Friday, April 30, 2010

More Fun with Children of the 90s Search Terms

There have been so many hilarious search terms popping up in my Google Analytics tracking data, I felt it was only fair to spread the funny around and share them with you. After all, haven't you ever wondered what make other readers and/or random internet lurkers like yourself curious about the 90s? What's that? No? You'd rather just reminisce about the 90s? Just kidding, of course you do. Due to popular demand, we're having another brief interlude to examine just how confused some of us 90s fanatics really are.

In the case of many of these terms, it seems the asker is simply misguided or possibly suffers from incredibly vague childhood memories. Others, though, are far more troubling. For one, it makes me want to build a makeshift time machine with suicide doors, gun it to 88, and knock out the guy who came up with the bright idea of teaching Whole Language in lieu of grammar in elementary schools. Clearly, many of us are still suffering from the unfortunate ramifications; if the frightening structure of some of these searches are indicative of our grammatical prowess, I'm about to invest in widespread remedial training.

Granted, we all behave differently when we think no one is looking. We act differently in the comfort of our own homes than we do in the presence of others. After all, we'd be far less likely to blast the Tom Jones and break out the Carlton dance if company was present. Google has granted us with a precious gift of insight into these innermost thoughts of our fellow 90s fans, and just what kind of nostalgiaheads would we be if we didn't accept and delight in that gift?

I appeal to you, fellow 90s fans, for help in decoding these Google quests. Between the lot of us, we've got to be able to provide these poor lost souls with some answers. If we can't come up with anything, well, then there's always mocking.

19 ninety's nickelodeon game show
I just really like this interpretive spelling; I propose we issue extra credit for number breakdown creativity.

90's cartoon that has a strong man that when changes back to a kid, green goo release
I'll need your help with this one, I'm drawing a blank. Admittedly the description is lacking in...everything. Mostly proper tenses and pronouns.

3 boys, brothers. blonde hair, young musicians from the 90s, who were they
First of all, they were Hanson. Second of all, I feel like you're giving progressive clues on a game show. What do I win?

1993 music video with kids wearing bee

Really? Just wearing a bee? That's it?

90's hair styles what were we thinking
Good question. Unfortunately, my crystal ball is in the shop, so I'm unable to ascertain the specific collective spirit of our innermost thoughts and feelings. I'm guessing you could probably search deep within yourself and find the reasoning, if you just believe.

are you afraid of the dark janitor
Maybe it's just the political correctness in me, but I'm reading this as racist. For shame, anonymous googler.

children running away from foster care movies in 90s
What do you think, were there really that many of these in the decade? Enough to warrant their own genre? It seems a bit suspect. Unless maybe they mean children who ran away from movies about foster care. In that case, this might be very serious.

fruit snack in the 90's that are made of noodles like a fruit
They're probably talking about String Thing here, but there's something to be said for the creative license in that description. Made of noodles like a fruit? Not noodle-like fruit, that might make some semblance of sense, but just noodles like an actual fruit. The comparison is baffling.

describe the types of lifestyle children live in the 9o’s and in the currant year that promoted fatness
We could probably start with the currant, the fruit is very sugary. Other than that, we've got an "o" instead of a zero in 90s, some very confused grammar, and the word "fatness." That word is pretty awesome.

compilations of awesomeness 90s
Look no further--you're already here!

edward scissorhands is so sad
Good point. No, really, I appreciate you sharing. I'm glad we had this talk.

oh we have that baby-sitter died
I don't even know where to start with this one. What? I guess it could be some very confused variation of Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, but it's really all over the place.

kid show that has talking plains on nickelodeon
Oh, I always preferred the ones with the talking mesas. As far as slope landforms go, they're pretty much tops. You know, elevation-wise. At least compared to the plains. I think I'd better stop while I'm behind on this one.

90s song can i get your number the one with the seven digits
I know the song you're referring to, but I can't help but love this misheard interpretation of it. Oh, that one. I was going to give you one with the area code included and/or my European access code, but then I was like, hey, just the seven. Got it.

dont you hate it when your eating a dunkaroo and the biscuit breaks in the
In the what? The what? The suspense is killing me now. And for the record, I totally do.

how many kids in the 90's didn't have a dad
Um, total? Worldwide? Fictional? You've really got to be a little more specific. I'd like to help, but you're throwing a two centimeter lure into a 343,423,668,428,484,681,262 gallon ocean. Yes, I just had to google "gallons in the ocean," so someone will probably be making fun of me on their Google Analytics search term round-up sometime soon.

90's cartoon which superhero usually says lets get dangerous
I just like the phrasing on this one...usually. Did Darkwing Duck occasionally forget his lines or have flash of creative discretion? Maybe sometimes he just didn't feel like it.

That's not even the worst of it, but I used my discretion in censoring the really obscene and/or absolutely non-native English speaker-generated content. If any of you know these answers, please, throw these poor souls a line. It's the least we can do. Well, actually, we could probably not do anything, so it's the second least we can do. Regardless, they truly need your help.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Grunge Style and Fashion

Note: This post mainly details the look of grunge, not the music. Stay tuned for more in-depth grunge music posts at some later date.

In every decade, for all squeaky clean bubble gum pop actions there develops an opposite and angstier reaction. It's a law of subculture physics. Mainstream culture is simply too narrow and too goody-goody to encompass the whole of the youth population. The 70s gave us hippies, the 80s punk rock mavens, and the 90s bore us the Generation X-level gloom of grunge. Youth culture can not subsist on good clean fun alone; it needs an introspective core to lend some much-needed depth and idealistic values to the mix.

Does that mean we'll look back on emo kids in twenty years and appreciate their wealth of feelings and eye-obscuring well-sculpted haircuts? Maybe. Only time can tell the youth subculture story for the ages. When we're in the midst of a movement, it's tough to imagine the cultural impact it will have on our retrospective summary of a decade. In the early 90s, grunge was just a burdgeoning lifestyle movement that endorsed limited showering. We could not have known at the time that it would have the iconic impact it did on the face of an era.

The Pacific Northwest was a fitting setting for the rising music subcultural movement; rainy Seattle weather provided an appropriately gloomy backdrop for the angst-ridden alternative lifestyle. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden released records with a unique and distinctly resonant sound. The grunge movement was borne of a blended puree of idealism and cynicism, encompassing the themes of Generation X disillusionment with societal norms. The Seattle Music scene provided a showcase for the encapsulation of youth subculture burnout, giving voice to artists outside of the mainstream.

