Culture

5 Totally Unbiased Reasons Why The ‘90s Was The Best Decade Ever

By Nina Agostinelli··  7 min read
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90s great never been kissed
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There seems to be an elephant in the proverbial room of 2022. While everyone has no problem indulging in throwbacks and ‘90s kids are pledging allegiance to the best decade ever, nobody is talking about what actually made this era so magical.

You know those exhaustive lists of ‘90s nostalgia we’ve all been guilty of scrolling through? Before you know it, you're texting your sister a picture of Mall Madness and googling where to buy a Furby (for your kid, of course).  

And if you’ve wandered into the junior's section recently at Target, you’ve probably spotted a babydoll dress you definitely owned in middle school (they're so cute though, right?). Then there's the music. Do you remember the tizzy we all went into for the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show? And are you really even a person if you don’t set your Spotify to NSYNC and Britney Spears once in a while? But fashion, toys, and boybands can’t take all the credit here. The lure of the ‘90s goes deeper than that. 

While it's always fun to reminisce, these are just products of the era. We aren't actually swooning over physical things, but rather the time we associate them with. So what was so special about that time back then? For most of us, it was somewhere in our adolescence, and longing for childhood isn’t a new concept. 

As strong as they are, sappy nostalgic feelings aren’t enough to prove the ‘90s were superior. But it also wouldn't be fair to throw out those emotions altogether either, especially when they seem to be affirmed by the masses. To back up these convictions, we need to look carefully at how society was different – in a good way – back in the ‘90s.

The Close of the Cold War

While we can’t do much to recreate a post-war peace, it’s worth mentioning the significant event that set the stage for this decade. The 1990s didn't just feel more peaceful, compared to prior decades, they literally were. The six year span of WWII was almost instantly followed by the start of the Cold War between Soviet Russia and the United States. 

In our fight against communism, American families suffered as men were being drafted into the war and the threat of nuclear attack was never too far from anyone's mind. For almost four decades, American citizens lived in terrorizing uncertainty.

Tensions finally began to decrease in 1990, and the official collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1992 meant a newfound sense of peace and safety that Americans were unacquainted with. Adversity wasn’t nonexistent, but there weren't many major headlines making history at this time. 

Just Enough Tech

If you try really hard, you can probably hear the sound that dial-up internet made when logging into your AOL account. Before the addictive euphoria of comments and likes, there was the pleasant excitement of hearing “You’ve Got Mail!” Eventually, we retired our cringy AOL usernames for AIM screennames in 1997 and communicating with friends became even easier. Cell phones were around, but served only as phones. Information was available, but not in an endless wave. People were connected, but not as a substitute for in-person human contact. 

The internet decided it wasn't content just being an asset to people’s lives, but wanted to be people’s lives.

Google made its way onto the scene in 1998 and gave way to MySpace and YouTube. The internet decided it wasn't content just being an asset to people’s lives, but wanted to be people’s lives. We accepted. Gone was the simplicity of the Buddy List and Ask Jeeves. In the name of progress, intrusive social media and soul-sucking smartphones took their place, causing Americans to withdraw into a bubble, while simultaneously suffering from FOMO. 

Boy Meets Progressive

When talking about the '90s, it's impossible not to recall the tv shows that practically raised us. TGIF and Saturday morning cartoons were the pinnacle of our weekend. There was something special about our lack of choices, and we were all well-versed in the same shows as our classmates. Shows were witty, relatable, and feel-good. I mean, does it get any more wholesome than Boy Meets World

There’s a question that has been thrown around on social media, and it goes something like this: “How in the world did a generation raised on South Park become so offended by everything?” South Park was gross, and honestly they took things a bit too far sometimes, but many seem to have hurled to the opposite end of the spectrum for fear of hurting feelings. Progressivism is plaguing Hollywood right now, putting people either on edge or on the defensive. 

The movies of the ‘90s were known for inviting you to think about the world differently. Nowadays, Hollywood prefers telling us what to think, even planting their worldviews into unsuspecting children’s movies. Not only that, but anyone who has watched a Netflix Original in the last five years can attest to how awful they are. They replace credible working actors with desperate Influencers, and showcase cringey predictable scenes where the writer puts his or her screwed up life into words instead of actually telling a good story.

Entertainment is still a quintessential part of the American home like it was in the ‘90s. Only now, much of it seems to exist merely as a platform for virtue signaling. 

Casual Sex Was Still Taboo

Ok, bear with me. If you grew up going to church, then you're probably familiar with ‘90s purity culture. It stemmed from a program that sought to promote sexual abstinence and purity until marriage. Unfortunately, the goal of the curriculum was lost in translation and twisted into something that shamed teens and skewed their perception of sex. Nevertheless, the idea of waiting until marriage got through. 

Even secular outlets were encouraging kids to wait. Abstinence wasn’t yet laughed off in sex ed classes, and government-funded PSAs with catchy slogans like “Not me, not now,” interrupted every teenager’s afterschool MTV binge. Even though the execution wasn’t perfect, these attempts still seemed to slow down society's acceptance of casual hookups. 

Today the idea of waiting until marriage is disregarded as an impossible standard, as if someone is forcing you to have sex with someone you don't like or who has no intention of marrying you. Teens and young adults are encouraged to do whatever makes them happy as long as it's “safe and consensual.”

The United States of Depression

Progressives might insist that it’d be imprudent to stay stuck in the mindset of the ‘90s. But what if that way of living produced a healthier, happier society? What if the “progress” our country thinks it’s making is anything but? When you look at the increase in depression from 1990 to 2017, there's been a 40% jump. Not only that but suicides have also gone up by 33% from 1990 to 2018. What is the point of progressive thinking or evolving technology if it seems to leave us a mess? 

It can't be a coincidence that our country seems to be falling apart before our eyes. When such central aspects of our lives undergo the drastic changes that we’ve allowed, society will naturally suffer.

Closing Thoughts

Our deep affection for the ‘90s is one of the only things that unites Millennials across the board. We all seem to lightheartedly acknowledge that this decade goes unmatched. So instead of just bringing back fashion trends, maybe we should also take a hint from societal trends that set the tone for such a beloved decade. The magic of this time might not be as elusive as we think.

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