Culture of the 1990s

Culture of the 1990s

The 1990s was the last decade of the 20th Century and the first decade after the Cold War. Informally, the 1990s may refer to the time period between the fall of Communism in 1991 and end in 2001 with the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks. Often times the 1990s are associated as a time of relative peace and economic prosperity between the major conflicts of the Cold War and the War on Terror [] .

Grunge, Generation X, and the "Alternative" Decade

During the 1980s, alternative rock and grunge were seen mostly in the underground music scene. By the early-1990s however, Grunge became a dominant form of music across the United States and to an extent a major portion of the Anglosphere [ [ allmusic ] ] . The big four bands that formed the basis of the grunge movement were Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. Grunge had its roots in the DIY ideology of Punk music and therefore embraced anti-corporatism, challenging the status quo, and supported indiviualism.

Generation X, the primary generation of people born in the 1960s and 1970s (then college age) adopted the grunge culture quickly, separating the 1990s apart from the 1980s. As Generation X's media presence grew, more television shows were focused on their demographic, extreme sports such as skateboarding, rollerblading, and skydiving became more prevalent, and tatoos, piercings, flannel shirts, and ripped jeans became more trendy [,] [ [ How Will We Categorize Our Current Decade of Music? - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog ] ] . These attributes, as well as the rise of alternative music, separated the 1990s from the glam fashions of the 1980s and the later "preppy" fashions of the 2000s [ ['s%20Marketing%20Strategies%20in%20the%20US%204.htm Lacoste's Marketing Strategies in the US - Marketing Case Studies ] ] creating a period known by some as the "Alternative" decade. Douglas Coupland published "" in 1991 regarding the Generation X demographic and popularizing the term.

The grunge movement faced a terrible loss with the death of singer Kurt Cobain of Nirvana fame in 1994. It is debatable if his death triggered the downfall of grunge, but at some point in the mid-1990s, alternative rock in general replaced grunge's popularity and later post-grunge [ [ allmusic ] ] , nu metal [ [ allmusic ] ] , indie rock [ [ allmusic ] ] , pop punk [ [ allmusic ] ] , and a new wave of teen pop artists would dominate music charts for the remainder of the decade.

Besides the rise and fall of grunge, Generation X also embraced environmentalism and an interest in entrepreneurship. The fond love of extreme sports lead some young people to become increasingly involved in outdoor activities that combined embracing athletics with the appreciation of nature.

The Introduction of the Internet

Although the basic applications and guidelines that make the Internet possible had existed for almost a decade, the network did not gain a public face until the 1990s. On August 6 1991, CERN, which straddles the border between France and Switzerland, publicized the new World Wide Web project. The Web was invented by English scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.

Once the internet was made availiable for the public, it took off greatly. Its widest appeal was the ability to communicate with others around the world, some common examples would be chat rooms, forums, wikis, blogs, and of course e-mail. Not only did the Internet spark interest from the public, but businesses also saw the internet as a new alternative source of revenue and promotion eventually leading up to the makings of the boom. It wasn't long before the Intenet began to affect pop culture. The interest in the Bulletin Board System decreased heavily with the introduction of the internet [ [ Flak Magazine: BBSes, 11-23-01 ] ] .

Because of the internet's tendency allowing users from around the globe to communicate with one another, a concept of online social ettiquette developted called "Netiquette" [ [ RFC 1855: Netiquette Guidelines ] ] . And as a result of the internet's introduction and growth into average use, users began developing their own language of abbreviations and codes. The most widely known symbols and abbreviations used are, Emoticons such as the smiley face [:)] , LOL ["Laughing Out Loud"] , and OMG! ["Oh, My God/Gosh!"] . Leet, a more complicated form of internet language, also has its roots in the 1990s [ [ E-Commerce News: Trends: A Leet Primer ] ] .

There was however another side to the Internet. Its format made it easy to share information around the world fairly quickly and problems regarding privacy, piracy, pornagraphy, and copyright infringement followed the internet like a shadow. The popular peer-to-peer network Napster allowed users to illegally download MP3 files to their computers thus triggering record companies to fire back at the provider and its users in 1999 and 2000. The MP3, although not as common a music format, did not threaten the compact disc at the time; the MP3 would grow more popular in the 2000s.

A few of the websites developed in the 1990s that became widely known are Ebay,, Yahoo!, Craigslist, Xanga,, Newgrounds, Something Awful, and The Best Page in the Universe.

Gangsta Rap and the rise of Hip Hop Culture

Hip hop and Rap music continued to dominate the music charts alongside grunge in the 1990s and diversified into several different styles. The most prevalent style of rap music during the decade was Gangsta rap, hip hop that reflected the violent lifestyles of some inner-city youths [ [ Baggy pants get the crack-down - Perspectives ] ] . Artists carrying the sound soon found themselves put into the spotlight fairly quickly and it wasn't long before the gangsta style caught on with the youth. Gangsta rap gave rise to the fashion of sagging [ [ fashion police / Pull 'em up or pay it down ] ] , the wearing of very loose clothing and re-introduced the beanie into popular fashions [ [ TECHNINE Gangsta Beanie black ] ] . Other fashion marks made by the gangsta movement was the wearing a baseball cap cocked to one side rather than wearing it normally forward and the wearing of many Tommy Hilfiger products.

