Friday, December 03, 2010

Here We Are Now; Entertain Us

I've been noticing something for the past couple of weeks. I was trying to ignore it, but now other events, that are just as strange, have made that impossible. Friends, on the streets of New York, I've been seeing... scrunchies. I'm not talking about the occasional sighting in tourist-ridden Times Square or on the ironically nostalgic streets of Brooklyn. No, these scrunchies are appearing on subways, in Greenwich Village, and in my very own neighborhood. In other words, they've hit the mainstream. I mean, what would Carrie Bradshaw say!?

I was willing to let this go. But then, last week on Twitter I saw that #why90srocked was trending, and Monday night on Conan, CAKE performed. Throw in the way-too-soon-and-downright-evil reboot of Buffy and the fact that teenagers all over the country think that being trendy means dressing like me in 3rd grade, and we have one viable conclusion - the '90s are back.

This is sad to me for two reasons. The main reason is that, since fashion and trends are cyclical, this means that my generation is now the previous generation. This is depressing on an obvious level, not that we all didn't see this coming. The other reason the '90s being back is worrisome is because pretty soon we're all going to have to re-learn, the hard way, that snap bracelets hurt!

As a '90s enthusiast, however, I'm excited about the return to what I consider the most interesting decade in modern history (pipe down, '60s fans, I got your back too). I won't pretend I fully understood the cultural impact the '90s had on the country at the time; I'm only now, in my late twenties, beginning to process what I had missed while I was busy growing up.

But, to me, the '90s symbolized hope. Civil rights, including those of women and LGBT (an acronym, by the way, that started in the '90s), were by no means where they needed to be, but it felt as if equality was finally on the way. Clinton started DADT, and while that was a bad decision (my blog = my opinion), it still managed to spark a national debate, one that is still very present in the news almost twenty years later. Yet, twenty years before that, I doubt anyone would have even noticed yet another government mandated form of intolerance. We probably wouldn't have been told it was going on.

More than that, the '90s, in retrospect only, represent the "before." Better days, if you will, whatever that means. In the way that "post-war" became attached to literature, film, and even architectural structures after World War II, the phrase "post-9/11" infiltrated our culture in what we read, watch, and how we act. With that one morning, the economically positive, civil rights-defending, overall hopefulness of the '90s came to a screeching halt. (I'm not, by the way, suggesting that 9/11 is the source of our current financial crisis. It is NOT. Just want to make that clear.) In the early '00s, we managed to reinstate socially acceptable racism, only this time with a different face. We had a president who not only encouraged this, but he gave the racism a catchy name ("Axis of Evil"). Suddenly having a cowboy in the White House seemed more logical; I guess so he could play his role in the disaster film we were currently living.

The post-9/11, post-'90s world also created a wave of conservatism that, in addition to racial minorities, gays and women were back to being targets - with fewer voices willing to dissent this time around. The idea of two men or  two women getting married is an actual debate. This should say everything there is to say about the way we (America) feel is acceptable behavior toward minorities. Likewise, a qualified, intelligent, and, yes, ambitious woman was thisclose to being president, and yet she is still, to this day, being denigrated for her choice in clothing, rather than being challenged on her policies. Likewise, I doubt that middle school graduates Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell would receive even a fraction of "credibility" were it not for their darn physical attractiveness.

We live in a time of The Tea Party, a hate group that has not gained such national attention and support since the early days of the KKK. If the '90s are coming back, I say bring it on. I'll suffer through a Vanilla Ice comeback tour if it means returning to a time not dictated by fear and hate.

I don't usually get so political here, so I'd like to state again that my blog represents my opinion only. Please respect it, especially in the comments section, and I'll do the same for you.

Now, that said - what does all of this have to do with you as writers? Well, everything. Writers are the ones who get to dictate what's remembered. We're both a reflection of, and a cause of, what is happening around us.  The bestselling fiction authors of the 1990s do not differ too much from what we see today. It seems there will always be a Grisham, King, or Koontz novel on that list somewhere. Only now our terrorists and monsters represent different things than before. Will we see a return to Anne Rice vampires? Bridges over Madison, or other, counties? What about books like Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, that represented a decade so perfectly, the way Jay McInerney and Bret Easton Ellis represented the '80s? Books written "about the time" in the '00s were automatically labeled post-9/11. It practically became its own genre. Lorrie Moore's The Gate at the Stairs comes to mind, but there are others.

Did you know that the New York Times didn't even have a Children's Best Seller List until 2000? Apparently they wanted Harry Potter to get off the "real" list, so they gave it its own place. Writers, this speaks volumes of the power you have now. We're lucky enough to have finally returned to generation that doesn't need to be pre- or post- anything. And when the previous generation returns, it means one thing - a new one has just begun. Contribute to its discourse, write its history, and, most importantly, entertain us.

21 comments:

  1. I couldn't get into the later seasons of SATC. They sort of reneged on their single-woman thing and got all... relationshippy. But watching that scrunchie bit makes me want to watch them anyway. Almost. Charlotte's wifey stuff... eeeeee, no.

    Anyway, to actually comment on your fabulous post: YES. I agree with all of this, and your conclusion is inspiring. Especially this week after the awesomeness that is Wikileaks, I feel that good times are ahead.

