Well, this should be an interesting one! A big thank you to Fred for the tag. You should check out his post about the 90s if you haven’t already, because he was just a teensy bit older than me back in those days, and, as a result, remembers more about it than I do! Fortunately for me, I have a very good memory. There are some things I remember doing when I was under 6 years old that my parents can’t even remember. Like my first swear word (It was the F-bomb, it was on Christmas, when I was still in preschool. I picked it up from my dad, when he was loading torn Xmas wrapping into a garbage bag, with some apparent difficulty).
I was born in the 90s– 1994, to be precise; an eventful year. That was also around the time in which my career (such as it is) as a storyteller began. I learned how to speak full sentences very quickly, whilst most children my age were still babbling. My imagination was constantly racing– though that hasn’t changed much. Many a time would I sit my family down on a couch to listen to a story I neglected to finish (“This is the story of Sululu.” If any relatives are reading this, they’re probably laughing). I was basically the real-world equivalent of Stewie Griffin from Family Guy, except I love my mom, and have no intention of killing her with anything except the stress my life choices bring her. I was a very quick study as far as the bare basics of life were concerned, but was also quite naive, as one might expect of a small child. My friends and I got into all sorts of trouble. Some of it I might talk about, because it’s funny; other bits I’m less proud of, and will probably not. I would continue to be naive for a long time. I still am, in many ways. Life’s a journey, as they say, and my journey started in the 90s.
My Favourite TV Show:
Pokemon and Sailor Moon are tied here. Yes, I was a fan of anime before I knew what the word meant, and before I even knew of Japan as a country. If that’s not dedication, then I don’t know what is! Anime has always been a conveyor of emotion that I’ve resonated with, whether my past self chose to acknowledge that fact or not. Even though I could not fully appreciate the storyline of Sailor Moon as a kindergartner– especially since this was before I had the option/opportunity to watch every episode in the correct order– Tuxedo Mask, in all his cheesy splendour, was a huge influence on me, and likely remains one of the primary foundations of my personality as it is today. Though it definitely is harder to pull off the mysterious suave look when you’re barely 5’6″.
And what sort of 90s kid would I be if I didn’t watch Pokemon? Admittedly, I watched a lot more Pokemon in the early 2000s than the 90s, but it was still a big part of my childhood: watching an episode or two, then playing Pokemon Red on my Game Boy Colour or Pokemon Stadium on the Nintendo 64, until my friends inevitably showed up to play the card game (and by “playing,” I mean we made up our own rules that changed basically every time we started a new game). Eventually, Yu-Gi-Oh! became the new cool thing to like, and we moved on to that and forgot all about Pokemon… but I can still list off almost all the original 150 from memory, and have a few of the newer titles on my 3DS, that I play from time to time.
There were a bunch of non-anime shows I watched as well, but most of them were from my parents’ era, not the 90s! Scooby Doo, Woody Woodpecker, Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Jetsons, Bugs Bunny and Tweety, The Roadrunner, and other Loony Tunes shows, just to name a few. My favourite western TV show that actually came out in the 90s was Tales From the Cryptkeeper.
My Favourite Song:
This is a tricky one. I really love music, and always have. There are some songs from the 90s that I listen to now that I couldn’t really appreciate during the 90s, and songs that I loved as a child that were from a time long before my own. Which should I write about?
Let’s start off with the songs from the 90s that I actually listened to in the 90s. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, and U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer. Absolute classics that bring a smile to my face whenever I hear them today. Teen Spirit was my first introduction to harsh vocals and aggressive chords, and I ate it up, even as a young kid. Even though Tiny Jake didn’t get the lyrics (and I still don’t, heh), something about that song spoke to him, gave him energy, maybe even made him a little bit more prepared to deal with the nonsense of this world that he would inevitably have to cope with when he got older.
I don’t listen to much Nirvana these days, and sort of grew out of grunge after a while; but I have Nirvana to thank for kickstarting my appreciation for hard rock and metal, which are my some of my musical mainstays nowadays. If I’m not listening to Japanese music, or immersed in the harmony of classical music or opera, there’s a good chance I’m listening to some roaring, chaotic metal; though I really do listen to just about everything these days… Rock, Reggae, EDM, Alternative, Folk– you name it. Everything except most of the stuff that passes for “rap” these days. If you like mumble rap, don’t even talk to me (kidding, mostly).
