The '90s in a nutshell

ARMY OF ME (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2012 - 12:00am

 From the crazy-credits opening sequence to the goofy, absurd ending, Detention is a time-tripping teen horror comedy brimming with retro references. The meta mashup movie, a favorite at this year’s SXSW film festival, follows a pastiche of students — or student archetypes — at Grizzly Lake High as they work their way through such tropes as the parking lot fist fight, the cafeteria shaming and the unsanctioned house party. That a knife-wielding serial killer was also on the loose — on those days leading up to prom — is a not-so-subtle wink-wink-nudge at the slasher genre of years past. In fact when viewed as both a love letter to and a critique of text- and tweet-addicted millennials, the hat-tips to Scream, Donnie Darko, Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, and Freaky Friday are positively on message.

Since nostalgia seems to work in 20-year cycles, it was only a matter of time before references to My So-Called Life, the Backstreet Boys, and Hanson became cool again. In an interview with Complex magazine, director and writer Joseph Kahn explains why he chose to filter Detention, which was completed in 2010, through the prism of the past. “The obvious approach would’ve been to go back to the ‘80s, because the ’80s are really hot. But as a music video director, one of the things I do is predict where trends are going next, and I know that the ’90s are coming up next.” As Taylor Fisher, Grizzly Lake’s resident mean girl, articulates in her visually resplendent “How Not To Be A Total Reject” montage, “The 90s are the new ’80s.”

‘Designing Like It Was 1995’

Cher’s saving herself for Luke Perry: Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz and Stacey Dash as Dionne in Amy Heckerling’s Clueless

As early — or late, depending on how you see it — as February 2009, the New York Times’ The Moment blog already detected the inevitable pivot. “Show after show this week in London, the YBDs (Young British Designers) were designing like it was 1995. Topshop’s Unique collection, in the hands of the stylist Katie Grand, mined the junkyard-rave aesthetic of the cult classic Tank Girl to mixed results. Charles Anastase’s ‘autobiographical’ collection paid homage to the unsung icons of grunge — think the DIY style of Kelley and Kim Deal, of the alt-rock band the Breeders.”  

To add to the momentum, MTV is resurrecting House of Style. The show, which ran from 1989 to 1999, was once hosted by supermodels Cindy Crawford, Rebecca Romijn, Shalom Harlow and Molly Sims, and gave viewers unprecedented access to models and designers. House of Style, slightly ahead of its time in recognizing the glorious juncture of pop culture where music intersected with fashion, was the first to employ designers as segment hosts, long before the advent of reality television. In 1993, for instance, a green-haired Todd Oldham appeared in Todd Time, in which he did “style in Hollywood with Debi Mazar, a New York girl who is far more glamorous than half the overdone women in L.A.,” according to a February 1993 Entertainment Weekly Q&A. 

Following a false start in 2009, when HoS was revived for one episode with Bar Refaeli as host and Chanel Iman as a correspondent, the network will present the new House of Style muse and presenter during the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards on September 6. The revitalized series is scheduled to air on October 9.

Recycled And Remarketed

For a true taste of mid-’90s fashion, music, and pop culture, however, you can’t beat Clueless. The classic was released in July 1995, making it 17 this year, around the age of its era-defining characters. Directed by Amy Heckerling, the film is a loose translation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma, and takes a look at the day-to-day life of Beverly Hills high schooler Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone).

You better work: To support the return of its ’90s show House of Style, MTV aired a documentary, House of Style: Music, Models, and MTV, that chronicles the legacy of the music-meets-fashion series. Its most popular host was supermodel Cindy Crawford.

As a fun tribute to the iconic flick, The Coveteur, a site that “takes you inside the closets of internationally influential cultural forecasters,” has featured Cher’s digitally organized — and totally fictional — wardrobe, “from her signature white CK slip to her legendary yellow plaid blazer/pleated skirt ensemble” by Jill Stuart. Observes The Coveteur: “What comes to mind is Céline Pre-Fall 2012, which is very reminiscent of Cher’s pinstripe school girl look; the knee-high socks from Miu Miu’s Pre-Fall 2010; Carven’s Fall 2011 grungy plaids and collared shirts.”

In 2011, Time magazine noted that the pace of ’90s references and revivals had somehow quickened. “But this new nostalgia wave is different. It’s hitting the very people who lived through it the first time.” As someone who spent his after-school hours watching now-classic Nickelodeon – Clarissa Explains It All, Legends of the Hidden Temple, The Adventures of Pete & Pete — I’m thrilled that the era that birthed my earliest pop culture touchstones is back in vogue. On the other hand, I also shudder at the possibility of Limp Bizkit, Sugar Ray and The Bloodhound Gang being recycled and remarketed back at me. Like I said — sigh — it’s only a matter of time.

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