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  2. Hey, if the 90s come back, there'll be another round of Star Trek spinoffs! Can I apply to be the next Bill Gates?

    LGBT is an initialism, not an acronym. It's a common mixup, so just do what Palin does and combine them. I've been promoting my invented word "acronism" for just such cases as this. It solves a lot of problems. Take GOP for example. Is it an acronym or an initialism? Easy! GOP is an acronism! (Say it out loud for full effect;)

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  3. Fantastic post, Sarah.

    And, as the mother of an 11-year old girl I can attest that snap bracelets still hurt like hell and so do those effing silly bandz.

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  4. @Ben - thank you for schooling me. plus, I did not need to say acronism out loud for the full effect :)

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  5. Heeey, I mentioned the 90s on my blog today. Coincidence? I think probably.

    The worst thing about STAY FRESH which is apparently a big deal and possibly sells clothes (?!) is that they're kind of blurring the line between the 80s and 90s. Which I guess makes more sense than staying entirely true to the decade. Because nobody wants to go back to spaghetti strap crushed velvet minidresses and dark lipstick.

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  6. I was born in the 90s :) I've got a sweet spot for 'em.

    Funny you bring them up, because the other night I bought a TON of 90s songs for an epic playlist. That's one thing that really sticks out to me for the 90s: the music. It's awesome and real and different, I think, from anything before or after it. They're the songs you know the words to, no matter who you are.

    Cool post on 90s. What an awesome time :)

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  7. Ugh, glad I'm not the only one made to feel old because the 80s and 90s are coming back. I'm not that old, dammit!

    I have to agree that I wish the open-mindedness of the 90s had kept going strong, but 9-11 changed Americans into frightened xenophobes, and accentuated every other fear. Looks like terrorism works. The terrorists must be so proud.

    All seriousness aside, scrunchies?!?!?! WTF? I thought those were only good for putting on the door of your dorm when you're getting busy with some co-ed?

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  8. As someone who was a fully grown adult AND in the military in the 90's, I do have to point out that at the time, DADT was actually a step up from the previous policy. Because before that, they could ask. And they could ask your friends, too. It was not pleasant for those of us who honestly couldn't see a problem with it.

    But yeah, I sort of miss the openness and prosperity. But I'm really bloody proud when I hear from young people that they haven't really bought into the hate, prejudice and fear. I really am. And it gives me hope.

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  9. @Fawn - I don't think that DADT wasn't progress by comparison; I just think he put a band-aid on something just so he didn't have to deal w/ it. He could have stopped this current debate from happening if he just let them serve openly in the first place. But I'll repeat - I do not pretend to comprehend all of the complexities that happened while I was a teenager. There's more to learn all the time. Thanks for your comment :)

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  10. Let's just hope if the '90s are coming back, we get some decent music coming out again.

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  12. I was a teenager in the 90s, so completely okay with the music and flannel coming back. Scrunchies...eh, not so much.

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  13. Wow…okay, well.

    It appears I am quite a bit older than your usual lurker and having lived through the 60’s of REAL racist and sexist, believe me, this ain’t nuthin, sista. Watch Mississippi Burning or an old episode of I Love Lucy to get a flavor of it.

    A few points:

    DADT was a step up. Now we need to continue climbing out to the hole.

    Same sex marriage is coming but insulting others beliefs is not the way to change minds.

    Every opinion deserves respect. Even the folks who like Palin, the Tea Party, and Conservatism.

    It is better to start a dialogue and remain polite in the face of differing opinions. Yelling at each other doesn't get us anywhere.

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  14. @Huntress - I have no doubt that we are always progressing, though slowly. I'm sure those who grew up in the '40s would say the same about the '60s. Every generation should move one step closer to real equality. I completely agree that nothing will ever get accomplished if people just yell at each other. Thanks for no longer being a lurker! Hope to hear more from you on future posts too.

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  15. It seems like political opinions, these days, immediately get people fired up. I don't remember politics being such a lighting rod when I was growing up. I mean, I'm not naive and saying politics have suddenly become personal, but I seriously think the current climate of seething hate and inta-argument is bizarre.

    Like you, Sarah, I am of the opinion that human dignity matters and Americans should not only enjoy the basic right of living with dignity...but more importantly, Americans (conservative and liberal alike) should treat each other WITH dignity and respect. Why is that such a difficult concept for some people to wrap their American heads around??

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  16. Love the post. I never stopped using scrunchies.

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  17. I LOVED the 90s.

    Almost like being a teenager for the 2nd time — only with music I actually LIKED.

    Plus — generally low on silly haircuts if I recall.

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  18. I loved the 90's!!! I still have one pair of EG socks left :)

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  20. I'll stay away from the political aspects, but my wife wears scrunchies from time to time. With her long, wavy, cocoa hair pulled back, a few strands always hang loose - making me think of her as a supermodel. She's always had the ugly-duckling syndrome, but I really believe she could win a contest like America's Next Top Model. Unfortunately, and not by no fault of my own, she has little faith in her beauty.

    It amazes me. But yeah, I'm all for scrunchies.

    And about the 90's? Quick point. When the generations that went to high school during the 90's enter their mid thirties, they begin to influence the popular trends. Thus, bringing us in circles so often. Shrug. Just a guess.

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