A Note on Gen Y and 90s Nostalgia

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Gag me with a freaking spoon.

Growing up in a time where technology and media are so rapidly advancing can make it complicated to decide what cultural sources to pay attention to. Which TV shows or magazines or musicians are even worth our time? Which are valid? We all went through a cultural education of sorts in our formative years – whether it be through friends, magazines, TV, etc. We exposed ourselves to as many things as we could, and then picked out the things we liked while learning how to be critical at the same time. Cultural capital depends just as much on what you like as it does on what you don’t like.

Our generation – the Millennials, Generation Y – seem to have this great obsession with nostalgia and basing cultural capital and worth on how much you know about the past. Perhaps more than our own parents did with their parent’s culture. Well then, in my eyes, the problem has always been: how do you learn about all the culture that was around before you yourself were absorbing culture? How do you learn about your parent’s culture? Apparently our way of learning about the past is to just reminisce the living daylights out of it. Sure, many generations may look back nostalgically on times past, remembering the good times and forgetting the bad, but today we have taken on a whole new level of compulsion.

The internet has taken the 90’s – which is supposedly OUR culture – and turned it into this overly idolized decade of grunge, tamagotchi and Reality Bites. Tumblr is filled with blogs dedicated solely to the 90’s, Buzzfeed has an entire section basically dedicated to nostalgizing the 90’s, and then there’s articles like this that explain to us poor Millennials how to deal with the new generation gap. The number of “If You Were a 90’s Kid You’ll Remember This!!!” lists is absurd.

Can we be honest with ourselves here for a moment? These cultural moments and phenomenon of the 90’s are today being relived by a whole bunch of people who weren’t even around to experience them. I got most of my cultural education on the 80’s and 90’s from reruns of VH1’s I Love The 80’s and I Love The 90’s. Why? Because I was born in 1992 – the 90’s is barely my culture. My culture is what’s happening now and what was happening when I was in high school. As much as I might not like to admit it, Justin Bieber is more my culture than Lisa Loeb.  Kurt Cobain died in 1994 and Reality Bites also came out in 1994 – I was 2 years old. I wasn’t exactly aware of Sub Pop’s latest record release. Maybe this only applies to the latter half of Gen Y, but even if you were born in the late 80’s, you were still younger than 10 years old when Smells Like Teen Spirit came out.

All this being said, there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ 90’s nostalgia trip. We do it here at inconnu all the time. There is much to be learned from history – and maybe that’s why we put so much value on it. The internet is just the latest and best tool for nostalgia (Which apparently, can be quite good for you). I just don’t need to know how to overcome cultural gaps or be told that something that happened when I was 4 years old was the greatest cultural moment of my lifetime, because right now is the time that my generation is dictating what counts as valid.  Cultural appreciation just may have to be a delicate balance between reverence for the past and embracing the present.

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About Joanna Harkins

co-founder and editor-at-large of inconnu

One comment

  1. Bubbz

    THANK YOU.

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