Friday, February 26, 2010

90s Underdog Sports Movies

Because most of us aren't Olympic-caliber athletes and will never earn multimillion dollar contracts with professional sports franchises, the underdog story tends to speak to us on a personal level. When it does, it's saying something like, "You may not be talented, but with this level of drive and determination you can outshine all of those people with legitimate athletic ability." It's like a small way of keeping the dream alive. As a child you may have fantasized about playing in the NBA or being an Olympic gold-medal gymnast, but when puberty ended and you were either 5'1'' or 6''7 respectively, you may have had to adjust your dreams slightly. Actually, the short guy might have just wanted to trade with the tall guy, and you may have been gone on to great success in living out the other's wildest calisthenic desires.

The underdog story strikes a special chord with all of us, regardless of how successful we are in our current endeavors. At one point or another, every one of us has had at least a brief taste of hopelessness and self doubt. If our lives worked like the movies, we would see these feelings as our cue to grow and learn and eventually beat out our anonymously evil opponent, but unfortunately real life doesn't play out that way. That's precisely what makes the theme so attractive to us in film: it gives us a sliver of hope that we may someday achieve our indefinitely improbable dream.

Who doesn't like to root for the underdog? I once almost won the jackpot in a March Madness pool by picking a solid lineup of underdogs. At the time, I had no knowledge of college basketball, so I based my strategy solely on my knowledge of cheesy, heartwarming sports cinema. For awhile, it was really working for me, too. If only things had ended up as well for the teams I'd chosen as they had for say, the Mighty Ducks, I would have been a temporarily rich woman.

While not always probable, these stories help us get through the hard times. Or at the very least, they test our crying reflexes. Some of these warrant a full Kleenex multi-pack. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Mighty Ducks

I still can't believe this is sitting steady at 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's a 90s classic. Its many many sequels and franchising opportunities tell the real story; we didn't necessarily need a critically acclaimed movie to rush out and buy oodles of licensed merchandise. We would settle for a standard underdog story. Our consumerism isn't too picky.


RUDY - Feature Film Trailer from Edgar Faarup on Vimeo.

Rudy is truly one of those classic underdog movies. Even just watching the trailer gets me all riled up against everyone who told Rudy that his dreams were impossible. Granted, they were probably right. Like the groundskeeper remarks, he's 5 foot nothin' and weighs a hundred and nothin', plus he has no real aptitude for athletics. None of that is enough to deter Rudy, though, bless his heart. He's a pretty persistent guy.

Good thing, too, because he's become an enduring inspiration to us 90s kids. It wouldn't work as well if he'd thrown in the proverbial towel, no matter how sweaty he'd gotten it. If this movie didn't make you cry, maybe nothing will. It's a real tears-of-joy kind of flick.

The Sandlot

This movie is just brimming with quotable one-liners and pure, kid-driven heart. It's a sweet movie filled with ragtag misfits that separates itself from the pack of underdogs by not focusing so heavily on winning or losing. What's more important, it seems, is just being a kid. And avoiding certain death at the jaws of a savage English Mastiff. You know, the usual.

A League of their Own

I don't care what the degree of odds stacked against you as a professional female baseball player: there is absolutely no crying in baseball. I checked all of the rulebooks and Jimmy Dugan is absolutely right. No crying. Even if you're a Rockford Peach and have thin skin.

Hoop Dreams

Alas, proof that the heartstring-tugging underdog story isn't always fictional. Hoop Dreams is a documentary, but it's really only about basketball on a surface level. Like many documentaries, it gets to the heart of issues including race and societal values. The movie follows two kids for six years (8th grade to college) as they progress in their athletic careers, and these filmmakers captured more drama and tension than that found in fictional screenplays. In short, it's a great movie. If you haven't already, your homework assignment is to watch it. Report back on Monday.


Cross-dressing movies are inherently funny, right? I haven't seen this one in ages, but as I kid I was pretty certain it was knee-slappingly hilarious. A clueless Rodney Dangerfield (is there any other kind?) ends up coaching a girls' soccer team and enlists his soon-to-be stepson as one of the players. I had a huge crush on Jonathan Brandis, so I watched this movie probably 30 times. Consecutively. I'm still not over his death. Anyway, back to the movie: adults probably found it pretty hit or miss, but it was child-directed comedic gold.

Mystery, Alaska

There are so many characters in this movie, it's almost tough to tell who's the underdog. The movie essentially takes a stand against things that are fairly easy to take a stand against: evil big corporations, people who cheat on their spouses, sleazy television producers; it's not a huge leap to get us on board with it all. The big hockey game almost feels like a secondary plot in this one, though, so it didn't earn as much fanfare as its underdog-rooting cinematic peers.

Major League

Cut me a little slack here; this one came out in 1989, but it has all the classic makings of a 90s underdog story. Even that trailer follows the misfit montage to a T. Unlike some of the other movies on this list, Major League actually manages to be funny while executing its hackneyed storyline. We're willing to forgive the cliches because it's a genuinely entertaining film. Plus, Charlie Sheen plays Charlie Sheen. That's so unlike him.

The Cutting Edge

Okay, okay, I admit. I have a weakness for incredibly cheesy sports movies. As far as sports films go, this is pretty much as girly as it gets. At least this film throws another standard cliche into the mix: the mismatched-but-inevitably-suited-for-romance partnership. The spoiled Muffy and tough-guy meathead are clearly meant to be together from the beginning, but the fun of the movie is in watching the tribulations of their initial togetherness. Spoiler alert: They win, and they get together. I'm sure you're shocked.

Little Giants

Wow, how young is Ed O'Neill in that trailer?

I loved this movie as a kid, but looking at it now it's obvious it's about as by the books as you can get with an underdog story. It's like the writers took every Bad News Bears-style cliche from every kids' sports film ever made and synthesized them into a single film. They may well have named it, Generic Cliched Sports Film: Children's Edition. Even with its weaknesses, it appeals well to children. Anyone over the age of 10 may not be quite so generous with their reviews, unless they had a real thing for Devon Sawa. I know I did.

It goes to show that films don't need originality to entertain us. They can usually make up for it with a hearty dose of feeding our delicate psyches the reinforcement and reassurance it needs to delude us into thinking we can achieve the impossible. Don't get me wrong. Dream big, and all that. We don't watch movies to remind us of our own shortcomings; we watch movies to escape from the mundane trials of daily life. For the most part, it works too. Assuming the little guy wins, that is.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Awesome 80s and 90s Happy Meal Toys

You've got to feel at least a bit nostalgic for a time when a trip to McDonald's was an incredibly exciting and highly anticipated lunchtime event. As an adult, McDonald's is usually more of a convenience affair exclusive to travel and times when we're in such a rush we can't be bothered to consume anything with marginal nutritional value. As a kid, though, McDonald's was the be-all end-all of fine dining. Give us some nugs, some sweet n' sour sauce for dunking, and throw in a cheap plastic toy, and we'd be satiated for at least an afternoon. Our parents may have been the tiniest bit uneasy about feeding us such junk, but our immediate food coma-related nap was probably more than enough to justify their decision.

