Time is a flat circle. Forged in the obsessive, strange mind of True Detective architect Nic Pizzolatto, this now-ubiquitous catchphrase owes itself to the Nietzschean concept of “eternal return”—that the universe is in a state of eternal recurrence, the past forever repeating itself.Nowhere is this truer than the realm of popular culture. And it's not just all those #TBT photos clogging your Instagram feed every Thursday, for right now, in the Year of Our Lord and Savior Beyoncé 2015, the dream of the ‘90s is alive in America.
Monday was a prime example. The top four entertainment news stories on Monday were as follows: Diddy was arrested for allegedly assaulting a UCLA football coach with a kettlebell; Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’s little Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd, tried to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, engaging in a 117-mph chase with cops that ended with him in handcuffs after crashing into a tree; Hannibal, a TV series that counts the seminal 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs as its antecedent, was canceled by NBC; and Jurassic World, the supersized sequel to 1993’s Spielberg classic Jurassic Park, made Indominus Rex meat of the movie box office for its second weekend in a row.
(The Diddy episode, of course, inspired Proustian flashbacks to his 1999 arrest while nightclubbing in New York City with J. Lo—an evening that ended in a hail of gunfire and led to J. Lo being thrust into the arms of another man, eventually ushering in the era of Bennifer. It also reminded us that Diddy’s ex-West Coast rival Suge Knight is also behind bars.)
And these were only the latest examples of ’90s recurrences.
In the cinema arena, July 3 will see the release of the clumsily-titled Terminator Genisys, which hopes to attract fans of James Cameron’s kickass 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and August will bring us a movie adaptation of R.L. Stine’s beloved series of children’s books, Goosebumps, starring Jack Black. There’s also Dope, Rick Famuyiwa’s throwback ode to ’90s rap and hip-hop fashion that’s now playing in theaters nationwide, and later this year we’ll see a star-studded sequel to 1996’s Mission: Impossible; Straight Outta Compton, a biopic on the rap group N.W.A. that disbanded in 1991; Everest, a film that recalls the Mt. Everest fever of the late ’90s, with 1997 tome Into thin Air and the 1998 early IMAX companion flick Everest; another Peter Pan flick, Pan, hoping to snare fans of Hook; and December is time for a remake of Point Break, as well as Creed, a biopic of the infamous Christian rock band (OK, just kidding—it’s a Rocky spinoff about Apollo Creed’s son, played by Michael B. Jordan.)
That only covers movies, which has nothing on television—a medium that’s got a fever, and the only prescription is repurposed ’90s programs.
Millennials lost their Lunchables this year when it was announced that Netflix would be airing a Full House spinoff series, led by original cast member Candace Cameron Bure, aka DJ Tanner.
It was the tip of the ’90s iceberg. Later this month, MTV is uncorking its new series Scream, based on Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher flick of the same name. Back in May, after several months of back-and-forth speculation, David Lynch announced that he was officially onboard for a Twin Peaks revival on Showtime. And on the subject of supernatural ’90s series that featured David Duchovny, The X-Files is shooting a six-episode miniseries this summer—with Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their roles as Mulder and Scully—that will air in January on Fox. If that weren’t enough, a new edition of The Magic School Bus is coming to Netflix; The Powerpuff Girls is returning to Cartoon Network; and a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers movie is to hit theaters in 2016. Hell, even Coach, with Craig T. Nelson as the tough-but-fair titular football coach, is being revived at NBC.
Still not convinced? Well, this week, the ’90s “supergroup”—and we’re using that term in the loosest way possible, people—of Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker, and Better Than Ezra released an earsplittingly awful single, “B.Y.H.B,” which stands for, of course, “Bring Your Hot Body.”
Oh, and also this week, the rapper and ripped underwear model formerly known as Marky Mark made headlines for joining the ’90s boy band New Kids on the Block on tour for the first time in 20 years.
On red carpets, young stars like Kendall Jenner and Miley Cyrus who were mere glints in the eyes of their parents having sex in the ’90s, are rocking the decidedly ’90s crop top, which for people of a certain age will bring back memories of Britney Spears strutting down locker-lined hallways in a schoolgirl outfit and Jennifer Love Hewitt dodging a man with a hook for a hand.
In addition to crop tops, the fashion powers that be have informed me that, during spring’s Los Angeles Fashion Week, the biggest thing to emerge was that fanny packs, a kangaroo-like zip-up storage pouch used by resourceful (and not-so-fashion-conscious) Americans traveling abroad in the ’90s, are staging a serious comeback. This apparently makes Matthew McConaughey ahead of the fashion curve for rocking a fanny pack last summer. Also in February, JNCO jeans, the high-waisted, wide-legged jeans rocked by sk8r bois who smoked on the corner, announced plans for a truly heroic second act.
But crop tops, fanny packs, and even JNCOs pale in comparison to the miraculous feat of ’90s-throwback fashion that Liam Hemsworth managed to pull off at March’s Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, for there, the Hunger Games star brought back the notorious middle-part haircut (otherwise known as the “butt cut”)—a gem of a hairstyle rocked by the likes of ’90s Tiger Beat cover boys Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Devon Sawa (editor’s note: please don’t let this be a thing.)
It’s not just popular culture, either. This month, Pepsi hinted that it may be bringing Crystal Pepsi—the crystal clear soft drink—back to grocery store shelves, and in February, Coca-Cola officially re-released its popular, carbo-loaded Surge drink into stores in the Southeastern U.S. as part of a test run.
Or if you turn on the news, you’ll see that the top presidential candidates on either side of the aisle have last names that sound awfully familiar: Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
So, why is this happening? The general cyclicality of trends aside, it seems as if many disillusioned millennials yearn for the halcyon ‘90s. It was, after all, a time of economic prosperity—a decade that saw six years in a row of fiscal improvement under President Bill Clinton (including the first U.S. budget surplus in 30 years), instead of the bleak, post-Dubya jobs landscape greeting twentysomethings today. It was also a simpler time before cellphones and the Internet invaded the public consciousness—a time when people did most of their conversing face-to-face, instead of through text messages, tweets, or emojis, and a time when if you made plans, you had damn well better stick to them lest you leave some poor, phone-less soul completely stranded.
It was, in short, a time of innocence; a feeling that a generation has been searching for ever since.