Josh Peck and it-girl Olivia Thirby in The Wackness:(I had this dress in 1994 too!)
Last week Tyler and I went to see The Wackness, a coming-of-age story built almost entirely around nostalgia for 90’s zeitgeist. From The Notorious B.I.G. to the cheesy street slang white kids threw around (thankfully “Dope” has died out) to the baggy denim, it’s saturated with aesthetic references to the Clinton-era. And throwing in child star of that era MK (Mary Kate Olson, that is) is just the icing on the Millienials’ cupcake. Oh and I did I mention there are b&w screen Gameboys and Nintendo 64s? And no cellphones! People used landlines!
The movie–meh, take it or leave it. It’s a story that’s been told ten times before, albiet set in an era that we’re currently aching for a return to. However, I will note that watching the man who played Gandi (Sir Ben Kingsley) do lines of pharmaceuticals and get it on with aging Bond girl Famke Jenssen is both amusing and startling.
During the film I couldn’t stop thinking, “Where’s Telly?” The Wackness proves just how sanitized we have gotten in Bush’s America and post-Giuliani’s New York, as it’s essentially copping the aesthetic of KIDS, but neglects the nihilism of that film. It also ignores the horrifying and very real presence of AIDS. The sex scene even emphasizes the LACK of condom, which is very out of line with the AIDS awareness that was so prevalent in that time. Lastly it sorely lacks a Chloe Sevigny-type (Sorry Olivia, you are no Chloe). The Wackness is like KIDS redone by High School Musical folks, where the AIDS and heroin problems in NYC never existed…and Biggie never died.
However, The Wackness has reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile: the 90’s countdown:
1. Positive Hip Hop
Man, was it never better for White People to feel rhythm and feel like there was hope for all races. Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets remind me of Lisa Bonet and, well, idealism. Then I went to a Jurassic Five show in 2000 in Philly and there were no black people to be found. Alas.
2. MTV’s arty dudes
First there were grunge’s slightly femme-y/usually dirty/always tortured but oh-so-sexy musicians toiling in front of us (Kurt, Trent, Gavin Rossdale). But even their non-music programming was full of these Hawkes (as in Ethan). From the The Real World in London (Neil!) to Chris Hardwick on Singled Out (dreamy!) to 120 Minutes‘ “I really need a cough drop” Matt Pinfield, MTV was a minefield of these sensitive dudes…not to mention all the nerdy-chic girls like VJs Kennedy and Karen Duffy, and later, Daria and Jane Lane of Daria around.
Of course that all kind of ended with Carson Daly.
Jordon Catalano. Rayanne Graff. Ricki. The dad that went to Grateful Dead shows.These people are like cousins to me.
4. Tetrus on Gameboy: Even my mom was addicted.
5. Blossom‘s flower hats, Joey’s “Woah!”
6. Jonny Lee Miller in Hackers and Trainspotting
7. TLC’s Lisa Left Eye Lopez’s condom eye patch: RIP Lisa!
8. Sam Goody’s or The Wall’s listening station: Um who wasn’t listening to the new Dishwalla–and not buying–it in 1997?
9. Wolf Blitzer covering the Gulf War–holy shit, there are bombs in back of him! Don’t die Wolfie! Oh wait, no one died in that war.
10. Prince as a Symbol/Marky Mark/Technotronic/”Heroin chic”/Lillith Fair/Discmans/Unplugged/Behind The Music/Angelina Jolie when she was a bi-curious badass/Elizabeth Wurtzel and her Prozac Nation/piercings up the entire ear/The Grind workout video/Meredith Baxter Birney-era Lifetime movies/pre-Parkinson Michael J. Fox/Leonardo DiCaprio before Titantic/laser discs/Jane cosmetics/Sassy magazine/Juliana Hatfield/trip hop/SPIN magazine when it didn’t suck/Britpop and the time when Damon Alburn was hot/Tony Blair’s first few years and all of “Cool Brittania”/the triumph of the Dollar/that dog on Frasier/tape singles for 1.99/PollyPockets/Pogs/20/20’s molestation special segments/Al Franken on Comedy Central/Dilbert/cheap Ecstasy/Jessie Spano turns into slut-McGee in Showgirls/Barney/glowsticks/Berlin’s LOVE PARADE/riot grrl/Gwen Stefani in “I’m just a girl”/Tori Amos channeling Kate Bush and not looking old yet/the anti-Globilization movement/AOL on dial-up/hackey sacks/snap bracelets/the second coming of Jellies (the sandal)/Clear Pepsi/Reviving Ophelia…
And it goes on and on….