While the junk food was an essential element of the McDonalds+Children=Pure Ecstasy equation, the Happy Meal toy was a critical ingredient of our satisfaction. The french fries were oily and delicious, yes, but they paled in comparison to the notion of receiving a brand new toy. While usually we'd have to pull the old "throw yourself on the floor screaming in the toy store aisle" routine sure to humiliate our parents, in this case we got the toy no questions asked. It was just that easy.

Teenie Beanies

Following suit with the TY Beanie Babies craze of the 90s, McDonald's unleashed these "Teenie Beanies" in 1997. While Happy Meal toys are traditionally marketed exclusively at children, the Teenie Beanie promotion caught on in a big way with collectors. The toys quickly became best-selling Happy Meal giveaways, with adults and children alike lined up for cheeseburgers and nuggets. The chain actually ran into a serious issue with food wasting, as many adults were purchasing the Happy Meals solely for Teenie Beanie purposes and discarding their food in the trash. McDonald's had to actually sell them seperately with adult-sized food to satisfy the insatiable public.

McDonald's released two Beanies each week across a month-long span in April/May 1997, creating a self-perpetuating sea of hype. Every week, the hysteria would begin anew. I'm sure all of the very well-paid and never-harassed counter help was so pleased.


After the success of the Teenie Beanies, McDonald's learned a thing or two about appealing to collectors. Why exactly someone feels that a toy that comes free with a burger and fries is an invaluable collectible is beyond my grasp of logic, but I guess that's why I'm not a collector. These weren't fully functional electronics like the original, but each variety had some special gimmick, be it a growl or an ear wiggle. McDonald's produced 80 variations of 8 main varieties for the launch in 1999, meaning eager collectors had to return time and time again to complete their stash. McDonald's 1, Childhood obesity prevention 0.

Barbie/Hot Wheels

You just don't mess with the classics. You know, even if they reinforce all types of unsavory gender stereotypes. In the eye of McDonald's toy producers, girls liked dolls, boys liked cars, and that was that. It was generally non-negotiable, though I'm sure there were occasional requests for a trans-gender toy. I don't mean a Barbie with a shaved head dressed in baggy JNCOs, of course, just the girl/boy toy switcharoo. That other way would have been interesting, though.

And that commercial? Wow. Just wow. I especially like the way the tone of the voice-over and background music change when describing the fast car versus the tiny doll with styleable (!) hair. If you've got to squeeze a wealth of gender stereotypes into a single 30 second spot, you might as well give it all you've got.

Halloween Pails

I think the reasoning behind these trick-or-treat pails was something like, "If they're not going to get anything nutritious from us, we might as well limit their eventual candy consumption by offering way-too-small Halloween candy portals." You couldn't make much of a haul with these; you'd have been far better off with a pillow case. For some reason, though, we had these stacked around our house storing toys and holiday decorations for years. I can't imagine we ever ate that many Happy Meals. Perhaps my mom force-fed them to us on the condition that she could use the pails for her home storage needs. It seems vaguely possible.

McNugget Buddies

Ah, McNugget Buddies. You just don't see good fried food children's character action figures like you used to. These days, they're all Veggie Tales and their religious-tinted health-conscious ilk, but in our day we were more than happy to play with some anthropomorphized Chicken McNuggets. This was clearly a simpler time, or at least a time before parents had any access to relevant nutritional information.

When we were kids, apparently no one thought it was creepy for a commercial to feature a clown chatting conversationally with some juvenile chicken nuggets, reminiscing about their younger days and their first dipping sauce experiences. That sounds like a red flag to me, but obviously someone green lighted it. They are sort of cute, in a "I'm going to eat you and not feel remorse" type of way.

McDonald's Food Changeables

These were like the poor man's Transformers. There's something sort of innocent and benign about a cheeseburger that morphs into a killer robot. It's kind of...cute. In its own way. Even the voiceover guy can't take it seriously. "French fries become....FRY-BOT!" It sounds like he's trying to hold him some major guffaws. And who can blame him? That sentence is completely ridiculous.

Disney Movie Tie-Ins: Bambi, 101 Dalmations, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Hercules, Mulan....the list of cheap licensed merchandise goes on and on

I'm pretty sure I had the 1988 Bambi Happy Meal toys on display on my dresser for ten years, minimum. What? They were adorable. If I could find them today,I'd probably become that annoying person in the office whose desk is overtaken by tchotchkes and knicknacks (see Scott, Michael).

McDonald's acquired the licensing rights to all sorts of Disney paraphernalia, meaning whenever a new Disney movie premiered they were ready with a million tiny molds of all of its characters. I distinctly remember the 101 Dalmations toys because they haphazardly stuck Cruella in there. Who, I ask you, wants to play with a Cruella toy? We were all holding out for adorable puppies. I must've gotten three Cruellas before I finally got my hands on a pup.

Cabbage Patch Kids and Tonka Trucks

This was our other major boy/girl specific promotion. Obviously they never got too far thinking outside the box. Dolls and Cars, Dolls and Trucks. Big leap on that one.

McDino Changeables

We've got a similar Changeable concept here, only with...dinosaurs? Don't ask, I don't know what kind of weirdos they had in their development department, but McNuggetasaurus? Really? Is that an actual thing? To be fair, it is sort of cute, but you've got wonder the route to getting that into production.

Super Mario Bros 3

This ad is awesome. I love it. It just encompasses so much nostalgia in every beep. It manages to combine two things we loved as children (Super Mario Brothers and fast food) and combine them into a neat little package, complete with take-home toy. Well done, McDonald's.

As the promotions cycled in and out monthly, there are dozens of others I simply couldn't contain within the confines of a single post. Feel free to wax poetic about your favorites in the comments section. Just don't get too carried away; we don't want any of you inadvertently morphing into FRY-BOTS or a MCNUGGETASAURUS! Okay, okay, I admit it. That wasn't really related. I just desperately wanted to use those words again. They're adorable. Now knock yourselves out reminiscing about fast food freebies, kids. It's been fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SimCity, The Sims, and Other Computer Games in the Sim Series

No wonder all of us 90s children have such a puffed-up sense of self-worth and entitlement. What else would you expect after repeatedly encouraging us to play the role of virtual God throughout our childhood and adolescent years? Through the magic of computer games, the Maxis company gave us a unique opportunity to create our own little worlds complete with a population of inhabitants to control according to our benevolent or occasionally sadistic whims. We may not all have been kind and compassionate gods to our burdgeoning creations, but we certainly were powerful.

