152: Identity Of A Decade

Identity Of A Decade

"How, then, in the years to come, will we remember this decade and the trends that define it? The last eight or so years have been spent in a decadent and meticulous revival of decades past, so what will there be to celebrate? What about the dawn of the new millennium, if anything, will mortify us when the digital photo albums are brought out in 2030?

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Awesome read. Depressing as hell, but awesome all the same. I often wonder the same thing, not so much about the 90's, because I feel like they had plenty of awful and memorable fads (mostly toys) but these last eight years have certainly been boring. Glad to see there's some optimism for the future, even if I don't see it.

Good article. Revivalism has definitely been a disease that's rampant in American consumer culture, which I guess spills into everyone else's backyard.

From a business perspective, film and media producers are now confronted with the fact that most people in their twenties don't have much cash. Sure, I buy stuff like anyone else. But not in the glorious, predictable bulk amounts that investors know and love.

The blatant targeting of baby-boomers and older demographics. It's no accident that you can download old school NES games onto a Wii, they're specifically aiming at those adults who bought the thing and are going to make an impulse buy. Same goes for all these remakes, 'Get Smart' hasn't much appeal to me but I know my parents perked up. In all probability, games, movies, and music are going to merrily keep on this course. If you have cash, they will come.

But I love Spanner's point about the gamers working in their basements and the indie culture that's springing up because of selfless artists. All those broke people still want to express themselves, and they're willing to do it for free just to be heard by their peers. The cultue of Youtube, free indie games, and free music are all products of that.

I think the zero's are going to be remembered as the decade where people got bored and did something new.

"Remembering the 1980s for The A-Team rather than Margaret Thatcher makes good psychological sense and helps keep the suicide rate among the working classes under control."


"No one ever says, "Oh my god. That's, like, soooo '90s." And why would you? People were well dressed, comedy was intelligent, the general populous worked hard (and smart), music was tuneful; it was boring as fuck."

That's your opinion, and you do nothing to support it.

"Nostalgia has become emotional gold"

This has always been the case-or did you never hear your parents complain about this? And their parents? It has long been the tradition of the present to mine the past.

"The Hoff regained his credibility overnight and the two Georges (Lucas and Romero) rightly decided that audiences were primed for them to return to the director's chair."

'The Hoff' had credibility? And Lucas could've made that Star Wars trilogy anytime, and it would've been bank.

"There's nothing left to revive, so the nostalgia machine seems to be returning to the beginning of the track to go around again. Worse still, these increasingly strained attempts to reawaken our childhood memories are beginning to introduce defects into that valuable and hallowed substance. When every old idea has been plundered, pillaged and raped, perhaps the only remaining course of action is to burn it down and be done with it."

The first thing I read that I liked.

Basically, the article sucked until that point, and then worked.

Good article, but I cannot believe that you wrote it without mentioning Youtube or Facebook. They are the staples of the current decade, even if they didn't emerge until halfway in.

Also, what the hell about the 90ies not having an identity? Street-style, Nirvana, skating and apathy were pretty popular if I remember correctly.

I don't necessarily agree that the 90's didn't have anything to it. You just need to look at more than just the bizarre fashions.

How often do you see flannel anymore? In fact, the whole grunge rock look? What ever happened to grunge rock, anyway? In fact, what ever happened to music in general? When I think of the 90's, I think of a lot of brand new bands that brought a new sound to rock, and even bands of the same genre sounded vastly different from each other. For example, both Nirvana and Pearl Jam are grunge, but can you really say Nevermind and Ten sound alike? Not at all. The artists were after their own sounds, not the sound that fit a specific genre.

I also recall the 90's as being a time when "kid shows" stopped being so God damn condescending. Mighty Max, like Transformers before it, was meant to be a thirty minute commercial. Unlike Transformers, the writer ended up changing the direction of the toys themselves, creating a new and original universe based on mythology, and even had at least one person die per episode (on average: some episodes had no death, other episodes had two people die). A show rated Y7 had death (speaking of, 90's introduced TV ratings). Beast Wars, meanwhile, revived the aforementioned Transformers with a much more heavy story and multidimensional characters, including good guys with bad tendencies (Dinobot and RatTrap). These same guys also made ReBoot, which I unfortunately missed out on. Let's also not forget the likes of Rocko's Modern Life, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, The Tick and Sam and Max, all shows that are enjoyable even today (partly because there are a lot of jokes in there that you won't get unless you are an adult).

