On the subject of nostalgia, it was recently brought to my attention (by the aforementioned CDR Radio, of all places) that the ushering in of a new decade this year means one terrifying thing: for the next 10 years, will all be subjected to the 50th anniversaries of everything that happened in the 1960s. Everything baby boomer, all over again, this time gilded with the cheap coat of golden paint that comes at the half-century mark. The Beatles and Vietnam, Camelot and The Graduate, The Sound of Music and bell bottoms, paisley and Dylan, Julie Andrews and Mao Zedong, Philip K. Dick and Dr. Seuss. Basically everything that defined our parents’ generation and set them apart from the blocks of clean-cut, button-down 1950s that framed their upbringing and set up what is probably the first truly iconic, identity obsessed, pop culture generation. It’s the same stuff we’ve been hearing about in repetition for the past 25, 15, 10 years, lauding it over again and again with re-releases, Rock Band memorials, commemorative plates and musical collections sold late at night by actors whose faces were last on TV during the space race.
Suffice it to say, I think we’ve had enough. I shudder to think that we might subject future generations to the same kind of protracted reverence for our own so-called glory years. The very idea reeks of age-normativeness: the notion that the golden era of your generation is locked into a specific timeframe when your major icons and leaders were in their 20s or 30s; that the interminable political strife surrounding the Vietnam War was the chainsaw that forever shaped the future of our country’s discourse. The revelry drizzled on the Baby Boomers at every turn is often in retrospect: look please, again and again, at the pop culture phenomenons that occurred just because, well, there were so damn many of them.
My fear that future generations will say the same things about us is already manifesting. Kids who grew up never not having an e-mail address get lost in the world of jokes about Lewinsky and clunky old gen 1 cell phones. What’s hilariously ironic to hear pumping from our speakers (Hootie and the Blowfish or the Backstreet Boys) must sound ludicrously bizarre to the people born well after MTV stopped showing videos (imagine, if you will, going to your favorite dance night only to be met with ironic pop songs form the 1960s, the ones everyone knows the words to but would never admit to liking).
The 90s are getting new life all the time. Beavis and Butthead is coming back; Portlandia riffs off burning the eternal flame of the decade; flannel is de rigeur wardrobe for wintering Brooklynites; 90s parties abound. I’ve been to three in the past six months alone, and I can’t tell if I’m happy or resigned to report that I did not require any additional clothing purchases to put together a solid 90s outfit.
As such, I’d like to make a call for a voluntary moratorium from all 90s parties.
Here’s the thing: The 90s are still ourselves. They’re not a kitschy costume party like the 70s, or a kind-of version of ourselves remembered through the neon Rubik’s Cube prism of the mid-80s, the Saturday morning cartoons that were our youth. It’s an era where most of us were fully functional human beings, in command of our own musical choices and the like. Fetishization of the era was fun at the turn of the 2000s, when the surfeit of instant nostalgia made available via technology was enough to call back our favorites and relive lost loves on demand (though, perhaps appropriately, it did take until last year for The State — one of my favorite parts of the entire decade — to hit DVD).
We’ve blasted through that re-era already, and now the 90s parties and the like have a slimy, warmed-over feeling. There are, after all, only so many hits the 90s cover band can play that will elicit the kind of emotional response which is their entire raison d’etre (you’re guaranteed to hear “Teen Spirit” at the 90s gala; not so much “Floyd the Barber”).
If you look at the pictures from a 90s event at The Bell House (last weekend’s My So Called Prom) and can’t notice a difference between any other night at The Bell House, it’s time to lay off the 90s parties for a minute. This comes from a guy who for a long time coveted being a member of Generation X —The disaffection! The flannel! The coffee shops! The Claire Danes! — until I realized we could still have all that, but with the added bonus of actually giving a shit. It all reeks of the potential for selling out our own potential — those 90s sure were fun, now let’s build them up over and over again so that today’s accomplishments can’t possibly compare to the whimsy of watching Zack Morris foible over and over.
If we don’t stop now, we run the risk of cultural obsolesce to the generations that come after us. After all, if we’re as self-possessed at this age, where will we be in 2041, when we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s Ten and City Slickers? I’m the target demographic fan base that album and I’ve been sick of it. For. Years. I can’t imagine what geezer sympathy kids four decades from now will have when busting out “Jeremy” on Rock Band 34, wondering whatever did happen to the dream of the 90s.