’90’s Nostalgia Overload

Has our search-engine mentality taken our craving for nostalgia to a ridiculous, unprecedented level? (And why are we so obsessed with the ’90’s?)

Attention! Clarissa has an important message for you.

Romanticizing the past and idealizing one’s youth is no new phenomenon. But it seems that our capacity for pop-culture nostalgia of the not-so-distant past has risen to an absurd level, bolstered by the lightening-quick ease of our internet search culture. It’s now easier than ever to find an obscure clip from Salute Your Shorts or Hey Dude at any time due to the constant presence of iPhones tucked in our back pockets.

The 1990’s are the new target of our national love affair with nostalgia. Fashion, music, and television in 2011 have been remarkably influenced and inspired by the last decade of the twentieth century.

Remember this guy?

Nickelodeon has seen a ratings smash with the revival of beloved ’90’s programming (Kenan & Kel, Clarissa Explains It All, Pete & Pete, All That) on Teen Nick.  According to NY Mag, The ’90’s Are All That attracted ratings roughly 850 percent higher than the channel’s previous time-period average in the midnight-to-2 a.m. block. Nickelodeon is targeting the 18-34 demographic with their late-night nostalgia block, the Gen-Y young adults who grew up with old-school Nick and think fondly of Marc Summers and green slime.

The fuzzy indie rock of the ’90’s has seen a revival in music recently through “the Slumberland-streaked indie pop of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Best Coast, the artful squall of No Age, the achingly nostalgic paeans of Deerhunter, the ambling guitar epics of Real Estate, and the slacker punk-pop of Wavves.” (Pitchfork)  London foursome Yuck draws influence from the screechy guitars and heavy feedback of early ’90’s rockers like Dinosaur Jr. and Superchunk. Check out the video for “Get Away,” a standout track from their self-titled debut. Pretty impressive for a band with an average age of 20.

Even the fashion world has been infected by the ’90’s bug, with Fall 2011 threads that hearkened back to the days of Nevermind and the Clinton Administration.  Proenza Schouler and Rag & Bone showed modern takes on grunge, while Vena Cava showed glam Azzedine Alaia-style looks. Vena Cava even produced a lo-fi ‘zine titled Zina Cava to accompany their Fall 2011 show.

Is our ’90’s obsession related to a craving for a more stable time, politically and economically? As Generation-Y’ers, are we inadvertently trying to grasp for the warm comfort of our childhood, rather than the stark economic and social truths we find ourselves enmeshed in?

On Grantland, Chuck Klosterman analyzed the disparaging aspects of nostalgia in the way that it is “an uncritical form of artistic appreciation.”

“If you unconditionally love something from your own past, it might just mean you love that period of your own life. In other words, you’re not really hearing “Baby Got Back.” What you’re hearing is a song that reminds you of a time when you were happy, and you’ve unconsciously conflated that positive memory with any music connected to the recollection.”

Are we yearning for a time when the United States seemed like an insurmountable superpower, when a college degree would consistently lead to gainful employment,  when the phrase “National Terror Alert” hadn’t entered our cultural lexicon? Or are we simply affixing the shiny gauze of nostalgia onto the ’90’s, fantasizing about a decade that wasn’t really THAT great?

It seems incredibly appropriate that we returned to the decade that represented the height of post-modern thinking, through the recycling of aesthetic concepts and cultural movements.”There is no present or future, only the past happening over and over again, now.” – Eugene O’Neill

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