'90s Stuff We Want Back, Dammit

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
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Ah, the ’90s. They seemed so fast-paced, so new, so wild — and now they look like the good ol’ days. Most of us had not yet moved into the slow-moving horror that’s adulting (mortgages? health insurance premiums? what the fuck is an “HOA” and why do they say I can’t stick pink flamingos in own my goddamn yard?!). We had alternative rock. Billy Corgan had not yet degenerated into chemtrails and conspiracy. Yes, “don’t ask, don’t tell” reigned supreme — but despite its dark ages mentality towards things like, you know, civil rights, we miss the good parts of the ’90s. Bad. And we demand them back.

Pop-Up Video

You could always come home, flip on VH1, and if they weren’t running that goddamn “Fields of Gold” video, Pop-Up Video could guarantee at least an hour of music infotainment (“infotainment” used loosely here). It combined our love of music videos with a love of celebrity gossip. Like, did you know the cat in Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” video belonged to Ethan Hawke? And before she was “Sexy Spice,” Geri worked as a nude model? I lost so many hours of my life to Pop-Up Video. And I don’t want them back. I can tell you nothing about algebra and at least five facts about Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Old School MTV

Speaking of Pop-Up Video, remember when in the ’90s when MTV aired actual music videos? Remember getting excited for a new video’s release? My friends and I had a special sleepover for Oasis’s release of “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” They had shows like ‘Beavis & Butthead,’ and ‘Daria’ taught a generation of girls what sarcasm was. And you can’t forget what an absolute game changer ‘TRL’ was. How many of us had low key crushes on Carson Daly?

Plus, who can forget when this swept the MTV Video Music Awards?

Leonardo freaking DiCaprio

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OMG, total swoon. He was the quintessential ’90s teenage dream. That smile, that perfectly swoopy ’90s hair. He could do it all. First there were dramatic roles in ‘The Basketball Diaries’ and ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.’ Then he came out with ‘Romeo + Juliet’ and it. was. all. over. Raise your hand if you cried when, in ‘Titanic’, Rose swore to Jack, “I’ll never let go!” Oh look, pretty much every single girl in America has her hand in the air.


Jerry Springer

Oh, Jerry. I could come home, flip you on, and never know what I would find. People brawling? Someone standing by their man after he cheated with their brother? Twins in a polygamous marriage? Spouses divorcing over a foot fetish? Now, I flip on bizarre shows and I know what flavor of cray is coming. Jerry Springer offered a grab-bag of human emotion, fistfights, and occasional audience participation in said fistfights.


Must-See TV

Before streaming defined cultural touchstones, we had network television and cable. There were shows that everyone watched and talked about the day at school or around the water cooler (remember those?) Most girls wanted to be Rachel Green. “Yada, yada, yada,” became a catchphrase because of ‘Seinfeld.’ Every week we looked forward to seeing how Kenny died and visiting the kids in Capeside. It was before everything was unfunny and full of reboots. (I’m looking at you, original ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘Will and Grace.’)


The Oregon Trail

You tried to ford the river and your fucking oxen died. You constructed graves for dead family members. You starved to death. You died of dysentery. For many of us, Oregon Trail was our first intro to video games; it was supposed to be educational; and holy shit was that thing morbid as all hell.

They’ve tried to bring it back as a card game? FAIL.

Luckily you can play an exact replica here, or force your children to do so.


Sexy-Ass Boy Bands

Girls in the 80s had New Kids on the Block, and they were great. But in the 90s we launched into the glory days of *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. (And 98 Degrees, and O-Town, and LFO, and a whole bunch of others.) They were damn hot and plastered all over our bedrooms and had it all — they sang and danced. They were carefully curated to make us scream and did so in coordinating outfits and we lost our horny, teenage minds.


Lisa fucking Frank

It was sparkly and covered in leopard print and unicorns and tigers and neon and came in every possible product ever. Raise your hand if you want a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper as a datebook? Oh look, hands of all and sundry genders in America went up.

Pens. Notebooks. Posters. Bedspreads. Weren’t there curtains? There should have been curtains. And all the things were amazeballs and we want them back. Who says grown-ass people can’t color in velvet posters of fabulous unicorns?

Except Lisa Frank is one of the things that did return from those halcyon days of our youth, so you can buy all that shit now. So get yourself some stickers. You deserve them. They have fucking fake nails, people. Y’all best get on that.


When Our Biggest Fear Was Y2K

At the end of the ’90s, we thought our world might end because of some computer blip.

Fast forward to a global pandemic that’s killed 1 in 500 Americans.

Fast forward to hospitals rationing care because fuckheads won’t get a lifesaving vaccine against said global pandemic.

Can we go back to Y2K, please?

Saved By the Bell

Yeah, Zack Morris is trash. And there was that weird season where Kelly disappeared and all of a sudden we had Tori, who looked like she walked straight from The Outsiders into Bayside? You can watch it on free on Netflix but it’s not the same as coming home and zoning out to Jessie getting high off caffeine pills.

Now it’s been 27 (how) years since Zack and Kelly got married and a new generation of kids is at Bayside. But the reboot just isn’t the same, even if they did get Slater and Jessie to come back. Some things just don’t need a Gen-Z approach.


‘Family Matters,’ ‘Full House,’ and ‘Perfect Strangers’ were some of the original shows on TGIF. No one wanted to go out on a Friday night and potentially miss whatever the Tanners or the Winslows were up to. Everyone knew how to “do the Urkel.” Then we got shows like ‘Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,’ and ‘Boy Meets World.’ You know you wish Mr. Feeny was your teacher. And who can forget Melissa Joan Hart as the original ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch?’ Friday nights just aren’t the same.

Old School Video Games

The PS5 has nothing on an old school Nintendo game console. And a Switch is no substitution for a Game Boy. We had games like ‘Goldeneye,’ ‘Mortal Kombat,’ ‘Mario 64’ and Sonic the freaking Hedgehog. you know you still hum the music from Zelda.

Dear ’90s, we miss you. You were an amazing decade while you lasted, even if we believed our Furby was spying on us, we got in trouble for bringing our Pogs to school, and I’m still sorry for killing my Tamagotchi so many times. Maybe we could bring some of you back. Less social media, more cargo pants. Less Goop, more Pop Up Video.

We miss you. Well, some of you. Your good parts, at least.

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