The first SimCity computer game debuted in 1989, featuring a simulated city-building program. It seemed like an innocent enough concept, and almost extensively educational at that. The object of the game was to build fully functioning cities that could withstand the impact of various disastrous scenarios, ranging from the realistic (1906 San Francisco earthquake) to ridiculous (Tokyo attacked by unlicensed Godzilla knockoff). Upon first glance the game seemed tedious, but it quickly became exceptionally addictive. Dealing with zoning laws and tax codes are a small consolation for the unlimited control of our little city. We commanded our anonymous miniature townspeople to do our bidding, and we saw that it was good.

SimCity was a runaway success, leading to countless reincarnations and reinventions. Clearly, people just could not get enough of ruling their own microcosmic universes. It was a pretty good feeling, after all. For the cost of a computer game, you could elevate yourself to the status of almighty ruler. All in all, not a bad deal.

The follow-ups to SimCity were endless. We had SimEarth, in which we got to design and guide the development of your very own planet. There was SimLife, allowing us the opportunity to mold the "genetic playground" of an ecosystem of plants and animals. We even had SimFarm, a primitive predecessor to that pesky Farmville on Facebook. The next time you have to endure endless newsfeed posts regarding the sad encounter of an ugly duckling or sad brown cow found wandering on the outskirts of a friend's farm, you may want to shake your fist in disgust at the Sim creators who planted the idea in the first place. Yes, I said planted. It's a farm pun. Get over it.

Early predecessor of Farmville? We may never know, but I'm going to blame them either way

By the year 2000, it seemed nearly inevitable that the computer whizzes over at Maxis would run out of ideas at one point or another. SimCity 2000 and SimCity 3000 seemed to have covered all possible ground for the game. It was hard to imagine expanding beyond the already exhaustive details of the SimCity series. By SimCity 3000, the programmers had gone so far as to insert angry citizen protesters when we made an unpopular public works decision. It sounded like they must have used up all of their viable computer game ideas. How much more could they possibly squeeze into a reissue?

And then, suddenly, Maxis issued us an entirely new vantage point from which to get our world-ruling jollies. In 2000, they released The Sims, through which we could live the complete simulated life of a virtual character. We may have thought we had been playing God in all previous incarnations of the game, but that all seemed pretty entry level once we saw what was to come.

In The Sims, we had full control over a virtual person (or people, if you were an adequate multi-tasker). Many of us saw fit to actually model a Sim after ourselves, christen it with our name, and try to control its life decisions. What we may not have known, however, was that our mischievous little Sims were imbued with the pesky power of free will. Yes, that's right. The video game versions of ourselves over which we thought we had full control were actually wont to rebel against our commands and make their own decisions. Even if you tried your best to give your Sim an exclusively happy life devoid of disappointments and unfortunate experiences, he or she was bound to go off on their own and make some poor choices. Go figure.

Not all of us were kind and just rulers of our virtual underlings, either. Many of us derived great pleasure from cruelly experimenting with the emotions and reactions of our Sims. There were countless instances in which to muse, "I wonder what would happen if I..." and then proceed to subject our innocent Sim to all forms of unhealthy deprivation and morally ambiguous scenarios. "I wonder what would happen if I blew up his house?" "I wonder what would happen if I won't let him use the bathroom for six days?" "I wonder what would happen if I force him to have romantic liaisons with every neighbor on his block?" I wonder what would happen, indeed. Even without the aid of my handy Simmish to English dictionary, I could tell my Sim was not especially pleased with the lifestyle choices I'd made for him.

What , you don't like discussing Uncle Sam's hat with your neighbors?

What started off as an interesting concept and novel idea for a computer game quickly morphed into an existential experiment in human behavior. The trickiest part was there was no way to win the game. The combinations and permutations of situations were infinite, and as long as you kept your Sim eating and sleeping, they would keep on living. They dealt with the same minutiae as the rest of us; their circumstantial residence in a virtual world didn't preclude them from having to pay bills and brush their teeth. Unluckily for them, the original version of The Sims didn't give them weekends off. Bummer.

The Sims went on to become one of the bestselling computer games of all time, proving that we all must deep down have some morbid fascination with the notion of playing god to a host of virtual people. In The Sims and all of the Sim worlds that preceded it, we got our first taste of complete power, and it felt good. It wasn't until more recently that they unleashed the ultimate virtual rulership beast: Spore. Seriously, if you have not played it, go pick it up. It's amazing. You grow from a spore into a sea creature and you evolve and you kill things. Just don't blame me when you start dreaming in tribal strategy and have sudden flashes of inspiration for a redesign for your creature's aerodynamicity. Yes, I just made that word up, but didn't you hear? I'm entitled. I'm a creator.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

90s Group Dance Crazes

The 90s were a good time to be a bad dancer. The dance music industry seemed aware of the plight of the uncoordinated and responded aptly with some incredibly detailed instructional dance songs. All you needed was a basic command of the English language and the ability to distinguish Right from Left and you were golden. It was just that easy.

From country line dancing to hip hop moves, the 90s offered us a wide range of group dancing options. Whatever your fancy, it was pretty likely you'd be hearing it at every wedding you attended in the span of the decade. There was no better surefire way to get all the wallflowers out on the dance floor than to bust out a dance they'd learned in gym class. It had a certain way of easing the tension. For the most part they just involved a step forward, back, or to the side, a turn or two, some directional changing, and voila! You were dancing.

For the most part, you couldn't pinpoint exactly where or when you learned the routine, but when the song came on your body instinctively fell into step. It's like some sort of reflex. To this day, whenever I hear the opening bars of Cotton Eye Joe, I immediately break into a complicated series of hops and turns. While this list is by no means comprehensive, here are a smattering of dance crazes that took the world by storm circa 1990-2000:

Cha Cha Slide

I heard a rumor (via infamous gossip maven and disseminator of potentially misguided information Wikipedia) that the Cha Cha Slide was actually developed for a Bally's fitness class. Since I don't have the drive or energy to verify or refute this claim, we're just going to go with that. So, it started with a fitness class. What do you know.

This one requires a bit more on the coordination side, particularly during the "Cha Cha real smooth now" interlude. We're supposed to interject our own saucy salsa moves there, but that's asking a bit much from your average line dancer. Not to mention the "Reverse! Reverse!" part. The franticness of it all is enough to send you into stress-induced palpitations.

Cotton Eye Joe

You've got to wonder what exactly was the tipping point that drove someone to consider recording this traditional Southern folk song as a knee-slappin', toe-tappin' techno single. Because when I think Southern country music, my mind immediately makes the leap to Swedish Eurodance. To be fair, the Swedish Eurodancers in question did brand themselves as Rednex, but it just doesn't add up. Luckily they provide us with enough synthesized harmonica and banjo riffs to distract us from the discrepancy.

