By Helena Hanson
On paper, the 90s was rough. It was an anomaly of disasters. Diana died, Madonna dated Vanilla Ice and you couldn’t watch a full episode of The Queen’s Nose without your dad interrupting to check the football score on teletext. But it is the decade that won’t die, kept alive by a generation of young adults who will forever celebrate their childhood, for the good, the bad and the ugly.
It is only upon reflection that I have realised 90s and 00s television was terrifying. Our after school entertainment featured characters such as Mr Blobby, Rosie and Jim, and ‘The Head’ from Art Attack. An animated stone bust who has a likeness of Chris Maloney from the X Factor and who would burst into hysterical tears throughout the show. With talking rag dolls, moving stone bursts and walking…blobs as our childhood entertainment, is it any wonder our generation is condemned?
Even the movies sucked. It was standard to add fifteen minutes on to any film-watching time, as you could guarantee the kid before you had forgotten to rewind the video back to the start. So you’d have to watch the whole bloody film backwards before you could even see the opening credits.
Our favourite toys weren’t even cool. The most exciting toy of our childhood was the urinating baby doll. If you didn’t have a Baby Annabelle or Baby Born that would wee on itself, you really weren’t worth knowing. Aside from Christmas, when we were allowed access to our holy bible (the Argos catalogue) we were lumped with whatever was available at the newsagents or whatever our older brother didn’t want anymore.
We played with sticky, gloopy alien foetuses, birthed from a plastic egg from that dodgy shop on the corner. We were unequivocally convinced that these gummy bits of slime could reproduce if rubbed them together and prayed for a miracle. A group of people approved this concept as a toy for children. A group of people created this product. Your parents bought this for you. Again, is it any wonder our generation is so screwed?
School was a laugh, though. Don’t you miss those pre-Jamie Oliver days? When turkey dinosaurs and chips, and a pudding, was on the menu five times a week! Even if you were a kid with a lunchbox, life was sweet. Our lunchboxes were crammed with fruit winders and ice cream flavoured Monster Munch (that was an actual thing) and Pringles that were neatly packaged in plastic Pringles containers and sandwiches filled with that weird bear-face ham.
The best part was that it didn’t matter if we got fat, because the 90s was a free-for-all of fashion. If your clothes fitted you, you were doing it wrong. Everything had to be two sizes too big, or two sizes too small. If you weren’t busting out of it, or drowning underneath it, your parents were failing you.
School was just one big lesson in social construction. We learnt the differences between boys and girls pretty quickly. Boys were in the playground beating each other up and shouting “smell my finger” while the girls sat in the classroom experimenting with WordArt and playing swaps with exotic smelling gel pens (why did they never market them as ‘smell pens’?)
It was so easy to be cool in the 90s. You didn’t need a smartphone or designer clothes or nice make up to impress. All you needed was a pair of extra chunky, thick wedge school shoes, crimped hair, and a Groovy Chick duvet, and you were in. You earned bonus points if you had a Tamagotchi or one of those snap bracelets that you had to smack yourself on the wrist with to put it on. To clarify, we had to hit ourselves with our jewellery in order to wear it.
The boys of the 90s, wow. You knew who you wanted to be your boyfriend in school. You saw him, with his curly ramen hair, and frosted tips. ‘Just like Justin Timberlake’ you’d sigh to your friends. He’d be clad like prince charming in his neon yellow Henley’s t-shit and those denim baggy flared jeans that had a zipper at the knee that takes the legs off and turns them into shorts.
There was just no rules to 90s music. The Backstreet Boys made a fortune from a song that celebrated them coming ‘back’ despite it being their first successful single and they hadn’t actually gone anywhere yet to come back from. And you’ve just got to admire the gusto from the other boys when Nick asks them if he is sexuaaaaal and they all reply YEAAAAAAAAH without so much as a flinch.
The ‘Now! That’s what I call music’ CD was stuff of legend. It featured songs from the likes of Paris Hilton, and Katie Price and WE LIKED IT. You could make a smash hit from lyrics like “ring ding ding ding ding dingdemgdemg” as long as it was mimed by a little frog-like creature with its willy out and a hat on. The best part about your mate’s birthday was buying them that ‘Now!’ CD you wanted and copying it on to a blank disc before you gave it to them.
Music was so clearly defined. I can only dream of girl bands today with such conveniently pigeonholed stereotypes as sporty, scary and baby. Female artists needed nothing but a mediocre voice, an extremely low rise pair of jeans and a feather boa. If you had a belly piercing and a boob tube, you were big time.
There was no greater excitement than knowing your favourite band had a new music video coming out, and gathering with your mates around MTV on a Friday night for four hours to catch three and a half minutes of magic.
It was a simpler time. It was the age of no technology, and no bullshit. A single text on your Nokia 3310 would cost you 10p. You wouldn’t get a ‘K’ reply in the 90s. Nobody would waste 10p on a single letter. Rejection was even easier. You had a good few days to convince yourself that Kevin had probably just ran out of credit, rather than had decided you weren’t worthy of a valuable 10p text.
The internet was merely an infant too. It had not yet grown into its omniscient, omnipotent self. It could not exist without being connected through a wire to the telephone. Even then it was shit, because you could only be on it for twenty minutes before your parents made you get off the internet “in case somebody is trying to ring”, even though nobody was ever, ever trying to ring.
Our nostalgia will live on, because the 90s are making a comeback. 90s fashion is rife, oversized denim jackets, scrunchies, jelly shoes, chokers. We are literally dressing the same as we did when we were five. The 90s lives on through memes, and the music played in Live Lounge, and all the issues of ‘GirlTalk!’ that you have stashed away under your bed
The news will continue to constantly remind us of our childhood, as yet another of our heroes dies or becomes a paedophile. And here were are, a generation of youngsters that ate multi-toned pink ham with a bear face, wore jewellery that either slapped us or choked us, played with gooey alien foetuses and all to the soundtrack of a song sang by a frog with a visible penis. This is why nothing phases us. This is why we are all encompassing, all accepting, and all creative beings. God bless the 90s babies, a generation of freaks and weirdos.