Due to the violent nature of the lyrical content of gangsta rap songs, many parents and political commentators thought the songs were too vulgar to be heard by children [ [,2933,103092,00.html - Is Gangsta Rap Hurting America's Children? - Bill O’Reilly | The O’Reilly Factor ] ] . Its popularity sparked new debates regarding music censorship as many songs were considered highly controversal for the time. Pundits and parents believed that Gangsta rap promoted homophobia, violence, profanity, promiscuity, misogyny, rape, street gangs, drive-by shootings, police brutality, vandalism, thievery, crime, drug dealing, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, racism, and materialism.

Tupac Shakur of Death Row Records and The Notorious BIG of Bad Boy Records, wage a cultural war in the hip hop music scene, leading to the murder of both Shakur in 1996 and BIG in 1997.

By 1999, Hip hop and rap overtook alternative rock's popularity among the youth, the famous Detroit rapper Eminem is often creditted as popularizing the genre amongst all of the youth demographic [cite web|url=|title=New York Times - For Colombia's Angry Youth, Hip-Hop Helps Keep It Real
date=April 4, 2004|accessdate = 2007-07-15
] .

Beginnings of a Global Culture

After the Cold War, world trade increased and the rise of the internet promoted the sharing of different cultures. World trading blocs and free trade agreements can also be said to promote the sharing of ideals and cultures. The European Union was set up and NATO expanded in the 1990s. Some politicians and political pundits fear that it promotes too much globilization [ [ WTO | News - speech - DG Mike Moore - The Backlash against Globalization? ] ] and argue it will ultimately lead to one world government, assimilation, or the dumping of cultures altogether [ [ Globalisation: Perceptions and Threats to National Government in Australia (Research Paper 27 2000-01) ] ] .

In Europe a popular form of artistic independent film known as Dogme 95 began to get widespread attention by many in the indie film scene. It was considered by many in the film industry as 'unprofessional', as many of the cameras were handheld and no elements of special effects were used as per the dogme rules [ [ Welcome to the official DOGME 95 - WEBSITE ] ] , but it would later inspire directors all over the world to implement some techniques of dogme into their films.

During the 1990s, there grew an increasing interest in Japanese anime and manga. The interest in anime was fueled by animated character's surreal yet realistic appearances and great graphics provided by their artists. Popular anime's of the 1990s that gained a worldwide fanbase included Pokémon ("1996"), Dragonball Z ("1989"), and Sailor Moon ("1992").

Media consolidation leads to increased segmentation in styles of music.

Family and the silent rise of Generation Y

The 1990s were considered a prosperous time for families. In the United States, the divorce rate began to stabalize, however early in the decade the number of teenage girls giving birth increased [ [ CNN - Decline of traditional American family slows in 90's - May 28, 1998 ] ] and the number of single parent households also increased [ [ The Rise — and Fall? — of Single-Parent Families - Population Reference Bureau ] ] . The early 1990s marked the latter half of the Echo Boom and the late-Generation Yers being born. Over 80 million GenYers were born between 1982 and 1995 [ [ The Echo Boomers , Steve Kroft Reports On The Children Of The Baby Boomers - CBS News ] ] giving them enormous spending power.

As Generation Y grew, their parents and the media began to catter to them while they were young. Mothers of Generation Yers became known as soccer moms as soccer became a phenomenon among this generation. They were being nurtured to become multitaskers and teamplayers [] . And as the soccer mom prevalence in US culture grew, so too did the rise of the Sport Utility Vehicle throughout the world [ [ 1990s drop in gas prices fueled rush to large SUVs | | The Tennessean ] ] , replacing the station wagon and minivan as the stereotypical family vehicle.


In the 1990s, television becomes more violent and provacative than in previous decades. In response to complants, a parental rating system was introduced in 1997 known as the V-chip.

The beginning of the Gulf War begins the era of 24-hour CNN news coverage. Later on in 1996, Fox News would debut, also formatted as a 24-hour news service. The introduction of 24-hour news brought people an increase of awareness and coverage of world events and Infotainment programs. Al Jazeera begins broadcasting in 1996, subsidised by a grant from the emir of Qatar and expanded their programming range across the Arabic-speaking world.

After the success of "The Simpsons" with adults, networks begin premiering more animated shows targetted towards the Generation X and older demographics.