Electric Slide

This one's been around a bit longer, but it enjoyed a fair amount of popularity in the late 80s and 90s. It's a pretty straightforward procedure, really. You do a couple of grapevines, throw in a little toe brandishing, and top it all off with some good old fashioned boogie woogie woogieing. Repeat.


If I can be totally honest with you, I learned how to vogue from Stephanie Tanner of Full House. That girl had some moves. Madonna's 1990 song "Vogue" helped popularize the growing dance movement, leaving club-goers everywhere to awkwardly strike pose after pose in well-timed succession. The trick was in keeping a straight, underfed model-esque face throughout the whole thing.

Achy Breaky Heart

Remember, if you will, a time before Billy Ray Cyrus was just Miley Cyrus's dad. Back in the early 90s, he was a mullet-headed one-hit wonder of a country music star. With his pop crossover success, he had even the Yankee-est among us queuing up for country line-dancing.

If you ever have a chance to check out the lyrics, you'll be treated to a comprehensive list of people Billy Ray suggests you consult regarding his achy breaky situation before alerting his heart of its impending breakage. My personal favorite is Aunt Louise. I always secretly thought she'd have been sympathetic to the dire state of his romantic life.

Tootsee Roll

The only problem with this one was figuring out what to do during the verses. The chorus was relatively instructive, but everything in between was pretty up in the air. The 69 Boyz also seem especially intent on reminding us that the dance is not the butterfly but indeed the Tootsee Roll. Thank goodness they keep bringing it up. Between mentions I start slipping into thinking it might be the butterfly I'm doing, but they set me straight in the next verse. Close one, though.

Apache (Jump On It)

I'll admit this one isn't quite as widespread as the others, but after seeing that Fresh Prince episode I was completely hooked. Carlton and Will enter an 80s dance competition to salvage their busted Vegas trip, and the results are hilarious. Really, anything that includes Carlton dancing is okay by me.


What list of dance crazes would be complete without mention of the infamous Macarena? For no apparent reason, this catchy tune spiraled into one of the biggest dance hits of the later part of the 20th century. If you don't speak Spanish, I don't recommend the English translation of the original. It probably makes more sense in Spanish, assuming you speak no Spanish. The song has some choice moments, but I think my favorite are when Macarena gets together with her boyfriend's pals in the midst of his military swearing-in ceremony. Yes, it really is that specific. Thankfully they came up with looser translation for the English version.

The dance itself is pretty simple, which is probably why it caught on in such a big way. It doesn't matter how terrible a dancer you are, everybody can put out one hand and then the other. The butt shaking part might give you some trouble, but at that point you're just seconds away from a jump turn that'll leave you home free.

No matter how self-conscious and awkwardly adolescent you were, you could usually fake it on the dance floor thanks to these handily prechoreographed songs. When one of these came on at the school dance, it didn't matter that you couldn't do the worm or that your Running Man was decidedly subpar. You just needed to step into the well-organized lines, listen to the lyrics, and churn out a few basic steps. You may not have been able to cha cha real smooth during the free dance breaks, but you could grapevine and Charlie Brown with the best of 'em.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

Who wouldn't want to show up all of their formerly contemptuous classmates at their ten-year high school reunion by pulling up in a flashy car and wrongfully claiming to have invented post-it notes? At the time of Romy and Michele's release we may not have totally understood their impulse to lie, but as time pushes us closer in sync with their panicked 28-year old state of mind their motive comes into focus. No matter what you're doing, it's not a huge leap to assume most of us wish we had something a little more impressive to show for ourselves. Particularly when it comes to showing up those mean girls and jerky boys from high school.

We may have assumed we'd have earned a wealth of bragging rights by this point, but most of us haven't even gotten so far as just achieving plain old wealth itself. High school reunions hold a mirror to our lives that reflects a picture of ourselves we may not be completely proud of. You think you're doing alright and BAM! An opportunity arises to showcase your accomplishments and you realize you've squandered the last few years partying and spending your paychecks on shoes. Not exactly the picture you hoped to paint 10 years post-graduation.

This is a movie that only gets funnier as we get older. Many of us found it humorous as children, but the jokes ring far truer the more frequently we face similar situations. Our experiences may not be on the same scale as Romy and Michele's, but there have been countless moments of shining clarity during which I realized at the rate I'm going my college education won't pay for itself for another 5 years. Or when I'd run into an old friend who was becoming an astrophysicist or Planeteer or something equally impressive and I found my own experiences just werent adding up. Whatever the circumstances, most of us have been there. I only wish Michele hadn't already come up with that whole "I invented Post-Its" thing before I got to it. That could have been a killer embellishment for my resume.

Objectively speaking Romy and Michele are losers, but the more I consider my own lackluster autobiography the more I want to come to their defense and say they're doing just fine. Deep-voiced Romy's a low-tier employee at a local Jaguar dealership and bubbly Michele's unemployed, but their collective self-concept is disproportionately positive. In their eyes, they're two good-looking single girls living it up in LA, but to the world they're just a pair of ditsy airheads with no money, no boyfriends, and a penchant for gorging on Doritos and gummy bears.

The girls are former high school outcasts who remain best friends and roommates ten years post-high school. Their self-confidence borders on delusional when you consider their less than enviable lifestyle, but you get the feeling that they truly believe their lives are near-perfect. They watch chick flicks, chow down on candy, wear outrageous outfits, and go clubbing every night. Now that I think about it, that actually sounds pretty good to me. I'm almost willing to swap if I got to wear that ridiculous feather-laden jacket Michele's got on.

They're forced to reconsider their confidence after Romy has a run-in with former classmate Heather Mooney. Heather, an offbeat teen, grew into a high-powered successful businesswoman cashing in on her ludicrous invention of the super-fast burning cigarette. Heather clues Romy in on the upcoming 10-year reunion in Tucson, and Romy and Michele are initially fairly pumped about their chance to reconnect with their former peers. That is, until they realize just how unimpressive and mundane their current lives are. At 28, they're possibly less accomplished that they were at 18. Not exactly how they'd anticipated greeting the A-Crowd 10 years down the line.

We're treated to a series of reminisces and flashbacks of Michele and Romy's horrendously awkward high school days. The aptest part of the film is that regardless of how others may have perceived you in high school, most of us felt like this at one time or another. Teenagers are in an ongoing state of emotional insecurity, meaning most of us can relate (albeit on a smaller scale) to the daily humiliations and tribulations of the adolescent Romy and Michele characters. We may not have been humiliated at prom or had refrigerator magnets surreptitiously and maliciously stuck to our scoliosis braces, but for the most part we got the gist of their disappointments.

