Over half a year ago, ’90s nostalgia was at a fever pitch. Nickelodeon launched their block of programming from the decade, designed to celebrate the shows my generation held so dear to our hearts. Magazines like Entertainment Weekly posted tributes to different aspects of the era to their websites every week. It was so popular that for the first “It’s K-OK!” ever in October, I wrote about how the ’90s really were “All That.”
With the recent financial failure of “American Pie” sequel “American Reunion” and the underwhelming performance of “Titanic’s” 3-D rerelease, combined with the blockbuster success of ’80s reboot “21 Jump Street,” however, it looks as though ’90s nostalgia is on its way out of pop culture supremacy as other eras fight for the spotlight.
There were stirs of backlash even in the early days of the ’90s renaissance – mostly critics who said that most things in the period were very trite and wouldn’t stand the test of time. While the defenders of the ’90s fiercely fought back, the truth is those critics were probably far more correct than we’d like to admit. The ’90s were, more than any other decade, the one where fads became incredibly popular.
As a ’90s kid, I loved all these things, but I also have personal connections to all those things. Sure, when the A*Teens’ “Upside Down” comes on at a party, I’m the first one to jump up and start the lip sync. But I can’t defend the song as being particularly good – more the “Call Me Maybe” of its day than a “Somebody That I Used to Know,” speaking in 2012 terms. And while *NSYNC’s Justin Timberlake might’ve been fun in his cute, still-dating-Britney sort of way, 2000s Justin gave us “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” a forward-thinking piece of pop art. Then again, he also gave us “Friends with Benefits,” so take it with a grain of salt.
As far as the relative failures of “American Reunion” and “Titanic 3-D” are concerned, both can be explained away in other terms. “American Pie” was controversial and raunchy when it was first released, but hasn’t Judd Apatow single-handedly neutralized the shock factor of that series? And while our hearts might go on for “Titanic,” why would you pay premium 3-D prices for a movie you can see for free on TNT frequently? It would be the equivalent of a “Mean Girls” rerelease: It’s a great movie that paying 2012 prices for just isn’t worth it.
Even with all these signals of ’90s nostalgia’s untimely demise, there are some signs of life that remain. Witness: The revival of boy bands in the form of British groups One Direction and The Wanted. For quite some time, “The X Factor” judge Simon Cowell has been trying to sell the world on the idea that musical groups are on their way back into fashion. Even before that, Diddy was trying to make it happen on “Making the Band.” We miss you, Danity Kane.
Every facet of the ’90s won’t be remembered with equivalent fondness, and so much of what’s interesting is either oversaturated (like “Titanic”) or has been replaced by something even more extreme (like what happened to “American Pie”). But influences and aspects of every decade have formed the current pop culture landscape – and the ’90s are no exception.
So yes, the ’90s may prove themselves to have been a trivial era filled with silly things and collectibles that we’ll never be able to sell. But the influences of the decade are hardly gone. Years in the future, our children and grandchildren will find “Hey Arnold!” on Netflix or dig up our Britney Spears CDs. They will most certainly think the ’90s were weird. And we’ll agree, all the while beaming with pride.