As a pop culture enthusiast who has no life, I was totally excited for the release of the new book The Totally Sweet 90s: From Clear Cola to Furby, and Grunge to "Whatever", the Toys, Tastes, and Trends That Defined a Decade, which is a very long title. I am an '80s child but spent my formative years in the '90s and have recently taken to using phrases like "Remember when music was good," and these statements usually end up with me talking about Nirvana.
Again, I know I am being nostalgic for a decade that was filled with terrible fashion, poor television writing, 8-bit microprocessors, economic recession and Urkle, but there was something wonderful about it.
The Totally Sweet '90s is incredibly comprehensive, covering most of what you would expect from such a book. It touches on television shows, movies, music, kids' toys, snacks (Dunkaroos!), popular books, commercials and general cultural items. And then it has some really nice deep cuts that you might not expect, such as "tan M&Ms," "koosh balls," "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and "The Adventures of Pete and Pete."
But there are a number of '90s artifacts that could have easily been left out of this list to make room for others. "Billy Bob Thorton" -- He was alive in the '90s and his movie Sling Blade made an impression, but the man as a whole did not contribute all that much to the decade. He didn't marry Angelina Jolie and her vial of blood until 2000.
"Bob Ross and the Joy of Painting " -- I love me some Bob Ross, but those happy little accidents were a product of the 1980s.
"Closing Time" -- That horrible song by Semisonic, which authors Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont deem worthy of mentioning in a book dedicated to an era that churned out groups like Pearl Jam and Shakespeare's Sister. I don't think so.
As thrilled as I am about this book, there are a few '90s relics that seem to be missing.
10. Magic the Gathering
The book does include "pogs," so I will give it one for that, but how can you not include the first card trading game targeted directly towards young nerds everywhere? I have no idea what Magic the Gathering entailed; I think it was like a role-playing D&D style of game. But I do know that all the boys who did not participate in organized sports in my school were crazy about it.
9. R. Kelly
How can anyone picture the 1990s without paying some homage to one of its most celebrated and confused R&B artists? Kelly had hit after hit after hit; you couldn't use the word "fly" without someone breaking into "I Believe I Can Fly" at the top of his or her lungs. And a world without "Bump N' Grind" would be a sad and lonely place that no one should be subjected to.
8. Street Fighter 2
The book lists off Oregon Trail as being a highlight of the '90s; sorry, dudes, that game came out in the late '70s and was a staple in schools the following decade. By 1990 we were in the 16-bit era, baby. Street Fighter 2 was the game that you had to have. It had an extensive back story, mildly attractive characters and Chun Li, who gave girls gamers a female hero.
7. Color Me Badd
The book acknowledges "Boy Bands" as an entire category, but I would never consider CMB a "boy band," because they were men. CMB had mustaches and receding hairlines and they didn't want to hold your hand and take you to the playground; they wanted to "sex you up," and our parents allowed them to tell us that. And that was plain creepy.
6. The Discman and Electronic Skip Protection
Sony's discman hit the markets in the '80s if you believe that, but they were clunky and had issues with skipping. In 1993, Sony developed electronic skip protection and it changed the discman and all other "portable CD players." Portable CD players were like magic devices enabling you to take your fragile compact discs out into the world to be scratched and broken, and you could hook them up to tape players in your car! 5. East Coast/West Coast Rap Rivalry
Biggie and Tupac died for our sins and they can't even be remembered in a stupid '90s pop culture book? Geez.
Find me a girl who spent anytime in the decade of fashion faux pas and I will find you a choker. Why these neck collars were so popular is anyone's guess; they were neither flattering nor comfortable, but they sure made you look tough.
Remember when your very first friend got a pager? He or she was probably your richest friend or the one whose parents let him do whatever he wanted. You could go to a pay phone, dial a number and that friend would eventually call you back! And then you would go meet up at a diner or something wild like that. That friend was awesome or a drug dealer.
JNCO jeans were all the rage, and much like chokers, they neither looked good on anyone nor were they particularly easy to wear. They just fell down and you had to pull them up, and that was your life, a system of pulling up your pants. 1. EcstasyWithout Ecstasy we would never have had this movie!
I know the book in question is a family-friendly pop culture book, but it would be foolish to deny the popularity of this drug and the impact it had on culture in the 1990s. How else would so many other disturbing '90s trends have come to fruition without it? If there had been no ecstasy, would we even know what a rave was? Would people have thought to put body glitter all over their persons? Would pacifiers have ever made appropriate necklaces/sucking things? Would we know how to wave our arms around and make it look like there was a ball floating in our hands? Would glow sticks even exist? Heaven forbid we not know these wonders.
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