The '90s

Bart: Nothing you say can upset us! We're the MTV generation!
Lisa: We feel neither highs nor lows.
Homer: Really? What's that like?
Lisa: Meh.
The Simpsons, "Homer's Triple Bypass"

The Nineteen Nineties: The last decade before 9/11 when the world was just getting over the Cold War and starting to fear Y2K. All of the kids (of whom the older ones were of the cynical and disaffected Generation X) listened to grunge bands, wore flannel or a Jennifer Aniston haircut while watching Friends, Seinfeld and The X-Files. Or they listened to Gangsta Rap, wore their baseball caps sideways paired with ridiculously baggy cargo pants and routinely "capped" people who "dissed" them, or they were beaten up by police and taped. Everything was neon, colorful, and Totally Radical. Cowabunga!

The world at this time was awash in radical changes and catastrophes on a global scale. The Soviet Union collapsed in a Great Politics Mess-Up (resulting in more than a couple ethnic wars between the newly independent states), Nelson Mandela was finally freed from prison, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and Margaret Thatcher hung up her handbag.

Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda exploded into savage sectarian genocide, while Liberia and Sierra Leone faced a deadly civil war that was frustratingly difficult for other nations to stop, provided that they even cared. Radicals revolted against corporations in Seattle at the beginning and end of the decade. Germany reunites after decades of post-World War II division, Czechoslovakia splits up and Canada comes within a hair's breadth of doing the samenote . Japan came to terms with the end of its economic bubble and settled in for the long, frustrating stagnation of the Lost Decade. "Made in Japan" was replaced by Red China as the big outsourcing villain. HIV awareness grew, as its notorious pandemic spread among the heterosexual population of Africa finally killed the "Gay Plague" stereotype of the disease even as effective drug regimes finally were developed to fight the disease. Meanwhile, Anita Hill would expose the social blight of sexual harassment that too many women endure in the workplace and elsewhere in the US Congress and thus the popular world at large. There were riots in Los Angeles and the OJ Simpson chase/trial/circus. The younger tropers might have been born at this time — possibly in the back of a white SUV.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan pressured Mullah Omar's Afghanistan to extradite a dissolute Saudi nobleman, Osama bin Laden, who was holed up in the newly radicalized Afghanistan. It was almost as if he was planning something big... At this time, Bin Laden was not yet a household name, so when Bill Clinton dropped a bomb on an alleged Bin Laden hideout, many questioned the President's motives. Some critics suggested he was merely trying to distract the public from his many scandals, á la Wag the Dog. Of course, this suggestion may appear Harsher in Hindsight.

The Reagan/Thatcher/Gorbachev era ended with a bang as "greed is good" got replaced by the 1987 Wall Street Crash and postwar recession ennui through the early '90s. In the U.S., Ross Perot led a political revolution of pissed-off independent voters; dissatisfaction with The Man became the norm and Conspiracy Theorist talk radio became the rage. Bill Clinton got elected thanks to Gulf War Syndrome, then impeached. Seattle coffee culture was all the rage as a Starbucks opened up on every street corner, driving fear into the hearts of Hipsters everywhere, who sought solace in Post-Hardcore, Post-Modernism, and other things with "post-" and "-core". In the U.K., Tony Blair and his 'New Labour' swept to power on a landslide, hailing a new era of optimism and 'Cool Britannia', fuelled by an explosion of bands like 'Girls Aloud', 'the Spice Girls', 'Blue', 'Maroon Five' and 'Oasis', and the transformation of Premier League football into an international spectacle, sport mingling with celebrity culture - most notably with the marriage of David and Victoria 'Posh Spice' Beckham.

Modern culture's obsession with electronics was born in The '80s and became dominant in the Turn of the Millennium, but it really came of age in the last half of this decade as people switched out computer models every other year. Dolly the sheep was cloned. GPS became operational. Cell phones became smaller and more common. Home computers that were actually easy to use instead of requiring a degree in programming hit the market and everybody wanted one, and this, coupled with the invention of the World Wide Web note , inevitably led to the explosion of the Internet note , which opened the floodgates. Porn, gifs of kittens, porn, jokes about the Clinton sex scandal and evil overlords, and porn involving Clinton were widely accessible for the first time. Bulletin Boards hooked up, moving from dial-in systems to the web. People began to band together to discuss their opinions of Star Trek and Star Wars on Usenet, the original "message board" system. Soon, other people joined in to talk about other shows, too, and thus the seeds for the birth of this wiki were planted. So while in 1990 teenagers who "spent time on computer message boards" were nerds, by 1999 it was a social stigma among teenagers if you didn't have an e-mail address.

