Bill Clinton can't recall events in the Oval Office that would appear highly memorable. Bill Gates can't remember crucial e-mail messages he wrote about his company's strategy. Hootie and the Blowfish have released a third CD, plainly oblivious to the reception given their second. Yes, the '90s seem to be passing without notice, sliding into obscurity like so much bilge water under the bridge to the 21st century. By next year, amid all the millennium chatter, the decade is destined to be forgotten entirely.
We're here to correct that oversight. We've reflected on the decade. We've looked back at the compelling trends of the day and organized them into lists. We've reviewed the entire nine years of Time magazine covers. We've done everything we can to celebrate the '90s while they're still here. And the conclusion we've reached: no one has any idea what the '90s are about, beyond the basic picture of ever-widening butts planted in front of an ever-widening array of high-tech channels, all of them broadcasting Monica.
The elusive, characterless quality of the '90s may stem from the fact that we spent the better part of the decade recycling the clothes, music, food, TV shows, and impeachment proceedings of decades past. From flares to fondue to the Flintstones, it was a nine-year exercise in strip-mining the trash heap of American culture. Of course, there were a few innovations, like Ross Perot's Reform Party and electronic catalog shopping.
Still, if there's one unmistakable trend to the '90s, it's that the cycle of nostalgia -- from fad to fade to revival -- is getting evermore compressed.
Your cargo pants are going to be passe and cool again before President's Day. So let us be the first to say that we're over the '90s. Now let's bring 'em on back!
The DNA Decade
Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemmings
Human Genome Project
Dr. Richard Seed
Things That Became Extinct in the '90s
"most livable" status
the peace dividend
The Fat Decade
that woman on The Practice
I lost 40 lbs. in three weeks! Ask me how!
'90s Bright Ideas
the cashmere hooded sweatshirt
Contract with America
Brew Your Own Beer
condoms in high schools
condoms in junior high schools
Heather Has Two Mommies
movies based on comics
movies based on toys
movies based on comics based on toys
the Goodwill Games
"Refuse to Lose"
The Oral Decade
"the big creep"
Anna Deavere Smith
giant sucking sound
Very '90s Ways to Quit This World
firing a postal worker
giving a poor review to a rap CD
sharing a latte with Nicole Brown Simpson
elementary school shoot-out
junior high school shoot-out
high school shoot-out
swinging in Walla Walla
breathing in the Tokyo subway
mailgram from Lincoln, Montana
landing a plane on Viagra
CBS' prime time
Jumbo Jack washed down with Odwalla
shoplifting at Safeway
scoring an "own goal" against Colombia
Political Miracle Decade
Clinton still president
Saddam still in Baghdad
British monarchy still collecting paychecks
Strom Thurmond still breathing
Carville and Matalin still married
Thomas Jefferson makes tabloids
Wag the Dog's timing
Inappropriate Relationship Decade
Bill and Monica
Bill and Paula
Bill and Kathleen
Bill and Gennifer
Bill and Andy
Amy and Joey
Mike and Evander
Bob Packwood and staff
buttafuoco buttafuoco buttafuoco
Ronald McDonald and kids
Frugal Gourmet and helpers
Pee-Wee Herman and self
Henry Hyde and friend's wife
Anna Nicole Smith and ancient husband
Clarence and Anita
Tonya and Nancy
Woody and Soon-Yi
Michael Jackson and young friends
Lost in Space
The Brady Bunch
The Beverly Hillbillies
George of the Jungle
Dennis the Menace
Etc., etc., etc., etc.
The Rugrats Decade
"Baby Got Back"
Baby boom echo
"Hasta la vista, baby"
A Brief History of Time in the '90s
How better to gain a perspective on the decade just passed than to consult the magazine of record, the arbiter of our times, the school library standby: Time magazine. There is no better way. According to the magazine archives, here's what really happened in the '90s.
Most frequent cover subject: Bill and/or Hillary Clinton: 16 (That's pre-Lewinsky scandal; there were another dozen after.)
Runner-Up: God (and members of his immediate family) 15
Honorable mention: Saddam Hussein: 12
Obligatory mention: Bill Gates: 3
Most frequent rediscovered crisis: Kids (and Sex/Crack/Guns/Porn/Violence/Pot, etc.), with 10 covers
Most prescient political cover: "Bill Clinton, Is He for Real?" (January 27, 1992)
Second-most prescient political cover: "Lying: Everybody Does It" (October 5, 1992)
Worst call on a political issue: "Roe v. Wade Is a Dead Letter" (May 4, 1992)
Worst Show-Biz Star of the Future call: Jodie Foster, "film director" (October 14, 1991)
Worst Political Star of the Future call: Janet Reno ("The Real Thing," July 12, 1993)
Most extreme wishful-thinking cover: "Dan Quayle Is No Joke" (April 23, 1990)
Most inexplicable Man of the Year: Ted Turner (1991)
Most deserving cover subject of the decade: Bart Simpson (December 31, 1990)
Tales of Our Lives: Fashionable Time cover maladies year by year
1990: Anxiety (October 15)
1991: Infertility (September 30)
1992: Global warming (June 1)
1993: Domestic violence (January 18)
1994: Attention Deficit Syndrome (July 18)
1995: Cyberporn (July 3)
1996: Prostate cancer (April 1)
1997: Evil mind drugs (September 29)
1998: E. coli, the killer germ (August 3)
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