The 90's is also when the Playstation made a radical change in gaming, where genres that were originally dominantly PC fell into console territory with often disastrous results, but it at least paved the way for today's world, where a game that's made for the PC has a 90% chance of also being released on Xbox 360 and/or PS3. Games also stopped being predominantly family friendly, as titles like Resident Evil hit the mainstream and showed you could also have a pretty good story in your game (remember, this is mainstream we're talking about, not games like System Shock that have barely touched mainstream awareness because of Bioshock's massive marketing campaign).

I will also always remember the 90's as a time where I actually liked anime. There was so much science fiction in that time, from the cyberpunk to the post-apocalyptic to the giant mechs to the simply bizarre. Anime was all about the sci-fi, and that's what sucked me in.

In comparison, the aughts are pretty disappointing when you look at those categories. Every musical genre from America sounds so much alike that they may as well all be the same band. Punk is not only hypocritical in that the look and style is a popular method of conformity, but all the bands sound the exact same. All the boy bands sound alike, the hip-hop, the rap, the metal, the generic rock...it all sounds so much alike that I can't tell any of them apart. It's not like going back and comparing Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and certainly not like comparing Yes, Styx and Kansas. At best you have to look underground or to other countries, but even then you'll be lucky (I love power metal, but aside from a couple of bands, most of them just want to play as fast as they can, a la the craptastic Dragonforce).

When I look at the children's shows available for my niece to watch, I'm overcome with grief. An excellent show like Invader Zim, fitting in the style of 90's cartoons that anyone of any age can enjoy, die while piles of idiocy like Spongebob thrive. Or how Futurama became canceled while the Simpsons has been allowed to fall deeper and deeper into a hole of crap. Adult Swim has gone from humorous shows to a bunch of webcomic rejects.

The aughts will be forever remember as the time Hollywood ran out of ideas, as well, as all the major films are based on a novel, comic, old television show, a remake or a revived sequel.

However, there's still plenty to remember the aughts for that aren't necessarily negative. It is truly the decade of the Internet, where websites like the Escapist themselves grow where in print they would not be able to. Communication between groups of people has grown at an alarming rate, allowing a major exchange of ideas. Adult Swim having shows like bad webcomics was mentioned, but for all the horrible comics there are also plenty of great ones that enjoy success they never would've gotten if it wasn't for the Internet. Social networking has changed how friends communicate and even organize (while I don't use Facebook's games and other applications, I make liberal use of sharing websites and pages that I wouldn't be able to easily share elsehow, as well as organize events with greater ease than usual).

Of course, I look at video games as improving in a lot of ways, too. While the Industry is still in some pretty bad practices, I can see new talent and ideas coming in to change things. Hell, when EA says "it's time we start doing things seriously and create some good games", you have to be amazed (especially when the end result looks as good as Dead Space does). Developers want to try new ideas, even the major ones, and push technology forward. While there's a lot of titles that aren't worth the disc they were pressed on, it's considerably better when you consider all of those SNES titles you never heard of that clogged the game store shelves. Really, the only difference between then and now is that the Internet allows even the crappy games a way to advertise and pretend they are top notch products.

Of course, because of the Internet, plenty of gamers are convinced to go back and play games they never even heard of before, such as Deus Ex or System Shock 2.

So, ultimately, I think there's a lot to remember the aughts for, as well as a lot to remember the 90's for. I'm still saddened, however, that the 80's didn't have the influence it should have had. I mean, seriously, fantasy films would be amazing in this world of high class CG (and I mean fantasy that is not based on a book, trying to ride the coat tails of LotR), and Iron Maiden and Megadeth could've been such better inspirations for metal than Metallica was.

...and sorry for the length of this post, which is ultimately an article in and of itself.

My mother would often tell how women of her generation would make their own clothes to go nightclubbing in during the '50s and '60s.

Clothes, back then, were horrible for the majority of people. :)

That said, there are achievements to consider for this new millenium, notably the sort of democratiation of world wide networks.
But I concur that these days, we're going through uninspired massive rehashes of previous IPs, no matter what they are, or even brands... I think need to unleash this cataclysmic Weapon of Mass Destruction upon the audience - notice the hairdos and clothes... I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry

I'm sorry, but I'm forced to disagree with this. Obviously we aren't really looking at the 00's retrospectively, because we're living in them. But there will be plenty of opportunities for the children of people who are teenagers now to look back and facepalm at us. You could point to the Travolta collars, afros and tight pants of the 70s and 80s, but you could just as well point to the upturned polo shirt collars, emo fringes and... erm, tight pants of today as objects of deserving ridicule. Our 40-year old selves will look back and shake their heads at the age of Big Brother and American Idol, at the everyone-has-one-then-it's-dead-in-two-years fads of MySpace and Facebook, and at the way we thought a War on Terrorism could possibly be a winnable thing without changing the definition of 'terrorism'.