On the business side of the internet sensation came the Dotcom Bubble of the late '90s, powering the biggest economic boom of the 20th century, putting even the best years of The Roaring '20s, The '50s, and The '80s to shame, meaning people had more money than ever to spend on all the exciting new technology, while at the same time ironically having less cash in their pockets than ever thanks to another exciting new technology, digital banking. ATMs appeared on every street corner and allowed people to withdraw as much money from their accounts as they needed anywhere at anytime 24/7 without having to deal with asshole bank employees. In store debit often eliminated the need for cash at all, and the credit card was never more widely used (partly because more places than ever were accepting them, and partly because people didn't quite grasp the long term consequences of their overuse and abuse yet). Some even predicted the end of paper money all together. As the Web Browser was invented, garage entrepreneurs sold content-free websites for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Nineties also saw the largest government budget surplus in American history.

The Ford Explorer became the first SUVnote , and the GM EV-1 became the first electric car. The Explorer would be successful, while the EV-1 would not for the same reason as the Sega Game Gear of the same decade, as indeed was a problem for many of the decade's portable devices, the incredible new technology drained batteries too fast, as GM insisted it be fitted with the same lead-acid batteries as all its cars. The Lithium batteries that would power the cars and electronics of future decades were still in their infancy, and still far too expensive and unproven for most manufacturers or consumers to bother with. The gas crisis of the next decade had its origins in the short-sightedness of a decade when gasoline was much cheaper. Cars from this decade are easy to spot thanks to a cartoonishly curvy look, moving beyond the unaerodynamic box-on-wheels design that dominated The '70s and The '80s, thanks to computer-aided drafting and design, but still not quite like the more aerodynamic angular cut corners look that dominated in the Turn of the Millennium and The New '10s.

Electronics under went a similar change in design from depressingly boxy to cartoonishly curvy, culminating in the first iMac, and from analog to digital for exactly the same reason. In terms of media technology, this was the decade of Cable TV and the first emerging direct-broadcast satellite TV services.note  Movies ran on VHS or in Multiplex theaters with digital sound systems. DVD emerged at the end of the decade, but was in its infancy and ridiculously expensive. Music came on CDs or cassette tapes in the very early '90s, to a more CD dominated culture until the invention of Napster.

Internet dollars gentrified the inner city, turning what had been viewed as an irredeemable wasteland into a playpen for the rich. Every building, sneaker, and coffee shop was painted in pastel colors with the black lights at the rave club making them all glow, along with that mustard stain you thought you got out weeks ago.

Everyone attended music festivals like Lollapalooza or Lilith Fair — or at least, claimed to their friends that they did, as they were just as likely doing either "Lambada" or "The Macarena". In the US Grunge dominated the real life soundtrack for five years, before collapsing into an identity crisis. Kurt Cobain continued chart-topping for two years after his death, alongside Alanis Morissette and Alice in Chains, eventually replaced by pop music during the latter half of the decade. Across the pond, meanwhile, Britpop and the Cool Britannia movement soared; Oasis and Blur had their famous chart war, while the Spice Girls became cultural icons. In academia, modernism was out and relativism was in; the magazine Social Text published a word salad hoax by an angry physicist as the "Culture Wars" smoldered between scientists, anti-abortionists, and radical academicians. Raves and Ecstasy became huge, along with the Perishing Alt-Rock Voice. Boy bands and girl groups began to dominate the market, and two major Gangsta Rap stars were killed within months of each other following a war of egos between the east and west coasts.

CGI completely changed what you could see on the silver screen. Blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Titanic (1997) made full use of cutting-edge Visual Effects of Awesome on their way to record-smashing box-offices. The first animated films created entirely in CGI also began their slow but steady takeover of the animated marketplace. On the other side of the spectrum, indie films became hot commodities as young, self-made filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater used the advances in filmmaking technology to create unique, edgy films on shoestring budgets. For a whole year, America lost its collective mind in the woods of Maryland over a film made on handheld cameras. Seinfeld, after a shaky start in the '80s, shot to wild popularity. The Simpsons redefined both animation and the family Sitcom. Reality Television started. The millennial decade's comedy superstars were getting themselves known on Saturday Night Live, including future senator Al Franken. Mystery Science Theater 3000 got really good, then was canceled twice. After people got the answer as to who killed Laura Palmer, Special Agents Mulder and Scully chased aliens, monsters, and other creepy creatures, Buffy Summers chased vampires, demons, and vampire boyfriends, while Hercules and Xena fought the tyranny of the gods in ancient Greece. Surfing and going to the beach became even more popular thanks to Baywatch. This was also the heyday of modern-era Star Trek, with TNG, DS9 and Voyager all airing in the same decade. Furthermore, that franchise finally got real competition from Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1.

