As millennials, we like to think we know the 90s. If playing Pokémon on a Gameboy Color, taking trips to Blockbuster to rent VHS tapes and listening to the Spice Girls are among your fondest childhood memories, chances are you grew up to call yourself a “90s kid.”
We’re nostalgic for this time—and not just because it was our childhood. As it turns out, the 90s was a fly time to be alive, no matter how old you were.
The New York Times columnist Kurt Andersen (who is not a millennial) posits that this is due to political, technological and socio-economical advances during the last ten years of the 20th century in an op-ed called “The Best Decade Ever? The 1990s, Obviously.”
Our awareness of current events as adults makes this 90s nostalgia even more acute. Now we know that the world back then truly was, by our standards, pretty chill.
If given the chance to go back in time and experience this glorious epoch of tattoo chokers and Legos with the knowledge we have as adults, how would we fare? If a millennial lives in the ultimate 90s fantasy world but can’t share the experience via Snapchat, did it even happen? Ugh, as if!
MTV’s new reality-competition show 90’s House lets us witness what our lives would be like in the 90s, without time travel.
Since 1984, some of pop culture’s most revered moments, quotes and gestures originated at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Britney Spears’ sweeping, serpentine performance of I’m a Slave for You. Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Kanye West’s presidential bid. Miley Cyrus and the twerk heard ‘round the world. Michael Jackson’s moon-walking medleys. Hammer Time. Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross and one purple jumpsuit…these are images embedded in our collective social conscious, through memories and endless GIFs on our Twitter feeds.
Courtesy of GIPHY.
The 2017 VMAs, held at The Forum in Los Angeles in August, certainly spawned plenty of extraordinary moments.
Here were a few of my favorites:
Lorde’s silent, avant-garde performance of Homemade Dynamite
The pop star flounced around stage like a ballerina from Mars, which isn’t too unusual for the VMAs. Not singing (or even lip-synching) is, however, a bit unusual.
Courtesy of GIPHY.
Lorde tweeted a response to confused fans and reporters who covered the event, explaining how she had the flu and was on an IV drip just days before the ceremony.
The surge follows the steady re-introduction of several legacy MTV programs that have been recalibrated to appeal to the social-, mobile- and digital-oriented youth of today: My Super Sweet 16, Unpluggedand, on Snapchat, Cribs and Beach House. And, coming soon: the hugely anticipated returns of early aughts mainstay TRL.
(Take a look at the Shawn Mendes performance that relit Unplugged – you’re not seeing things – there are no cell phones in the audience; the producers prohibited fans from bringing them into the theater, so they could simply enjoy the concert, 1990s style):
The ratings resurgence has not been entirely tethered to nostalgia, however, as a rejiggering of the network’s The Challengeand the launch of unscripted original Siesta Key (below) also fueled large audiences.
Michael Jackson earned his title as King of Pop for his mosaic of entertainment talent and ingenuity—especially when it came to creating iconic music videos. With Thriller, Jackson introduced cinematography into music videos, turning what used to be simple live recordings into fully-fledged short films. The 13-minute video (which I performed in a summer camp talent show as a teenager, and still remember most of the moves) was MTV’s first world premiere.
The award celebrates “forerunners in the music video sphere,” according to Slate.
“MTV is legitimately the definitive arbiter on such matters. And their track record with the Vanguard has reinforced their authority: The first recipients of the award, in 1984, were the Beatles and Richard Lester, for the trailblazing A Hard Day’s Night, and David Bowie, for his groundbreaking films from the late ’60s and ’70s.”
For my 11th birthday, my parents bought me a 13-inch, white Panasonic TV/VCR set. I was most excited about the fact that it was white, and therefore girly, but also the fact that it gave me access to the exclusive club of sixth grade girls at my school who could invite their friends over to watch MTV.
My neighbor Lauren had been the first of my friends to enter this coterie when her older brother moved out and gave her his TV. I skip my bus stop and get off at her house, raid the fridge for Pepperoni lunch-ables, Dunkaroos and Cherry Coke, and head to her basement playroom, where we’d turn the TV straight to TRL and watch Carson Daly countdown the day’s 10 hottest music videos.
On a typical spring afternoon in 2002, we’d watch the same *NSYNC video for the fourth time that week, along with hits from Blink 182, Christina Aguilara, Britney Spears, Shakira, Michelle Branch, Brandy and Kylie Minogue. Sometimes we’d call in our request, but usually we’d just try to guess which one was coming next. Most of the time, we were right.
By the time my new TV allowed me to form my own girls club to watch TRL, Carson Daly had stepped down as host, and we were introduced to a downright dreamy group of regular “VJs” (video deejays, something I learned much later in life). My friends and I crushed hard on Damien Fahey, and wanted to look just like the trendy, chic Vanessa Minnillo.
Now, MTV is bringing back this iconic video countdown show, which ran for 10 years between 1998 and 2008. TRL’s revival is set for October 2, to be broadcast from a renovated version of its iconic Times Square studio.
TRL will be different than the one I remember— the video countdown model and audience request integration will stay, but the new show yanks the format into the post-2008 world of social and interactive media, with a mélange of linear, social and digital dimensions (expect some TRL Snapchat filters and daily updates on Instagram and Twitter).
A new generation of VJs will rotate through the studio, including, as of now, D.C. Young Fly, Erik Zachary, Amy Pham, Tamara Dhia and Lawrence Jackson. Learn more about the hosts here.
The revival of this flagship show is a logical move for the network as it shepherds in a new era of MTV that is remarkably similar to the one my friends and I would watch on that 13-inch TV in my bedroom.