Romy and Michele resolve to lose weight, find boyfriends, and land killer jobs. They seem vaguely aware that if those things had been as easily attainable as they'd thought they'd probably have achieved them by now. Perhaps, though, as Romy speculates, they'd just never really tried. Two weeks seems like a reasonable goal, so they decide to go for it.

All of their last-ditch efforts fall to pieces, leaving them no choice but faking it in lieu of making it. Despite what seems to be their total ineptitude at life, they're actually pretty competent budding fashionistas. They make themselves high-powered business suits, borrow a Jag from Romy's employer, and come up with the brilliant back-story that they were the inventors of Post-It notes. Because, you know, they're businesswomen. That's what businesswomen do. They are businesswomen. Businesswomen.

Oh, and in case you missed it, they're businesswomen:

Things turn sour quickly, though, as the girls begin to bicker about their ill-fated scheme. The two have a falling out and we segue into a drawn-out and well-executed dream sequence about the reunion. The popular A-crowd girls are there in matching shiny pastel suits, all having achieved their wildest ambitions. Michele blows them away with an incredibly convincing-sounding description of his discovery of Post-It adhesive, Romy heads off with popular Billy Christiansen, and Michele encounters the once-nerdy but now-billionaire Sandy Frink.

We find it was all a dream and cut to the real reunion, where things don't go quite as they'd, well, dreamed. The A-crowd girls aren't super overachievers, but most of them are pregnant and sanctimonious. Heather exposes Romy's lie about her success, and everyone's pretty much back in their old high school roles. Except for maybe Sandy Frink, who really did turn out to be a billionaire. Not too shabby.

Romy and Michele scratch their plans, get into their signature outfits, and confront the bratty A-crowd girls. Romy tells them off, telling the girls that she and Michele don't care what they think anymore. The A-crowd tries to retaliate by mocking our girls' clothes, but they don't get too far. Turns out the one nice popular girl, Lisa, works for Vogue. Once I got over the fact she was the evil almost-stepmother from The Parent Trap, I was almost able to like her.

We're treated to a hefty dose of "Just Be Yourself!" and the girls perform one of the weirdest-ever interpretive dances caught on film to-date (set to "Time after Time"). Heather even confronts the cowboy from her high school smoking sessions, and turns out he's got a thing for her. Who knew? Our girls are brimming with pride and happiness, and it turns out they were okay just the way they were after all. Billy Christiansen, now married to Christy, shows himself as a cheating scumbag. Christy gets her comeuppance, Sandy gets his due, and the girls get a hearty endorsement for their clothing line from both a Vogue editor and billionaire investor (Sandy, again). Romy and Michele open their own clothing boutique stocked with their signature designs, and all's well that ends well. Because it all ends well, you see.

The original movie may have been fluffy, but it seems like a dense dissertation when you compare it to the made-for-TV sequel. Which, strangely, co-stars Katherine Heigl. If you're ever feeling a bit anti-intellectual for loving Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, here's a surefire cure. Just watch the follow-up. You'll be back to feeling like a Rhodes scholar in no time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Technology We Grew Up With: On Its Way Out

It's cliche to say we came from simpler times. After all, I've said it here alone probably 50 times. Every generation invariably feels this way, but the speed of technological growth has sped up the tech nostalgia cycle considerably. In past generation-to-generation technology handoffs, much of the first generation's technology is still in circulation at the time. In our case, in a matter of a few years many of the things we grew up with have become not only unfashionable but nearly technologically obsolete.

We've adapted to new technologies so fluidly it's almost difficult to recall a time when we weren't all totally dependent on today's gadgetry conveniences. Each of us right probably has within a 20-foot radius at least a few major pieces of technology that didn't exist in during our childhood years. If it did exist, its form is often nearly recognizable from the prototypes we grew up using. You could argue that an iPhone and an early suitcase-model mobile phone are the same idea, but they have about as much in common as your TV and your toaster.

While we have seen innumerable technological advances over the years, we rarely take the time to mourn the loss of the electronics that came before. Sit back in that ergonomic chair and adjust the easy-on-the-eyes tint of your high-tech computer screen, and enjoy the ease and quiet of your high-speed internet connection as we pay tribute to some bygone technologies:

Pay Phones

Remember when you were a kid and your parents couldn't reach you every minute of every day? It was still possible to get into a little mischief when our parents weren't constantly harassing our cell phones and tracking their signals via online GPS. In our day, your parents could drop you off at the mall or movie theater with twenty five cents and you could call them at your leisure. They didn't worry about not having total control over our teenage whereabouts for an hour or two. We used to be the ones to decide when and where we'd contact someone. Oh, how the times have changed.

Having Your Own Phone Line

That's not to say we didn't have plenty to talk about with our friends. Yes, talk. It's an unfamiliar mode of communication to many of us whose brains now automatically interpret the phrase "I don't know" as "IDK". 15 years or so back, there was no texting and instant messenger was fairly new technology. If you were very lucky, your parents might award you your very own landline to communicate with your friends without tying up their lines. In an even further example of total technological obsolescence, I actually shared my personal land line with the modem. How's that for a phenomenon you don't see today? That meant I could only talk on the phone if no one was using the internet and vice versa. Nowadays, we've all got internet on our phones themselves, but back in the day it was an either/or type ordeal.

Getting Film Developed

I'm willing to venture we all took significantly fewer pictures in our adolescence than teenagers do today. The reason? Film. We paid to have every one of our photos developed; we couldn't just browse for a select few. If a picture turned out badly, none of us would know until we'd gotten the photographic evidence back from the 1-hour photomat. We'd have to divide the developed photos into two piles: keepers and duds. There was no instant gratification, nor did we immediately see the photos posted online. The aura of suspense has faded with the rise of digital technology. It's not quite as thrilling to look back and reminisce on an image that happened two seconds earlier.

Floppy Disks

Remember that little disk drive our computers used to have? Take a look around your current computer model. I'd guess the majority of us don't even have an input for these guys anymore. From the big CD-album sized originals to the more compact later incarnations, they used to be a major means of saving information to our computers. Now we don't even have an insertion slot. Sunrise, sunset...*

Purchasing CDs/Cassettes

...Or for that matter, popping them into a Walkman or Discman. Yes, they still sell CDs, but the market has decreased significantly. These days most musicians are barely making money off of record sales, especially considering pirated music downloads. For those of us who go the legal route through iTunes, we're far less likely to buy a full album and suffer through the songs that weren't good enough to be released as singles.

I'm being a bit facetious, sure, but when's the last time you burned a CD or made a mixtape for a friend? It's sadly sliding out of practice. How are we supposed to express ourselves without the art of mixtapery? I can't tell someone I love them unless I can find 12 appropriate songs, record them off the radio, and drop it in their locker. It just doesn't feel right.