I was never much of a Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears fan as a kid, but I’ll listen to them now.
I think the most memorable song during that time for me, though, was not from the 90s at all. My dad had a CD or maybe even a cassette of songs that he would play in the car, and one of those songs was Watching The Wheels by John Lennon. I remember one summer, heading over to my grandparents’ cottage in Calabogie, the excitement, the anticipation, knowing the next few days would be full of fun and adventure and good times with family… and being stuck in the car for an hour-long drive. I made my dad play that song on repeat for… well, a long time. Eventually he had enough and moved onto other songs. It’s a very pleasant driving song, though, for obvious reasons, and it still hits me with a wave of nostalgia for those carefree summer days whenever I listen to it.
Anything with Billy Mays in it. Before Phil Swift, Billy Mays held the title of Living Meme. He would become a different source of entertainment for me on YouTube, many years later, when the YTP community was still young and sentence-mixing his commercials. Rest in Peace, you magnificent man.
Another commercial I loved was for a board game called Mousetrap. I’m not sure how popular it was in other parts of the world, but it was one of my favourite board games when I was young… even though my parents had to constantly stop me from breaking the rules.
NSYNC or Backstreet Boys?
NSYNC all the way. I probably should have mentioned them upstairs in the Favourite Music section. To be fair, I did/do also like the Backstreet Boys, just not as much as NSYNC.
What Did I Collect?
Crazy Bones. I think I might still have my collection tucked away somewhere…
Of course, I also had a collection of Pokemon cards, but that felt like the boring answer here. It was the 90s– everyone had Pokemon cards! Do any of you remember Crazy Bones, or collect them yourself? I remember being the only kid on my street who did.
How Many Tamagotchis Did You Collect?
That, my friend, depends on what you mean by collect. Did I buy them, raise, them, nurture them as was intended? No.
Did I steal certain friends’ Tamagotchis and harvest their souls in the name of the Elder Gods, and revel in my friends’ minor disappointment each time?
My Favourite Game & Console:
Easy. Nintendo 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Still one of my favourites, and one of the best, or at least most memorable, video games ever created. I was too young to beat it back when it was relatively new, but I loved watching my dad play it– the story, the world… it filled me with a sense of awe and wonder and always made me want to go on an adventure of my own and rescue some princess from the monsters that lived in the tiny bit of woods behind my house. I even built my own slingshot… even though you could buy some from the dollar store back in those days.
I was older and better able to appreciate Majora’s Mask when I first got it (a few years after its actual release), and gods, that game was revolutionary for its time– but I grew up in Hyrule, and it still holds a particularly special place in my heart.
Honourable mentions go to the SNES, which I also played quite a bit, the Banjo Kazooie series, and Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko. The last on that list was a favourite of mine for featuring both 1) A gecko; and 2) A gecko acting as a 007-style secret agent. I had two pet geckos as a kid, and I loved James Bond… though this was later on in the 2000s, maybe 02-03, which is why it only gets an honourable mention.
90s Crush, Disney Channel, Favourite Cereal Toy:
Despite having my first kiss in Kindergarten, I was too young to have a proper crush on anyone; though I did want to rescue a princess like Zelda, so… maybe Princess Zelda counts? Was she my very first waifu? Lol, you decide.
I didn’t get any toys in my cereal, and now I feel cheated. I do, however, remember getting some limited edition Star Wars figurines from Pizza Hut when The Phantom Menace was about to be released. That’s, like, the closest equivalent I can come up with. Sorry.
One time I got a CD demo for something in a cereal box, but I don’t remember it working. Or maybe it did, and just bored me so much that I erased its contents from my memory. But that was a thing that happened, once.