Like all pure, genuine social movements, it wasn't long before The Man found a cunning way to capitalize on the rise of Grunge culture. It's the ultimate irony of alternative youth culture: it rises through sincere and meaningful expression, only to be diluted into a marketable, packageable blurb for distribution. Grunge was a lucrative business; much to the chagrin of Grunge scene musicians, their music skyrocketed to popularity in conventional circles. While these artists rose to fame for their elucidation of their innermost alienation and disillusionment, suddenly their music was playing on a top 40 station and their faces were adorning concert t-shirts.

Since I am by no means a music expert and was a mere nine years old at the height of the grunge scene's popularity, I won't pretend to have a comprehensive knowledge of the nuances and subtleties of Seattle Sound. I'm far more qualified to outline the Grunge fashion that filtered down into mainstream society. We may not have been great thinkers and expressionists, but we could rock a mean flannel. Inasmuch, retailers could charge a hefty price in their principle-free exploitation of interest in Grunge culture with their shameless marketing of items like these:

Plaid Flannel

Possibly one of the most recognizable and iconic of grunge influences, plaid flannel became a staple in both male and female early 90s' wardrobes. Optional but suggested: flannel worn open over grungy tee shirt. I would also accept "worn around the waist."

Thermal Tops

Seattle weather can get pretty chilly, so for practicality's sake a thermal shirt provided Grungy youth with some much needed warmth. This was far less practical in cities like LA and Miami, of course, where the wearer usually sacrificed a great deal of literal sweat in the name of alternative fashion.

Combat Boots

It's hard to clomp around angstily without the proper footwear. Clunky, heavy boots fit the bill, hindering the element of surprise in any attempt to sneak up on people.


For warm days when clunking around just wouldn't do, there were Birkenstocks. After all, who espouses free expression and independent thought better than the Germans? No one, that's who.

Wool Caps

Hot or cold, wool caps were more of a statement piece than a practicality. Even respected designers began sending their models down the runway with unkempt hair tucked under ski caps, though their motivation may have been tied to the savings in hairstylist costs.

Torn Jeans
Ripped Jeans Pictures, Images and Photos
How is anyone going to know that you don't care what you're wearing and that you're above superficial wardrobe selection unless you carefully choose a garment to express that sentiment? Torn jeans frequently topped off grungy ensembles, indicating the general apathy associated with the movement. Take that, society! Our jeans are well-ventilated and anti-mainstream culture.

Similarly, non-clothing fashion assimilated accordingly to sufficiently match our dirt-spackled wardrobe. Your grunge look just wouldn't be complete without:

Greasy, stringy hair

No grunge look worth its weight in hair oil would hold its own without an unkempt mass of dirty, stringy hair. Men and women alike hopped on the greasy hair bandwagon, abandoning showering in favor of a more in-your-face, anti-hygiene look. The fad grew out of Grunge musician's genuine angst and apathy, but it gave the rest of us an excuse to be lax in our showering schedules.

Questionable Facial Hair

A scraggly beard could serve as a major credibility booster for your supposed anti-society attitude. It wasn't a necessary element, but the presence of some ratty facial hair could probably help your cause in establishing yourself as legitimately grungy.

Grunge as a youth subculture ran far deeper than the fashion it inspired, but this highly visible representation played a major role in propagating the trends worldwide. For those of us not lucky or adolescent enough to rebel against anything, Grunge style allowed us to express ourselves in an allegedly unconventional way. Everyone else may have been doing it, but magazines and TV were telling us it was the way to be alternative, hip, and anti-mainstream. They would know, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Klutz Books

Have you ever longed to fashion your hair in a complicated four-strand fishtail braid? How about learning to juggle beanbags? Perhaps a strong desire to master the game of jacks? Or maybe you were just looking to learn some impressive cat's cradle party tricks? Whatever the highly esoteric interest, it seemed the ever-creative Klutz Press had a book for you. I'm not sure what level of mind-readers they employed throughout the 90s, but it seemed the moment I developed an interest in anything there they were were with a full-color how-to guide. Pretty good.

There was something that felt devilishly forbidden about selecting a book with toys, games, or tricks attached. It felt sort of like cheating. Our parents brought us to the bookstore in hopes of us developing a strong and complex love affair with classical literature, only to leave with a how-to book on cootie catchers complete with step-by-step instructions and origami paper.

The purchase wasn't a total loss--these interactive and highly durable books had the power to entertain us for hours. Some of them even managed to sneak in some science or math learned, though many of books are blissfully unrelated to anything remotely academic. Our parents were usually more than happy to sacrifice our potential intellectual growth for some much-needed quiet time. The pure level of focus and intensity with which these books consumed us were probably worth several times their $14.95 price tag. $14.95 is, after all, a small price to pay for an afternoon of activity fixation. It was by no means a permanent solution to our perpetual juvenile boredom, but the series developed enough kid-friendly titles to keep us sufficiently occupied for long stretches of time.

It's still tough for me to walk by a Klutz display in the children's section at Barnes and Noble without some tug of biblical-level covetousness. Maybe it's just the kid in me, but it feels like even my external adult wants some part in learning to wrap my hair in colorful embroidery floss patterns or cracking road trip boredom-curing brain teasers. Klutz Press has a little something for everyone; their how-to books have the power to convince us we can conquer any task or learn any skill...until we actually sit down and try, of course. It's often far too complicated. Regardless, at least they gave us the license to try. That's got to count for something, somewhere.

Klutz released dozens of interactive children's books throughout our childhood period, so it's nearly impossible to categorize all of the most memorable. We can look at a few examples here, but feel free to share your own favorites in the comments. Just because I never owned Klutz's Most Amazing Thumb Doodles Book doesn't mean it didn't have a disproportionately profound impact on your growth and development.

Some of these were just masquerading as books; they hadn't truly earned their spot on bookstore shelves, they were simply granted it by size default. In reality, books like the Jacks guide were nothing more than a set of game pieces paired with an oversized instruction manual. Nevertheless, it was an easy-to-read introduction to onesies, twosies, the whole shebang. I've yet to conquer sixsies.

The Klutz Book of Magic

I'm still determined to master these tricks. I never really had the patience for them when I was in the book's intended 9-12 age range, but if I had I like to imagine I'd be onstage somewhere freeing someone from an Aztec Tomb as The Final Countdown dramatically plays me out. The Amazon reviewers swear it has given them a career in birthday party and nursing home performance, so I feel pretty inadequate over my post-book lack of magical marketability.

Mock if you must, but I once took a hairstyling class at a children's creative gift shop that came with this book. It was something of a dream come true. This book taught me everything I know about securing my hair into an element-proof braid to disguise its listlessness after a long night of weekday drinking. Thanks, Klutz Press!

