There are some things in popular culture that when we reflect back we realize the appeal of the subject and why it was so popular among its audiences. For me, though, Pogs have always been a mystery and an appeal I never understood. The game of occupying your opponents collected discs by chucking your disc against a tower of discs and seeing which ones landed face-up is quite literally weird to me. It always crossed my mind as, “that’s a stupid game”. Yet hundreds of thousands were obsessed with and crazed about this game to the point that it would create conflict on school playgrounds leading to its eventual ban in some North American schools (reason being that it was a form of gambling).
#4. TAMAGOTCHI PETS
These gadgets lost my attention and interest after a day and I’m sure became a distraction in most classrooms. Fake “friends” that required much care and love from its owner (by way of pressing a button to “feed” it or take it for a “walk” etc). I never owned one but any kid could have had a better friendship with their imaginary friend than this stupid thing! They were just annoying to me but an indication of the technological impact of toys to come.
This is, by far, my favourite sensation of the 90s. I loved everything about Nintendo- from the simple rectangular controller, chunky console and the gigantic games one would collect and lend out. Nintendo’s history is one that is long, complex and rich with failures but mostly successes. The company was founded in the late 1800s but did not reach its momentum in the video gaming industry until the 80s and of course, its popularity grew to a massive audience by the early 90s. Interesting fact: roughly translated, Nintendo means “leave luck to heaven”.
#2. TV: TEEN DRAMA
Of course TV pop culture in any era is of great influence to its audiences but in the 90s, teen drama TV series were one of the most influential subjects on our culture. Not only were these series influential in North American culture but all over the world regardless of language barriers and cultural ideations. These shows, from 90210, Degrassi High, Dawson’s Creek to Saved By The Bell, Seventh Heaven and Party of Five, grew a fan base that was young, impressionable and die-hard loyal. Not only were the stars of these shows hugely idolized but their fashions and characteristics were reflected in this era as well. For instance, you have the fashions of shows like 90210, the broodiness of Party of Five and the distinct expanded vocabulary of Dawson’s Creek. Many of these shows have seen a resurrection in the early millennium but in my opinion, nothing will ever be comparable to the success that the original shows garnered.
#1. MUSIC: GRUNGE vs. POP
Popular culture is largely defined as the mainstream perspective, norms and images of any given culture. Pop culture, of course, is an evolution that gradually changes its characteristics throughout time and only becomes a sensation when large audiences are acquired. Music has and will always be a major influential factor in any time period. Music has the power to define/create a culture (i.e. dictate what sounds/looks good) while also following a culture (i.e. creating music that fits into that already defined niche). In the 90s, mainstream music consisted of two genres that were as different as day and night: grunge and pop. I distinctly remember the fashions of this era being largely defined by music; you had the emos vs. the teeny-boppers. One can easily identify someone who was a fan of grunge music by their brooding nature, dark hair/make up with ripped jeans, t-shirt and plaid button-ups. Anyone who did not fit into that category was likely a fan of pop music. You had bands like Nirvana, Garbage, Hole vs. Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls and of course, Ms. Britney Spears. I was, of course, a fan of both (all) genres (never excluding any one from the other on my playlists at the time) but leaned more towards the pop sensations (surprise, surprise!).