10 Things The 90s Taught Us About Love

1. Disasters bring people together. (Armageddon, Deep Impact, Independence Day, Speed)

Armageddon
Armageddon

Shit goes down when the world is on the verge of total destruction, but as 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow shows, there is no greater natural disaster than Jake Gyllenhaal not being able to tell Emmy Rossum he loves her. But great news, Jakey! The apocalypse is here to help. When the world is about to be destroyed by asteroids the size of Texas, aliens or whatever else Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich hath summoned to threaten humanity today, bygones go bye-bye. Suddenly, the disapproving, prematurely bald father-in-law who tried to shoot you says that you’ve always been a son to him, you finally become a like real father to your stripper girlfriend’s child after you punch an alien in the face or you are left to repopulate a flooded Earth with Leelee Sobieski.

Sure, half of the world and Tea Leoni just died, but you have to look on the bright side: post-apocalypse sex has got to be hot.

2. Love conquers all, except when you’re dating a killer. (Scream, Fear, So I Married an Axe Murderer)

Fear
Fear

We learn a lot about love from the media. We learn that love can conquer almost all: mental illness (A Beautiful Mind) and mental abilities (Forrest Gump) but not AIDS (oddly Forrest Gump AND Philadelphia — what’s the deal, Tom Hanks?). Love doesn’t recognize color, species (the enduring Muppets franchise), nationality (Hey Arnold), headshape (still Hey Arnold), social class (She’s All That), vampires (Buffy) relatedness (Clueless), stains (the Clintons) or the fact that you have almost nothing in common (Blast From the Past).

But it does recognize when the boyfriend you’ve been saving yourself for comes at you with a knife as part of an elaborate revenge plot to slut-shame your mother. I hope this goes without saying, but murdering all your friends is not something your relationship can get over. Whether you’re an invincible virgin or highly perishable non-virgin (more slut-shaming, Hollywood?), you need to call 911 and run out the door. Do not go upstairs, don’t check for strange noises and be smart enough to realize you don’t fight through the doggy door. You have boobs, sweetie. That’s never going to work.

3. Love never dies, although Leonardo DiCaprio does. (Almost everything he’s been in, except for Growing Pains.)

Titanic

Like that time he dated Blake Lively for a hot minute only to have no one ever mention her again, our Leo has a bad track record with the ladies, in every decade. Let’s do a roll call: Instead of getting the girl, he’s been shot, duped into poisoning himself and has died alone surrounded by his own urine; he once murdered the ex-wife he thought died in a fire and imprisoned another inside an apartment in his mind. (But it’s okay, because she was actually dead, too.) But nothing was a greater testament to the ever-burning love of a deceased Leo than Titanic, in which a frozen Leo-shaped mannequin floated to the bottom of the ocean to be with Rose’s heart. #neverletgo You might be able to kill Leo (because it’s apparently not that hard), but you’ll never kill the memory of his perfectly curled bangs.

4. “Bros before hos” is a bad mantra. (The Little Rascals)

The Little Rascals
The Little Rascals

The Little Rascals was like a prepubescent mini-lesson in why misogyny and dating anyone named Waldo is bad for you. (Who grew up to be gay and hot as hell, BTW. Blake McIver Ewing, call me stat.) At the beginning of the film, Alfalfa is imprisoned by the He-Man Woman Haters Club, which believes that women are icky and gross because lady things. (Also, see: the Republican right.) This leads to trouble when he meets Darla, an empowered femme who teaches him to smash patriarchy with her adorable curls and pretty dresses. Although the “Young Boys’ Club” is resistant to change, they realize the error of their ways when misogyny threatens the very foundation of their brodom and a hottie Reba McIntire teaches them that sexism is wrong. Rosie the Riveter!

Not only does gender integration make the friend unit stronger, but by letting women into the group, the He-Men also gets to hang out with the Olsen twins (before they turned into bag ladies). Win-win situation, guys.

Now, if we could only explain this to the university tenure system.

5. The ugly chicks stay out late? (Hocus Pocus)

Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus

False. But the “ugly chicks” will lock you in a cage (where your cross trainers will be stolen) for calling them ugly. So, let that be a lesson on how to treat women, Ice.

6. Julia Roberts is a terrible love model. (Almost everything she’s been in.)

Runaway Bride
Runaway Bride

Look, I know she’s America’s platypus-mouthed sweetheart and everyone loves her, and I’m not un-immune to her charms. I will fight anyone who says bad things about Steel Magnolias, and I can even forgive the fact that Julia Roberts was SOMEHOW THE ONE THAT GOT NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR FOR IT AND NOT DOLLY PARTON. I also love Erin Brockovich. It’s ham-fisted, but Steven Soderbergh cooked that ham. I like his ham.