The Official Koosh Book: Kooshy Games and Activities

If you've got the word Kooshy as a major descriptor in your title, you've got to know it's going to be nonstop rubber filament-filled fun. From "Koosh the Koosh" to "Where the Koosh at?" it's pretty much a non-stop thrill ride.

Card Games

The guys at Klutz had a seemingly never-ending supply of card games, tricks, and handy attached decks with which to learn some serious skills. I'm sure our parents were so proud when we started referring to ourselves as the book's cover did as "Card Sharks."

Cootie Catcher
Most of us didn't need a book to learn this, but it certainly didn't hurt as a useful guide for variety and style choice. It even came with some preprinted cards that only required folding. Brilliant.

Touted by Klutz as "A Kids' Science Museum in a Book," Explorabook was the perfect solution to a nerdy kid's abundance of spare time. All you needed was a magnet, a mirror, and a few other goodies and you were well on your way to independent science project mastery.

Stop! The Watch: A Book of Everyday, Ordinary, Anybody Olympics

Further proof that children are incredibly easily amused. All we need is a stopwatch and we're set. We're also ready and going, possibly on our marks. Are you feeling any of these stopwatch jokes? I'm laying them on pretty thick.

Who says lanyard is just for summer camp? Klutz encouraged us to engage in plastic lacing year round, leaving our parents to wonder what exactly they were going to do with a twelfth neon keychain.

Devil Sticks

These were a pretty popular pastime in the 90s, but the maneuvers could be pretty tricky. I never managed to master it, but I also never owned the book. Or the sticks. A girl can dream, though.

Kid Travel

We had this one in my family, and it truly was a lifesaver. In the days before portable DVD players, we needed something to keep our attention deficit prone brains occupied. This book more than fit the bill with its puzzles, games, and activities. Parents everywhere rejoiced wildly.

Cat's Cradle
This book taught us the ultimate distraction with the simplest of tools: a single unending round piece of string that we could arrange into various tangles and finger-squishing configurations. It may not have been rocket science, but it was challenging in a mind-numbing kind of way.

These books are just the tip of the Klutz Press iceberg. The company released dozens of books throughout the 90s, most of which provoked our creative spirit and entertained our hard-to-focus minds. And if they gave our parents a few minutes of much-needed sanity, well, that was just icing on the how-to book cake.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dumb and Dumber

Sometimes, the title says it all. Name subtlety is for art house films and froufrou documentaries; if the Farrelly Brothers are masterminding the film, you can bet the title will be straightforward enough to describe the premise exactly without throwing in any frilly metaphors or double entendres. In the case of Dumb and Dumber, the title referred not only to the movie's main characters but also to the level of humor likely to be present throughout. Don't say they didn't warn you--it's exactly what it says on the label.

The movie's premise and content was, as it claimed, pretty dumb. My mother continues to use Dumb and Dumber as a reference point for all other slapstick films she is unlikely to enjoy based on their juvenile humor and lack of Lifetime movie tearjerking circumstances. Her use of the movie as a scale of stupidity isn't without its merits, though the rest of us did enjoy Dumb and Dumber. Nevertheless, she grumbled through the theatrical showing in 1994 and at every subsequent slapstick comedy trailer in the interim years. I don't believe I can count the number of times I've had to respond to "Is this going to be like Dumb and Dumber?" Apparently its dumbness was memorable enough to build the movie its own dreaded comedic category in our household movie selection process.

Dumb and Dumber is a quintessential example of a gross-out comedy, playing everything for laughs. It's not without its heartfelt and sincere moments, but for the most part the movie sacrifices all else in the name of the almighty punchline. Based on the movie's immense popularity, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Dumb and Dumber reiterates the notion that sometimes a comedy can just be a comedy: pure, unadulterated fun punctuated with near-incessant jokes and broad stroke concepts that boil down to nothing weightier than an audience guffaw or two. It's not high art, certainly, but its humor proved enough of a draw to pull in major box office numbers.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels costar as Lloyd and Harry, a limousine driver and pet washer respectively who live together in an apartment that can flatteringly be referred to as a dump. Lloyd has a gig driving the beautiful Mary (Carrey's now ex-wife Lauren Holly) to the airport and becomes highly distraught to find that she left her fancy briefcase on the floor of the crowded airport terminal. Determined to reunite his attractive client with her misplaced luggage, Lloyd retrieves the case. Lloyd is unsurprisingly unaware of the money-filled briefcase's role as ransom to appease Mary's husband's kidnappers and thus bungles the entire scheme, blissfully ignorant of his misdoings the full way through.

In typical 90s comedy fashion, the whole set-up is a spiraling mess of misunderstandings and bumbling interventions, leading to generically villainous bad guys in hot pursuit of our generally oblivious lead characters. The good guys are good only in the sense that they are painstakingly trusting and bafflingly innocent; Harry and Lloyd are by no means heroic. They're just a couple of guys who managed to get themselves into the wrong place at the wrong time, but their buffoonish lack of reason protects them from realizing potential danger and harm.

Through a series of unfortunate and probably foreseeable circumstances, Harry and Lloyd find themselves unemployed and out of luck. The comedic premise may be formulaic, but it effectively gets us from point A to point B. The intended thug recipients of the briefcase mistakenly suspect Lloyd and Harry to be some sort of secret agents, break into their apartment, and commit some very unfortunate parakeetacide. Lloyd comes up with the brilliant plan to track down Mary in Aspen--the destination of the flight to which he drove her by limo and collected her apparently forgotten briefcase. They hop into the grooming site Sheepdog van and embark on a quest of misadventures.

All sorts of humorous elements go awry, and our eponymously dumb protagonists end up slumming it to Aspen on a crappy motorbike. They have a run-in at a diner with the bad guys, but as expected they manage to subvert their advances through total lack of awareness. The duo opens the briefcase and quickly begins the process of replacing the cold hard cash with warm soft IOUs.

Lloyd and Harry do miraculouly manage to track down Mary, and hilarity predictably ensues. They vie for Mary's nonexistent affection, both mistakenly interpreting her kindness as romantic advances. It all culminates in a final hotel room showdown in which our famously dumb friends somehow manage to outsmart the bad guy goons and play an active role in reuniting Mary with her captive husband. All's not totally well that ends well, though: Harry and Lloyd reiterate their stupidity by misinterpreting and declining a once-in-a-dumb-lifetime opportunity to work as oil boys for the Hawaiian Tropic model tour bus. Tough break.