Trust me. We will have plenty of things from this decade to wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea in 2030.

Well said Cheesemaster.

I think you can add internet memes to the list.
Nobody used to know what Engrish was, but nowadays everyone has seen some example of it, or a lolcat, or a failboat, etc, etc.

And that Scientology is 'in fashion'.

I hope somewhere down the line Coupling will go down in history as the greatest comedy of the 00's. But after it having been ripped by the Americans and remained in relative obscurity I don't see it happening. Instead they'll probably remember the Office, another rewrite of an English show...

One weird thing that springs to my mind is the quality of tv series these days. Heroes, Deadwood, Carnivale, Jericho, Lost, etc etc. These will become the staples of these last years I think. We dropped comedy and turned to epic, grand tales. Lord of the Rings also factors nicely into this.

To argue that we are looking retrospectively is valid, there are numerous examples of this, yet a lot was by-passed in this article. To totally ignore the effects of 9/11, which completely changed the international community is disconcerting. It has inadvertently created a need to connect with each other, a unity throughout the world which is evident with the emergence of myspace, facebook and youtube. The power is in the people's hands which has been recognised by media, governments and businesses. Much has been done by these organisations to access and control these sites, this cannot go unrecognised.

Many would argue that 9/11 is bringing the end of postmodernism, what new era we have entered is yet to be seen. Possibly the re-emergence of fundamentalism, nevertheless it is too early to tell.

Poor article.

Is it just me or has the 80s revival now been going longer than the actual 80s? Seriously, I distinctly remember dancing to Wham, Rick Astley etc in 1998, and now the shops are full of nothing but sweater dresses and skinny leg pants. Perhaps *that's* the identity of the 2000s.

It's not the Zeroes or the Aughts, it is infact the naughty noughties

And as for the 90's what about Britpop? the whole Oasis Vs Blur, North V's South and everything else involved in this, the birth of the rave culture, Drum and Bass, Hardcore, Techno, Trance, the culture of hedonism as we approached the end of a millennium, 1999 the summer of one love (if you talk to any European clubber old enough to remember).

Or if you want something more general how about environmentalism? the realisation that global warming was fact and the planet was allot more fragile than we ever realised, the internet starting to get used by the masses.

The 90's also produced a fine wave of comedy. Reeves and Mortimer, The Office, The Fast Show, League of Gentlemen, Red Dwarf, Men Behaving Badly, Frasier, Third Rock From the Sun etc.

For the decades I can access (not remember)

50's : Rock and Roll - Round The Horne
60's : Beatles/Stones - The Goons
70's : Disco vs Punk - Monty Python
80's : Nu wave, Electropop, Metal - Alternative
90's : Britpop, Trance, Goth - Sitcoms
00's : Remixes, Boobfests - Celebrity Quizs, Reality TV


I think a major defining characteristic of the decade, ignored by the article, is the emergence of the niche. Information is so readily available and in such abundance that people can be highly specialized in their leisure interests and find communities to support their interests. The emergence of all these niche interests has increased the breadth of pop culture exponentially. In doing so it has also served to create a culture where it's possible to relate to one another through the referencing of pop culture artifacts alone.

Is it just me or has the 80s revival now been going longer than the actual 80s? Seriously, I distinctly remember dancing to Wham, Rick Astley etc in 1998, and now the shops are full of nothing but sweater dresses and skinny leg pants. Perhaps *that's* the identity of the 2000s.

Doppelgänger era?

2000, it's the internet, blogs, the youtubes, myspaces (which awfully look like the internet of the 90), etc.
That said, the internet helps to spread the good, the bad and the ugly both faster and farther than ever.
A continuous rise of groups to defend the rights of people, in certain parts of the world, law is progressively shaped in favour of people, while at the same time technology surveys us more and more, and the very rich get even richer.

But the main topic of the article revolved around entertainment, and you cannot deny that we don't get much new stuff, especially when weighed against the mass of reproductions, updates, remakes, sequels and prequels.

The problem is that the first 3 pages of the article are his judgments about how the 90's were shit (or whatever) and then the last page actually talked about how things are changing.

