‘90s revival rejuvenates nostalgia

Between remakes of landmark ‘90s TV shows and band reunions, the last decade may be the new ‘80s. Turn on your TV this coming fall and you’ll be in for a surprise, kind of. Melrose

Between remakes of landmark ‘90s TV shows and band reunions, the last decade may be the new ‘80s.

Turn on your TV this coming fall and you’ll be in for a surprise, kind of. Steve-Ciccarelli

Melrose Place and 90210 are on the schedule, but not on TV Land. Only a decade after their first runs came to an end, these two ‘90s cultural touchstones are being remade.

If you went to any amphitheater concert this summer, you probably saw the ads for the hottest rock tour of the year, Blink-182. Go to a bar, and you’ll almost certainly hear someone request some MC Hammer.

No, we’re not living in the 1990s, but it seems like that’s the decade everyone wants to be in. 

DVD racks at Best Buy are filled with the best of 1990s’ television and film. Movies from the ‘90s are the new ‘80s movies.

After the recent passing of John Hughes, I got to thinking about who during the ‘90s was making movies comparable to those of John Hughes’ Brat Pack classics, but I couldn’t think of one director. Thanks to the rise of indie movies like Pulp Fiction, Slacker and Clerks, the ‘90s represented a riskier time for film, while typical ‘90s classics like Clueless, Happy Gilmore and Can’t Hardly Wait became the new norm.

 The reason for this is clear and almost stunningly obvious. The kids that were 15 years old when Toy Story came out are now the new guard of popular media and by that effect pop culture. 

All of these remakes and re-releases bring up a good question: Are we out of ideas or was the decade really that stunningly great? For a long time, the idea that there were just 12 notes in music was difficult for me to wrap my head around. How could the Beatles and Radiohead both be using the same 12 notes?

It’s all about context. “Melrose Place” was a touchstone because it was a show about excess and drama, the kinds of excess and drama that viewers wanted in their own lives during the ‘90s.

 We’re at a point in time when pop culture seems to be rapidly accelerating. The ‘80s got popular again in the mid-2000s, and the ‘70s were popular again in the ‘90s, but as we move forward culturally and technologically, we’re able to look back quicker. It’s been said the cycle of nostalgia is 20 years, yet VH1 premiered I Love The ‘90s in 2004.

Things are speeding up, so we look to the past to slow things down.

 This isn’t just a college-age phenomenon, but as members of Generation Y, we were the first to have been so influenced by media.

We look back at things like Nickelodeon, pop music and video games as ways to connect with others. With so many subcultures taking over youth, the only time that we were all together seemed to be in our adolescence. Two early 20-somethings might not both watch Lost or listen to indie-rock, but they both remember Rocko’s Modern Life and City Guys (OK, I may be the only one with an affinity for this show).

The past is comforting, especially in this time of uncertainty. The country’s economy is unstable, we’re in a war overseas, and swine flu is out to get us.

What’s not uncertain, though, is nostalgia. Entertainment is supposed to comfort us and make us feel better, and for this generation, nothing works more quickly or efficiently than the things we consumed as children.

Bust out the Pop Rocks, dust off the VCR, grab a Slurpee and sit on your bedroom floor with “Mambo Number 5” blasting in the background. Trust me, it helps.

Steve Ciccarelli can be reached at steve.ciccarelli@temple.edu.


  1. The Internet (please capitalize the “I” like we always did in the ’90s and is still a guideline by Chicago Manual Of Style!) still lacking in good quality ’90s nostalgia sites besides the one I listed. YouTube is loaded with shows, movies, and songs from the ’90s on there. But, I’m holding off until 2010 because that will officially mean 20 years ago will mean the ’90s (I remember reading an old article from January 1990 how 20 years ago were the ’70s, and ’70s nostalgia slowly began to take off).

    I prefer 1990-94 over 1995-99. The economy may have not been quite as good in the first half of the ’90s, but it was before the Internet was mainstream, having a “touch-tone phone” was still cool, and Cassettes were still sold in stores. Plus, the music and TV shows were better in the first half of the decade. Mariah Carey however is still here and never really left.

  2. I feel you because I prefer the first half of the 90s myself because that’s when I was in high school. I graduated in mid 1995. I prefer 1990-mid 1995. I’m 33 years old, and I notice that those who were born in 1974-1978 are most likely going to miss the first half of the 90s than someone who was born in 1979-1983. I’m going through an early 90s nostalgia right now.

  3. “Clerks” is definitely one of those touchstones of the ’90s for me when it comes to 1990s Nostalgia. I remember exactly where I was, and who I was with, when I saw it for the first time. Kevin Smith did a perfect job of capturing the music, fashion and ‘slacker’ vibe of the early-mid ’90s.

  4. I agree with Nicole Little. I was born between 1979 and 1983 and I prefer the mid to late 90s, although I still get nostalgic about the early 90s, as well.

    From what I remember about Mariah Carey, however, her musical style changed considerably between the 90s and today. It’s almost like two different people.

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