The entire movie seems rooted in the comedic tradition of rapid succession jokes and gags. They may be hit or miss, but they come skyrocketing toward the audience with such transitionless speed that we quickly forget the flops and focus on the winners. The plot is almost peripheral to the thrust of the film: the major focus is on rapid-fire punchlines. That's okay, though; unlike my mother with her intense hatred of this film, most of go to see comedies with the expectation that they will make us laugh. We don't need character development and profound conflict resolution. All it takes is a slew of jokes funny of us to distract us from the film's glaring flaws and we're happy to roll with it. If you're the type who finds plot holes and inconsistency hair-tearingly bothersome, slapstick comedy in this vein is probably not for you. For the rest of us, though, Dumb and Dumber is a great exercise in learning to just laugh it off.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Memorable 80s and 90s PSA Campaigns

I wish I could take credit for this picture, but I just found it on Amazon. Funny, though, right?

No matter how hip and focus group-tested you aim to make your public service announcement campaign, it faces pretty dire odds of coming off as incredibly, mockably cheesy. It's just the nature of the medium. There's no cool way to say something totally buzzkillish and square, so you may as well shoot for saying it memorably.

This was the strategy these campaigns took, capitalizing deftly on their 30-second moment of influence over impressionable young people. Through the power of incessant repetition and catchy songs or phrasing, these publicly serving commercials took up residence in our malleable juvenile minds. Whether we were young enough to buy into their message or old enough to snark on their relentless harping, they undoubtedly held enough intrigue to be worth remembering fifteen-odd years down the road.

The Incredible Crash Test Dummies

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had a message for us: don't be a dummy. The clearest way to transmit that message? Actual crash test dummies. Sure, their crash-induced injuries were played for laughs, but we soon learned that driving without a seat belt was no joke. Thanks, Vince and Larry. We owe you one.

Mr Yuk

What easier way to warn non-literate small children of the danger of hazardous noxious household chemicals than with a giant, disgusted neon green grimacing face? I certainly can't think of any. Wikipedia helpfully points out that children may associate the traditional poison emblem of a skull and crossbones with pirates rather than poison, so we definitely need an alternative symbol. Right. I know when I'm trying to break into the yummy candy vials in the medicine cabinet, I'm pretty sure that one with the Jolly Roger on it is full of pirates. It all adds up so perfectly.


I'm still waiting for my opportunity to take a real bite out of crime. I imagine it would be tasty, meaty and substantial, just as McGruff sold it to me in the 80s and 90s. McGruff empowered us to stand up to bullies and engage in healthy behaviors. Plus, we could write him for some free safety-themed comic books and pamphlets. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Smokey the Bear

Smokey's been around for years, so it always surprises me a little that we still have forest fires. I mean, don't these mischievous match-wielding kids ever watch TV? If they had, they would know that they were the only hands on deck capable of preventing forest fires.

The More You Know

NBC really knew how to cut to the PSA core: short, to the point, and featuring celebrity spokespeople. They also threw in a fun shooting star-type logo with a memorable series of tones that I'm pretty sure are supposed to be the instrumental track of the words "the more you know." I've yet to verify this with actual research, but it's the way I've always interpreted it.

This is Your Brain on Drugs

Ah, the classics. Talk about to the point--"This is your brain on drugs" practically invented to-the-pointness in public service messages. This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions? Nope, think I can take it from here. Thanks, ominously sizzling frying pan.

I Learned it by Watching you

"Who taught you to do this stuff?" "You, alright? I learned it from watching you!" Yikes. Talk about a major buzzkill for recreationally drug-using parents. Guess what? Smoke one joint and your kids will turn into hardcore crack addicts. That's just basic science. They learned it from you, alright? They learned it from watching you.

Dontcha Put it in Your Mouth

This one is sort of terrifying. What exactly are those furry things supposed to be? If anyone has any insights, please enlighten me. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when the ad guys were hawking this one to the Concerned Children's Advertisers. What do you think that studio recording session was like? It just leaves me with so many hilarious mental images about the possibilities.

Don't Copy that Floppy

This one truly speaks for itself, though today it would probably need a spokesperson to explain to kids what a floppy was. You know, the archaic giant computer disks from days of yore? Nowadays you can pirate anything online, but in the 80s and 90s your best bet was copying a game you borrowed from the primitive computer lab. If you did, someone would probably rap about it.

Check Yourself

In this FOX Kids series of PSAs, the network taught us to check ourselves before we wrecked ourselves while cleverly avoiding copyright infringement on the Ice Cube song. These ads taught us to imagine rewinding our unsportsmanlike actions and replacing them with good old fashioned polite conduct. At the time, we may have thought they were pretty helpful, but watching them now it's clear that they were among the cheesiest of public service ads.

Nickelodeon Orange Apeel

Until I just typed the words now, I'd completely forgotten Orange Apeel ever existed. Now that I've brought the memory to the forefront, though, it's clear as slime. Nickelodeon put its own slant on PSAs, producing a series of brief bumper-like spots teaching us a succinct but nevertheless valuable lesson. If it hadn't been for Omar from Wild and Crazy Kids' plea, I may never have become physically fit. I'm still meaning to do that, by the way.

Saved by the Bell: There's no Hope with Dope

Saved by the Bell - No Hope With Dope
Uploaded by ox-stargirl-xo. -

In one word, would I use dope? Nope. These kids are right! I appreciate Brandon Tarnikoff's hit idea for the new season. I'm not sure how much more of this I can paraphrase of this for laughs without generating any of my own original content, but truly I don't need any. It mocks for itself. From the moment these good looking teens uttered a single word each into the camera with deliberate seriousness, this was pure PSA gold.

Gopher Cakes

How fat did you feel at that moment you realized Gopher Cakes were fictional? Undoubtedly, to many of us they looked legitimately deliciousness, so it was a major let down to find that they were actually just poking fun at our tendency to consume foods that paved the path for our eventual morbid obesity. I still occasionally have dreams of covering one with whipped cream and swallowing it in a single gulp, like a python with a field mouse. Delicious.

These PSAs are certainly corny, but they do for the most part manage to get their point across. Into our teenage years many PSA agencies changed strategies and opted for cold, seriously threatening public service ads in lieu of the beloved lighthearted fare of our childhoods. Scare tactics work sometimes, sure, but we'll never be reminiscing about them in 2024. Stick to what you know, PSA people. Corny cartoons, puppets, and jingles are clearly the way to our still-impressionable hearts.