VHS tapes

Once upon a time, if there was something you wanted to watch on TV but you were going to be away from home, you'd have to program your VCR. This, for its time, seemed like pretty cutting-edge technology. We kept loads of blank videotapes next to our TV and continually taped over them with movies of the week or the latest episode of Dawson's Creek. The other day at Half Price Books I saw them selling bins of 50 VHS tapes for five dollars a case. Five dollars. These were good movies, too. Clearly VHS is no longer the preferred media, but if you've got a player you could certainly rack up quite the cheap collection.

Watching Commercials

Speaking of TV (sort of), our television remote controls didn't always have a pause, fast forward, and rewind function. We sat through every last commercial. Sometimes we even enjoyed it. There's a lot about TV we'll have to miss, actually. For example, that fuzzy snowstorm static you sometimes got? Gone. Kaput. Finito. You'll never see that again. Sort of sad, isn't it? It's strange getting dewy eyed over an irritating TV function, but I'm actually a tad verklempt.

Polaroid cameras and film

Yes, it's true. Now when we hear Outkast's instructions to "shake it like a Polaroid picture" we'll just have to used our imaginations; they no longer exist in their quick-printing form. It once seemed so high tech to instantly have a copy of your photo, but that's since been rendered obsolete by digital photography. It's sad, when you think about it. That "Hey Ya" was pretty recent, but a couple of years from now kids won't even get the reference. Tragic.

Dial-Up Modems

...And that charming noise that come along with them. Remember that? All the buzzing and the beeping and the waiting for the little AOL running guy to reach his final destination of internetland? That
dial up noise is now relegated to the back spaces of our memories. I'll never forget you, Ringers. That's what I just named my modem. Posthumously, of course.

Oh, how quickly things change. Just as we're getting accustomed to one mode of technology, another sweeps in and changes the course completely. We wouldn't trade our modern technology for anything, but it's crazy to think that ten years from now, the iPhone and Blackberry may just be retro kitsch. I can't imagine what else they'll tack on to these things, but that's sort of the beauty of it. We can mourn the loss of these bygone tech practices, but there's always something new just over the horizon. My guess is the next generation of phones will also be flying cars. Just don't forget you heard it here first.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giveaway Winner and Today's Post: Childhood Cereal Commercial Characters

First things first--I am pleased to announce the winner of the first ever Children of the 90s Giveaway: Lauren Kelly from Walk With Me on this Journey Called Life!

*Winner was selected using a randomized shuffled spreadsheet and an online random number generator*
Congratulations, Lauren Kelly!! I will contact you later today for your mailing information (or you can shoot me an email at when you see this), and your 90s care package should be on the way sometime next week!

To everyone else, thank you all so much for entering, and don't worry--this isn't the end of giveaways at Children of the 90s. I heard a rumor someone (okay, me) has a blogaversary coming up, so keep checking back for more fun giveaway opportunities. I can't tell you how fun it was assembling these items, and I can't wait to do it again soon!

Please excuse the interruption. Now, for today's post:

Childhood Cereal Commercial Characters

Forget what anyone says. Cereal mascots are the hardest working guys in show biz. They're arguably among the most dedicated, single-minded characters in modern media. They never can just pick up a box of their favorite sugar cereal at the local supermarket like the rest of us. These guys are constantly battling the forces of cereal-related tyranny and oppression in an eternal struggle to get their hands on the much-coveted cereal. For those of us whose parents refused to buy us sugary breakfast cereal, we could relate to their plight.

The aim of these characters was to convince a demographic of hungry, sugar-crazed children that these cereals were so desirable that fictional characters would go to extreme lengths to get their hands on them. At the time, it seemed like a fairly viable quandary; what's one expected to do if denied their sugary fuel? Looking at them now, though, I wouldn't be surprised if one of these cartoons showed up on A&E's Intervention. They're not only incredibly desperate for their fix but also seem to be going through some sort of physical withdrawal symptoms. You'd almost expect for them to airlift Honeycomb Crazy Craving to the nearest treatment facility and run a glucose IV through his furry little arm. I'm not a professional, but even I can see that guy needs some seriuos help.

These cartoon characters were by no means the only cereal advertising stars. There were plenty of live-action commercials directed at older children, but few of them managed to equal the intensity and desperation encapsulated by these sugar-starved animated critters. Many of these characters have been around since before our time, though they often been through more reinventions than Cher. You'd better hurry up and get your reminiscing in before the remaining mascots go the way of Cookie Crook and Officer Crumb. Blink and they'll be replaced by cooler, hipper characters.

Fruity/Cocoa/Dino Pebbles: Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble

When the Flinstones debuted as Post Cereal's Pebbles-brand spokescartoons in the 70s, no one could have known they'd still be out hawking cereal decades later. Throughout the years, the story lines have been fairly one-dimensional: Fred Flintstone eats Fruity or cocoa Pebbles. Barney sees said Pebbles. Barney attempts elaborate and ill-thought-out scheme to obtain Pebbles. Fred screams, "BAAAAARNEEEY!" End scene. The only thing I'm not so clear on is what Dino Pebbles are made of. That name still sounds pretty suspicious.

Cocoa Puffs: Sonny the Cuckoo Bird

Sometimes time really does bring progress. In the original 50s and 60s ads, Sonny was chilling with his grandpa. He still went cuckoo, sure, but with his grandpa. Not exactly the stuff cool kids are made of.

Ad writers wised up in the 80s and 90s, making Sonny go cuckoo with kids and eventually pressure other kids into going cuckoo themselves. Yes, you heard right. Sonny worked his way up from user to dealer. At least he wasn't trying to pull his Gramps into it anymore. He did, however, get Joseph Gordon Levitt on the cuckoo train. See evidence above.

Frosted Flakes: Tony the Tiger

Tony the Tiger may have been born decades earlier, but he probably started his amateur frisbee career in the above 90s ad. The "They're Grrrreat!" slogan has been around for ages, but in the 80s and 90s they tried incorporating some hipper phrases. They promised to bring out the tiger in us or to put the tiger on our team, but perhaps none were as resigned and half-hearted as "The Taste Adults Have Grown to Love." You know, you used to hate it, but over the years the virulence of your hatred has lessened. Buy Frosted Flakes!

Trix: Trix Rabbit

Talk about prolonged disappointment. The Trix rabbit has been up to his, well, tricks for over 50 years. It's always the same old schtick: he'd try to trick the kids into sharing their cereal, but they'd continually admonish him with the ultimate brush-off: "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!" Jokes on the Trix rabbit, though. In elementary school, a friend and I fed some Trix to her pet rabbit, Munchers. He totally went for it. He had no idea they were just for kids. Not a clue.

