For the past year or so the mainstream has been going hell for leather to bring back the nineties, and whereas the underground has referenced the early 1990’s for quite some time, the masses have only just caught up. Like anything that becomes popular, this aesthetic is now being moulded and transformed by the powers that be to favour certain people and certain ideas. When the mainstream media gets their filthy hands on something, you can bet your tie-dyed arse they’ll corrupt the shit out of it, and when it comes to the nineties, the people in charge are now hard at work to glaze over the bad, promote the good, and ignore anything but popular-culture-approved events.
If you watched Channel 4‘s propaganda show “The 90s: Ten Years That Changed The World” last month, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that white men from Manchester reinvented the fucking wheel. The show was basically a timeline of mainstream shite, brimming with overrated twats like Damien Hirst, Kate Moss, Princess Diana, Tony Blair, and the Spice Girls. The show was like some middle-class dullard’s wet-dream; it was very selective, very blinkered, very discriminatory, and very “Pop”. If you watch shows like these, you’ll go around thinking Oasis and Blur ruled music back then, you’ll think that British people were free and anarchic… wasn’t it great that we took E’s, went to raves, and finally got rid of the Conservatives? In reality the powers that be probably pitted lame acts like Oasis and Blur against each other just to see who could garner the most fans, the winner (or more accurately loser) would then publicly back Tony B-Liar and their fans would blindly vote for him… and what great things Labour did for Britain in the years that followed. My point is that if the noughties was the hellish decade we all know it was, it was the nineties that gave birth to it, and if you tot-up all the days that resembled the rose-coloured nineties they show you today, it would add up to a few weeks… if that.
Most other mainstream retrospectives of the nineties aren’t much better. Whether televisual or in print, they usually jump straight to Kurt Cobain (simply because he died) but they miss out Eddie Vedder, they suck-up to Notorious Big and Tupac (because they died too) but ignore the Wu-Tang Clan and the Boot Camp Clik. It’s almost as if these pop culture obsessives have cobbled together their personal highlights and left out everything from the underground. On top of that, they usually divert your attention away from any event that was unfavourable; they act like the entire decade was all peace, love, and happiness, like the second Summer Of Love lasted for ten years. C’mon, we all know that isn’t true.
I mean let’s not forget the first Gulf War with all its Smart Bombs and endless mentions of Desert Storm, let’s not forget the first World Trade Center Bombing and our introduction to Bin Laden. You think Islamophobia was rife in the noughties? Various reports first blamed Islam after the Oklahoma Bombings, I guess they were looking to demonise Muslims back then too, just look at all the Action movies made around that time; “True Lies”, “The Siege”, “Executive Decision”. The latter half of the nineties led perfectly to 9/11 and a second President Bush. And while I’m on the subject of politics, going from John Major to Tony Blair here in the UK made no difference whatsoever, in fact having a supposed left-wing Government in the nineties led to the worst right-wing decisions in the decade that followed.
The nineties also saw some strange reactions by the sheep-like public to certain events. There was the weird mass-hysteria that infected the world after Lady Diana’s death, if you tuned into the news in 1997 you could see random people balling their eyes out at the death of someone they’d never even met. There was also the strange reaction to the most famous case of Police brutality; Rodney King was a prime example of racism against African Americans by the Police and white America in general, but whereas recently we had the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” protest, back then the brutal beating of King led to the L.A. Riots, and despite protests against the Police being the initial intention, Asian businesses began to be targeted and looted. Whether this was a few isolated events, it showed that the nineties weren’t all positive, and it confirmed that every section of society more often than not made the wrong decisions.
Looking beyond all the Western problems, there were also many wars and conflicts taking place around the world, hell, Apartheid was still going until 1994. So it’s quite annoying when you see people in the British media acting like the nineties was a time of no conflict, I mean it wasn’t all sweetness and light if you were Rwandan, Chechen, Bosnian, a Muslim Serbian, or Croatian for example. Just because some Labour-voting, Madchester-loving, middle-class guy dressed in a shell-suit clutching a bottle of Hooch was having a good time, it doesn’t mean everybody else was.
Even for us westerners, the 1990’s was in reality not some sort of magical, relaxed, peaceful, super-artistic decade they show you today. Let’s not forget, this was the time that The Offspring was singing “I’m Pretty Fly For A Whiteguy” at the same time as the media was hailing Eminem as the greatest Rapper of all time (without any sense of irony). Turning on your TV and you’d be confronted with shit like “Jerry Springer” or “Crocodile Hunter”, on the other side there was the craptastic “Power Rangers”, during the ad break there was that Budweiser Ad with a group of cunts yelling “Whassup?!!!”. Go to the cinema there was the overrated “American Beauty”… oh look how beautiful that plastic bag looks blowing in the breeze… not! Turn on the radio and there was novelty shite like “Macarena” and “Mambo Number 5” playing, either that or there was Robbie Williams straining his nuts trying to sing “Angels” in tune. Switching channels was pointless since ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, Boyzone, Take That, and the frigging Spice Girls were playing on loop everywhere. Hey, listen… “Things Can Only Get Better” by D:Ream is playing, I’m so glad we voted for Tony Blair, he’s really gonna turn this country around.
So let’s stop sucking off the entire decade as though it was some sort of utopia. The same decade that brought us the Stone Roses and Joe Bloggs also brought us Steps and Kappa. For every Naughty By Nature there was a Limp Bizkit, for every “X Files” there was a “Dawson’s Creek”, and let’s not forget the horrific “Big Brother”. Of course there was some great stuff going on, there were great TV Shows like “Seinfeld” and the aforementioned “X-Files”, there were some fantastic shows from the eighties like “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and “Quantum Leap” still going strong. Cartoon Network had “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Cow And Chicken”, Nickelodeon had “Kenan And Kel”, MTV still played actual music, there was “Yo! MTV Raps”, The Source Magazine was still respected, and there were great albums like “36 Chambers”. When it came to films there were some completely original ones like “The Matrix” and “The Truman Show”, there were great Action movies like “Terminator 2”, “Die Hard With A Vengeance”, and “Speed”. There were great comedies like “Home Alone”, “Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey”, and “Friday” and there were great thrillers like “Se7en” and “Silence Of The Lambs”. In fashion there was PNB, Antonio Ansaldi, Stüssy, there were baggy jeans, Timberland boots, and of course there were great arcade games like “Mortal Kombat”, “Street Fighter II”, and “Killer Instinct”. But of course this is a tiny fraction of what was created over the whole decade, and if you listed all the films, all the albums, all the TV shows, and all the products you’d realise that the nineties as well as any other period in history wasn’t perfect; anybody who tells you different is lying, they’re giving you an idealised and highly selective history.
So fuck the nineties, and fuck anybody that says anything different. Thanks to the mainstream, the majority of it was filled with utter bullshit, just like every other decade in history.
Look Without Your Rose-Tinted Spectacles.