Monday, October 31, 2011
About guest blogger Kelly, in her own words: Being born in ‘83, I’m on the older end of the 90’s kid spectrum, but that just means I remember it better! I spent my high school years completely obsessed with Mulder and Scully and, as the proud owner of three separate X Files related tattoos, I still am. I keep a blog of my various misadventures here, and you can find a crappie website I made in college here.
The X Files
Who of us raised in the 90’s can recall a prime time drama scarier or grosser than The X Files? In a pre-CSI landscape, it was surely in a class of its own. The story of two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, working the strange cases relegated to the basement and known as “X Files,” each for their own reasons and struggling against their own demons.
Without the dark example of The X Files, we may never have been able to witness such wonderful shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Reaper, Bones, or even the stomach turning sequences of CSI, on network TV. Plus, nothing else in pop culture has ever done so much for the word “debunk.”
As the defining aspect of my high school experience, I could write pages upon pages dedicated to the mythology and motifs of The X Files; where they came from, what they meant for society, and what they meant to me personally. (And trust me, I have!) However, for today’s purposes, I’ll break down a small sampling of elements and themes that exemplify the huge appeal of the show and the special brand of nostalgia Children of the 90’s is known for. Here we go!
Paranoia, Conspiracies, and all things “Out There”
The 90’s were a prime time for pondering the story behind the story. In a decade that featured Oliver Stone’s conspiracy flick “JFK,” the birth of VH1’s “Behind the Music,”and numerous political scandals, the public was constantly looking for ways to find out what we weren’t being told.
The X Files epitomized this. Mulder’s obsession with the fate of his sister, missing since she was 8 and he was 12, her abduction recalled only through spotty memories recovered under hypnosis, fueled his passion to solve each case that came to him. Young Agent Scully was assigned to accompany him, with direct orders to disprove and debunk his findings. Together, they introduced us to theories about far reaching government conspiracies, investigated urban legends, human monsters, and UFO sightings, and taught us that the skin tone of a Reticulan is actually grey, not green. You could not mention anything vaguely spooky or creepy in the 90’s without someone chiming in with the familiar first notes of The X Files opening theme.
Fabulous, Cutting-Edge Technology of the 90’s
A hallmark of the series were the two agent’s ever present cell phones. A wonderful tool to keep the agents connected while in separate places, the models featured in early episodes are now comically enormous. Note the antenna on Scully’s cell piece above. Also, there’s no touch screen when she turns that bad boy over!
Another technological phenomenon central to The X Files was the internet. Not only did the plot lines of several episodes feature the internet, computers, or video games, fans of The X Files are widely recognized as some of the first to embrace the medium as an outlet for fandom. “X Philes,” as they dubbed themselves, took to chat rooms and online forums in record breaking numbers to discuss their favorite show and post original pieces of fanfic.
Additionally, The X Files was featured in a first person, CD-ROM game for MAC and PC. In the game, you were a new agent saddled not only with the task of finding the missing Mulder and Scully, but changing the CD as you progressed.
What would a 90’s show be without ubiquitous catch-phrases? The X Files certainly had it’s share of mostly serious expressions. I defy you to hear any of the below without immediately hearing the theme music!
I Want to Believe
The Truth is Out There
Trust No One
Of course, the most fun catch-phrases are the unintentional. I present to you “Mulder, it’s me.”
Guest Stars and Crossovers
Casting nine seasons worth of an hour long drama with relatively few recurring characters is sure to result in quite a roster. The X Files definitely had it’s share of recognizable guest stars, (Ed Asner, Lily Tomlin, Tony Shaloub, Peter Boyle, Luke Wilson, Bryan Cranston, and even Tom Selleck, to name a few) but was probably more notable for the bit parts played by relatively unknown actors. It’s a list that could go on for pages, but here are few of the highlights. Look up their episodes to catch a glimpse of these famous faces early in their careers!
Seth Green - As a stoner with a scooter in the second episode of the series. And, no, I don’t know why Mulder is standing like that.
