Now that we have finally engaged full-throttle into 1980s retro, I have to wonder: is our current fervent embracing of that decade proof positive that retro is on its last leg?
Even while the decade was still alive and kicking, I had a theory about the 1990s: that it would be one of the least retro-ready decades ever. I see the past few decades in a structure similar to that of my second-grade spelling book: four fresh units with a review chapter. In this analogy, the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties all represent distinct eras with separate attitudes about conformity, dress, pop culture, politics, etc. The 1990s, on the other hand, is the review chapter: a decade so retro-referential that future generations will be hard-pressed to find anything truly original about it. What is the 1990s currently known for? Grunge, hip-hop, Monica Lewinsky and a shitload of retro crazes. Hardly the stuff of songs by Bowling for Soup.
I remember exiting 1999 with the feeling that the past 10 years had been kind of a cultural waste on a large scale. Any decade that brought us the Spice Girls, Britney Spears and NSYNC as cultural icons did bring along a sense of happy vapidity. I guess that was an unintended effect of the Clinton boom. Funny how those things work.
As I sit here typing this toward the end of 2004, I now realize how much I miss that silly decade. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this decade is utterly irredeemable and worthless. I have no doubt in my mind that this decade will not be remembered for its music, movies, fads or pop culture. Instead, it'll be remembered for its politics--The Decade of Terrorism. The decade when humanity took a backseat to aggressive action. The decade that people embraced Godly principles by adopting the most animalistic modes of vengeful behavior. The decade when hypocrisy became not only acceptable, but legitimate. The decade in which the changing of one's mind became inextricably linked with complete moral weakness. The decade that proved, once and for all, just how fervently people will lie to themselves in order to preserve the illusion of the abstract idea of "freedom."
We have five years left of the Bush Decade. Hopefully, future historians will judge this decade without the rose-colored lenses they currently wear. So let's make the best of what's left!