Does it ever feel like we're regurgitating our culture in shorter cycles to you? For a while, waves of retro and revival came in roughly forty year spans, then it shrank to thirty, now here we are at roughly twenty year nostalgia periods. Much of the last decade was spent looking back on the '80s with a weirdly optimistic view (because that's what nostalgia is, basically) and now it's the '90s turn. In the past two years, fashion went grunge at Saint Laurent, Nick Teen started rerunning Clarissa Explains it All and Doug cartoons in a "The '90s Are All That" time block, twenty year anniversaries for Nirvana's In Utero, Hole's Live Through This, and Pearl Jam's Vs. have caused a reexamination of the seminal albums of the era, Miley is borrowing every reference from the era available and even Alicia Silverstone is back in the news!
Been there, literally. I'm now excitedly planning ahead to early 2000s nostalgia.
Yes, the pivotal early 2000s. These were the years that brought us President George W. Bush (you know, that painter guy), Golden Age Britney Spears, tech vests, techno music, Ricky Martin's bon bon, color coded terror alerts, original HBO programming, going carb-free and of course, one Mr. Spongebob Squarepants. Allow me to look ahead to some of the cultural phenomenon we'll shortly be looking back on.
What a way to start the decade with an "eh." We were all expecting the world to shut down, computers to turn against us and the clocks to cease ticking in an electronic meltdown at the stroke of 12:00 that New Year's Eve. Remember Y2K shelters and their logical next use as Jodie Foster inspired panic rooms? When none of these things happened, we were all relieved that the Terminator: Rise of the Machines outcome we all predicted was silly and we vowed to never react hysterically to any half-baked news story again. Then Fox News came along and parts of America forgot that vow and duct taped themselves into their apartments in terror. Can Y2K panic theme parties be far away?
La Vida Ricky Martin
Although the one-time boy band member had been around for almost a decade when he burst into the mainstream in 1999-2000 with "Livin' La Vida Loca", the world suddenly took notice of the bon bon shaking star and his Latin flavored pop. "Livin' la Vida Loca's" title track along with "Shake Your Bon Bon" and "She Bangs" were among the biggest hits of the early part of the decade. Women wanted Ricky and boys started wearing Armani inspired hip-hugging slacks and three button shirts. And then, at the height of his popularity, he disappeared from the spotlight only to reemerge a decade later as a proud gay dad and advocate. Admit it, you'll gladly swing your hips to his songs at the inevitable Ricky night one day at the DNA Lounge.
The Height of the Rave Scene
All my friends from my Bay Area childhood assure me that, by the time I saw the San Francisco/East Bay rave scene circa 2000, it was at its peak and simultaneous decline. Jungle, House, Trance... Yeah, I never really got techno music. To me the entire thing just seemed like a scheme to charge people ten dollars for bottled water, but maybe I'll like it the second time around! Luckily for me, I saved all three of the pieces of raver "candy" jewelry I ever owned and I'm sure I could get a pair of those hand-sewn muppet fur pants I remember everyone wearing at the warehouse parties. In the meantime, I'll just watch Go.
The Patriotic Post-9/11 Moment
"America is open for business." "I love NYFD." "Support our troops." Because nothing says "the terrorists won't defeat us" like a bumper sticker or a t-shirt slogan.
Britney Vs. Xtina
It was the single biggest argument of the day. No, not whether George W. Bush or Al Gore won the presidency, but are you a Britney or Christina fan? In one corner, we had the Britney inspired school girls and, in the other, the Christina genies in the bottle, waiting to get rubbed the right way. Then Britney did her snake charming routine and Xtina got "Dirrty" and we didn't know what to think. For some of us, the loyalties shifted, but for others they remained true to their original pop songstress. Then there were the original Pink fans; you never wanted to get in an argument with them.
Sarah Michelle and Freddie
Sarah Michelle Geller and Freddie Prinze Jr. were among the cutest celeb couples of the decade; we all just loved their three part names combined! These were also the golden years of Jennifer and Brad soon to be swallowed up by the combo-celeb couple name games that "Bennifer" yielded. Basically any couple where one or more players had a part in Cruel Intentions was magical back in the day.
"I Don't Wanna Wait for Our Lives to Be Over!"
Dawson's Creek reached its peak years in the early 2000s on television. Teenagers played by 30-year-olds talking like grad students in the third rewrite of their dissertations somehow equaled ratings gold. Before Dawson and his portrayer James Van Der Beek were a popular crying meme, before Katie Holmes was Tom Cruise's ex-wife and before Michelle Williams was an Academy Award nominee, they were all must-not-miss TV for high school students tearing their hair out to the strains of Paula Cole each week. We all had the Dawson or Pacey/Joey or Jen argument, but my vote was always for gay character Jack, the beating heart of the Creek who seemed to barely tolerate the teenage shenanigans of his peers. He and Jen would just sit back and judge the other people on the show and that was all right by me.
The "Queering" of the Culture
Within the course of five years Will and Grace, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and The L Word all debuted on television and suddenly the culture got a lot more comfortable with gay people in their homes. More than gay-themed films (except possibly for the mainstreamed Brokeback Mountain in 2005), the queering of television helped pave the way for more gay-themed entertainment across the board. Props to Ellen and her groundbreaking coming out in 1997 for starting the ball rolling. Also, remember when Spongebob and Tinky Winky were gay for each other or something?
High Kicks with Nicole Kidman at the Moulin Rouge!
The quick cutting, the pop score, Nicole and Ewan making out at the height of their beauty, and dance numbers that knocked you back a foot when you saw them on the big screen. Yes, it could only be the gang at Baz Lurhmann's Moulin Rouge!. Bump "Lady Marmalade" at full volume, while cooing Satine's signature line "Come and get me, boys!"
The Last Gasp of AOL
Remember being up all night instant messaging and talking in chat rooms? Now, an AOL email is a scarlet letter signaling fogey status, but once upon a time it meant cool internet features like entertainment pages vaguely themed around something you might like and cool away messages you could personalize and the agony of writing the perfect member profile. The Friendster, MySpace and Facebook stole our attention never to give it back.