And, uh, we didn’t have Disney channel. If I wanted to watch the Lion King or Aladdin or something I’d just bug the nearest grown-up until they found the right video cassette. Disney movies and shows had a bit of a special meaning to me back then. I never really watched any of that stuff unless I was around my cousins, who were much more into Disney shows and movies than I was. There’s still a vestigial association in my mind with Disney movies and lazy days up at the cottage with my cousins and paternal grandmother, or visiting my cousins at their old house, which I still have a near-perfect mental image of.
My Favourite Cartoon Show:
I kinda already did this category in Favourite TV Show. All my favourite shows from back then were cartoons. I don’t think I consistently watched anything that was live-action back then.
Weirdest Fashion Trend:
I don’t think my parents ever hated me enough to give me a bowl cut, though a few friends and classmates had one at some point or another. Though I mentioned I was naive, I wish to stress the fact that there was never, ever, a time in my life where I thought the bowl cut or anything similar to it resembled anything less than an utter visual atrocity. It was a mistake. It should not exist. Yet here we are again, today, with kids getting the sides of their heads shaved and leaving the tops long– usually whilst listening to mumble rap. Some get eerily reminiscent of the Bowl/Mushroom cut, too. Not cool. It’s like this weird, reverse-tonsure sort of deal and I hate it, hate it, hate it.
It’s alright, Jake. Deep breaths. Find your centre.
My Favourite Toys:
Besides the video game consoles I mentioned above? Well, there were the Hot Wheels racetracks I used to play with, a whole mishmash of toy swords and guns I used to play with my friends with (Every kid on the block wanted to be friends with me just because I had the biggest arsenal of weapons!). There was also this home-made playdough that my maternal grandmother used to make for us as kids out of salt, Kool-Aid crystals, and grandmotherly magic. We had big, multi-Litre cottage cheese tubs that we used to store the stuff, and I think, at our peak, we had at least half a kitchen cupboard full of homemade playdough. My younger brother and I used to build castles, strange monsters, and have mini wars with our creations. It was great.
The toy I miss most, though? My slingshots. You can imagine how much fun/trouble a young, adventurous boy might have with such an item in his possession. I guess I’m lucky I never took out anyone’s eye with the things… because my friends and I, we really didn’t hold back. We were all determined to become as good a shot as Link.
Disney, Nick, Or Cartoon Network?
Cartoon Network. Sometimes Nick. Canadian TV stations feature(d) a combination of shows from both, IIRC.
Early Morning/Weekend Shows:
Morning shows for me were not typically 90s shows. They were Scooby-Doo and anything on Teletoon Retro. Watching those shows with my parents on early weekend mornings, often whilst my maternal grandparents who loved to spoil me visited, is something I’ll always remember fondly.
Happy Meal Toys & What Would I Watch After School?
I don’t remember having many Happy Meal toys that were a long-time part of my collection. Again, during the release of The Phantom Menace, I think there was a few good ones of the droids and the Viceroy that I would pull out whenever my brother and I wanted to reenact Star Wars battles with our action figures.
What did I watch after school? Why, video games, silly! But if I wasn’t playing my N64 or running around outside, I’d just watch anything that was on. I don’t remember TV programming being very consistent day-to-day. From the sounds of things, American TV stations had much more of a decisive lineup of shows, each to their own respective stations, than we did up here in Canada.
My Favourite Book:
Another tricky one. I read, and was read to by my dad, very frequently as a child, from kids’ books to the Lord of the Rings novels that my dad would read to me before bed. But there was one book I loved so much that I actually stole my school’s copy of it for a while, before becoming its more rightful owner after getting my mom to argue my case with the school library.
That book was Wow, Canada! by Vivien Bowers.
I remember picking it up on a whim during our classroom’s designated private reading time (This was after the 90s, but the book was published in 1999 so I’m still saying this counts), as I’d forgotten to bring my own book. I relished every single page of this book. It took me to places I’d never seen before, gave me an idea of just how big this country really is. Each page was a new mini adventure for me. I couldn’t tell you how many times I re-read this book, but it was a lot. I think I still have my elementary school’s copy of it somewhere, complete with all the markings and “Property Of” stamps that were supposed to deter me from stealing it.