MTV shifts away from music videos throughout the decade, focusing more on original programming and reality television [ [ MTV struggles to keep the attention of its young audience - Times Online ] ] . Reality TV would become more prevalent in the 2000s. The music network also tried with limited success with the record industry to try and force Electronica and Euro-pop music into the United States in the late-1990s [ [ A New, Spacey Look For MTV - New York Times ] ] . Electronica in the United States however still existed in the underground and within the rave culture. Eurodance, Techno, and electronic music did continue to dominate discotheques and had numerous major mainstream hits on European radio. Besides alternative rock and electronic music, R&B, and an increasing number of Christian rock artists grew to mainstream success.

The sports of NASCAR and Professional wrestling experience a huge rise in popularity during the 1990s [ [ Earnhardt legacy drives Nascar popularity boom - Nascar being promoted - Brief Article | DSN Retailing Today | Find Articles at BNET ] ] [ [ Pro wrestling enjoys a second `90s boom | Journal Record, The (Oklahoma City) | Find Articles at BNET ] ] .

Satellite television becomes more affodable in the 1990s with the introduction of Dish Network, British Satellite Broadcasting, and DirecTV exposing viewers to hundreds of more channels and also global networks.

Homosexuality acceptance

Following the 1980s media counter-culture lead by tabloid talk shows popularized by Oprah Winfrey in 1986, which provided high-impact media visibility for gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, and transgender people [ [ Joshua Gamson, Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity, excerpt and interview ] ] the 1990s saw a further increase in gay visibility in the North American mainstream media.

In 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases.

Also the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s helped the general public develop a more sympathetic attitude towards gays. Movies and televison programs with gay characters saw mainstream success, and celebrities spoke openly about their sexuality.

U.S. President Bill Clinton generally held a pro-gay rights viewpoint, however the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy he implemented into allowing gays into the military became quite controversal among both the right-wing and left-wing sides of the political spectrum.

Other Cultural trends

Extended alcohol sales are implemented in the US to reduce alcohol abuse.

The exploitation of the collectability of comic books results in a trend of "gimmick" packaging and storylines (most notably The Death of Superman). The comic book industry collapses as interest in print comics decreases among younger generations and casual readers. Comic books disappear as a familiar sight at the newsstands. As comics, including Japanese manga and other graphic novels become more available in bookstore chains, the role of the comic book store as a source for comics and social gathering wanes. The domination by industry giants Marvel Comics and DC Comics ends as various independents produce popular titles. The era of comic book collecting for speculative investment ends. Webcomics by amateur cartoonists become popular.

Conversion to Block scheduling became a trendy initiative for United States schools.

Anniversaries observed

* The 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America in 1992 was popularly observed, despite controversy and protests against Columbus' expeditions victimization of Native Americans. The holiday was labeled by some as racist, in view of Native American experiences of colonialism, slavery, genocide and cultural destruction.

See also

* 1990s in fashion
* Generation X
* Culture of the 2000s


External Links

* [ Kingwood College Library: American Cultural History 1990-1999]
* [ Retrojunk]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Culture of the United Kingdom — The Proms is an eight week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts, on the last night with some traditional patriotic music of the United Kingdom.[1][2] …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the People's Republic of China — The Red Detachment of Women, one of the Eight model plays with Communist themes This article discusses the culture of the People s Republic of China. See also the culture of China, culture of Hong Kong, culture of Macau and culture of Taiwan. The …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the Indian Ocean Islands — The culture of the Indian Ocean islands reflects the ethnic diversity, history, politics, music, dance, food, drink, arts, sports and international influences in that region. The area includes Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba Island), Madagascar,… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the 1980s — In the 1980s culture around the world became more homogenized the Eighties in America is similar to the Eighties in Europe and Asia.*In the early 1980s, the first generation of computer graphics in arcade games produced the popular Space Invaders …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the Southern United States — Modern definition The states in dark red are almost always included in modern day definitions of the South, while those in red are usually included. Those in dark red are also called the deep south. The striped states are sometimes/occasionally… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the United States — Enthusiastic crowds at the inaugural running of the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis The Culture of the United States is a Western culture, having been originally influenced by European cultures. It has been developing since long before… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the Philippines — Philippine culture is related to Micronesian, Bornean, Mexican and Spanish cultures. The people today are mostly of Malayo Polynesian origin, although there are people with Spanish, Mexican, Austro Melanesian and Chinese blood. Geographically,… …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of the Halifax Regional Municipality — Hosting the region s largest urban population, the Halifax Regional Municipality, or HRM, is an important cultural centre in Atlantic Canada. Argyle Street in downtown Halifax. HRM is home to a vibrant arts culture community that enjoys… …   Wikipedia

  • Aliyah from the Commonwealth of Independent States in the 1990s — The big immigration wave of Jews from the Commonwealth of Independent States to Israel during the 1990s actually started during the late 1980s with the opening of the USSR s borders under the liberal government of Mikhail Gorbachev. The… …   Wikipedia

  • List of number-one singles in Australia during the 1990s — The following lists the number one singles on the Australian Singles Chart, along with other substantial hits, during the 1990s. The source for this decade is the ARIA Charts. 1990# The B 52 s Love Shack #:January 6 for 6 weeks and 2 weeks in… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.