The 1990’s was a time when my generation came of age. We were in the twilight of our age of innocence; life was easy, money was available and worry hadn’t yet set in. For many of us. Most of us were in our early 20’s. We had been raised by a staple of Saturday morning cartoons, Cheerios and pop-star fandom. Our sports idols were Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Emmett Smith, Walter Payton, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jackie Joyner Kersey, Florence Griffith, Andre Aggasi. We had the original “Dream Team”. On the silver screen we watched Micheal Keaton as Batman, Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Han Solo, laughed at Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, and cried with Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. It was the curtain call for M.A.S.H., the rise of Seinfeld, the zany of Ren and Stimpy, the golden age of TV soap, and the end of the guilty action series: The A Team, Knight Rider, Quantum Leap, MacGyver, the Dukes of Hazzard. A character named Forrest Gump captivated the nation’s attention and provided a history lesson, the Titanic sunk (again), David Lynch weirded out TV audiences, Mulder and Scully investigated Area 51, Mel Brooks’ The Producers was a Broadway smash and Grunge music was a thing. Eddie Murphy was crass, Michael Jackson was black (kinda) and Bill Cosby was our “clean” entertainment. Johnny Carson passed the baton to Jay Leno. Stadiums still bore the names “The Forum”, Shea, Comiskey and “Mile High”.
The 20’s had “Flappers” and jazz music: the 90’s had flannel and grunge. As original as the advent of American music itself, the genre captured the unnecessary teenage angst that erupted from an 80’s that had felt the sting of the end of the Cold War but not the heartbreak of the Vietnam War. Although the world has waited, nothing has taken its place in cultural influence. Woodstock ‘94 paled in comparison to the original festival but still left its mark, announcing that our generation had arrived. Global Warming had not yet become what it is today. The first Gulf War represented a sort of “designer war”, not one of necessity, but one that kept the nation in check and reminded us that freedom wasn’t free. We had a President who played the sax and had an affair with his secretary; athough he was no JFK, Oliver Stone reminded us of Kennedy, and Vietnam. Quentin Tarantino released a life-changing cinematic event and transcended pop (Pulp) culture. Hannibal Lechter was more frightening than anyone in a hockey mask or with a razor blade glove.
As kids we grew up with GI Joe and Transformers, He-Man and the Thundercats. Barbie and My Little Pony dominated the girl’s aisles at the local Toys R Us. We witnessed the dawn of the Atari 2500, then the NES and Sega. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock gave way to Captain Picard and Data. The Millenium Falcon was still “the fastest ship in the galaxy” though. We lusted after fast cars: Camaros, Trans-Ams, Z-300s, Thomas Magnum’s Ferrari and Doc Brown’s time machine DeLorean. These influences spilled into our 20’s lifestyles. We drove the cars we saw our idols drive as children, listened to our parent’s music and annoyed them with ours. Up all night, sleep all day. We partied like rockstars, ate like royalty, drank like fish. Gas was cheap, sex was pretentious with the threat of AIDS, there was a war on drugs but not a war on fun. We never thought it would all come crashing down.
September 11, 2000 our party ended. Gulf War II, George W. Bush, the War on Terror. Like the Great Depression and the World War that followed, the generation so ebulliently buoyed by the carefree 90’s found stress and despair in the world created by after the terrorist attacks. We would never look at it the same way. Now, in our 40’s we look back at our 20’s with nostalgia and jealousy. We were the last generation to not know the true darkness of humanity for so long. When it did reveal its face our lives changed forever and we had to grow up. Our parents did not have the luxury of this innocence. But as everyone knows, all good things must come to an end. The 90’s was our 20’s and we took a hell of a ride.