Looking back, I don’t know what it was, exactly, that drew me to this book, and hooked me so strongly, besides the fact that, whenever I think of it, my brain very clearly draws from it the ideas of comfort and shelter. Despite being a book about the real world, it was an escape from my real world. Reading this book as a kid, to me, was like being curled up in a blanket by a warm fire and some snacks, with the sound of a fierce storm tapping at the window panes from outside. Nothing and no-one could hurt me when I was hanging out with Guy, Rachel, and his family in that book. I don’t know why I felt so strongly about that book as a kid– it was stupid, really– in fact, I was probably more vulnerable than ever when I had my nose in that book, oblivious to the world around me; but that’s how I felt at the time.
Maybe I’ll read it again soon, for old times’ sake.
Favourite Thing From the 90s That is Not Around Today:
Saving the trickiest for last, eh? Can it be multiple things? Everything? My childhood? Well, I’m still a child at heart. Can it be something vague?
How about: The Simplicity of Things.
Despite all the new and great technologies we have today (I certainly wouldn’t have the tools required to write this blog back in the day!), I feel like life in general has gotten more restrictive, and that things designed to bring us closer together have actually pushed us further apart. Karl Marx once said:
“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”
I feel like that’s precisely where we’re headed as a global society. Humans are growing more and more obsolete in the face of technology, and yet, our numbers keep increasing. Machines get smarter, and humans get dumber– or at least, less independent. Ask yourself: How difficult would it be for you now to live without your smartphone for a month? Your computer? You don’t have to give me an answer if you don’t want to; just something for you to think about, on your own time.
It would be difficult for me… and that bothers me. I try not to rely on these technologies too much, and yet the current life I lead is still quite dependent on them. Living independent of modern luxuries is becoming a lost art.
When we have all these things so easily accessible to us, it ensures we never really learn to live without them. But as we’re all aware, humans existed without any form of electronic conveniences for millennia.
The 90s, to me, embodied the perfect happy medium between modern technology and independence. People still used paper road maps to navigate, kids still played outdoors and weren’t being constantly policed by the powers that be, and people were just all around more connected with their surroundings and their neighbours.
No; I’ve changed my mind. You know what I want people to have back, that (most) communities don’t do anymore?
The whole street is invited to just hang out together on a sultry summer day, eat some greasy burgers and get tipsy on cheap rosé, whilst their children run around with water balloons and Supersoakers, stage epic games of street-wide tag, and generally make nuisances of themselves– but the welcome sort of nuisance, like a cat.
I miss those days. It seemed everyone was happier back then. People would bear their hearts to another more willingly– they had no other option, of course; social media didn’t exist yet. Neighbours were people you could trust, not people you’re supposed to ignore like everyone else, albeit in a slightly more amicable fashion. Kids don’t play make-believe anymore. They stand in one spot in front of a basketball hoop, dribbling the ball with a vacant look on their faces. That’s if they go outside at all. If that’s our future, then I can only hope I don’t live long enough to see it.
It is a devil’s bargain, this technology we have. The convenience has cost us a part of our souls. I know I sound like some curmudgeonly geezer who’s trapped in the past, but I don’t care. It’s true. And a part of me is trapped in the past– having a good memory is a double-edged sword.
By the time the world realises I’m right, they’ll be too ignorant to realise I’m right. I mean, it’s kind of already happening. Just talk to the average person today. Dumb people graduate from university. How the hell does that happen?
But of course, it wouldn’t make sense to abandon all we have now, and go back to how things were in the 90s, as much as I’d like to relive my childhood. But acknowledging this going forward, carrying the spirit of the past as we go into the future, each day more technologically-advanced than the last, is the only way we will retain our humanity as our ancestors knew it. It’s worth protecting, I think. But maybe I’m the crazy one.
You mean, like, graffiti? I haven’t done that in years.
Honestly, I still don’t know a lot of people on this platform. I’m not the best choice for this as I don’t really have anyone else to throw this at. Want to give this one a go, Irina?
Anyone else remember the 90s? Want to try this? Go ahead– you don’t need my permission! Just hit me up with a comment if you do decide to do it, so I can read yours later. I’d like to see how my experience of those days compares to yours!