“They don’t make ’em like they used to: racist.” “Back in the good ol’ days… polio.” “When I was your age… wolves ate grandma.” It’s dangerous to play the nostalgia game as every single era has its share of terrible, terrible awfulness. It’s generally best to avoid claiming ‘Your day’ was in any way superior to today. For most people, today is the best time to be alive: Endless information at your fingertips, electricity, sanitation, motorized transportation, going to the supermarket in lieu of stabbing a cow personally. Today, annual doctors appointments hardly ever end in amputation anymore (“In-grown chest hair, eh? Well, we’re going to have to take that torso I’m afraid.”) There’s been a distinct reduction in slavery. We have nice, hot winters. Emojis. Yep, most people living in a wealthy nation, relatively speaking, don’t have much to complain about.
That being said, I believe everyone has the right to irrationally despise three things without explanation. You didn’t ask, but mine are:
- ‘Inspiring’ Upworthy/Buzzfeed “news” posts about acts of kindness/ shutting down body-shamers/ whathappenednextwillbreakyourheart! that try to shine a positive light on the world. Fuck your positivity. #faithinhumanityrestored
- The annual media columnist deriding sports fandom with a tweedy “Why don’t we celebrate doctors and scientists like we do athletes!?” neigh. OK, then. Ancel Keys stood where on the Diet-Heart Hypothesis, exactly? Which journals, specifically, do you subscribe to? Archaeologist and paleontologist: which does what? Gravity affects time how? Caltech or MIT: which institute has more Nobel prizes? Is the Large Hadron Collider a collider of large hadrons, or is it a hadron collider that is large? What’s a hadron? *picks up megaphone* WHY AM I SO LOUD NOW? Yeah, you don’t celebrate doctors or scientists.
The above aside… what a time to be alive! Knowing everything I have access to now, there isn’t a single point in the past that I’d rather live in. Did you know, that it’s not technically possible to write a novel or screenplay set before 1950 without a “his/her mother died in childbirth” plot device?
Lady Gwendolyn: “Darling! I’m with child!”
Lord Duke Count Von Thistle-Thwick: “Oh, huzzah! You get some rest. I’ll write the mortician.”
True story, bro. And yet everywhere you look there’s this nagging insistence that everything used to be better. Astonishingly, I encounter it most frequently amongst “youths.” For instance, image tweets of Toby Maguire captioned “Kids of this generation will never know this was the real Spiderman.” In my head, 2007 only ended a few weeks ago. Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift all had solo albums out then. Seriously, what’s changed since then? Nothing for nobody, that’s what!
I have memories. I can reminisce about the Adam West era of Batman, which predated even the Michael Keaton (whom I think is now dead) era, in that it was filmed in the 60s but was still on on after-school-TV into the 90s. I remember when Saturday Disney was Tailspin, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, and Duck Tales. When video games could be fixed by blowing on them, thinking Lara Croft was way hot even though she was just triangles, when everyone turned in identical homework copied from Encarta ’95, and when O.J. Simpson was just a hilarious goof in cinema’s only successful trilogy: the Naked Gun films.
I’m a 90’s kid, which means I did almost all my of schooling – 1st to 10th grade in my case – in the actual 90’s. Being born in the 90’s does not make you a 90’s kid as you didn’t experience it a meaningful way. For example, I was technically alive for nearly all of the 80’s, but I can only remember three things: A birthday party which may or may not have been mine, a later birthday party which was definitely mine, and helping landscape the front yard of my childhood home by pushing a little plastic wheelbarrow around, falling down etc. I was not aware of the collapsing Soviet Union.
The 90’s were not a superior decade. Consider the state of Lara Croft in 1996:Can you imagine being 14 and only having this to work with? And before even that, furtively mashing up/down/button combinations on a Super Nintendo because someone at school swore that it unlocked a ‘nudeality’ of Mortal Kombat’s Sonya Blade? (You’re a fucking liar, Kyle Kowalski.) Dial-up modem noises that would call your parents into your room at a sprint. Really fat, yet really narrow TVs with only five channels. Roller-blading, to Blockbuster Video, to rent a VHS. Art of the 90’s, such as appeared on t-shirts, snap bands, and educational video screen wipes were all of the same shapes and squiggles:
We had to fast-forward through songs on cassette! And, there was no app to summon pizza! The horror.
But the 90’s did do one thing that was singularly amazing. The Simpsons.
Na-na-na-na-na-na LEADER! I’m going… to stalk… Lenny and Carl.
Push her down, son. Neaaaarrrrrrrrd! Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers! Compu-Globo-Hyper-Mega-Net. I choo-choo-choose you. I stand by my racial slur. He was a zombie? ♫ Heyyyy, there!♫ Blim-py boy!♫ Flying through the sky so fan-cy free♫! The kids can call you ‘Ho-Ju!’ It was the blurst of times?! Marge, is Lisa at Camp Granada? They’ll grow back, right? That’s tough but fair. Boy, go with the man. Judge a pig competition? But I’m no super genius! Or are I? Me fail English? That’s unpossible! Groin-grabbingly transcendent! “Millpool.” ♫ See my vest! ♫ See me vest! ♫ Made from real Gorilla Chest!♫ Oh, they have the internet on computers now. Lower those eyebrows! And the other one… Where’s-my-burrito! Where’s-my-burrito! Well excuuuuuse me, for having enormous flaws, that I don’t work on! I was saying ‘Boo-urns’… I’m special! “Old man yells at cloud.”
This list. Is not even close. To capturing every line I know and love. I will blank on the names of my own children before I forget even one of the above quotes. And I feel good about that. The Simpsons of the 90’s wasn’t a ‘show’ from my childhood that I merely ‘enjoyed’. It’s not ‘Step-by-Step’ or ‘The secret world of Alex Mack’ (who was hot BTW). The 90’s era Simpsons is so intrinsically linked with my growing up that it feels like a fundamental part of my personality. You may scoff, but it’s real. My sense of humor is born of it. Every day, I’ll read or hear or see something that brings up a quote from it. Without it, I’m not entirely sure I would have turned out the same.
Amongst the best 24 minutes of my life was “The Summer of 4ft 2”. Aside from providing several of the biggest laughs I’ve ever had:
Nothing, and I sincerely mean nothing else I’ve seen or read since, has captured so perfectly my own search for identity amidst the hazy endlessness that marked a true childhood summer. As the family drove away and Lisa read through the year book inscriptions left by her new friends, I remember thinking “She’s… like me…” Sweet, merciful crap! I’m crying!
Like, you know, whatever….