emmy’s, The Walking Dead magazine, MGM, Universal, Sony Screen Gems, Fansided, Bloody Disgusting, and more.

INSTAGRAM: @KATIEHARDENOFFICIAL  

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