The term “90’s kid” has been taken both as a joke and completely seriously for quite some time on comment boards around the internet. These people are infamous for constantly claiming that the media they grew up with was better than what kids are consuming now. This could be attributed to the fact that the 90’s and early 2000’s hosted a kid’s network renaissance with original television shows from Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. In the late 80’s Nickelodeon started aiming all their content toward kids making it the first kids only network. This model caught on in the early 2000’s with Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, making anyone growing up during this era exposed to a lot of content made specifically for them.
I’m 19 and I sometimes catch myself being overly proud of being a part of this era too. However, once I step back and think about it, every generation must have some sort of nostalgic pride. Mass media has been a thing for over a century, starting with radio shows and going all the way to Vines. So why does it seem media nostalgia is specific to “90’s kids”? After asking my parents about it, it became clear to me that this generation voices their opinion on social media and the internet, while others don’t. These older generations still are nostalgic but they aren’t public about it.
All of that aside, I started going deeper into the conversation. Why do we have such strong feelings of nostalgia over something like television? It all boils down to how the media attaches itself to its time period. Television, just like anything, goes through different styles. These styles are a reflection of the time period you are in. For example, Leave it to Beaver is a reflection of 50’s white suburban home life. Television is always going to have an accurate depiction of the current time to make things relatable.
Sitcoms of the 70’s and 80’s were always centered around a family and always had a life lesson at the end. If a person my age who is unfamiliar with these shows were to watch Family Ties, they’d think the lessons are cheesy and the family dynamic is too cliche. Meanwhile, recent sitcoms have adopted the Seinfeld “show about nothing” formula. Seinfeld had been the first show to be about real life. In real life there aren’t big events, you just live your life and do nothing until a conflict presents itself. Shows like Friends and Seinfeld are so realistic because they aren’t really about anything, just these people’s lives. But that’s what people now are interested in: reality. And in the 70’s and 80’s people were interested in the family because it was a secure and friendly setting. At the time it wasn’t public knowledge that some people may have a rough home life. The shows fit the time period and people like to have memories of how they were raised.
Same thing with cartoons. Cartoons used to be on exclusively on Saturday mornings, giving children that one-time slot to be as crazy and imaginative as possible. That was the safe haven. The time period to escape from reality with The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Loony Toons, etc. Slapstick humor, explosions, cartoon violence…anything goes during this Saturday morning block. It was a block just for kids during a time where rules were a bit more strict and craziness wasn’t going to be tolerated. Meanwhile, I had cartoons all around me at all times with Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network. I had a variety of either complete escapism, randomness, or shows that understood me as a kid. We loved our cartoons because we had a lot of different options. Doug, Fairly Odd Parents, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Dexter’s Laboratory, Code Name Kids Next Door were all very different options. It gave us the opportunity to learn what kind of entertainment we liked or disliked. This matches this generation’s attitude perfectly because with all the technology we have grown up with, we always have a lot of options to choose from. Enough options to create our tastes.
Nostalgia isn’t “one generation’s media is better that the other”. The reason we are so nostalgic and proud of our media is because it represents how we grew up. It represents the time period and the attitude of the era. We love looking back on how we grew up either for memories or recognizing that things aren’t the same anymore. This is why nostalgia is so big right now. This is why there are constant reboots of shows and movies…because we love to remember the time period that these shows and movies are attached to.