5 ‘90s Icons Who Have Not Had a Great Year

2023 wasn’t the best year for some celebs we first met three decades ago.
5 ‘90s Icons Who Have Not Had a Great Year

The scrunchie and Urkel-filled days of the 1990s may feel like quite a long time ago, but a number of the decade’s most prominent celebrities are still kicking around in the year 2023. Some are doing better than ever; Macaulay Culkin just received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Beyoncé is still Beyoncé-ing, and not one, but two people from Encino Man won Oscars this year.

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On the other hand, a number of familiar ’90s stars have had a decidedly less awesome year, like how…

Several ‘That ‘70s Show’ Cast Members Revealed Their True Colors

2023 wasn’t a banner year for the cast of That ’70s Show, the beloved sitcom that tricked ’90s teens into absorbing countless hours of boomer nostalgia. Back in January, we got the much-hyped reboot That ’90s Show, which featured appearances from most of the original characters, minus Danny Masterson’s Hyde, due to the fact that Masterson was on trial for sexual assault at the time.

Masterson’s horrific awfulness has been public knowledge for a while now, but in September, we learned that his former co-stars, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, penned letters of support, “emphasizing his good character.” Quick reminder: Masterson was accused of raping three women, one of whom was allegedly held at gunpoint. Kutcher assured the judge that he did not believe that Masterson “is an ongoing harm to society,” which would be more assuring coming from an actual expert, not the star of The Butterfly Effect. 

After the ensuing public backlash, Kutcher and Kunis released a pseudo-apology apology video that affirmed their support for victims in general while somehow never acknowledging any of Masterson’s actual victims. But, hey, they dressed like they just went for a sad jog and were surrounded by somber wood paneling, so clearly, they were serious.

Naturally, there was a second backlash to the half-assed video. Even some That ’70s Show cast members who didn’t publicly support Masterson were criticized; Wilmer Valderama’s “notoriously gross” 2006 interview with Howard Stern suddenly received more attention than ever before. It really makes one thankful that Topher Grace is seemingly just a chill guy who would rather re-edit Hobbit movies than defend rapists.

Everyone Finally Acknowledged That Justin Timberlake Sucks

Justin Timberlake hasn’t fully faded from the public spotlight in the 21st century (even after his potentially career-destroying turn as horny French Canadian goalie Jacques “Le Coq” Grandé in Mike Myers’ godawful The Love Guru), but he’s still very much a product of the 1990s. After all, does anything else say “late ’90s” more than NSYNC shooting the shit on The Rosie O’Donnell Show?

But 2023 was the year when the veil on Timberlake’s awfulness fully dropped. The big dust-up came with the publication of Britney Spears’ memoir The Woman in Me (not to be confused with Tobias Fünke’s book The Man Inside Me). 

Spears wrote about how she was pressured into getting an abortion against her wishes because Timberlake “was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father.” This was before he broke up with her via text message, then painted himself as a victim in the media, insinuating that Spears was unfaithful with a lame power ballad – despite having allegedly cheated on Spears. She claimed that this music video made her out to be a “harlot who’d broken the heart of America’s golden boy.”

And we haven’t even mentioned Timberlake’s cringey “Fo’ shiz, fo’ shiz” moment, immortalized in incredible audio form by Academy Award-nominated actress Michelle Williams.

The backlash against Timberlake was so intense that he reportedly canceled several dates of his “comeback” tour as a result and turned off his Instagram comments. Then there were the rumors that Timberlake was using bots to defend himself on social media after users noticed that pro-JT posts from different accounts were using “identical wording.” Clearly, no one is crying any sort of body of water for him.

Ben Stein Went Viral For Whining About Aunt Jemima

Ben Stein has obviously been around for a while, famously failing to locate Ferris Bueller in the ’80s and, before that, penning speeches for Richard Nixon. But it wasn’t until the ’90s that Stein became a household name thanks to his game show Win Ben Stein’s Money.

The former TV star and arch-enemy of Charles Darwin went viral earlier this year for the dumbest possible reason. It’s surely no surprise that one of Tricky Dick’s former flunkies is an outspoken right-winger, but Stein, for some reason, felt compelled to record and post a video in which he complained that his bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup no longer contained a “large African-American chef” following the brand’s discontinuation of the conspicuously racist mascot.

Stein further grumbled that, rather than no mascot at all, he preferred to see a “Black person showing their incredible skill at making pancakes.” Of course, it should be evident that Aunt Jemima was not an empowering example of Black culinary excellence, but rather, an offensive caricature contrived to tap into white America’s “slavery nostalgia” – literally named after a vaudeville song performed by a “blackface performer who was wearing an apron and bandanna headband.”

In addition to calling him “willfully ignorant” and a “racist creep,” some folks also pointed out that “Aunt Jemima” syrup became “Pearl Milling Company” syrup back in 2021, meaning that Stein’s syrup was at least two years old (possibly because he couldn’t afford a new bottle after so many game show contestants took his money).

Mr. Bean Went on a Rant About Electric Cars

Rowan Atkinson achieved worldwide superstardom in the early ’90s with his character Mr. Bean, the mostly mute manchild who got into all kinds of trouble that, amazingly, never resulted in being hospitalized for salmonella poisoning.

Last year, Atkinson gave us Man vs Bee, the story of a man battling a bumblebee, which, for some reason, was a nine-episode Netflix series and not a 30-second commercial for Honey Nut Cheerios.

This year, Atkinson’s biggest cultural contribution was an essay about the dangers of electric cars. Atkinson’s op-ed, published in The Guardian, described how he felt “duped” by the promise of electric vehicles and that people should just stick with diesel and “petrol” cars for now. Just five days after the article went up, The Guardian published another article debunking many of Atkinson’s talking points, and he was relentlessly mocked online – marking the first time he’s made people laugh this decade. 

Brad From ‘Home Improvement’ Was Accused of Fraud Multiple Times

Home Improvement was, of course, the beloved ’90s sitcom about an accident-prone, occasionally emotionally abusive dad who somehow never received any divorce papers over his incessant grunting. The eldest son was Brad, best remembered as the one who tried pot one time and got the Gestapo treatment from noted hypocrite Tim Allen.

The actor behind Brad, Zachery Ty Bryan, has had a pretty turbulent life following the end of the series. Most recently, Bryan was accused of running a cryptocurrency-based con. It seems that Bryan inadvertently amassed a small Bitcoin fortune after casually investing in crypto based on the word of an actor who appeared with Bryan in the 1996 Sinbad vehicle First Kid (another child actor, not Sinbad).

Reportedly, Bryan used his crypto earnings to invest in an agriculture tech startup, then started selling digital tokens connected to the startup to “friends and associates” (and even a rando he met on Bumble) for thousands of dollars, which he claimed was a safer investment than buying stock in Amazon or Walmart. Unfortunately, Bryan’s cryptocurrency was even sketchier than every other cryptocurrency because it didn’t actually exist. 

Bryan claims that there were discussions within the company about a token system and that he didn’t mean to do anything “shady,” but the startup says that he “misrepresented” them without their permission, and “investors” claim that they were “duped.” 

Amazingly, this wasn’t the only accusation of fraud Bryan faced this year. He was also sued by a movie investor who claimed that Bryan’s production company scammed him out of thousands by “forging” a contract, which he allegedly “copied and pasted from a legit deal” that Bryan had signed with the film’s producers. Bryan was ultimately ordered to pay $108,940.57 after “failing to respond to the lawsuit.” If all that wasn’t bad enough, Bryan was arrested for domestic violence for the second time in his life this past summer. So don’t look for him to do a cameo on the new season of The Santa Clauses, is what we’re saying. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 

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