HoneyComb: Crazy Craving

This is probably one of the more frightening 90s cereal characters, if for nothing other than the sheer voracity of his need. The weird hopped-up rodent thing's name was Crazy Craving, and I believe he has since been retired. He premiered as Honeycomb's official mascot in the mid-90s, preceded by the HoneyComb Hideout gang. According to these 90s ads, you could actually become Crazy Craving if you went long enough without your fix. Scary indeed.

Cookie Crisp: Cookie Crook and Officer Crumb

This commercial lied to me. I wanted so badly to enjoy what was promised to me as the sweet taste of cookies for breakfast but when my parents finally caved and threw it in the grocery cart to quell my tantrum, it just wasn't what I'd expected. Cookie Crook and Officer Crumb had hyped it to a level they just couldn't achieve. It turns out the most inspired thing about the cereal was Chip the Dog's howling of "Cooooookie Crisp!"

Lucky Charms: Lucky Leprochaun

Children first met Lucky in the 60s, but he's steadily tempted our sugar impulses with his endless pushing of marshmallow-laden cereals. He promised them to be magically delicious, and for the most part they were. If only they could have made them magically nutritious, too.

Froot Loops: Toucan Sam

Toucan Sam was born in the 60s, though he did undergo some beak work a decade or so later. I think I saw it on E!'s Celebrity Plastic Surgery Nightmares but I can't be sure. Whatever the situation surrounding his nose, he followed it to some delicious fruity sugar cereal. How 90s is that Rapping Rhino ad, too?

Cinnamon Toast Cruch: Wendell, Bob, and Quello

Who exactly were Wendell, Bob, and Quello, you ask? According to General Mills, Bob and Quello don't technically exist. They name main baker Wendell, but it sounds like the other two were using the role to pad out their resumes with bit parts like "Baker #2: illustrates taste he can see." They make fun of adults in a Bubble Tape/Apple Jacks sort of way, mocking their inability to see what makes the cereal so compelling. For the record, it's the swirls of cinnamon sugar in every bite.

Honey Smacks: Dig 'Em

Sugar Smacks have been through a lot over the years. Well, a lot of names at least. In our day, they were Honey Smacks, but now they're just Smacks. That sounds pretty suspiciously close to Smack, even when you take into consideration the child-friendly Dig-Em frog mascot.. I guess as long as no kids are injecting the cereal intravenously, we're alright.

Rice Krispies: Snap, Crackle, and Pop

These guys have been around since the 1940s, but they underwent a serious 90s makeover for the Razzle Dazzle edition of the cereal. In case you're unfamiliar with cereal speak, "Razzle Dazzle" is code for "heaps of additional sugar". I couldn't find any video of those ads, though, so you'll just have to settle for watching a kid in a safari outfit get really pissed off at a dinosaur for kidnapping Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

I don't know about the rest of you, but this post has left me with a serious hankering from some good old-fashioned nutrition void sugar cereal. It may not have been substantive, it may not have been nutritious, heck, it may not even have been totally honest when it claimed to be part of a balanced breakfast. But it was endorsed by our animated spokescartoons, and darn it that was more than enough to convince us. So excuse me as I go cuckoo following my nose as I make a serious effort to elude the sanctimonious Officer Crumb: I'm off to get my fix.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Infectious 90s TV Theme Songs

Today is the last day--a winner will be announced tomorrow morning! Don't forget to enter the Children of the 90s Ultimate Nostalgia-Fest 2010 Giveaway! It's open until Wednesday, February 17. Click here to see rules and enter for your chance to win some fun Goosebumps, BSC, Magic Eye, Lisa Frank, Pete and Pete, and more!

I'm not saying our generation watched too much TV, but it's pretty telling that I've yet to witness someone break into, "Innnnn West Philadelphia, born and raised..." without an entire room of 20-somethings clambering to joining in. If I even overhear someone humming what sounds to be the opening bars of Rockapella's iconic Where in the World of Carmen San Diego theme, I'm wont to fill in the mid-range harmony bits from distances of up to 100 feet. True story. It may or may not have happened at the gym.*

It's almost a physiological reaction; we just can't help ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we've collected an arsenal of television theme song lyrics that are laying dormant in the darkest nether regions of our brains. We have an excellent command of the instrumental themes as well, but they fail to command the same involuntary knee-jerk reaction. Singing along to your old favorite TV intros has a way of transporting you right back onto your childhood couch, covered in Pringle crumbs, sipping on a Kool-Aid Burst. It's the magic of memory. Or maybe just a testament to the innumerable hours we all logged in front of the tube during our formative years.

Whether or not you liked the shows was almost irrelevant. Some of them were worth watching on the merit of introductory song alone. For the most part, though, they lived up to the immense promise of their catchy theme tunes. For whatever reason, they were irrepressibly memorable:

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

Love it or hate it, you've got to admit Rockapella did their homework. PBS commissioned the Carmen San Diego children's game show in direct response to the abysmal perfomance of American students on geography standards. Rockapella managed to squeeze almost every location on earth into their three-minute theme song, not to mention the wealth of groan-inducing puns they sprinkled throughout.

Some of these puns I'm willing to accept as legitimate jokes. You know, "We never Arkansas her steal" and that kind of thing. But at a certain point, they're really pushing it; I don't care how alluring their multi-part harmonious arrangement is, it's never okay to say, "She stole the beans from Lima." I get it, I get it, but it's not even the correct pronounciation. Rockapella did make up for their grevious pun infractions, though, by breaking it down in a major way at the end of the song. Well done, Rockapella.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Expository theme songs are great the first time you tune in to a show. If you have no clue of the premise or back story, it'll fill you in pretty much right up until the events of the current episode with aits incredibly informative and detailed lyrics. In some cases, it all gets pretty tiresome after the first few viewings. In a time before DVR, there was no fast-forwarding through the credits.

Luckily, this was not the case with The Fresh Prince's theme song. We just couldn't get enough. Sometimes I'd watch the show just to see the opening credits. This one was a keeper, destined to go down forever in 90s TV theme history. So many of us worked tirelessly on memorizing this one. The furthest I ever got was to, "You're moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air", so I'm achingly jealous of all of you who know all of the verses by heart.

Saved By the Bell

The sheer exposure to this one was more than enough to commit it to memory. Saved By The Bell played in seemingly continuous loop in syndication throughout our youth. For awhile it seemed that we couldn't turn on the TV without flipping by an episode of SbtB. The theme song lyrics rivaled the show's subject matter in cheesiness, but both had a certain alluring quality.

This song takes a lot of liberties in fitting in syllables, working in well-pruned lines like "And the 'larm gives out a warning". Yes, you heard right. The 'larm. Alarm just wouldn't fit. It didn't really matter to us, though. So long as they kept parading attractive teen stars across our screen, we'd listen to whatever they wanted.

