Hi Mr. Hughes,
My name is Jennifer and I am conducting research for a piece for the Avenue section of the Independent Alligator. I was interviewing Dr. McKeen and he recommended that I contact you.
My article is entitled "Return of the 90s" in which I explore the various ways 90s culture has returned to the forefront of music, fashion, television, etc.
Initially, my idea sprung from my observations of 90's shows like "Are You Afraid of the Dark" and Beverly Hills 90210 returning, Radiohead's world tour, grunge and plaid fashion becoming trendy again, new indie bands copying Nirvana, college students throwing 90's parties, and so on.
Dr. McKeen said that you would be a better source on that decade.
Would you mind giving me your take on the 1990's and whether or not you see facets of that decade coming back to popular culture currently? Any opinions, perspectives, analyses, are welcome.
Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much,
Class of 2011
The Independent Alligator (The Avenue)
I've found as I get older, gain perspective and pay more close attention to the world around me, it's hard to compartmentalize music, fashion, TV, film, etc. into discrete decades, so if you'll indulge a bitchy preface I'd like to go on record as stating the use of "the '90s" (or any other decade) as shorthand to describe a wide variety of interwoven and long-stretching cultural threads is a fat load of balls — bogus hokum from the get-go and certainly a lazy way to go about criticism, much less journalism. It's a trope that involves jettisoning insight and trimming the edges off history after the fact, often in an attempt to homogenize, diminish, control, package and sell ersatz culture to dumb kids and boring nostalgia jerks. I recommend you immediately scrap this project and do something useful instead, such as constructing a moonshine still or burning a church.
That being said, the snowballing efficiency in information transfer that really got rolling in the early 1990s (blah blah blah the Internet) has created an environment where regional differences in popular culture have all but disappeared, and where meaning is restricted, fixed and refixed in much more specific and granular ways than perhaps was possible before.
One example of what I mean involves music: it was in the 90s that terms such as industrial, punk, hardcore, ska, rock, hip hop, jam and grunge started to be used less as descriptive devices than as titles for genres with narrow sets of prefabricated sounds, costuming, political opinion, lifestyles — even diets. Where before a term like "punk (or "punk rock") had been used to describe a variety of shifting strategies or attitudes about music and style (and to a lesser extent than what was to come, lifestyle), the newfound ease in transferring cultural data made a lot of people just sort of up and agree that "punk" was one thing. Due to people's general unwillingness to process deviation as well as the innate human proclivity to be big gay copycats, any even slight modifications to these new cultural one things marked by the participation of at least two idiots became a defined subgenre, and, if enough sheeple jumped on the bandwagon, a genre in its own right (hence crust punk, straight edge, emo, etc.)
If I were to overcome my resistance to talking about culture in neat little 10-year nubbins and assign some sort of distinction to "the '90s," it'd probably be as the period in which enthusiastic fans of pop culture, the types who can't settle for the top 40 or get too thrilled about the latest Hollywood blockbuster, gave up drugs, fucking and generally being awesome to endlessly argue about arbitrary classifications and parse meaningless data like a bunch of pussy-ass nerd bean counters. From this perspective, "the '90s" really have never left.
I hope this helps.
P.S. Oh yeah — also in the '90s, frat guys started obsessing on Bob Marley and the Grateful Dead. Weird. (I'm inclined to blame the marijuana.)