It would've been much more interesting to look at how what we're doing now as individuals is actually rooted in the 90s. It's not like people didn't want to make their own movies, music, art, or voices heard. It's that the capability to make and distribute those things suddenly shifted dramatically toward the cheaper. And that started in the 90's-but the urge to do it has always been there. As a result, the 'critique' of the past is a waste of everyone's time, because it's just his unsupported opinion.

the realisation that global warming was fact and the planet was allot more fragile than we ever realised, the internet starting to get used by the masses.

Ah, that reminds me!

90's: Nobody listened to Al Gore because he was a joke.

00's: He makes one flawed movie about global warming, ignoring how the scientific community of actually educated people have discovered that the Earth is actually in a natural cycle of "get hotter, then colder, then hotter, then colder", and some even believe we're in a warm spot of a cold wave, and everyone suddenly takes Al Gore seriously again.

I liked it better when everyone thought he was a joke.

What? Nobody listened to Al Gore in the 90s? The 90s ended with the majority of Americans voting for Al Gore. Even if you don't think the Florida incident in the 2000 election was unfortunate, Gore still got more votes overall.

Aaaand I almost launched into the "your ignorance is hurting the world" speech, but it's not worth it. If you haven't realised what a Big Fucking Problem climate change is by now, you'll probably keep your fingers jammed firmly in your ears until the weather starts going completely batshit. Oh snap, that's already happening!

Most of the comments so far have said "wtf you mean, THIS happened in the 90s" or "people do THIS in the 00s" etc. which is missing the point, because article is about style. He doesn't mention 9/11 because 9/11 is not comparable with mullets and Nirvana. There were a few distinctive styles in the 90s, like skate and goth, but they were definitely subcultural, not dominant; most of us were never a part of them. (Apathy is almost a style... but really not.)

That said, if you allow for the fact that everything has splintered into subcultures these days, there were a handful of big fashion movements in the last eight years that weren't revivalist: how about metrosexual men in pink shirts? (Surely that wasn't just a thing where I live?)

Nu-rave might yet sweep the mainstream before this decade is out.

I think the issue is that we are not far enough from the 90's to be looking at it retrospectively yet. From my observation, decades do not pass completely into retrospective observation until you are a full decade away from a decade. Because lets face it: some people are still into the fashions and trends of the 90's unironically.

but lets just looks at some of the trends and tropes the 90's will no doubt give us when we reach a retrospective view of the decade.

The Macarena
Flanel and torn jeans (grunge look)
"Blossom" hats
Skaters (dear god help us! The Skaters!)
Leather goth look, similar to the matrix (which is awesome regardless of the decade, BTW)
Paganism and diabolism hitting popular culture (buffy: the series, charmed, The Craft: because witches, faries, and vampires were the top-shit dogs on the fantasy campus in the 90's)
Obsession with aliens and area 51
Ray-Ban sunglasses
Rico Suave` (dont ask me how i remember that)

And something i noticed in particular:

Songs written for, or marketed with, blockbuster movies- I suppose this isnt new and has not really gone away, but it seemed to hit critical mass in the 90's with:

titanic:- My heart will go one
(everything i do) I do it for you- Robin hood: prince of thieves
dont wanna miss a thing- Armageddon
Take me there- Free willy
Iris- City of Angels
I will always love you- the Bodyguard
Kiss from a rose- Batman forever
Men In black- Film of the same name
When doves cry(cover)- Romeo + Juliet
you could be mine- Terminator 2 (its by the guns and roses and its music video features arnold as the terminator walking through a G & R concert)

And a buttload of songs and artists for- The Godzilla soundtrack

Interesting article, really got me thinking. I have one point of contention, though. I do not think what you call "Revivalism" is unique to this decade. If you look at the '80's, there was a lot of nostalgia for the '50's. I'm sure if you follow it long enough, a pattern would emerge. There is always going to be a cultural longer for the past, a time when everything was much "simpler." Like wine, decade must be given time to mature and for people to really appreciate all its nuances. In another few years the wave of remembering the '90's will splash over us, and the '80's will become the trite and annoying brand of "retro." You are already seeing it now, with teenagers in high school starting to remember and wanting to relive their childhood, fraught with Power Rangers, Doug, Dragon Ball Z, and Invader Zim. Likewise, in another ten or fifteen years the children of today will be laughing about how the Disney Channel affected their lives. In the end, revivalism and nostalgia come and go in cycles, as whoever the working generation are will want to relive their childhood.

Oh snap, that's already happening!

Anyone that uses weather from a single year to predict the direction of climate and long-term effects happens to be the ignorant one.

Sorry but I'd rather listen to people that know what they're talking about.

