Is it too early for ‘90s nostalgia?

Illustration by Athena Little

When I think of my grey Playstation One—known to the loyalists by its codename PSX—and the boxy, veneer-panelled monstrosity I used to connect it to so I could play Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, and Metal Gear Solid, I shudder to imagine that those memories are legal drinking age.

I don’t know if I’m prepared to have memories that are legal drinking age
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief

Just a few weeks ago the SuperBowl featured what has strangely been a controversial and hotly debated halftime show. Setting aside the conservatives who have predictably come out in force against the rapping of rap music, social media was filled with incredulous teens and young adults watching their parents celebrate Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Apparently, some of these teens had no idea that their mother once sang along to Mary J. Blige as well. But the thing that caught me so off guard was the combined nostalgia and space between young people and the things that they could identify with. I had to ask myself if I was now old enough to be out of touch with the youth.

If you google the word nostalgia you will be informed rather quickly that the word is a portmanteau of the Greek words for home (nostos) and pain (algos). This allows people to reinterpret the idea of nostalgia as homesickness for a time long past. But that has made me wonder, is it too early for ‘90s nostalgia? Have the ‘90s receded far enough into the past that it can be painful to think of the home that exists no more?

On one hand, I am forced to admit from the outset that the 1990s are as far away from today as the 1970s were from the year 2000. The forward movement of time has dragged us far enough that the dust on my old walkman is both thick and legitimate. Even the idea of a Walkman is strange and dated; try explaining to someone in high school that you need batteries for your portable CD player. And now, when a song like “Too Close” by Next plays, the people who remember the coordinated dance moves and the weird ‘90s club set that every music video was filmed in are outnumbered and drowned out by those who think of the “Why you always lying” meme. Hell, even the eternal deities of Tupac and Biggie have faded to a shrine lovingly cared for by someone with back pain and grey hair.

The resurgence of Kurt Cobain through Nirvana t-shirts sold as a package deal with vinyl records to kids who just want to thumbtack records to their walls doesn’t help either. Kids not old enough to be hipsters or cool enough to pretend, salivate after Billie Eilish records that they’ll listen to twice, never understanding that new records today are not the same as the records made 40 years ago. Better yet is the fact that records basically died in the 1990s due to the CD.

The movies that were once in high demand at Blockbuster have receded to wistful online lists, while Blockbuster itself has descended to a long-forgotten fairytale. As I write about these things I have no choice but to evoke the misty-eyed feeling of nostalgia I’d rather reject. When I think of my grey Playstation One—known to the loyalists by its codename PSX—and the boxy, veneer-panelled monstrosity I used to connect it to so I could play Spyro, Crash Bandicoot and Metal Gear Solid, I shudder to imagine that those memories are legal drinking age. Though it’s cheating a bit due to its 2000 North America release, the excitement I felt first playing Pokemon Gold may be insurmountable as far as video game memories go.

But at the same time, I don’t want the ‘90s to be far away. I only just watched the Ringu series last year and I want to imagine that I will forever have more to discover from Japan’s Golden era of media exports. It’s not fair to me that my love of Ghost in the Shell is antiquated. I just can’t accept that the unsettling beauty of Perfect Blue replete with its shock, its confusion and its strange bubbliness have been worn into the world and forgotten as it’s aged out of novelty and into nostalgia.

But what good is it to fight? That weird blue, white and purple combo that was on everything is long gone. If you remember the interior of a ‘90s Taco Bell or McDonald’s as well as I do this all makes sense. The garish colours of ‘90s anoraks and windbreakers have transitioned from the evidence of poverty and being out of step with the advancements of time into a delightful fashion statement from years gone by. That nuclear green fabric plastered with purple squares and yellow jagged lines is cool again if you are old enough to get it. Bringing back the look of Fresh Prince Will Smith is all the better now that some media exec has decided to refresh it for Bel-Air. I wish someone believed me when I screamed that it is destined to never be as good and certainly less popular, no matter whose name is on it.

And maybe that’s the nail in my anti-nostalgia coffin. Everything ‘90s is old enough to get tawdry remakes and I am old enough to hate it all. I was there, ready, and able to hate the Ghost in the Shell abomination—some have called it a remake—from its first announcement. I was prepared and capable of shaking my head at each new Eminem song, fully aware that his undeniable rap gift was still there, just buried and hidden. I’m even old enough to remember the Space Jam movie I watched a dozen times and the Micheal Jordan cake I got for my birthday after watching it. (Who thought it was a good idea to remake that? Kids don’t even like Looney Tunes these days and LeBron James is not the same type of awe-inspiring.) I still have the glossy commemorative book that came with the VHS somewhere in my old bedroom.

Maybe I just want to keep a respectable distance between me and the Zoomers. I think I like the vision of myself as just old enough to be better, but not old enough to be disconnected. I like that I’m old enough to look down on TikTok but not old enough to be relegated to Facebook. I want to look at them and say: “I remember A$AP Rocky’s first mixtape and Rhianna’s first hit. You don’t really get how awesome this baby is,” and really mean it. But at the same time, I like that their enjoyment of The Last Dance to still be connected to mine though less legitimate. I like remembering the time when channel three was necessary to play video games. I remember the time when the only TVs you could find at value village were Cathode Ray and had RCA jacks and Coaxial cables.

It’s too early for ‘90s nostalgia because I’m not prepared for my jokes about being too old for shit to be more than just a joke. If there is only one good reason for us to reject ‘90s nostalgia, it’s to protect unmarried, renter Millenials from the fact that we are closer to true adulthood than we are to the high schools we long ago left behind. Hell, nobody even wants a high school reunion anyways. We may as well keep the cryptocurrency versus Beenie Babies comparison on the hush and turn our heads from the thoughts of Tamagotchis. Maybe I’ll watch Juice and New Jack City before I segway to Demolition Man and White Men Can’t Jump. Nothing soothes quite like the cinematic highlights of the Yester-century.