PS If you're looking for a drug-related PSA that's not on here, check out the full post here. In it I promise to do a part two about something hilarious I must have thought of at the time but have since forgotten, so here's my best shot at it. Not here, really; above. You know. Press Page Up. There you go.

Friday, April 23, 2010


For many actors, the craft is all about range. Being able to assume and fully inhabit another character showcases their true talents. Not all actors, of course, have this magnitude of expertise. There's a reason some guys are always the action hero and some guys are always the off-the-wall one-line spouting goofball--that's just what they're good at.

In some of these cases, an actor manages to transition from one type to another seamlessly, effortlessly demonstrating their breadth of skill as an actor. For others...not so much. As a career move, accepting a role against type can significantly boost an actor's credibility and garner them major industry respect. If done well, it can mean an outpouring of positive critical response and a shot at a prestigious award.
On the other hand, audiences aren't always quick to warm to watching an action hero play an allegedly comically out-of-character housekeeper/nanny; sometimes it's just not enough if the premise itself is the film's strongest punchline. As a general rule, lighthearted actor taking on a serious role, good. Serious actor taking on a lighthearted role, bad.

Robin Williams: Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, etc

While now we have seen Williams in a wide range of roles, his road to fame was paved with comedic roles stemming from the goofiness of his breakthrough Mork television character. Williams has proven himself several times over as a serious actor with depth, particularly for his Academy Award winning role as a psychologist in Good Will Hunting and as a teacher in Dead Poets Society. He broke free from his typecast slapstick persona with some distinctly emotional performances. He may have once been pigeonholed as a goofball comedian, but he has since assumed a number of roles that established him as an actor of range. Truthfully, though, more recent films like Old Dogs aren't helping maintain his reputation.

Jim Carrey: The Truman Show, Man in the Moon

Like Williams, Jim Carrey's breakthrough roles came mainly in the form of slapstick comedic characters. After rising to stardom with leads in comedies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber and Liar, Liar, Carrey explored his subtler side with some decidedly more serious parts. He showed us his range in The Truman Show as an unknowing reality star in a makeshift reality. A year later, he cemented his more serious actor status with the title role in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man in the Moon. Despite critical speculation about potential Academy Award nominations, he was snubbed for both. Either way, he established himself as a more credible, multi-faceted actor.

Betty White and Rue McClanahan on Golden Girls

The original casting preference for The Golden Girls was Rue McClanahan as Rose and Betty White as Blanche, a parallel to the previous roles they had held on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Maude respectively. Bea Arthur initially was not interested in the role of Dorothy, fearing that the new show would come off as Maude and Vivian meet Sue Ann Nivens. Once they switched the roles, though, the dynamic changed entirely. The casting feels so spot-on that it's hard to even imagine the women in roles others than the ones they accepted.

Fred Savage in the Lifetime Movie No One Would Tell

Kevin Arnold abusing and murdering DJ Tanner? It sounds like a stretch, but that's the way this Lifetime Movie of the Week played out. The made-for-TV movie is pretty cheesy, but it's since developed a cult following in reruns. Undoubtedly the unlikely casting choices accounts for the bulk for its appeal, but it's still a bit unnerving to watch the whole sordid ordeal unfold.

Elizabeth Berkley: Showgirls

Here is an ultimate case of seeking to play against type. In an effort to move away from her squeaky clean family-friendly image as Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell, Elizabeth Berkley sought to break out of the typecasting box in a very major way. Berkley took on the role of Nomi Malone in the controversial NC-17 rated nudity-filled film Showgirls. The first movie to ever garner the NC-17 rating, Showgirls outlined Nomi's aspiration to rise from a stripper to showgirl on the Vegas dance scene. The movie is comically bad, belying its alleged dramatic themes with tragically poor performances and gratuitous amounts of nudity. The film was nearly universally panned by critics, failing to give Berkley the image boost she craved.

Sylvester Stallone in Stop! Or My Mom will Shoot!

This is one Sly probably wants to strike from his resume--er, IMDB page. It's just plain embarrassing. This comedy debacle costars Stallone and Golden Girls' Estelle Getty as a son and mother duo. Stallone still plays the tough guy cop, but one who the writers intended to be humorously undermined by his bumbling interfering mother. Somewhere along the way, this attempt at humor goes horribly, terribly wrong, leaving us with a remarkably unfunny comedy. The critical response was overwhelmingly poor as well, leaving the film with a notably low 5% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins, Junior, Kindergarten Cop, and Jingle All the Way

Before Schwarzenegger transitioned from action hero/bodybuilder to California governor, he made a few lighthearted comedies. This man has a real knack for reinventing himself, transitioning easily from Austrian bodybuilder to action film star to comedy actor to politician. It's almost not fair to say he's acting against type; Arnold dictates his own type. Still, there's something uniquely comical about seeing the governor of California saying, "It is not a tumor!"

While not every actor can successfully make the transition from one type to another, it's nice to see him give it his best try. Whether he ends up with an Oscar nomination or is panned by critics for his abysmal out-of-character performance, it's nice to see the change of pace. In some cases, we end up with strong serious performance from actors with a reputation for silliness. In others, an embarrassing foray into the absurd.To be fair, it's much more fun to watch things crash and burn the second way. If you don't believe me, watch ten minutes of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! You'll become a believer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


What kind of a child wouldn't adore playing with stacks of bottle caps, delighting in making little wavering leaning towers of Pogsa and later bashing them with a heftier, weightier cap? It's such an attractive option, I can't imagine how it took us 60-odd years since the games conception to discover its true awesomeness. It may have had something to do with printing technology; Pogs featuring psychedelically colorful eight balls and yin yangs are far more attractive to children than plain old guava juice bottle lids. Still, though, we're just hurling a slightly bigger disc at a pile of smaller discs, so something tells me we as 90s children possessed the inherent trait of being incredibly easily amused. You just couldn't sell that to today's kid. They'd be bored out of their minds before you even got to the word "slammer."aa

Pogs quickly achieved cultural phenomenon status, hurdling onto the toy scene in the early 90s. Pog legend (and possibly some factual information I didn't have the initiative to confirm) has it that the game originated in the 1920s/30s era in Hawaii, using milk caps. Decades later, a teacher introduced the game to her students using lids from POG juice: Passion Fruit, Orange, Guava. Get it? Pog? I think you get it, I just wanted to double check.