With revivals of My Super Sweet 16 (a reality show I watched religiously as a teen, which I wrote about here) and Fear Factor (NBC’s gruesome game show, re-invented with a millennial twist), as well as a new show called Siesta Key (created by the same producers responsible for MTV’s original, laid back teen-paradise reality show, Laguna Beach), MTV seems ready for a millennial renaissance.
Watch the teaser for Siesta Key:
And why not? All of us who grew up watching these shows as kids are now in our 20s, able to buy our own TVs (albeit without VHS players attached), subscribe for VOD streaming services or cable packages and browse the internet without parental controls. Above all else, we’re nostalgic for the carefree shows of our childhood.
When I used to watch Kristin Cavallari flirt with Stephen Colletti back in middle school, I desperately wanted to be in her $300 Tory Burch kitten heels. Now, I’m in my mid-20s and have slightly different summer aspirations than spending it prancing around a beach with my high school crush, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relive the fun.
MTV President Chris McCarthy is largely responsible for this mining of the network’s history to inform its current programming. “MTV’s reinvention,” he told recently toldThe New York Times, “is coming by harnessing its heritage.”
As a business strategy, this has been remarkably successful. In June and July, ratings for MTV’s target demographic – millennials, aka 18 to 34-year-olds—soared. It was the first time the network experienced two consecutive months of ratings growth in four years.
As Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish toldThe New York Times, “[McCarthy] reset the brand filter, cleaned out the pipeline and began building a new MTV that’s much more based on reality, unscripted and music content.”
“I give [MTV] credit for having the audacity to shake up the cultural DNA, to show us what a new kind of post-gender consciousness feels like,” said Variety columnist Owen Glieberman. “For kicking open a door by simply doing it.”
Now, MTV is doing it again.
In July, the network announced nominations for the VMAs – and gender-specific awards categories were conspicuously absent.
The categories formerly known as Best Female Video and Best Male Video have been consolidated into Artist of the Year. Nominees within this category include Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, and Kendrick Lamar, whose music video Humble received eight nominations – the highest total of all nominees this year.
Several days after this news broke, we learned that the iconic astronaut trophy has evolved alongside the categories. Meet the MTV Moon Person.
“Why should it be a man?” MTV President Chris McCarthy asked The New York Times. “It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist.”
MTV also announced that Katy Perry would host the event. Her music video Chained to the Rhythm featuring Skip Marley received five nominations, tying her with fellow Artist of the Year nominee The Weeknd for the second highest number of nominations this year.
The Movie and TV Awards’ category celebrated “characters fighting back against systems that hold them down,” and the VMA version will honor music videos that do the same thing, such as The Hamilton Mixtape’s Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) and Alessia Cara’s Scars to Your Beautiful. Both videos generated positive buzz for their stance on important issues: immigration and body positivity, respectively.
As MTV’s popular series Teen Wolf edges towards its conclusion (at least in its current iteration – the show is already slated for a reboot) – with the second half of the sixth and last season debuting this Sunday, July 30 – it is an ideal time to reflect on the show’s impact.
After a sometimes-terrifying, sometimes captivating, always-fun six-year run, fans are accepting that this particular set of beloved Teen Wolf characters will only be around for 10 more episodes, and a bittersweet nostalgia has descended. Tyler Posey, who plays protagonist/werewolf Scott McCall, shared his reaction to news of the show’s end in an interview with TV Line: “So much peace was in me, and happiness, looking back on everything that we’ve done as a cast, as a show, as an entity. There’s not a lot of shows that can say they’ve done that and made 100 episodes and remained friends and are going to go on to bigger and better things… I am going to bawl my eyes out, but they’re all happy tears.”
The cast seems uniformly both grateful to have been part of the show and dejected about its ending:
From the series’ beginning, Scott, a high school teenager who is bitten by a werewolf and subsequently becomes one, experiences an endless sequence of emotional and suspenseful moments. Alongside his best friend Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien), Scott quickly discovers that the other students at Beacon Hills High School carry supernatural secrets of their own, and he spends the next six seasons collaborating with and battling these fellows in monsterhood.
As we prep for the final half season of howling mayhem, here’s a look back at some of the show’s most suspenseful and emotional moments [SPOILER ALERT: for those who have not seen the first five and a half seasons, the list below will give away some major plot developments]: Read More
After transforming Madison Square Garden into a terrestrial dance hall, aerobics studio and lemonade stand for last year’s ceremony, MTV is heading back to California—specifically the Forum, a historic venue in Inglewood.
“MTV, at 35 years old, has been around almost as long as the Forum,” said Forum manager Shelli Azoff in a press release. “Together, we’re 85 and enjoy lifetimes of music history.”
In 2005, a show called My Super Sweet 16 premiered on MTV. I was 14, fixated yet mildly disturbed as I watched teenagers just a couple of years my senior scream at their parents for buying the wrong type of Mercedes as a birthday present.
Hillary Duff sang the infections theme song (which is stuck in my head as I type this). The episodes typically involved 16-year-olds barking orders at their parents and outlining outlandish demands, such as a casual half million dollar budget. The birthday princess would change costumes more times than Rihanna at the VMAs.
The 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards was a gender and genre-bending revolution. The 26th annual iteration was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on May 9, and hosted by Workaholics star Adam Devine. For the first time, MTV’s celebration of mega-hits included television juggernauts alongside cinematic blockbusters. It also banished gendered categories, a first for American award shows besides the Grammys.
Beginning in 1992, the MTV Movie Awards lit up Hollywood’s award show circuit. Its edgy and unique categories such as Best Kiss became as iconic as the network itself. As an arbiter of youth culture, MTV knows how to adapt to an ever-changing world—and this year’s ceremony was no exception.
Rolling Stonecalled the network’s decision to omit gender distinctions “a simple but radical switch,” citing Best Actor winner Emma Thompson’s acceptance speech.
“The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience,” Watson said. “Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits.”