Ryan Reynolds - As a high school hunk murdered by a pair of girls with telekinetic powers in the episode “Syzygy”
Michael Buble - Yes, Michael Buble. As a submarine sailor with no speaking lines in “Apocrypha” and “Piper Maru.”
Lucy Liu - As the daughter of a Chinese immigrant caught in a black market lottery for human organs in “Hell Money.”
Jack Black and Giovanni Ribisi - As a teen with the ability to control electricity (Ribisi) and his friend (Black) who mysteriously winds up electrocuted in “D.P.O.”
Willie Garson - The erstwhile Stanford Blatch was actually in two episodes of The X Files as two different characters, first in season 3’s “The Walk” and then in season 7’s “The Goldberg Variation.”
Shia LaBeouf - Along with Willie Garson in “The Goldberg Variation.”
The X Files also participated in the grand TV tradition of crossover appearances. Detective Munch from Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order:SVU stopped by to arrest Mulder and his pals, the Lone Gunmen, in a flashback episode. Frank Black of Millennium came over to assist Mulder and Scully with a time sensitive New Year’s Eve case. And Mulder and Scully even made a detour through Springfield to help solve the mystery of an “alien” appearing in the woods on the edge of town. (Spoiler, it was Mr. Burns suffering the side effects of a radical anti-aging treatment performed by Dr. Nick!)
Like I said, these are just a few of the things that made The X Files memorable and totally 90’s. Until next time, remember, the truth is out there!
Monday, October 24, 2011
About guest poster Kari, in her own words: I’m a 90s kid hailing from the suburban South and living in New York City. I frequently prefer kid’s movies, often watch Saturday morning cartoons, always enjoy nostalgia, and determinedly refuse to grow up for good. You can visit me on Tumblr, and I also write a book blog.
There was just something about certain actresses of 90s movies; they seemed to pop up in everything (kinda like the klepto kid from Can’t Hardly Wait, who was also the pube pizza kid from She’s All That, and also in American Pie). These ladies were the ones I wanted to be—maybe because they rocked awesome kicks, hats, and had great hair, but most likely because they were individuals. They were a little bit quirky but entirely confident with themselves.
You’ll be pleased to know that most of our adolescent ingenues are still in the acting world, though most of them have gone more of the indie flick route (just further evidence that these 90s ingenues were destined for great things beyond the dreaded child actor stigma). Your individualism has paid off—you’re no longer just “former child stars”!
Oh my god, what I would’ve done to be Vada Sultenfuss in My Girl 2. (For some reason, always liked that one better than the first. Inexplicable.) I can’t even count how many cheap mood rings I bought after those two movies and how much of an internal struggle I had about flowery 1970s hats (I was a huge tomboy, yet she just looked so damn cool...). Beyond the My Girl flicks, Anna also starred in Trading Mom and Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain with fellow ingenue Christina Ricci (two movies my mom rented for me on sick days). Anna took almost a decade off from acting after 1998 to attend college (International Studies), get married, and apparently be a woman of all trades (food critic, restaurant guide, editorial assistant). She’s back to acting, though, with several recent indie movies and lots of TV roles.
Never have I wanted anything as badly as I wanted a pet monkey, thanks to the movie Monkey Trouble. (I also desperately wanted a copy of that movie, and pre-Amazon.com, it was incredibly hard to find. I never got it.) And lest we forget Thora’s best and most memorable role as Dani in Hocus Pocus. (This assertion is not up for debate.) Thora’s early acting also included Now & Then and Alaska. In 1999, she made a swift move to adult roles with American Beauty, and she’s steadily done indie flicks since (most notably Ghost World).