Pog play is incredibly, almost deceptively simple. In retrospect it almost seems as if a part of the original instructions have been lost somewhere along the way; it's hard to believe this basic game not only held our rapt attention but also lay claim to great chunks of our allowance money and precious limited recess time. The players would build a stack of caps at least four high with all pogs facing down. There are variations, of course; in some games each player built their own stack, but generally it required some buy-in of one's own valued pogs into the high-stakes mix of potential pog loss to superior slammer wielder. Each player takes a turn hurdling the slammer at the stack, claiming the pogs that land upturned and returning the downturned pogs to the original stack.

In some cases, we would play simply for fun, allowing each player to reclaim his or her beloved pogs at the end of the game. In others, though, we were out for keeps. We had to be careful which of our most beloved pog designs we decided to throw into the mix; in many cases, other players would leave the game with their pockets or patented pog stack cases lined with our once-treasured designs. It was sort of gambling 101 for children, and most of us were about three slammer throws away from needing a 12-step program. Each throw felt like this would be our chance to claim our neighbor's rarest and most valuable pog holding, but in most cases the house won and we were SOL. It's hard to look cool when all that remains in your pog case are the reject kitten and education-themed designs. Who's going to want to slam that?

If your memory fails to summon the high-stakes intensity of the game, just watch the following commercial. It will tell you all you need to know about just how hardcore 90s kids were about their pog play. Filled with semi-subliminal messages like "Wanna Play Gotta Play Above All," it's a frightening insight into the level of serious we invested in our pog collecting and gaming.

Pogs and their heavier, more potentially injury-inflicting counterparts Slammers established a ubiquitous presence on playgrounds and in classrooms everywhere. Schools called foul on the game, declaring it a soft form of gambling. Many school districts issued bans on the seemingly innocuous toys, declaring their "playing for keeps" nature to promote unhealthy and immoral gambling habits. Pogs soon went the way of the slap bracelet, reduced to underground, rule-defying secret game play.

The majority of parents pooh-poohed the schools' claims; the pogs weren't inherently dangerous and to many it seemed a reasonable alternative to TV and video games. Kids, after all, do have some inherent right to be kids, no matter how firmly schools push to eliminate it. In the schools' defense, though, they did have some grounds for banning on the same level of the later Tamagotchi craze: these things were distracting. It was tough to convince our teachers the slamming of a large disc into a pile of smaller discs was educational in its own right. Displacement? Physics? I'm still working on a viable explanation. I'm still meaning to get back to my second grade teacher on that one.

The game became so popular that manufacturers were scrambling to get their images plastered onto cardboard discs, releasing a horde of licensed designs and highly coveted collectible pogs onto the skyrocketing game scene. Soon fast food joints were offering pogs alongside children's meals, sports teams issued baseball card-esque designs, and even religious organizations sought to promote their moral messages on these ever more visible youth-accessible miniature billboard space. All types of licensed images found their way onto the fronts of pogs, giving a wide variety of kid-friendly enterprises an entirely new vehicle through which to promote their franchises.

Granted, some of the cross-promotional morally conscious pog marketing got a bit out of hand. While it might be cool to have a pog or two with some deeper meaning, many of the pog producing organizations sought to use the fad as a platform for their mission statement. Groups like anti-drug education program DARE and the US Environmental Protection Agency were soon printing pogs by the stackful, their well-meaning capitalization on a trend sucking a reasonable amount of the fun out of the game.

Like any good childhood fad, as soon as adults get too involved in utilizing the phenomenon to their benefit, it sends a message to kids that its trendiness is on the way out. Once adults have embraced a trend with the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude, kids' internal coolness radar alerts them it's probably time to find a new favorite pastime. Beanie Babies, anyone?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The "They All Go to the Same Made-Up University to Keep the Show Going" Phenomenon

It's a conundrum, really. Your sitcom or teen drama has maintained high ratings and loyal viewership, but you've stretched the characters' high school reign to the limits of its believability. Since in many cases you've already stacked your cast with barely-believable-as-teenagers 20-something actors, the duration of their high school run is becoming exponentially less credible with each passing season. What's a TV writer to do?

Here's a surefire plan to deal with your aging high school sitcom: invent a university. That's right, you heard me. Just make up a college. It's that easy. In the same way real life high schools never center around six or seven of the most attractive and characteristically disparate students, it's even less likely that this select group of golden boys and girls would all choose to attend the same local university.

Since we've already had to suspend our disbelief in swallowing week after week the fact that our main players are the only people that matter in a high school of thousands, it's not such a flying leap to assume we're willing to believe those kids would all head to college together.. Really, what kind of people go off to college to make new friends? It's much more interested to live studio and/or home audiences if you just stick with the same group of friends we've already grown to love over a series of seasons. Problem solved.

The transition isn't always a smooth one, of course. Major actors may not buy into the switch and will have to be expediently replaced by equally traited newcomers, certain lovable characters may not realistically be a part of the new college environment, and viewers may lose interest at the elimination of the original premise and setting. These hurdles are not insurmountable, though. Once you've decided to take all of your kids to college, you've already narrowed your credibility significantly. At this point, it's pretty much anything goes, as we can see from the following case studies:

Saved by the Bell ---> Saved by the Bell: The College Years (California University)

Saved by the Bell is a great example of a twice-rebranded franchise, though the SbtB team admittedly did a stronger job the first time around. The show was initially conceived as middle school Disney Channel sitcom Good Morning, Miss Bliss and was swiftly transformed into the Bayside, California high school network show we generally think about when referencing the show. After the cast had aged out of their high school years, the producers wanted to keep the wheels turning on their still-popular franchise.

Enter Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Although things had seemingly been resolved at the end of the high school series with everyone accepting admissions to different universities, somehow Zack, Screech, Slater, and Kelly all ended up arbitrarily changing their minds to attend California University. If you've ever watched this show, it has a considerably more stereotypically mid-90s look to it; the flannel, the haircuts, the general malaise. That's about all it had going for it, though, and the show was swiftly canceled after a single season due to lagging ratings. We did get to see a two-hour movie special of Zack and Kelly's Las Vegas wedding for sufficient closure, at least.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air ---> University of Los Angeles

After four seasons, we just weren't ready to say goodbye to our mismatched pair of Bel Air-based cousins. Carlton and Will both decided to attend ULA and proceed to inhabit a series of new wacky and rite-of-passage scenarios previously inaccessible to them as high school students. Since Carlton and Will make up the show's primary character dynamic, it was necessary for writers to keep them together in order to keep the general scheme of the show intact. While I admit Carlton as the ULA mascot was an amusing visual, the family-centric situations become more forced and less believable as the seasons passed. I'd say between that and the peacock costume, it's something of a toss-up.

