8 Things That Were Great In 1996, But Not So Much Now

Ah, the golden year of 1996, when Helen Hunt still glowed and Eric Clapton was still making music…We could show up at the airport an hour before an international flight and be fine! John Travolta jumped into a bath of baby powder, and came back as Michael, the angel. And how can we forget Dunston, the monkey, who so discreetly checked in…?
Michael / Amazon.com
Michael / Amazon.com

1. Nose jewelry on guys.

Nose piercings are a funny thing… By which I mean they look funny. (Note: if you’re concerned that I’m talking to you, then I most likely am.) There’s only one man who a nose piercing suits and that man is Tupac. Yet I look all around and continue to see guys with nose piercings, and frankly, it makes me sad. There’s no doubt in my mind that if Tupac ended up being alive this whole time and returned back to civilization, he would not last a day. He would take one look at Chris Brown — at the sad fate of hip hop, cut up and chiseled into a diamond stud nose ring — and he would tear up.

ABC News / Youtube.com
ABC News / Youtube.com

And then, at the final clinching sight of Dennis Rodman — whose nose could EASILY double as a shower curtain rod — he would turn on his heel, scream “Nah man! FUCK this shit! I’m goin’ home,” and return to the Masai tribe that’s been housing him for the last 18 years.

2. Boy bands.

Boy bands back in 1996 were irresistible. They were dynamic, they had character and, most of all, it didn’t take a microscope and a urine test to tell them apart. Missing from pop culture now is a gaping hole in the shape of four men, crowded closely together, men who developed before our eyes, from Boyz II Men. My nipples ache every time I think of them — or, more precisely, long for them. For their seductive and salacious harmonies, and their sepia-toned smooth vibe. Of course, 1996 also had the Backstreet Boys, who need no explaining, but also movies about boy bands (re: That Thing You Do). Now, there appear to be doll-like robot impostors who call themselves boy bands, but who, for all intents and purposes, seem to be missing the most basic of human necessities that we call genitals. My eyes can’t even process this:

beyond5official / Instagram.com
beyond5official / Instagram.com

3. Gap ads.

In 1996, Gap ads starred Milla Jovovich. Milla-effing-Jovovich. Now? Theophilus London. You do the math.

4. Spying.

Spying in 1996 was an endlessly-entertaining pastime. It was on the same level of innocent fun as a Rube Goldberg contraption. We had Spy Hard with goofball king Leslie Nielsen and we had Harriet The Spy, an epic spy movie starring Michelle Trachtenberg.

Harriet The Spy / Amazon.com
Harriet The Spy / Amazon.com

Now, spying is unfortunately not as “fun-loving” as it once was. It’s less silly and teenybopper-y, and more grave — more Russian, if you will. The excitement that used to go into a brisk game of spying was quickly squashed once we learned that every spying game — not to mention every second of our waking lives (#nbd) — are being spied on by the NSA. Yeah…that sort of ruined it for us.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Jingle All The Way / Amazon.com
Jingle All The Way / Amazon.com

Riding high from the success of Junior (in which he played a pregnant man), Arnold Schwarzenegger came out with possibly his most memorable and outstanding role to date in Jingle All The Way. And wasn’t he so much more likable playing the submissive father role (alongside Sinbad, no less) than he is now, as a divorced, former governor of California with the occasional title of philanderer?

6. Irony.

Alanis Morissette / Youtube.com
Alanis Morissette / Youtube.com

In 1996, irony was one thing and that was an unsurpassable song and video by Alanis Morissette. Morissette provided us with some straightforward examples of irony: “rain on a wedding day,” “a free ride when you’re already late,” “good advice that you don’t take” — simple, clear, coherent. But most importantly: catchy. Irony in 1996 was hardly meddled with and so remained as a great tool to, as Salon put it, “reveal hypocrisies.” Now?

Irony and formality have become the same thing…now [irony] simply acknowledges one’s cultural compliance and familiarity with pop trends. The art of irony has lost its vision and its edge. The rebellious posture of the past has been annexed by the very commercialism it sought to defy.

7. Rap feuds.

In 1996, it was Tupac against Biggie and their feud was actually founded on some mildly-legitimate beef. At least it was genuine, authentic and valid. At least you could trace their beef back to their origins — east coast and west coast. They were each just trying to best represent and protect their respective hometowns, and while it ended tragically, the pursuit and feud was still founded on honorability.

Now? Rap feuds are not so much about home pride as they are about women and butts that hurt. Now the things that spark feuds are not only idiotic but oftentimes nonsensical. Hey, were you aware that Cam’ron and Nick Canon are currently feuding? Cam’ron is a legend, but any rap feud that involves Nick Canon is in fact not a rap feud at all. It’s sort of like ordering an omelette without cheese, or a BLT without bacon — it’s just not right.

8. Pauly Shore.

Son in Law / Amazon.com
Son in Law / Amazon.com

In 1996 Pauly Shore was riding high. We loved him; he had stolen our hearts in Son in Law and then again in In The Army Now and Jury Duty. We were all afraid that Jury Duty was the end of his mediocre career but then Biodome came out in 1996 and we were all able to swoon once more over the long-haired weird hippie guy with an affinity for head scarves and Canadian tuxedos. And, well, that seemed to mark the end of Pauly Shore; as far as I know, the guy is dead. The last we saw of him was a brief and heinous cameo in 2007 on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. And then he seemed to crawl back into his hole as fast as he crawled out when someone told him he would be hanging out with pretty 16-year-olds. It’s not that he’s not great anymore, per se, but that he’s vanished, gone, kaput. And so goes the sad tale of Pauly Shore… TC mark

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