Why Everything You Believe About the '90s Is Wrong
Whoomp there it is. There what is? My bad. Chill, home slice, because I am going to explain the situation -- the '90s were da bomb! Booya!
If you were actually born in the '90s, you don't really remember the '90s. Sorry. If it's any consolation, I am closer to death than you are, because I am old. That said, you're still wrong about the '90s. Here are a few reasons why ...
You're Just Remembering the Marketing
I mean, are we sure "nostalgia" doesn't actually come from a Greek word that roughly translates to English as "we have literally nothing to publish on the web."
What you actually remember is what we call "marketing." The only way people buy lies is if that's what they're sold. Marketing helps.
Extreme marketing helps more!
Americans like their history the way they like their aging celebrities -- butchered, stuffed, and stretched.
We're like a large family in a sprawling Southern Gothic novel that lies to itself about some horrible secret -- like there's a baby buried in the petunias. We're in total denial about what was, who we are, and how we got here.
So we tell ourselves that the '90s were a colorful decade of frosted tips, hack Hillary Clinton pantsuit jokes, and episodes of Friends.
No one told us life was gonna be this way.
Because we can't face the truth. Along those same lines ...
What Felt Like a Golden Age Was Just the Climax of a Generation
The '90s were just an elaborate setup for a punchline called the last 14 miserable years of wars and layoffs. We are living like a duck being force-fed a steady diet of fear via a tube.
You don't really remember the '90s. If you had lived through the '90s, you'd remember how great things seemed. Sure, there was a recession at first, but dot-coms were going to make us all rich. Yes, the world was in turmoil. But not in our backyard. Politics were vicious but silly.
I grew up in the '90s: graduated high school AND college. I lost my virginity, fell in love, and ate epic quantities of LSD in the '90s. I started working on this here Internet in the '90s. I'm here to tell you that the truth of the decade is this: if I could I'd happily cannonball into a wormhole, hurl myself backwards through time and space and right up my mom's vagina in the '70s so that I could relive those 10 years.
Because they were, honestly, great. I got to enjoy one of the peaks of human civilization, and I did it while guzzling cans of Jolt!
It's like the risk of a stroke ... in a can!
America, apex predator of nations, spent its golden age working on a beer gut and squandering the empire. We didn't KNOW it was our golden age. I had no idea. I was too busy watching America's Funniest Home Videos and smoking very illegal marijuana. Nine Inch Nails was ahead of its time because they were angry in the '90s about all the shitty stuff in the future. What did Trent have to be so pissed about in the '90s?
Looking back, I can see everything so clearly. The seeds of decay in the fruits of pleasure. But, as they say, hindsight is X-ray vision. I guess I was too busy wearing baja sweaters and writing a screenplay about an independent movie about a heist gone wrong, featuring characters that referenced '80s pop culture, no notice.
The '90s were when the Baby Boomers fully came into power. Then they all watched Saving Private Ryan and thought, "Fuuuuuck, granddad was more badass than I thought. Maybe one day we'll start two wars too."
Mission accomplished indeed!
They were still emotionally obsessed with the partisan political drama of the Watergate years. But, at least, there was some common ground between Republicans and Democrats. For instance, they all agreed getting as rich as possible was the only thing that matters. Wall Street regulations? Pshaw! Allowing commercial and investment banks to merge into giant greedy Frankensteins? Sure!
The '90s were all about The West Wing, an enlightened TV show about how much good the U.S. government can do. Especially if that government is run mostly by straight, white liberal men and one daffy ol' broad who just does press conferences. (I will heart you forever, CJ.)
Most of Our Big Problems Were Small Troubles In the '90s
The '90s were the years when terrorists sharpened their teeth. We knew many of these terrorists because our intelligence services trained them in the '80s. Man, they hated us! Which was impossible to understand, because who could hate the country that was so awesome at doing the Dew?
Who's better than us?
Anyway, the CIA knew ALL about them. No way they could pull off a catastrophic sneak attack, dude!
During the '90s, Saddam Hussein held on to power as U.N. sanctions punished everyone but the man who they were meant to punish. But did anyone ever think about Iraq in the '90s? Hell no. Little did we know, in just a few short years the Iraq War sequel would be such an unexpected clusterfuck of carnage.
We would invade Iraq, of course, because Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction." We would know this, because the U.S. government sold him those weapons back in the '80s.
Remember when we won the Cold War? And by "won," I mean our intelligence services had NO idea that the Soviet Union was collapsing? Well that worked out, especially when a vulnerable Russia wasn't fully embraced by a smugly victorious West. That worked out well.
As seen here.
This was a time of genocide, and famine, and wars. What a busy decade.
Meanwhile, in America, there was way too much harmonica in pop music. Bagel Bites were what we had instead of foodies. I loved the movie Se7en so much I wanted to change my name to John De7ore. Y2K was the absolute worst thing we could collectively imagine happening.
What was Y2K? It was like the Terminator, only the Terminator was Windows 95. It was the end of the world. But mostly, it was just a reason to buy $60 worth of useless anti-Y2K software.
We Were Too Naive to Know How Bad Things Could Get
The '90s were carefree for me. I was young and blissfully, willfully, unaware of suffering in general.
Yes, a pair of troubled young men decided to go on a shooting spree in a Colorado high school. But that wasn't something that would happen again and again and again, right? That was just a single, awful, tragic incident. Not, say, a horrible omen of what was coming.
No. What was coming was never-ending American greatness. I confidently strode into the future wearing overalls and singing along to the Barenaked Ladies song "Pinch Me" on my yellow, waterproof Sony Walkman.
Remembering the '90s is an insufficient coping mechanism. If you came of age in the brand-new century, then you should realize a few things.
First, anything anyone writes about your generation is wrong. I didn't grow up during a never-ending global war against maniacs whom we might or might not be also manufacturing with our never-ending global war. You know what's weird? That as a country, we don't turn to one another more frequently and whisper, "My god, we've got flying death robots shooting missiles at people all over the world."
You have hustled and toiled and navigated your way through a haunted house of an economy. You get criticized for living your life online and keeping your noses buried in your smartphone. In the old days, before texting and Facebook and Twitter and social media, lonely people would just scream into their pillows.
Everybody has a voice. Sure, but when everybody has a voice the noise can be deafening at best. At worst, it's a maddening chorus of lunatics babbling. But that's still preferable to the silence of the grave.
You don't remember the '90s the way I remember the '90s. You were busy pooping in bags and being adored by your parents. You never got a chance to revel in the splendor of the American Dream in full bloom.
But, years from now, when the hologram news has nothing to publish, they'll throw up a list of early-teens nostalgia and remember how scrappy and inventive you motherfuckers are.
Hopefully I'll be eating pudding while my consciousness is being downloaded.
It's really too bad the tight-bodied lifeguards of Baywatch can't save us from Ebola and jihadists.
John DeVore is a writer and editor who lives in New York City. He is happy to be back on Cracked. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnDeVore.
For more from John, check out All You Need to Know About Why Everything Will Be OK and I Blame England for Everything (A Defense of America).