Plus, again, the climate naturally warms and cools, and if we're going to have a climate where the ice caps melt, well, we can only prepare for it as we can't prevent it. Anyone that thinks otherwise needs to read up on what scientists have to say instead of idiotic documentaries.

This year, summer is boring, but at least I don't literally get cooked alive in my car.
Ice Age is coming!

Well said, and a good point about the 2000s, though I think that there is something that this decade will be remembered for: conformity. Every decade has seen its share of break-aways from the social norm: beatnicks in the 50s, hippies in the 60s, disco in the 70s, punks in the 80s, and thugs in the 90s. And these are almost always liked to the media, the popular music, popular fashion, and so on. But the 2000s are interesting because now pop music/fashion/etc. pushes conformity and fitting in over expressing individualsm like the long hair and spiked jackets of yesteryear.

Partly I think it's because nothing shocks us anymore. The kinds of violence and sex that are on prime time television nowadays would have been relegated to NC-17 movies in the 80s, and things like porno and drugs are so commonplace in pop culture (such as Jenna Jameson writing a book) there are few avenues for sixteen year olds to go down when looking for good shock value material. Plus, the fashon trends, at least the ones I see living on a college campus, are less flamobyant and more low-key, modern, and simple.

I think the lesson here is that the social veil of the perfect suburban family has been slowly eroding since the 1950s, and by now it is almost transparent. Now in the 2000s the political veil is coming off, and that is going to be what this decade is remembered for more than its rather pathetic fasion footprint.

Sorry but I'd rather listen to people that know what they're talking about.

That's a good philosophy. So would you reconsider you position if I told you that every reputable association of scientists and climate experts in the world either acknowledges humans are contributing to climate change or, in the case of such vested interests as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, grudgingly admit that it's a real possibility?

Not everyone agrees, just as not everyone agrees that Neil Armstrong really walked on the moon or that Elvis really died. But the dissenters are a tiny minority, and most of them are geologists (many of whom, although not all, are or have been on oil company payrolls). Virtually all climatologists insist that humans are contributing to climate change.


Not everyone agrees, just as not everyone agrees that Neil Armstrong really walked on the moon or that Elvis really died. But the dissenters are a tiny minority, and most of them are geologists (many of whom, although not all, are or have been on oil company payrolls). Virtually all climatologists insist that humans are contributing to climate change.

Whilst I'm assuming all your people think they know what's really happening, I'd have more respect than some scientists that actually understand what's going on and still don't believe in things like Recycling (Almost worthless), Endangered Species (Natural Selection) or Second Hand Smoke (Massively low risk).

Scientists are paid to discover trends, not reality. I can contribute to global warming by turning up my heater, I can also contribute to rising sea levels by spitting into the Ocean.

Being concerned about endangered species isn't about science, it's about compassion. We care for the same reason we care about disease outbreaks: sure if we let the next Plague run unchecked we'll end up with a population of people resistant to it, but a lot of people will die in the process. Sure pandas aren't the most robust creatures, but it makes me sad to think my grandchildren might never be able to meet one.

Recycling is worthless... why? If we don't recycle, where are we going to get plastics once fossil fuels become really scarce? (Whether that's in ten years or three hundred.)

Second hand smoke - well, for my part, I'm less concerned about the health effects than the way other people's cigarettes make my clothes smell bad. Protip: "massively low" is an oxymoron.

Well, since you've now trotted out four fringe-minority scientific views I'm going to stop discussing science with you. Who knows what you'll not believe in next? I wouldn't be surprised if you're a creationist!

If what is happening now--global warming leading to more droughts and floods, rising fuel, food, and mineral prices, increasing debts and a financial meltdown, increasing population and demand per capita given increasing numbers becoming part of the middle class worldwide, etc.--continue, then we will probably look back at the decade with nostalgia.

I don't understand the use of "we" in this. Some of us did take the time to have ridiculous photos taken and have fun.

What, am I meant to feel I missed out because my entire generation didn't get to be photographed in impractical flared trousers? So "we" can pat our older wiser selves on the backs when "we" get nostalgic?

No. _I_ had fun. _I_ made memories and friends. By _my_ parameters, I don't even see the need to lump 10 years together into some sort of set for evaluation, but I've had a good time over the last ten years.

Erm, I *do* find myself thinking "Oh my god. That's, like, soooo '90s.", albeit worded in a less teenage girl-like manner. The 90s are hugely distinctive. Just take the pop culture associated with grunge, pop punk and Britpop for a start.


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