Why We Love 90s Teen Culture

90s movies

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m 28 years old and way past the socially acceptable age to be wrapped up in the petty drama and day-to-day lives of party-going, teenage rebels. That doesn’t make me any less obsessed with teen media, though. From my earliest cognitive memories to my most recent levels of semi-consciousness, I have always been a fan of any stories based around teenagers and their struggles.

While the 80s had John Hughes movies and the Brat Pack alongside landmark series like Degrassi, the beginnings of Saved By The Bell, and The Wonder Years, the 90s are where I did my bulk of adolescent entertainment consumption. That doesn’t mean that the 80s stuff was overlooked, however, I just got the spillover and the syndication instead of the first runs.

The 90s film and TV landscape provided a really colorful, slacker-centric, radical look at the elusive teenage creature. The most memorable series like Beverly Hills, 90210 and My So-Called Life gave us a voyeuristic look into the 90s high school microcosm and provided endless hours of engaging plot developments. There were also shows like Boy Meets World, Salute Your Shorts, Hey Dude, Party of Five and the oft-forgotten Sweet Valley High and the Secret World of Alex Mack, among others. Movies like Angus, Encino Man, Airborne, Dazed and Confused, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Can’t Hardly Wait, Varsity Blues, Kids, Hackers, and countless others gave us tears and laughter as they punctuated both our awkward weekend movie dates and our lives.

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Super Metroid

90s video games

“The last metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.”

This simple phrase is the first step of a wildly satisfying, epic journey in quite possibly the most perfect action and exploration video game ever made, Super Metroid. Of all the games I’ve owned, rented, or played over the course of my 28 year existence, it ranks right up there with Chrono Trigger as a textbook example of gaming bliss. In many people’s opinions, it could even be considered the definitively best video game experience ever created. You’re all well aware that my loyalty still lies with the aforementioned time-traveling RPG, but it’s only by a very narrow margin.

Let’s first take a moment to discuss the overall basis of the Metroid franchise’s Sci-Fi storyline. You play as a blonde beautiful bad ass named Samus Aran, an intergalactic bounty hunter on the hunt for Space Pirates led by the monstrously powerful Mother Brain. The Space Pirates themselves are in constant search of one of the galaxy’s most mysterious and powerful creatures, the Metroid, in order to harvest them for their own personal gain. You see, the Metroids are seemingly simplistic, jellyfish-like floating blobs, but their ability to drain life and energy from living things makes them a hot commodity for power hungry space conquerers.

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Eureeka’s Castle

90s nickelodeon

It’s no surprise that 90s Nickelodeon captured the perfect blend of creativity, imagination, and goofiness to make it the mecca of kid-friendly programming. From the younger-aimed Nick Jr. daytimes to the Stick Stickly afternoons, Nick at Nite’s classical-era sitcoms and a flawless Saturday SNICK line-up, Nickelodeon was the king of family entertainment.

One of my favorite Sesame-Street-esque pieces of the Nickelodeon entertainment puzzle was a little children’s variety show of sorts called Eureeka’s Castle. Co-created by R. L. Stine, of Goosebumps infamy (Say cheese and die, bitch!), this puppet-driven kids’ fantasy land ran from September 4, 1989 to June 30, 1995.

The show takes the viewer into the daily lives of various puppets and chronicles their whacky adventures that all involve some sort of important life lesson.

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Goodfellas (1990)

90s movies

Martin Scorsese is an independent director who has had mainstream success, but he still holds onto his roots of independent filmmaking. A true auteur, Scorsese exemplifies an independent director with a very distinctive personal style. Despite his use of brutal violence to punctuate moments in his films, he never glorifies it. Throughout his filmography, Scorsese de-glorifies violence while showing the painful price of such actions with a realistic approach that characterizes his films and forms his distinctive style of filmmaking and storytelling.

While his presentation of violence may seem sadistic to some, it is its shocking nature that is the most important aspect of its realism. His characters always rely on their fists, knives, baseball bats, or even the butt of a gun to get their point across because violence, at its core, is a primitive act.

90s movies

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First Kid (1996)

90s movies

Although Blank Check was beloved by children who didn’t know any better, it was a complete failure and overall dud, in my adult opinion. Disney had the right formula, however. They knew kids would love to see stories about other kids who were rich or unique in some way going through the same trials and tribulations that everyone else goes through in the process of growing up.

One of the best examples of a well-executed pains-of-growing-up kid adventure film is Disney’s First Kid. Released 2 years after Blank Check, First Kid had time to mature as a script and also pooled enough cash to wave in a well-established comedian’s face. Sinbad is the perfect comic foil in any film (See: House Guest, Jingle All the Way). His blend of street smarts and physical comedy make for a lovable blend and a believable lead character.

Disney’s First Kid is a 1996 film about young Luke Davenport, an average 13-year-old boy who lives a not-so-average lifestyle. Luke is son of the current president of the United States and he’s locked up in his Capitol Hill kingdom like Jasmine in Aladdin, never allowed any fun and rarely getting to see his busy politico parents. This kind of stifling of childhood causes him to act out in various entitled, disobedient ways, but it’s hard to blame him.

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