Friday, April 5, 2013

Setting It Straight On The 90's-Just Another Of My Opinions

            So much goes into an individual such as myself trying to generalize about the entire sociological structure of a particular decade. A good example of the difficulties involved in doing such a thing would be when I decided to discuss the decade of the 1990's. Physically speaking this decade has been over for fourteen years now. As with any period of time one can imagine, it had its trials and errors. The most interesting part of the 1990's, looking back on it well over a decade after the fact is how it laid the groundwork (for better or worse) for the culture we have today. In fact its still very much a part of my personal life too. I was never the same after the 1990's. And in all honesty I am still recovering from the influence of its societal maelstrom.

           The years 1990 and 1991 were by and large a time that was filled with much hope for the future. Star Trek The Next Generation and I'll Fly Away were on television-giving a sense of hope for the future and historical closure on a dark chapter of the fast. Operation Desert Storm came to a close and the troops began coming home. The better qualities of the 1980's looked to be resolving themselves in a new decade that, at first promised hope and above all a strong sense of futurism to society in terms of the culture at large and our technological development. An age of balance about healthy living, taking care of our natural environment and genuine respect and tolerance of other cultures was ascendant. Than at the end of 1991, as far as I was concerned,something went terribly wrong. 

            At the end of 1991 a new music video cropped up during my weekly viewing of Friday Night Videos. I had my naturally curly hair about shoulder length and was probably wearing faded jeans and a neon colored t-shirt. This video came on by a band called Nirvana. The music was so loud and the melody so frightening I backed away from the TV screen-watching images of this pep squad cheering in this frightening,muddy colored mess. This unwashed looking guitar player, who I later learned was named Kurt Cobain, sang almost unintelligibly until screaming out "HERE WE ARE NOW,ENTERTAIN US!". I remember going in the kitchen for a snack waiting to see my favorite video at that time which was "Do The Bart Man". I figured this horrifying video was a fluke and life would go on. It was not quite to be in fact.

           That following autumn of 1992 after what had basically been a good rest of 1991 I began middle school. The first day I arrived there most of the children looked like that dirty man in Nirvana's video I'd seen. And many acted just as mean and aggressive as well. I was being bullied relentlessly-now for wearing the "wrong clothing". I heard it said recently the 90's were like the 60's upside down, and I cannot disagree. Instead of clothing defining a person,it could now make or break them. I had a profound revelation about how life was doing to be after this horrendous experience. And how many 12 year old's are even supposed to have anything at all profound on their minds? Somehow though, it was now clear that I was going to come of age in an era that culturally rejected poetry and embraced realism.

            In the 1970's and 80's music was often a motivating factor in enacting social change. By the mid 1980s Bob Geldof, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Sting and bands such as U2 were all directing their musical messages towards humanistic concerns-from farmers rights to homelessness. By 1993 and 1994, the majority of the songs that seemed to direct the public consciousness had a more to do with violence-either by aggressively harming another or flat out suicide. The most popular musical styles of the day-grunge rock and gangsta rap captured that spirit. While anything that sounded joyous and spirited seemed to be a source only for laughter.Much of this culture I call now "alternative culture". They were often famous for a wholesale rejection of anything from the previous decade,often with hostile vitriol.  

            1980's cultural icons such as Pee Wee Herman and Michael Jackson-who represented humor and kindness, were made into public scandals during this time. While Courtney Love and Shuge Knight, who basically represented avarice and organized criminal behavior, were elevated to the role of pop culture icons. The focus the public had on the news media also shifted accordingly. Legitimate news programs became secondary sources for vital information to the supermarket tabloid,as well as their televised equivalents such as Hard Copy and Inside Edition. This in turn led to the development of many superstitious conspiracy theories and revisionist history that captured the attention of people of all ages. People's humor and basic language was becoming more cynical and nihilistic.

            One of the major cultural factors of this era was its tendency to confuse expressiveness with pretentiousness. In fact "pretentiousness" suddenly become something of a buzz word to describe most any music,film or work of literature that celebrated the poetically emotive creative ethic. This was a time when those children born to the baby boomers,known as the 13th or "Generation X" later on, were in adolescence or adulthood. Those born during the 1960's were the young celebrities of this era. Including those like Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. They resented their parents for what they saw as a failed attempt to create a bohemian utopia, and saw them as selling out. They turned inward and became largely more self concerned, with an extremely corporate sense of thinking as a thin veil to a layer of arrogance.

            Personally I had many positive experiences in the 1990's. Visited some new places and new some often good and interesting people as acquaintances and sometimes friends. But it was a decade I still celebrate being over to this day because I found much of it culturally unendurable. Even to this day those who call the 1990's their generation still often flatly refuse to admit the flaws that defined every aspect of popular culture and the psychology of that era. If one reads all of the above objectively, and looks at what they see wrong in the world around them most of its seeds were planted not in fact in the 1980's-as of course the 1990's zeitgeist falsely championed throughout the decade. But these seeds of disillusion that often defines the post 9/11 world were in fact planted in that decade where the 60's were in fact turned upside down on its head.

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