I never really knew Gaby Hoffmann until Now & Then (where she and Demi Moore were most perfectly cast), but since then, I’ve seen her pop up in a ton of stuff made prior. Who knew that wasn’t her break-out role? (Me.) She started her career with Field of Dreams, Uncle Buck, and Sleepless in Seattle, and starred in All I Wanna Do (total underrated late 90s teen flick starring lots of the up-and-coming famous females of the late 90s/early 00s—Kristen Dunst, Rachel Leigh Cook, Monica Keena, Heather Matarazzo...) before joining fellow ingenue Christina Ricci in 1999’s 200 Cigarettes (again, end of child roles). Lately, she’s done some guest-starring TV roles and has several new indie movies under her belt.
Christina was the “It girl” of the early to mid-90s, with a breakout role in Mermaids to her pre-teen roles in flicks like Addams Family and its sequel, Casper, Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain, Now & Then, and the 1997 version of That Darn Cat. Just one year later, in 1998, Christina officially ended her career as “child actor” with The Opposite of Sex—a poignant moment I remember in the video store when I saw her sporting blonde hair and cleavage, and thinking, “That’s it—my childhood is dead.” Christina’s had arguably the most well-known career of our ingenues throughout the past twenty years, leading most recently to ABC’s new series Pan Am.
Who could forget the adorable girl from Andre and Corrina, Corrina (which were released, in my mind, at exactly the same time)? Tina’s childhood career wasn’t quite as notorious as the previous four ladies, but she was a familiar face. You probably remember her now from Napoleon Dynamite; I bet every 90s kid’s reaction to that movie was: “She looks familiar...” Tina has done lots of TV acting since Napoleon, most famously on Veronica Mars and Big Love.
I give Anna Paquin an honorable mention for this reason: I always thought she was one of these ingenues that appeared in everything mid-90s, but when I recently checked her creds, I realized...wow, she wasn’t in as much as I thought. Yet, I DO remember her and associate her with these 90s childhood flicks, so that must mean something. While her official breakout role was in 1993’s Piano, her breakout role to OUR generation was in 1996’s Fly Away Home. The next really memorable role of hers was as Freddie Prinze Jr’s goth-chic sister in She’s All That, which led her to more teen/adult roles in Almost Famous, the X-Men flicks, The Squid and the Whale, and...her current claim to fame...HBO’s True Blood.
As you can see, no troubled former childhood stars from this group of girls. Further evidence that 90s kids are the best kids.
Monday, October 10, 2011
About guest poster Megan: I'm a bookworm, aspiring author, daydreamer and music lover from Adelaide, Australia.
I blog about my obsession for books at Storybook Love Affair (link to http://storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com/) where I share reviews, reading and writing events, author interviews and bookish products.
Blog link - http://storybookloveaffair.blogspot.com/
Twitter link - http://twitter.com/#!/search/storyloveaffair
From a very young age I have always loved to read. Remembering back to my youth, many of the books I devoured were part of a series. I did read the occasional stand-alone novel as well but it’s always the series books that hold the fondest memories for me and transport me back to a period I would love to revisit.
Luckily for me, I get to journey back to those years with this very fun guest post!
Here are the top five series that occupied much of my reading time while growing up in the 90s:
1. Sweet Valley High
Love them or loathe them, sixteen year old twin sisters Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield were a huge part of my life growing up. Unless you had also read the series, it probably wouldn’t hold any appeal to you, but for me the series has an intense nostalgic appeal.
The twins live in a town called Sweet Valley and are described as picture-perfect in every way, from their blonde hair, blue eyes, size six figures and All-American good looks. They are the popular students at Sweet Valley High where Elizabeth is the serious twin who writes for the school newspaper, and Jessica is the fun-loving cheerleader who flirts with boys and loves to party.
Life in Sweet Valley isn’t always idyllic though and between them the twins have been kidnapped, stalked, held hostage and attacked multiple times. Amazingly, through all this emotional drama they were never affected by anything and always managed to bounce right back into life with enthusiastic zest. As you do...
The books have been criticised for their unrealistic portrayal of teenage life and also for the lack of cultural diversity within the stories. Most characters come from privileged white backgrounds, have no zits or other typical teenage body issues, manage to have loads of cash without part-time jobs and drive cars that not even forty-something professional men could afford.