Adventure Games hit it big in the mid-1990s; Strategy Sim games with orthographic landscapes were invented. People bought games in boxes with elaborate supplements and funky midi music. Or pirated off their neighborhood BBS, along with the copy protect page. "The 3D revolution" meant vector graphics, which meant "virtual reality" and Wolfenstein. Superman came back (albeit with a horrible game). Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Pokémon scared the Moral Guardians, with Doom as one of the perpetrators that triggered the Columbine High massacre.

Games like the Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, and the Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy series introduced Western gamers to the concept of the Japanese Role Playing Game, and with the arrival of Final Fantasy VII and Pokémon in the latter part of the decade, the genre went mainstream: Pokémon became a worldwide phenomenon of unprecedented scale; Square Soft became a household name for any video game enthusiast, and their games came to exemplify the cutting edge of innovation in graphics, sound and storytelling in games for years to come.

Kids and adolescents played Street Fighter in the arcade leading to a Fighting Game boom led by Capcom, SNK, Sega and Namco. On the PC side of things, Doom helped make the First-Person Shooter mainstream and StarCraft was starting to conquer Korea.

Oh yeah, and there was also this one guy who came around who had blue hair, was kinda like Mario, except faster, and he went through loops and stuff. He kinda disappeared around '95 though, and wouldn't return for three years in this one 3D game for this one system I can't remember, hmmmm...

Digital pets, Pogs, yo-yos, laser pointers and Beanie Babies were all the rage with kids. The Razor scooter and roller blades were invented and quickly considered two of the must have items, and the Discman began to replace the Walkman. In Japan, we saw a farewell to the Darker and Edgier Metal Heroes and Kamen Rider as well as Ultra Series as they went through an ice age while Super Sentai prospered and was beginning to be adapted for western audiences as Power Rangers.

Michael Jordan reigned, retired, and returned. Mark McGwire and other beefy dudes beat out Roger Maris as home-run king, totally legitimately. The New York Yankees "dream team" inspired Americans with good old-fashioned teamwork from 1997-2001. David Beckham became a star. The NHL introduced a ridiculous new rule which they would abolish after it brought extreme controversy in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. FOX Sports introduced a glowing puck for American audiences. This also crashed and burned. The game's greatest player, Wayne Gretzky, retired at the close of the decade.

The Dark Age of Comic Books was going strong, and Rob Liefeld was at his peak of popularity, as comics became gradually Darker and Edgier, culminating in the death of Superman, before hitting the brick wall of the comics crash, while the likes of Kingdom Come killed the "Grim and Gritty" mid-decade.

AKIRA, originally released in Japan in 1988, became a surprise cult hit on home video in the West, ushering in an entire generation of anime fandom and helping, along with The Simpsons, to mount a serious offensive against the Animation Age Ghetto. Following in its footsteps, Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke, and Perfect Blue would go on to grab the attention of serious film critics the world over and signal the arrival of Adult Animation as an artistic presence. Meanwhile, Pokémon redefined "Cash Cow Franchise" for millions of children (and adults) around the world. Sailor Moon gave girls strong female heroes to idolize besides Wonder Woman;note  on the flipside, Dragon Ball Z redefined "action cartoon", and would be responsible for more kids taking martial arts than anything since The Karate Kid; Ranma ˝ became the most famous and funniest show to never be able to be shown on US Television. Slayers and Record of Lodoss War showed the D&D community that Japan was just as nerdy as we are. Neon Genesis Evangelion shook the anime world with its dark Deconstruction of the medium; its unexpected success ushered in a torrent of imitators attempting (with varying degrees of success) to copy its visceral mecha combat, trippy plot, and unconventional use of Judeo-Christian symbolism. The Toonami Cartoon Network block was launched, bringing Anime to the viewing options of The Nineties children en masse. Even though it took almost a decade for it to be widely accepted as "mainstream" media in the United States (it was already mainstream in Latin America before that), and its influence should be obvious by now.

The Nineties politically started with the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, and ended on September 11, 2001. Pop-culturally, it started with the release of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on September 10, 1991 and ended with the rise of internet video and friending networks in 2002-03, making this one of the longest cultural decades. To distinguish the era from the "Turn of the Millennium", look for the original World Trade Center (Twin Towers) in establishing shots or title sequences of TV shows and films set in New York City. Of course, this is also true for the 1970s, 1980s, and early 2000s.

