Ah, the good ol’ days
Today, the world seems to be crumbling underneath our feet. We’re on the final few laps of a terrifying presidency only to come upon a typical, cut throat campaign season. Our planet is dying in front of us. Jeff Besos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, released that Amazon’s federal tax bill was zero dollars this year despite the company’s profits being 5.6 billion for 2018. And to make matters worse, Law and Order: SVU is leaving Netflix in March.
It feels natural in chaotic times, to yearn for a time of simplicity, making many young people search their childhoods for places, people, and things that are worth remembering. The late 90s was an era of change. In 1999, most of us were newly disrupting our parents’ lives as newborns and the adults in our lives believed in a new millenium that would usher in change. Well, plenty has changed. But for a moment, let’s go back to 1999:
Below is a list of nineteen things that won’t be turning twenty with us this year.
- Average gallon of gas was $1.17
This seems like an urban legend. In 1999, the average cost of gas across America was under $1.50. What a time where the cost of my Spotify subscription could buy me at least a quarter of a tank.
- Spongebob Squarepants premiered
In May of 1999, the very first Spongebob Squarepants episode featuring the high-caliber spatula and the bus loads of singing anchovies we all remember and love debuted on Nickelodeon. From then on, we’ve enjoyed musical performances, heart-warming and belly aching storylines, and lately, some iconic memes. Thanks to the shows creator, Stephen Hillenburg (RIP), we’ve all had our lifelong dream of a Spongebob halftime show partially filled.
A few cultural icons lived and thrived but have since passed:
- The Harry Potter craze was taking off in the U.S.
- iBook, the most aesthetically interesting Apple computer
- Freak and Geeks premieres its one and only season, a sad truth that’s silver lining is Jason Segal’s career.
- Baby Bottle Pops?literal sugar covered baby bottles that we proceeded to dip in more sugar. I think these still exist and anti-vaxer moms are shaking just thinking about it.
- ICEE spray candy was also another convenient store favorite that might have been vegan because it was quite possibly just liquid plastic.
- Bluetooth headset premiered?this dead trend might be reviving itself in airpods. Nonetheless, it’s the rich’s original hard flex.
- Super Smash Bros?the original for Nintendo 64 released in North America and Japan in January of 1999.
- Twirl-O-Paint?the original art kids known exactly what I’m talking about.
- Teen Movie era: 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, American Pie all premiered in 1999?a time in cinema where semi-attractive white people in their upper 20s played spoiled teenagers in lukewarm melodramas, one’s that we all secretly still have on VHS.
- Britney Spears’ VMAS Baby One More Time performance aired in January of 1999. A sexual awakening moment for pubescent boys, girls, and gays across America that has been sorely missed.
- Furby Babies?electronic robots that could switch to speaking English and were available in 24 different colors. Ended racial tensions for a brief moment.
- Cranium and Cranium Hullabaloo?personally this is a defining personality trait for me and I will not apologize for that. The original PSAT meme was referencing this game on the playground.
- JLo’s debut studio album On The 6 release in June of 1999, which propelled Latin Pop Music into the American arena. RIP to a time where Justin Bieber’s poorly done Spanish accent wasn’t dominating the charts but actual Latin Pop artists were playing everywhere from nightclubs to supermarkets.
- The Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal came to a close with President Clinton’s acquittal of all charges on February 12 of 1999.
When thinking back to this particular political scandal that dominated pop culture through the rest of the 20th century and into much of the next, I remember how disheartening it can be to be nostalgic for the past we may still be living in.
Just over 20 years ago, a presidential scandal centered on sexual misconduct and perjury to a grand jury. Today, our president has twenty-something outstanding cases of sexual misconduct ranging from mild to severe harassment. There is an ongoing investigation that may prove coercion with Russia to dismantle the democratic elections, for which people close to our president are heading off to jail under perjury charges. Meanwhile, our media is zeroing in on Kamala Harris smoking pot and Elizabeth Warren’s 23&Me results. Some things really don’t change.
In 1999 while America focused on who did and did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, NATO, led by the United States, launched the two-month bombardment of Yugoslavia. The strikes were not limited to military installations and NATO targets included civilian targets such as factories, oil refineries, television stations and infrastructure. This tension over oil would dominate the foreign policy of the United States for decades to come, spawning a number of small conflicts in the Middle East that would topple democracies and give rise to dictatorships– later groups like Al Queda and the Taliban. The media coverage of this was obsolete. Bill Clinton’s blowjob, however, was everywhere. Our priorities haven’t changed.
A major misstep in nostalgic thinking is memorializing the past instead of learning from it. To be too lenient with our childhood memories is to allow the suffering and implications of 1999 to spill over into a new era. It may be tempting to yearn for a time of innocence and simplicity, but to allow nostalgia to give way to ignorance may be allowing for a repetition of poor (and sometimes catastrophic) mistakes. Some things never change. Unless we start paying better attention. To be 20 in 2019 is relentless; but it is also a unique time full of opportunity for us to learn from 1999’s mistakes, landmarks, and successes– all in the hopes of making a slight increment of change. We may owe change to the people, places, and things that aren’t here anymore. Trayvon Martin would have been 24 this year. The Twin Towers will be gone for 18 years this September. Some of the Parkland victims would have graduated this May. We may owe more than nostalgia to what did not come into 2019 alongside us. While it’s nice to revel in the past every once in a while, we may owe it to 1999 and the past to be better today than yesterday.
Jordan Szymanski is a second year Writing for Film, TV, & Emerging Media major and staff writer who parties like it’s 1999, even though they were a baby then. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org