Beverly Hills 90210 ---> California University

Strange, isn't it, that the 90210 gang and the kids from Saved by the Bell all attended the same university and never once bumped into one another in some sort of ill-conceived crossover? Apparently creativity in the college naming department is scarce among TV writers, as "California University" was the best that the crack teams at both SbtB and 90210 could come up with. It seems both shows' casts attended separate versions of the same lazily decided inversion of the University of California. Who knew?

Boy Meets World ---> Pennbrook College

In the ultimate "they all go to the same college" offense, Boy Meets World went so far as to drag their wisdom-spouting teacher/mentor with them in the transition to university. Yes, apparently all it takes as credentials for professorhood these days is having a profound impact on a few incoming freshmen. Things took a bit of a sordid turn when they cast Cory's real life brother Fred Savage as a lecherous professor. Between this and his Lifetime movie with DJ Tanner, how was I supposed to maintain my image of sweet Kevin Arnold? For shame.

The Boy Meets World college episodes still held the attention of loyal viewers, but as is the case of in many these scenarios, the situation part of the situation comedy became more forced. The storylines got a bit wackier, Cory and Topanga managed to make it all the way to their still-in-college marriae before having relations, and we were supposed to be convinced that everyone the cast had picked up along the way (Angela, Jack, Eric, Mr. Feeny) had nothing better to do than to follow Shawn, Cory, and Topanga to college. I still love the show, so I'm willing to overlook the glaring forcedness of it all. You've just sort of got to go with it. Don't question, just watch.

Sweet Valley High ---> Sweet Valley University

This one may not be a TV show, but Francine Pascal's ghostwriters employed a similarly shameless college sendoff in the Sweet Valley series. At least in this version, they introduce slew of new characters into the mix. The storylines are far from probable--Lila marrying a count, Jessica randomly marrying a guy who later becomes paralyzed, Jessica's professor's wife is a homicidal nutcase. It's not a huge jump from the original series at least: these plots are fairly tame compared to werewolves and face-stealing plastic surgeon spa proprietors.

There's a reason these we allow these shows some creative license in manipulating our beloved characters and settings: they're fictional. As much as some over-zealous fans may try to fill in the blanks with all sorts of justifications, at the end of the day we can chalk it up to a last plea for sustained high ratings.

For any of us who have been to real colleges, we know the squeaky-clean veneer characteristic of preachy high school shows would be pretty out of place at a college kegger. The college shift keeps our characters in a sort of limbo between teen role model and carefree college student. While some of these characters may outlast their welcome or general believability, the most loyal of fans will generally power through to the very end. You know, the one where their middle school teacher is now their professor and their roommates all happen to be their former high school classmates or new characters with extremely similar characteristics to their former friends? Yep, that one. It's not always easy, but someone's got to keep watching. How else would we possibly snark on it fifteen years down the road?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Matrix

In case you were unaware, your sense of reality is totally false. You're really just fuel for soul-sucking robots who keep you sentient in a simulated reality environment. Oh, shoot, I probably should have prefaced that with a "spoiler alert," shouldn't I? For those of you who haven't seen The Matrix, that cold hard truth will probably come as a bit of a shock. I'll give you some time to digest that one.

Now that you've had some time to process it--and by process, I mean that our solar-powered robot overlords have seen fit to utilize your protein compounds for their own evil purposes--you see that the only way to combat this docile, whitewashed existence is to learn some kick-ass martial arts moves and develop some serious bullet dodging capabilities. It's pretty much the only way. Believe me, they've checked and rechecked this one. Don't worry, though; you've got your posse of trusty marginalized cyberpunk hackers to keep you company. It may not be as cushy and comfortable as the simulated world, but hey, it's real.

Facetiousness aside, serious manifestations of these themes make up The Matrix, an innovative and visually appealing 1999 science fiction film. While the movie explores a number of well-tread science fiction ideas and motifs, it does so in a way that resonated strongly with audiences and critics alike upon its late-90s release. It is by no means a perfect film, but its masterminds the Wachowski brothers manage to entertain us with Hong Kong action-style action and dazzling visual effects. These guys must be some class of genius. After all, they finally found a fitting role for Keanu Reeves' expressionless deadpan in which his flat affect makes perfect sense. Well done, Wachowski brothers. Well done, indeed.

Now that I've managed to ruin much of the suspense and plot anticipation for any of you who have yet to see the film, I'll feel free to go further into spoiler territory. There you, that was your alert. Heed if necessary before delving into expository plot territory.

The Matrix
stars Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson, a quiet, mild software programmer who moonlights as a hacker with the alias Neo. As Neo, Anderson is "guilty of nearly every computer crime [there's] a law for." In a state of being probably not a huge stretch for the monotone Reeves, Anderson is disillusioned with his life and its apparent lack of meaningfulness. Our rogue heroes contact Anderson's alter-ego Neo Ghostwriter style through his computer, telling him to wake up, realize the Matrix has him, and to follow the white rabbit. A little cryptic, sure, but if anyone can crack something like this, it's a renegade hacker.

Neo discovers Trinity, a leather-laden cyber-rebel kung fu master (mistress?) who brings him to leader Morpheus. First, though, she has to de-bug him: the anonymously evil sunglass-wearing agents implanted in Neo a tracking device in hopes he would bring them to Morpheus. I didn't realize it would be an actual bug, of course, so I was thoroughly disgusted to find a giant insect suctioned from Neo's body. It's cool, though. Later I learned his body isn't even real, so it's probably not as bad as it seems.

Morpheus reveals the truth: Neo has been living in a false reality. He informs Neo that the Matrix is "the wool that has been pulled over your eyes" and that he is merely a slave to the system. Morpheus offers Neo a choice; as no one can explain the Matrix, the only means of comprehending it is to experience its impact firsthand. In an iconic gesture, Morpheus reveals two brightly hued pills: a blue one with the power to close this chapter and allow Neo to resume his quietly meaningless existence, or a red one that will enable him to see the true world outside the bounds of his current reality.

Of course Neo picks the red one, because it wouldn't be much of a movie if after twenty minutes he threw in the towel and we got to watch him program software for another hour and a half. No, Neo chooses the harsh darkness of enlightened reality, only to find himself encased in a wire-laden pod of goo. Not exactly the warm welcome he may have hoped for, but it certainly made its point. He hops aboard Morpheus' spacecraft Nebuchadnezzar with a group of cyber terrorists who are among the few with the power to unplug themselves from the system. It turns out the year is not 1999, but 2199, and the 1999 in which Neo lives is simply a recreated construct meant to keep humans in pacified captivity while machines feed off their life force. Bummer.