Although one could argue it ended with the quashed Seattle rebellion of November 30, 1999; or the Great Internet Crash of March 11, 2000, which marked a jobless turning point for the new generation; or even the 2000 presidential election, which saw the victory of George W. Bush and eroded some Americans' confidence in their institutions. Some take it all the way to September 11, which left people so stupefied that it functioned as something of a cultural reset button.

Note that the word "Nineties" means a very different thing in post-Soviet Russia, a thing much more cynical on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism.

Not to be confused with The Gay '90s, which were a century earlier. But these Nineties were probably just as gay.

Because most media is Two Decades Behind, Fictionland is currently set in The '90s at the time of this writing. Expect for Fictionland to continue to be set in The '90s until sometime after 2020, when it will be replaced by Turn of the Millennium.

See Also: The Edwardian Era, The Roaring '20s, The Great Depression, The '40s, The '50s, The '60s, The '70s, The '80s, Turn of the Millennium and The New '10s.

Now has a totally fresh Useful Notes page!


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Tropes associated with the 1990s:

Naturally, a lot of technology tropes due to the rapid pace of technology and the Internet:

  • '70s Hair: Long male hair made a comeback in the '90s thanks to Grunge.
  • Axes at School: This was the first time school shootings received national media coverage and was seen as an actual issue. While there had been school shootings in the United States every year since The '60s, it wasn't until the tragedies at Paducah, Springfield, and especially Columbine, that it was considered a real issue by the public.
  • Badass Longcoat: Became really popular towards the end of the decade and leading into the first few years of the 2000s.
  • Bare Your Midriff: The female fanservice trope of the '90s, especially in music videos. While fairly common in the '80s, it was usually paired with high-waisted skirts or pants, leaving only a bit of the stomach visible. The '90s took it further and saw navels fully, constantly and proudly exposed, to the point that it was so widespread that it wasn't considered risque anymore. To compensate, early '00s pop stars got even skimpier.
  • Blaxploitation Parody: It became acceptable in the Nineties to make fun of (and occasionally homage) the Blaxploitation films of the Seventies.
  • Chupacabra: Although reports of farm animals drained of blood began in the 1970s, the term "Chupacabra" and the description of the creature as we know it originated in 1995, probably inspired by Species.
  • Collectible Card Game: Started with Magic: The Gathering in 1993, and now everything has a CCG (no matter how short-lived).
  • Covered in Gunge: Showed up in kids' shows and cartoons a lot in this era. Nickelodeon was famous for its green slime in these days.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: Every cyberpunk film got a techno soundtrack during this era.
  • Darker and Edgier: The early part of the decade could be best described for many like a bad hangover, with many disillusioned former yuppies finding emotional emptiness and the rest suffering from the ailing economy, and a new generation coming into adulthood with an appropriately pessimistic outlook. Pop culture also reflected this, with The Simpsons, for one, reflecting upon familial dysfunction, and the frivolous Hair Metal subgenre was driven out by the rise of Alternative Rock to the mainstream.
  • Dogme 95: A movement that brought a new meaning to Le Film Artistique and launched the career of Lars von Trier.
  • Eternal September: The Usenet and online BBSes reached the height of popularity thanks to AOL, before blogs and social media.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: When Jurassic Park became a box office success and the huge popularity of Barney & Friends in the early '90s, everything from toys and books to underwear and television shows featured dinosaurs. This got so big that when the NBA expanded into Canada in 1995, one of the new teams was named the Toronto Raptors.
  • Extreme Sport Excuse Plot: Ever since extreme sports like skateboarding, motorcross, surfing, snowboarding, and rock climbing became popular in the decade, shows that never done this before or don't necessarily need this got on with it due to its themes of new hobbies, passion, physical activity, sportsmanship, and teamwork.
  • Everything Is Online: "If it exists you'll find it on the Internet" became a popular slogan.
  • Five-Token Band: In this decade, more and more kids from different nationalities would group together in different shows or advertisements.
  • Hipster: Trope codification of early-'90s geek-chic, emulating beatniks and the Seattle culture.
  • Hollywood Action Hero: Basically the same action heroes from the decade before, with one newcomer, Bruce Willis.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: The '90s may very well be the 2nd Sexual Revolution because of this!