Salute Your Shorts

Salute Your Shorts' theme played out like a camp anthem parceled out amongst the main characters. As in any good teen sitcom, we all just assume that there are indeed other campers somewhere on the premises, though none quite as interesting and plotline-worthy as our major players. Sure, there might have been some other kids stationed at Camp Anawanna over the summer, but none quite as enthralling as Budnik or Donkey Lips.

Toilet humor is like comedic gold to children, so it's no wonder we delighted in the line, "Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts/and when we think about you/it makes me wanna fart!" We all knew Ug was just a huge spoilsport for reprimanding the gang. I guess we've got to cut him a break, though. He was the almost only adult we ever saw, save for the mysterious disembodied voice of camp director Dr. Kahn. You'd probably be pretty tightly wound, too, if you were the only grown-up in a sea of teenagers for an entire summer.

Full House

Even a few bars of the jazzy "ba-ba-ba-de-ba-bop-bop" at the end is enough to jar us all back into full Full House mode, yearning once again to be raised by a zany, madcap team of ill-equipped and uncompatible male role models. The opening sequence became incredibly well known throughout the show's multi-season run. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who can't complete the line, "What ever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paper boy..." See, you're just itching to fill in the blank, aren't you?

Hey Dude

Who would have thought that a western song about working summers on a dude ranch could be so compelling? Hey Dude represented the classic era of Nickelodeon, and its signature theme song did not disappoint. Well, at least not in melody; lyrically it could have used some rethinking. It doesn't really make sense, per se (It's a little wild and a little strange? Really?) but it all adds up to a part of the show's charm. Yippee ki yi ay, lil dogie.

We may not have known it at the time, but even after all these years these themes are as recognizable and catchy as they ever were. The downside, of course, is that they'll be tumbling around in your head on spin cycle for the rest of the day, but it's a fair trade off to get to relive all of those gloriously cheesy 90s TV anthems. Or at least that's how you can justify it when the guy at the next cubicle tells you for the twelfth time to please keep it down.

*Okay, okay, it did happen at the gym. Someone's iPod was blaring it from the bank of treadmills. I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Only a few days left! Don't forget to entire the Children of the 90s Ultimate Nostalgia-Fest 2010 Giveaway! It's open until Wednesday, February 17. Click here to see rules and enter for your chance to win some fun Goosebumps, BSC, Magic Eye, Lisa Frank, Pete and Pete, and more!

Even before they were harping about online predators, Dateline NBC had me terrified to leave the comfort of my own home. With their multi-part series on the dangers of 90s raves, I was almost certain that someone was going to randomly usher me into an abandoned warehouse against my will, stick an ecstasy-laced candy pacifier in my mouth, and subject me to endless hours of pulsating techno music and seizure-inducing light shows. You know you're growing up in pretty cushy conditions when your most major fears revolve around involuntary attendance at a wild underground party.

Other generations have all the luck. Their subcultural miscreants were usually tied to some sort of ideological principles. You know, peace, free love, that sort of thing. It's almost as if the preceding counter-cultural movements took all the good visionary underpinnings and we were stuck sorting through the remnants bin. Our take on rebellious youth culture amounted to Seattle Grunge culture and Euro-techno ravers. We may not have been as idealistic as the hippies who came before us, but it could have been worse. After all, we could have been pseudo-intellectual fake glasses-sporting ironic t-shirt clad hipsters.

There were some vague alliances between rave culture and principles, but the connection was fuzzy at best. At its heart, rave culture represented the happy-go-lucky invincibility that characterized the 90s. You know you're getting older when you start drawing broad metaphors between youth culture and the state of the economy, but it's an aging leap I'm willing to make. Raving was youth culture in its purest, least dilute form: wild, irresponsible, and generally under contempt of adults everywhere.

Many of us may have been too young at the time to be a driving force in the rave scene, but that wasn't about to stop us from defiantly sucking our pacifiers in homeroom. Rave trends quickly disseminated from underground phenomenon into mainstream fashion statements. While the raw ingredients undoubtedly varied from rave to rave, here's a rough recipe for a legitimate 90s raver.

Abandoned Warehouse

What's a party without a proper venue? By proper venue, of course, I mean a sketchy abandoned space that may or may not have once been some sort of industrial storage facility. As many of the early raves were a sort of impromptu underground effort, any old enclosed area would have to do. Raves were by no means limited to these settings, but there was a certain charm to illegal party squatting. Or at least that's what I gathered from my avid viewing of numerous multi-part Dateline NBC undercover exposes. They made it seem like every abandoned warehouse in the country was packed fire-code defiantly full of sweaty, effervescent teenagers.

Light Show

If you're going to party straight through to the wee hours of the morning, you've got to have some sort of visual stimulation. Laser light shows were a signature rave feature, with brightly colored strobe-like flashing creating a uniquely headache-inducing effect. I had to settle for my cheaply imitative Nickelodeon brand laser light how generator. I had the power to turn my basement into a wild party light-flashing party scene, but unfortunately I was only 10 at the time. The closest I was coming to raving was chugging a bottle of Surge and nursing a ring pop.


This was one of those inexplicable trends that caught on in a big way despite a total lack of purpose and functionality. Our parents spent months coaxing us off these damned things only to have us pick up the habit again 15 years down the road. I'm still not completely clear on if the pacifier had any sort of representational meaning or if someone just thought it might be fun to start selling them as necklaces to teenagers. Either way, these things were everywhere.

Candy Rings/Necklaces

The more I look at it, the more it seems like ravers all had some sort of serious oral fixation. The ecstasy could only make everything all the more delicious, so it was probably a good idea to keep some highly portable snacks on your person at all times.


They're sort of like your own personal laser light show. If you get bored with whatever lights the party coordinators are flashing, you can always wave your glowstick super quickly in front of your face. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the drugs probably enhanced this experience somewhat as well.

Ecstasy and/or Cocaine

Speaking of mood-altering substances, 90s partiers weren't really the depressant type. Leave the mellowed-out drugs to the peace and free love hippies. Ravers needed uppers to maintain a decent level of prolonged hyperactivity. If you've got to flail wildly in a warehouse with only the aid of glowsticks and laser light shows to keep you awake, you probably needed a little something to keep the edge on.

UV Facepaint

Again with the glowing. It's a pretty safe bet to say if it glowed, ravers wanted to slather their bodies in it. I suppose it's a bit hard to see in a darkened warehouse, so any light source is much appreciated.

It's odd to think of raves as retro, but countercultural phenomenons tend to age quickly. While in the 90s raving seemed edgy and dangerous and unspeakably modern, in retrospect it loses a bit of its luster. Not literally, of course. I imagine that UV facepaint bonds to pores for life.It was a pretty wild ride while it lasted, but for now we'll just have to relive the experience (or vicarious experience) through the magic of memory. So grab your glowsticks, pop in a pacifier, and beware the judgmental Dateline undercover reporters; it's rave reminiscing time.

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