Neo quickly learns that the system of the Matrix is not as it seems, challenging all of the perceptions he's spent a lifetime developing and ingraining. Morpheus and the gang train Neo in how to fight agents and live a life unplugged. Neo develops the skills of a trained fighter, building up his defenses against computer programmed agents.

The pressure's on in a big way, though, as the group believes Neo might be "the One," a thinly veiled Jesus reference pointing to Neo as the potential savior of the enslaved human race. To test their theory, they bring Neo to the Oracle for screening purposes. The Oracle turns out to be a kindly cookie-baking black grandmother, but her appearance belies her wisdom and insight. Those cookies do look delicious, though.

In a classic Judas move, group member Cypher commits the ultimate betrayal: he trades Morpheus for a return to his once-blissful ignorance permanently plugged into the system. After a series of intense trials and tribulations, the remaining crew members play out an ultimate showdown in a simulated subway system. The agents were clearly not prepared for Neo's surge of belief in his own ability and possible One-ness, during which he proceeds to kick ass and take names.

Neo's down, but not out, as he ascends to oneness with his, well, One-ness. He stops bullets mid-air and emerges victorious in a kinetic climactic battle with the agents. The Wachowskis leave us hanging a bit at the end, giving them ample room to expand into a trilogy. The Matrix leaves us wanting more in a way that few suspense-filled thrillers manage to achieve. Whether or not you feel the second and third films lived up to this promise is subjective, but they certainly set a strong baseline. If this movie didn't leave you craving a black trench coat, dark glasses, and the ability to stop racing bullets, I suspect you're just not cut out to be the red pill type.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Not So Functional 90s Fashion Trends

We may not all be slaves to fashion, but at one point or another most of us are guilty of following the crowd. Whether we're trend dabblers or wanted in six states for crimes of fashion, many of us gave in to the glittering allure of certain fads for no reason other than that everyone else was doing it. These fashion statements did not generally jive with any normal rhyme or reason of functionality; everyone else was simply jumping off that bridge and we decided we might as well take the plunge ourselves.

Everything is clearer in retrospect, so it's tough to admonish our former selves for not having the good sense to realize these trends were bad ideas at best. Fashion and trends are not about utility and function, of course, but these items are fairly high on the list of unjustifiable offenders. There remains no real solid explanation for their existence other than that magazines and stores told us they were worth sacrificing scarce allowance money. If we can't defend their usefulness, we may retrospectively embrace their complete lack of function.

There are many, many totally non-functional 90s fashion items to choose from, but here's a selection of some of the least defensible. If you wish to plead your case condoning their existence, feel free to use the comments section as an issues platform:

Tearaway Pants

Okay, fine, I admit these aren't completely without their merits. To professional athletes I imagine there was some millisecond saved when coming in from off the bench. For everyone else out there, these were generally inexcusable. These pants were held together not by stitching and solid fabric, but rather by well-ventilated snap buttons running down the outside of either leg. While it is something of an innovation to be able to remove your athletic pants in one single well-coordinated motion, it is not a necessary function by any means.

Shirt Ties/Clips
This may not be the authentic product, but it's the best Google Images has to offer. Plus, doesn't it make you want to get some for your next 80s/90s Halloween costume? Those things are sparkly to the max...and apparently "80s to the max" too

There are truly no excuses for these; they serve no purpose whatsoever, nor is the look particularly flattering. For some reason, though, it was all the rage in the late 80s and early 90s for young girls to clip or tie their oversized t-shirts on one side. I'm only telling you this because I've finally come to terms with the ridiculousness of it all, but at one birthday slumber party I had kits for each girl to paint and decorate her very own shirt clip. Humiliating, I know, but I'm willing to take one for the team in the name of exposing key shirt clip evidence circa 1994.


If you're playing tennis, I'll grant you this one, but if you're just looking for the comfort of shorts with the dressiness of a skirt you have no excuses for humoring that whim by wearing this garment. From the front, a skirt. From the back, shorts. If you're not in an athletic situation, it's not a particularly flattering look to sport (some pun intended) a hybrid skort-shorts. In typical 90s clever coinage, we called them "skorts" but we may well have labeled them "fashion mistakes." Off the courts, there are no situations where it's necessary to be wearing one outfit from the front and another from the back, period. The built-in shorts with a full-around skirt cover is a little better, but it's all relative in non-functional skort territory.

Giant Platform Shoes

I blame the Spice Girls for making these seem so darn appealing. In reality, they were impractical, cartoonish, and a bit dangerous. We started off in familiar territory with sandals and dress shoes, but things quickly escalated to a red-alert level when shoe companies started throwing these platform soles on sneakers. For that, there is truly no defense.

Fleece Vests

Don't you ever get really cold in the general torso area, but your arms remain comfortably warm? Well, have I got the product for you! Complete with its own insanely irritating Old Navy television commercial theme song, polar fleece exploded onto the scene in the late 90s in a major way. These vests were particularly popular, proving that many of us are willing to sacrifice arm comfort in the name of fashion. Stores marketed these as utilitarian and outdoorsy, but unless you're participating in a cold weather activity that requires exceptional arm freedom, these things are not exactly the most useful of warming winter garments.

Mini Backpacks

What, you've never had the urge to carry around a receptacle that holds approximately three nickels, a stick of gum, and a handful of M&Ms? That's a totally legitimate haul warranting a bag of its own. We all know how tough it is to hold an incredibly small quantity of items in our hands, so when these mini-backpacks cropped up in stores we were all too eager to hop on the scaled-down container bandwagon. They were sort of cute, yes, but usefulness was not high on their list of positive qualities.

Scrunched/Slouchy Socks

It's not so much that the socks themselves serve no purpose, but rather that the style in which we preferred to wear them was moderately mind-baffling. The scrunching served no real need outside of an alleged aesthetic purpose. It was simply the preferred style of sock self-expression. Why buy short ankle socks when you can just buy enormous tube socks and scrunch them into a fold-ridden mass? It's an airtight defense for slouchiness.


Coveralls may be functional in a manual labor slash farm hand type situation, but they serve no real protective purpose in everyday suburban civilian life. If you have no use for that hammer hook on the back, you probably could have just made do with a regular shirt-and-slacks combo. Just saying.

We may claim the primary purpose of clothing is purely functional: to cover our nakedness and protect us from the elements. Somewhere along the way, though, we've evolved a sense of crowd mentality that works against our primal instinct to wear things that serve some purpose. We may not be able to defend our past fashion choices, but at the very least we can laugh at them. A lot. Really. These are just terrible. Commence mocking.

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