Ruminating on the 500th episode of The Simpsons, in his latest Bleat, James Lileks writes:
I watched the 500th Simpsons last night, because it was the 500th episode. I suspect many tuned in, just to see what they’d do, or to have their suspicions reconfirmed, or see if Barney is drinking again. It made me nostalgic for the 90s, and I’m never nostalgic for the 90s.
(ten minutes thinking about the 90s)
It’s odd. The 90s were interesting. If there was a decade in my life I’d like to replay, that would be the one. The reason I have no nostalgia of the sorts you get for your teens and twenties is this: I was divorced from popular music. Not from popular culture, just the music. Early on in the 90s a switch flipped, and everything on the radio started to sound annoying or irrelevant, full of convictions I didn’t share. When that happens, memories lose their soundtracks. Maybe that’s it.
What were the sounds of the 90s? Here. I like quite a few. I remember listening to “All I Wanna Do” while watching the sun go down over Santa Monica Boulevard, which was a nice moment. I only remember “Buddy Holly” because the video came with a computer I bought. Otherwise, lots of songs whose artist had a made-up name with a hyphen, and “featured” two or three people of whom I was unaware.
I had the same reaction in the early 1990s to pop music’s change in tone as James did, but I attributed it to hunkering down in the business world, and turning my back for a time on a pop culture that I was previously saturated in. But in retrospect, while pop music was headed towards a blind alley back then, the movie industry had a pretty good run in the 1990s. On my shelves of DVDs and a few aging laser discs include the following titles from that era:
- The Crow
- Terminator 2
- Reservoir Dogs
- The Fugitive
- True Lies
- Groundhog Day
- Apollo 13
- Pulp Fiction
- Schindler’s List
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Toy Story
- Austin Powers
- Starship Troopers
- Men In Black
- Dark City
- The Matrix
Yes, there’s plenty of nihilism in there, and particularly in the case of JFK, plenty of Manchurian Candidate-level paranoia. But all in all, the 1990s was a pretty good decade for popcorn-style summer movies and entertainment, and Hollywood and movie theater owners were rewarded accordingly. In 1997’s Air Force One, Hollywood asked for a president (played by Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford) who was a Vietnam-era veteran who knew his way around the business end of a jet airplane, and took no guff from terrorists. Two years later, George Clooney made Three Kings, in which he called out George H.W. Bush for not removing Saddam Hussein and finishing the job in Iraq.
Be careful what you wish for…
By the end of 2004, Hollywood had been having collective paroxysms over just about each of the preceding years’ big events. “For activist and professional Democrats, the most ignominious day in their collective political lives” wasn’t 9/11, but an event that occurred in the previous year, Daniel Henninger wrote in the Wall Street Journal last September: the Florida presidential recount. “The 2000 election ended only when the Supreme Court resolved it in favor of George Bush. Republican and independent voters moved on, but many Democrats never did; they were now being governed by an illegitimate president.”
Add that to their freakouts over Iraq and the War on Terror, and President Bush winning reelection in 2004, and you had a movie industry that was now essentially making movies for themselves, rather than trying please the box office. And the audience — or the lack there of — knew it.
Which brings us to Bill Whittle’s new video above: yes, Han shot first. And yes, he was absolutely right to do so. But as George Orwell once said:
Actually, however, the avoidance of reality is much the same everywhere, and has much the same consequences. The Russian people were taught for years that they were better off than everybody else, and propaganda posters showed Russian families sitting down to abundant meal while the proletariat of other countries starved in the gutter. Meanwhile the workers in the western countries were so much better off than those of the U.S.S.R. that non-contact between Soviet citizens and outsiders had to be a guiding principle of policy. Then, as a result of the war, millions of ordinary Russians penetrated far into Europe, and when they return home the original avoidance of reality will inevitably be paid for in frictions of various kinds. The Germans and the Japanese lost the war quite largely because their rulers were unable to see facts which were plain to any dispassionate eye.
To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.
And to add to what Bill reminds his viewers of near the end of his video, Lucas considers an ally of the Soviet Union to be the good guys in Star Wars, and America the baddies. Just ask him.