1990s: At a Glance

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1990s: At a Glance

What We Said:

"As if!": An expression of disdain for an idea, as in "Britney Spears is cool? As if!"

"Been there, done that": This phrase, made popular by The Simpsons character Bart, implies that a person already has experience with something and does not want to do it again.

Chill: To hang out and be casual.

Crib: One's home or apartment.

Emoticons: :-) : Symbols used to show emotion in an e-mail message; popular emoticons include :-) (happiness) and :-( (sadness).

Generation X: The generation of Americans who were the children of baby boomers and yuppies. Critics of the generation said that Gen Xers (or Xers) denounced the values of their parents but offered nothing in their place. Gen Xers countered that they were against mindless materialism and for an expanded environmental consciousness.

"Just Do It": The slogan for Nike's famous advertising campaign was widely used to express toughness and determination in the face of adversity.

"Not!": An interjection tacked on at the end of a phrase to indicate total disagreement, as in "That guy is so cool—not!" Popularized in the Saturday Night Live skit and 1992 film Wayne's World.

Parental units: Parents.

Phat: Something good or cool, this word was used by rappers but originated in the 1960s.

Trash talk: Nasty barbs exchanged by athletes to try to get each other angry. The term originated in the National Basketball Association but had been around since the 1960s.

24/7: Always, as in 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

"Whatever": A dismissal of whatever another person has said, this term indicates that the speaker will not even waste his or her time thinking about what someone has said.

What We Read:

Dilbert (1989–): Scott Adams' comic strip captured the spirit of work life in the 1990s and created a Dilbert industry of coffee mugs, mouse pads, and T-shirts.

Jurassic Park (1990): Science thriller writer Michael Crichton created a minor industry in 1990 with the publication of this book about dinosaurs brought back to life on a distant tropical island. Popular as a book, it was even more popular as a movie with dazzling special effects (1993).

The Bridges of Madison County (1992): This romantic story by Robert James Waller told of a woman's passion rekindled late in life by her romance with a traveling photographer. A major movie starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992): Self-help hero John Gray dissected relationships from the perspective that women and men needed to learn to understand each other's distinctive communicating styles. The book struck a nerve, and remained a best-seller for several years.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998): The first in a series of books for young adults about youthful wizard Harry Potter and his adventures at Hogwarts, a school for wizards. J. K. Rowling's books were the publishing sensation of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Anything from Danielle Steel or Stephen King: The two best-selling authors of the 1980s repeated that performance in the 1990s, though they switched positions. Romance novelist Steel topped the list, with 19 novels appearing in the top 10 list for best-selling novels each year. Horror master King was close behind with 10 titles.

What We Watched:

COPS (1989–): The Fox Network established a new genre of TV show when it introduced COPS in 1989. Every week the show followed real police in a different city as they chased down criminals and talked about their jobs. This show influenced the many reality TV shows that became popular in 2000.

Beverly Hills 90210 (1990–2000): This teen drama helped establish the new Fox Network; made major stars of actors Jason Priestly, Shannon Doherty, Tori Spelling, and several others; and paved the way for later teen dramas, all while dealing with major issues facing teens like divorce, eating disorders, sexuality, drug use, and date rape.

Seinfeld (1990–98): This sitcom which boasted that it was about nothing provided a digest of the trivial topics that absorbed Americans in the decade. The show starred Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The Simpsons (1990–): This animated sitcom about a typical dysfunctional American family is widely hailed as the most creative and intelligent TV show of the decade.

ER (1994–): The top-rated drama of the decade, this fast-paced drama followed the professional and personal lives of a group of emergency room doctors and nurses in a busy Chicago hospital.

Friends (1994–): This sitcom focused on the lives of six Generation X friends living in New York City and made a major star of Jennifer Aniston.

The Lion King (1994): This animated film about a young lion in Africa charmed children, reestablished Disney as the leading animated filmmaker, and helped revive the animated children's film market.

Titanic (1997): The most expensive film ever made at the time ($200 million), this love story set during the sinking of the passenger liner Titanic made a teen idol of star Leonardo DiCaprio.

Dawson's Creek (1998–): One of several teen-oriented shows airing on the WB network (which was founded in 1995), this drama presented coming-ofage stories of four high school friends.

What We Listened To:

Rush Limbaugh (1951–): This arch-conservative hosted the leading political talk radio show of the decade and, thanks to the support of his many dedicated listeners, exercised a great deal of political influence.

Celine Dion (1968–): This Canadian star became one of the top-selling recording artists of the decade with her soaring romantic ballads. She scored big with songs from Beauty and the Beast (1990) and Titanic (1997).

Ropin' the Wind (1991): Garth Brooks sang his way into the record books with this album, which debuted at the top of both the country and the pop charts at the same time.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991): This song, from Nirvana's album Nevermind, helped define grunge music, the punk rock of a new generation.

"Macarena" (1994): This song by Spanish group Los Del Rio became an international dance sensation that hit the United States in 1996 and soon had thousands of Americans twisting and shaking in the decade's biggest dance craze.

Jagged Little Pill (1995): Alanis Morrisette's angry and emotionally honest third album was the bestselling album of the decade, and won Morrisette Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998): This combination of hip-hop, gospel, soul, and other musical influences helped Lauryn Hill win a Grammy Award and sell four hundred thousand copies of the album in its first week.

Ricky Martin (1971–): The leading teen idol of the 1990s led a craze for Latin music when he released his first English album in 1999. The single "Livin' la Vida Loca" quickly became a smash single.

Who We Knew:

Bill Gates (1955–): The founder of Microsoft became the richest man in the world thanks to the performance of his company. But some in the computer industry saw Microsoft as a threatening monopoly, spurring the U.S. Justice Department to bring charges against the company.

Anita Hill (1956–): This African American professor and lawyer came to national attention when she testified before the U.S. Senate that Supreme Court nominee (and later justice) Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her in the 1980s.

Michael Jordan (1963–): Hailed as the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in the decade. He also appeared in a blizzard of advertisements for Nike, Gatorade, and other products.

Ted Kaczynski (1942–): This alienated academic terrorized the nation for seventeen years with a string of mail bomb attacks that earned him the name "The Unabomber." Kaczynski was finally caught after his anti-technology manifesto was published in the Washington Post and caught the eye of his brother, who recognized Kaczynski's style and turned him in to prevent further loss of life.

Jack Kevorkian (1928–): Better known as "Dr. Death," this Michigan doctor helped a number of his patients end their lives and championed the rights of those who wished to choose "death with dignity" through assisted suicide.

Rodney King (c. 1965–): This part-time laborer became a symbol of police brutality and violence against African Americans when a nearby resident happened to film his brutal beating at the hands of several Los Angeles police officers and the tape was shown around the world. When the police were acquitted of police brutality, Los Angeles erupted in riots. King appeared on television and asked, "Can't we all just get along?"

Timothy McVeigh (1968–2001): This former army soldier blew up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people. He was executed in 2001.

Colin Powell (1937–): U.S. army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell became an American hero thanks to his leadership during the Gulf War of 1991. In 2001, he became secretary of state under President George W. Bush.

O. J. Simpson (1947–): This former college and pro football star was accused of the brutal murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994 and was involved in a trial that aired live on TV for months. Though Simpson was acquitted of the murders, he later lost a civil case against the families of the victims.

Martha Stewart (1941–): America's leading lifestyle expert created a media empire that included magazines and books, television and radio programs, and a line of homemaking products.

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1990s: At a Glance

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1990s: At a Glance