Although containing many inconsistencies (how can the same girls be 16 years old for 15 odd years??), the storylines in the early parts of the series were a whole lot of fun. They featured around the twins and their friends and often held a moral significance behind the story such as drug use and drink driving.
Later on in the series though the storylines became extremely ridiculous (I remember one in particular where somebody became so obsessed with the twins’ mother Alice that they tried to steal her face through a transplant?!).
The early books were definitely worth reading - it was fun to escape into the world of Sweet Valley and immerse myself in the quintessential American high school life. But the later books deserve a miss - unlike the vampire craze currently sweeping the world, these stories were boringly unrealistic.
2. Girl Talk
This was a series for teenage girls telling the school adventures of four American teenagers (Sabrina, Katie, Randy and Alison) in junior high school. The series produced a range of spin-off products including a board game and special edition books. I had the board game and absolutely loved it!
The books were known for one chapter being devoted to phone call conversations between the girls as well as offering descriptions of the hilarious 90s fashion they wore at the time (remember happy pants anyone?).
The books were written in the first person narrative with each character taking turns. Many of the books focused on the rivalry between the girls and another group of girls - Stacy the Great (the Principal’s daughter), Eva, B.Z and Laurel.
I loved reading Girl Talk simply because of the focus on friendship it had. The girls were such good friends and retrospectively thinking they were probably A LOT more mature than the average 13 year old in real life, but despite this they represented positive role models to all girls, particularly in terms of their relationships with their friends.
3. Nancy Drew
I started to read Nancy Drew books after another old mystery series I liked called Meg had ended (after only the sixth book!).
Nancy Drew is a young amateur detective who loves nothing more than to solve a mystery. There’s over 100 books in the complete series, and although I didn’t finish every one of them, someday I hope that I can!
The books first appeared in 1930 and the character has evolved over the years to suit America’s changing cultural tastes. But despite numerous changes, she’s always been depicted as wealthy, attractive and amazingly talented. Apparently this is the norm for preteen characterisation.
I guess the aspect that made Nancy so likable to girls was her ability to have traditionally feminine attributes such as good looks and a variety of clothes while at the same time encompassing traditionally male traits such as having the freedom and money to do as she pleases and living to solve mysteries rather than participating in family life.
In essence she was a contradiction, which made her all the more intriguing and ironically a bit of a mystery herself.
4. The Baby-Sitters Club
I wasn’t as into The Baby-Sitters Club as I was the other three series mentioned above. However, I did spend a lot of time reading the books and I think I came pretty close to completing the whole set.
The series is about a group of middle school students who run their own baby-sitting club. The members of the club are all best friends, however they go through numerous conflicts throughout the stories. The books came in many different versions including super specials and mysteries.
I remember swapping the books with other kids in my neighbourhood when I was young and we even tried to set up our own baby-sitters club at one point. Not surprisingly, our own club didn’t work out quite as well as the club in the books. Turns out parents were appalled at the idea of us (just babies ourselves) trying to take care of their kids! Oh the nerve...
5. V.C Andews - The Dollanganger Series
Flowers in the Attic was one of my absolute favourite books growing up. The five books in the series focus on the Dollanganger children who are imprisoned in an attic by their mother and monstrous grandmother.
The first book Flowers in the Attic tells of their incarceration and subsequent escape while the rest of the novels pick up the story after their escape.
The V.C Andrews Series books have copped a lot of flack over the years for being trashy. I certainly wouldn’t describe them in this category though. To me they are a combination of a brilliant gothic horror and family saga genre. The novels are famous for their family secrets and forbidden love (frequently involving scenes of consensual incest between a brother and a sister). It still amazes me today that these books are actually aimed at a younger audience. The themes are so remotely adult and have even been quite controversial over the years leading to the book Flowers in the Attic actually getting banned at one point from schools.
The storyline presents a shocking portrayal of child abuse and is at times very dark and extremely sad. The series truly is a gripping read though and offers an extreme example of the influence of money and how the pursuit of it inevitably always ends in nasty greed.