But when it comes to relationships, you should generally do the opposite of what Julia Roberts would do. This is the woman who almost broke up her best friend’s impending marriage because she suddenly decided she was in love with him (information that would have been helpful much earlier) and kept dumping a frumpy-haired Hugh Grant just to show up on his doorstep and expect he could just forgive everything, just like that. She also inspired young women by telling them they could grow up to be a prostitute AND a princess and be saved by a rich guy on a horse. I’m sure Sasha Obama and Dora will be thrilled at their options.

As My Best Friend’s Wedding and Runaway Bride proved, the woman needs a Sassy Gay Friend assigned to her at all times or she could go rogue and runaway with Richard Gere just because the script said so, when she could have married love-of-my-life Chris Meloni. She’s worse than Carrie in Homeland.

7. Alternative girls get the hottest guys and/or are generally cooler. (The Faculty, 10 Things I Hate About You, Freaks and Geeks, Doug, Daria)

10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You

I know Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Josh Hartnett fans everywhere might riot at this, and I mean no disrespect to the cult of JGL. I am a devoted member and part-time treasurer. But JGL was a late-bloomer (and, oh, how he bloomed) and the 90s were all about Shawn Hatosy and Heath Ledger. And was it the pristinely polished good girl who got Ledger to perform Frankie Valli songs on a football field? No, it was the girl who wanted to go to Sarah Lawrence, listened to the Raincoats and preferred a copy of The Feminine Mystique to flowers. (Betty Friedan is the way to everyone’s heart.) Kat seemed tough on the outside, but only Heath’s perfect cheekbones could unlock the secrets of her underwear drawer. (Because girls who want to do it always own black underwear.)

Also, Kim Kelly isn’t just Lindsay Weir’s friend. Kim Kelly also got to bone a pre-seven-simultaneous-PhDs James Franco on the regular. Kim Kelly is an American hero.

8. Creepily pining for someone gets you nowhere. (American Beauty, Doug, Hey Arnold, Family Matters)

American Beauty
American Beauty

Doug, Helga and Steve Urkel are life lessons on what not to do when you have a crush on someone. Don’t spend season after season barging into their house like Kramer on Seinfeld and getting all of their family members to see you as a nuisance and then win her heart after a protracted battle with your split personality. Don’t build a shrine to them in your closet while you spend all day being mean to them and denying your feelings. Don’t have an awkward non-relationship relationship when you could easily just ask this person on a date and end the agony. She likes you. Everyone knows she likes you. Even your dog who lives in an igloo knows she likes you — and he’s named after a piece of lightly seasoned meat.

So, do something about it.  Be like Lester Burnham (except for that whole “getting murdered” by your homo-repressed neighbor thing). Get in shape. Start jogging. Quit your day job to do something you enjoy, even if that’s working at a fast-food chain. Don’t pull a Doug and wait eight years until the feature film to tell her how you feel, because eight years is a long time when you have to wear the same outfit every day. So, buck up and ask her to The Beets concert. I’m sure she’ll say yes.

9. Hold out for what you want. You just might get it. (Can’t Hardly Wait)

Can't Hardly Wait
Can’t Hardly Wait

Remember that scene in 1989’s Say Anything when everyone asks Lloyd Dobler how he landed a date with Diane Court (the pretty, perfect valedictorian) and he simply says, “I called her up?” Sometimes getting what you want is as simple as putting yourself out there and going for the girl of your dreams, and as Can’t Hardly Wait proves, there’s nothing like high school ending to be the perfect catalyst for that. Everything’s changing, and the social divisions you knew will be a thing of the past. Now is your chance to strike.

Do I agree with Ethan Embry’s decision to hold out for the vapid Jennifer Love Hewitt when he could have had total package Lauren Ambrose? Hell no. That’s like downgrading from Kate Middleton to Kate Gosselin. But I admire his tenacity and letter-writing ability. As they say, you can’t hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate. I wouldn’t call shacking up with the future star of the grandma-favorite The Ghost Whisperer a home run, but that’s gotta at least get you a bunt to first. Brains, intelligence and ginger sex appeal: now that would be a grand slam.

10. Sometimes it’s just meant to be.  (Boy Meets World)

Boy Meets World: The Complete Series
Boy Meets World: The Complete Series

You can intellectualize love all you want, but sometimes it’s just written in stone, as if mandated from Zeus via lightning bolt: This is fate. Take Cory and Topanga. Was there any real doubt that Topanga would end up Mrs. Cornelius Matthews? No matter how many Linda Cardellinis, ski trips or wacky subplots the writers threw between them, there was no stopping destiny. When you know, you know.

Bonus: But if it doesn’t work out, you can always marry yourself. (Dennis Rodman)

Featureflash / Shutterstock.com
Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

I don’t think it’s technically legal, but if that Kardashian can marry a gay for pay, I’ll allow it. Carry on, Dennis. TC mark

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