Narrated by Rob Lowe
Created by National Geographic Partnering with Nutopia
I’m a 90’s kid, and proud to say so. My coming of age decade fills me with pride… well, pride and shame. Almost like being an American fills me with pride and shame. There’s so many good things to come out of this decade, like Seinfeld and the internet, and many shameful things like “Achey Breaky Heart” or Lewinski-gate. Either way, you can’t deny that the 90’s shaped who we are as a people now. This National Geographic docu-series follows the trail that led us to where we are now in this post-9-11 and information saturated world where the lines of reality and entertainment are blurred.
We begin in a time of war… but innocence. We still believed in our president at the time, and despite the fact that we were living in a post Vietnam country where people questioned the government, it was still mostly those “crazy hippies with conspiracy theories.” Operation Desert Storm is coming into play with President George Bush Sr. at it’s helm. And even I remember this war. Even though I would have only been 5 years old when this war started, I remember watching the footage on television. Sadly, for so many years, I thought that it was only me who thought that everything looked like a movie or video game. But I was wrong… it was the whole country. National Geographic even goes on to say that this was the “Video Game War.”
Does anyone else just think of Dana Carvey moving his hands about and whispering “A little scary!”
THAT is one of the great things about this docu-series. That the entire time you not only feel like you’re re-watching your childhood, young adulthood, whatever, but that you’re not alone in your thoughts. You’re not the only one who secretly loved “Ice Ice Baby,” couldn’t take their eyes off of OJ’s infamous White Bronco chase, or was grossed out by Bob Dole’s Viagra endorsement.
Another wonderful bonus that they add are the little known facts interspersed in the series. It’s kind of like in VH1’s series, “Pop Up Video,” which I really miss. Some of the facts I had known about since I was a kid. For example, doesn’t everyone know that since his 1996 death, that Tupac has sold more than 68 million records? Or maybe that’s just me. I will tell you one thing that I didn’t know; I had NO idea that until 1990, homosexual foreigners were officially banned from entering the US. WHAT?!? So… I’m guessing famed homosexual fashion designer, Valentin, needed a beard (a.k.a. a woman who pretends to be in a relationship with a gay man to escape ridicule) for all of the 30 years that he came into the US for Fashion Week? Really America?
I found many laugh out loud moments, including when they start to talk about a virus that swept through our nation, starting in Miami, and no it’s not the West Nile Virus. That was my initial reaction, as well. It’s… wait for it, wait for it- THE MACARENA. HA! Yes, the Macarena. This segment showed how silly the 90’s got at times. We see everyone from hot teenagers, to Colin Powell, and even Al Gore do their own version of the dreaded line dance. Even better, they interviewed the producer who remixed the song, and put English lyrics with the original Flamenco-style song. He said that it took him all of 2 hours to remix the song. Two HOURS? Two hours for the second most played song of the entire decade? Holy Moley guacamole… I wish that I could make something in two hours that has that much notoriety!
Don’t pretend like this wasn’t you back in the day!
But this docu-series is not just about laughs. The 90’s were a time of struggle as well. The segment that hit me hardest was the Columbine shootings. I was a freshman when these events transpired. If I had lived in Columbine, CO, I could have been in the line of fire for these shootings. It’s absolutely terrifying. I appreciated that they not only showed footage from the actual event, but got interviews from teachers and students who had survived the attacks. They also gave insight into the killers minds at the end, showing that no one thing is really to blame for the boys and their tirade… maybe a combination of all things bad in our society. But when it comes down to it, they were imbalanced boys who had access to some HEAVY artillery. I had forgotten how venerable and scared these attacks made me feel until I felt the tears on my face from mere seconds of footage from the attacks.
Another hard to watch segment, was the Rodney King riots. It got bloody, serious Spike Lee bloody. You actually see the entire footage of not only the cops beating down Rodney King on the surveillance video, but the one truck driver being beat within an inch of his life during the riots. It’s heartbreaking… and mesmerizing. Which, this series denotes, is sadly where our society is going. We innately have this draw to watching the grotesque. Which brings me to what else the series does well, blurring the lines between the funny and the morbid.
This seems like the perfect time to introduce reality TV and the scandals that not only rocked our world, but that were so perfectly videoed that they went “viral,” at least “viral” enough for not having YouTube at the time. We have the introduction of MTV’s “The Real World,” trashy talk shows like “Jerry Springer,” and the coverage of… well, every single sex scandal in, what seemed to be, Washington, DC. After watching what all of these things brought about, it is absolutely no wonder why our world operates the way it does today, with Anthony Weiner sending pictures of his junk, Miley Cyrus grinding up against a man’s crotch who IS her father’s age, or Kim Kardashian and… whatever it is that she does. And speaking of Kim K, we are introduced to her predecessor: Anna Nicole Smith, the first celebrity who is famous for… being famous.
“If I ever record an album, I wan… him to make me beautiful… cause he’s freakin’ GENUIS!”
I could go on and on about everything that this series touches on. Heck, I haven’t even talked about the whole Bill Gates and Steve Jobs thing, BUT I trust that everyone will tune into National Geographic to catch this series, because it truly is spectacular. You will laugh, cry, feel nostalgia… and maybe even wanna tie your hair back with a scrunchie again. This series wasn’t even bad to marathon watch, as long as your OK with an emotional roller coaster of a night.
Switching between footage from twenty years ago to present day interviews is no easy task. But this series does it with the greatest of ease. Everything seems really seamless and effortless. There are no crazy glitches and no super overly dramatic cuts that add to the drama. With the content that this series covers, you don’t really need any added drama, and that is much appreciated from this veiwer. It was really great to see some content that I’ve never seen before, like EVERY clip from the Rodney King beatings and riots. The interviews were nice as well. They were very well lit, and everyone looked good.
Sexy visual and audio. Rawr Rob Lowe;)
Great audio. Rob Lowe is a GREAT narrator. At times, I forgot that it was indeed Mr. Lowe narrating because he just has such a great soothing voice that inflects so well, and blends into every scenario. I heard a lot of great 90’s music, but sadly, there was some music that I felt it was missing. Obviously because of licensing, they could not get “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when they referenced it in the Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love segment, but they did play a whole heck of a lot of Hansen’s “MmmmBop” whenever something happy was happening. I WISH that they could have had more great 90’s music in there, but I understand that some estates (cough cough Cobain) are more difficult than others.
Overall (Not an Average)
“Those who do not learn the past are doomed to repeat it.” I feel like I’m lost in a generation of nostalgia, but for what? It’s a sea of ironic hipster who wear T-Shirts of bands that once were, but that no one’s ever heard of, and say, “Ew, why are you wearing a Nirvana shirt? That’s so mainstream.” We want to revel in this sort of nostalgic trend of re-wearing the flannel, dreaming about hitting it big on reality TV, or “fighting the man.” I had forgotten about this but in 1999, there was a battle, a full fledged battle, between police and protesters in Seattle, WA over the WTO or World Trade Organization. These young people were seriously trying to keep the large cooperations from taking over the world. I know that my generation has “Occupied Wall Street,” but I don’t feel the same fervor from the people of my youth. I think that this is an incredibly important series to watch to not only see where we’ve come from, but how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go. There’s always been and always going to be clowns like Howard Stern and tyrants like Osama Bin Laden, and we have to know how to deal with them accordingly. And what better way than by taking a look in our immediate past?