Why the ’90s Was The Best Decade For Pop Culture Part 2: Television and Video Games

Continuing the theme from yesterday’s article, today’s article focuses on the television shows and video games of the 1990s.  Before I go on, though, I want to thank a high school friend, Chris Dotson, for giving me the idea for these articles.

The ’90s brought a wealth of television programs that changed the landscape of pop culture.  Even though the first episode of The Simpsons aired on December 17, 1989, it was the only episode of the longest running show that aired in that year.  The Simpsons hit its stride during the early part of the 1990s.  Thanks to the 22 seasons and still going show, The Simpsons paved the way for other cartoons such as South Park, Family Guy, and Futurama in primetime.  The ’90s was also a good decade for science-fiction shows.  One of those shows was The X-Files.  During the nine seasons of this series and a movie, The X-Files developed a cult following almost as large as the Trekkies.  Then there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Buffy not only redefined the horror genre with the girl being the hero instead of the damsel in distress, but also had a significant impact on pop culture.  The ’90s also gave way to a revival of the primetime soap and leading this revival was the man behind ’80s primetime soap, Dynasty, Aaron Spelling.  In October of 1990, the Fox network introduced Spelling’s latest primetime soap, Beverly Hills, 90210.  The show proved to be a huge success for Fox and at the end of Season 2 paved the way for the spin-off, Melrose PlaceBeverly Hills, 90210 lasted 10 seasons and was the inspiration for the current 90210 on the CW.  Some of the best sitcoms made their debut in the ’90s: Friends, Will & Grace, and Seinfeld.

The 1990s also saw a renaissance in video games.  In 1991, Nintendo released their second generation console, the Super Nintendo.  That same year Sega introduced the first game of their most popular franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog, on the Sega Genesis.  Soon thereafter Sonic became the company’s official mascot.  Sony introduced their first generation console , the Playstation, in 1994 prompting the beginning of the video game console wars between Nintendo and Sony.  The game to make Sony Playstation a success did not come until 1997.  The game, Final Fantasy VII, revolutionized the video game industry and went on to sell a total of 2.3 million copies.

The ’90s introduced us to the new innovations in movies and video games, gave us spectacular characters that stand the test of time, and changed the landscape of music.  There was so much going on in this decade that it’s hard to cover all of it just two articles, but I think I covered a good amount of why the ’90s was the best decade for pop culture.

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Why the ’90s Was The Best Decade For Pop Culture Part 1: Movies and Music

Upon reading an article by Mike Hayes on CNN, I realized that the 1990s contributed a great deal to pop culture.  While other eras made an incredible influence in popular entertainment, the 1990s was the decade that greatly shaped pop culture today.  This decade was the best when it came to movies, music, television, and video games.

Movies in the ’90s had an impact on pop culture in a grand way.  Among the movies that came out during this period were Wayne’s World, Clueless, Titanic, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Jurassic Park.  The ’90s became the decade of the independent film with directors like Kevin Smith who made Clerks by selling his comic book collection and maxing out some credit cards.  The film cost over $27 thousand to make and grossed over $3 million.  During the summer of 1999, an independent film called The Blair Witch Project was released and captivated audiences with its fabricated urban legend.  The film became a critical success earning almost $250 million dollars worldwide.  The independent film was not the only aspect that made the ’90s the best decade for movies,though.  Advances in CGI (computer-generated imagery) were made during this period.  Films like Jurassic Park, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Twister, Forrest Gump, and Titanic set the bar in CGI.

The ’90s was also a great decade when it came to music.  On May 15, 1990, the first single from Mariah Carey, “Vision of Love”, debuted and set the course for Mariah to become a powerhouse in the music industry.  During this decade, there was a revival of singer-songwriters.  The most prominent among these was Alanis Morrisette, who came on the scene in 1995 with her multi-platinum album, Jagged Little Pill.  New genres and sub-genres of music were created in ’90s.  In 1992, the band Nirvana released their album, Nevermind, and created the grunge culture into the alternative music scene.   Several bands benefited from the increased interest in the alternative/ grunge genre like Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., and the Goo Goo Dolls.  The ’90s was also known in music as the decade of the crossover artist.  Country singer Shania Twain spearheaded this trend in 1998 when the third single off of Come On Over, “You’re Still the One”, entered the pop and international markets.  The single peaked at number two on Billboard’s Hot 100.  This paved the way for other country artists such as Faith Hill to crossover.

Music of My Favorite Decade The 1990s Part 1: Great Bands

The other day someone close to me said that the 1990s were the worst when it came to music.  Naturally I disagreed with that statement because of a couple of reasons.  I thought the 1990s were rich with great music for these reasons: it gave us great bands such as Garbage, No Doubt, and the Spice Girls (yes I said the Spice Girls.  I will explain why I think they are great in a moment) and we saw the emergence of some singers with great staying power.

During the 90s, some great bands formed or gained popularity.  One of those bands was Garbage.  When Garbage arrived on the scene back in 1995, it was apparent that this band was a force to be reckoned with.  Formed by producers Butch Vig and Steve Marker and Vig’s longtime friend and musician, Duke Erikson, Garbage was born out of the desire for the three men to make their own music instead of remixing everybody else’s.  At first the guys were going to take the direction of Garbage as a trio, but after the initial recordings with Vig doing vocals, the men knew that they were missing something: a woman’s influence.  As chance would have it one night while watching MTV’s 120 Minutes, Steve Marker saw the video of “Suffocate Me” by Angelfish and found the missing piece to the puzzle, Angelfish’s lead singer Shirley Manson.  Their first hit, Vow,  sent Garbage to being famous.

Garbage’s unique electropop style to this day has not been successfully duplicated.  While Garbage went on hiatus back in 2008, things are looking good that the band will be back together.  On a personal note, I met Garbage back in 1999 when they were on tour with Lit as a part of MTV’s Campus Invasion in support of their second album, Version 2.0.  I have to say that Shirley Manson and the guys are some of the coolest people I ever met and to this day I can hear Shirley say to me in her Scottish accent, “I love your shirt” referring to a holographic button down shirt I had bought from Gadzooks.  Here are some pics below:

Shirley Manson

Garbage and Marshall University SAPB

Another band that achieved greatness in the 90s was No Doubt.  The Orange County band brought ska music to mainstream with their breakout album, Tragic Kingdom.  While the band formed in 1985, their self-titled debut album was not released until 1992, but the band’s first album was not met with critical acclaim.  It wasn’t until 1995 that No Doubt would discover mainstream success when the first single off Tragic Kingdom, “Just a Girl” , debuted in October 1995.  Since  Tragic Kingdom, the band’s popularity skyrocketed and No Doubt became an inspiration for bands such as Paramore. 

The final band that was great during the nineties was the Spice Girls.  The girl group from England consisted of Victoria Adams (Posh Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), Melanie Chinsolm (Sporty Spice) and Melanie Brown (Scary Spice).  The Spice Girls gained popularity in 1996 with their first single from the album Spice, “Wannabe” and the 90s became defined by “Girl Power”.  The term “Girl Power”, as the Spice Girls explained it, was about strong and loyal friendship among females and has been dubbed the third-wave feminism.