Many things were created or existed in the 1990s:

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    Comic Strips 

    Eastern Animation 

    Fan Works 




    Pro Wrestling 

Tag Teams and Stables Promotions Events

  • It was during this time that The Howard Stern Show started to become nationally syndicated and eventually became highest rated nationally syndicated morning radio show in most major radio markets the United States.
  • Chris Evan's (in)famous BBC Radio One Breakfast Show from 1995 until 1997. Initially credited with "saving" the station (the hugely-popular national station had suffered a drop in listeners following a serious shake-up under Matthew Bannister starting in 1993 in his attempt to re-position Radio One as a "youth" network following two decades of it being a "housewife's favourite"; Evan's show co-incided with an upturn in listener numbers) he increasingly became egotistical, dismissive of BBC and general broadcasting guidelines and often took what many thought was a bullying attitude to his on-air colleagues. Things eventually came to a head when he and the rest of his staff refused to come in for a Friday morning show leading to someone else having to cover for him. Evans was subsequently sacked and his career took a long, very slow nosedive which culminated in several flopped attempts at TV "comebacks" in the 2000s. He has now reached middle age, has regained much (if not all) of his former popularity and hosts the Radio Two Breakfast Show. He apparently regrets many of his past mistakes and behaviour.
  • During this time, Rush Limbaugh became a nationally syndicated star of talk radio who gave the medium an ideological bent that was unchallenged until the middle of the next decade. (Limbaugh also was popular in the mainstream media for a period in this decade, including being given a television show that aired during President Clinton's first term.)
  • This was the decade in which shock-jocker Howard Stern became the "King Of All Media" from his radio base in New York; he set the way for many imitators. (The radio show was also broadcast on TV for a time; something which even Limbaugh could not claim.)
  • Neal Boortz began his show in 1993.
  • Sherlock Holmes (BBC Radio), which began in 1989, continued until 1998.
  • The third installment of the Star Wars Radio Dramas, adapting Return of the Jedi, aired in 1996 after spending a decade in Development Hell thanks to Reagan-era cuts to NPR's funding.
  • Says You! began in 1997.
  • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! began in 1998.

    Rides and Attractions 

    Tabletop Games 


    Theme Parks 
  • Disney Theme Parks:
    • Disneyland Paris opened on April 12, 1992.
    • Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World's third water park, opened on April 1, 1995.
    • Disney's Animal Kingdom, the fourth theme park of Walt Disney World, opened on April 22, 1998.
  • Action Park continued until 1996.
  • The Howl-O-Scream event first began at Busch Gardens in 1999.
  • Universal Orlando Resort:
    • Universal Studios Florida opened on June 7, 1990.
    • Universal's Halloween Horror Nights had its first year in 1991.
    • Universal's Islands of Adventure opened on May 28, 1999. CityWalk Orlando also opened on the same year.


    TV Documentary 

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 

Works set, but not made in the decade:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Another
  • Black Lagoon
  • Blue Drop: Begins in 1999, manga started in 2004, anime aired in 2007.
  • High Score Girl began serialization in 2010; the story is set in the nineties, beginning in 1991 when Street Fighter II was released in arcades.
  • Koi Kaze: In one of the last episodes, a note on a 20-year-old says she was born in 1975. The technology in the show also doesn't appear to correspond to when the anime aired (2004).

    Fan Fic 



    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
  • Fresh Off the Boat
  • How I Met Your Mother: The flashbacks to the main characters' backstories happen around this time. Ted, Marshall and Lily's college days were from 1996-2000 plus their high-school years around 1993-1995, Robin's Teen Idol days in 1993-1995, and Barney's Start of Darkness after being cheated on by his then girlfriend in 1998. What's even more jarring is that the show itself is a flashback, being told by The Hero to his kids from 2020.
  • Hindsight was created and initially set in 2014, but the main premise is that the protagonist is somehow sent back in time to 1995. The show being aired on VH-1, the soundtrack adjusts accordingly.
  • Lost in Space, made from 1965-68, was set (apparently) in 1997.
  • Several flashbacks in Lost episodes
  • Several opening flashbacks in episodes of Psych, starting in Season 5 (2010).
  • Mocked in Portlandia, which is set in the 2010s but is all about Portland living the dream of the 1990s.
  • Space1999. Run from 1975 to 1977, set in 1999.
  • My Mad Fat Diary, made in 2013 and set (so far) in 1996


    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Charby the Vampirate starts in 1994, eventually things progress into the 2000s and the current arc is set in 2004.
  • Superego is set sometime in 1995, possibly June 1st.

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    Western Animation 

"May the power protect you."
Zordon, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers


Alternative Title(s): The Networking Nineties, The Nineteen Nineties