20 Funny Things People in the 1990s Were Totally Guilty of Doing
Sadly, we're all still recovering.
Everyone believes they grew up in the most interesting decade. But if you came of age in the 1990s, you really did. Furbies! McDonald's Szechuan sauce! "The Macarena!" Back-to-school bowl cuts! Yes, we're all still recovering. Sure, we don't get to choose when we're born, but we all still have choices to make. Let's revisit some of the most laughable decisions we made in the '90s, shall we?
Giving in to the Disney Vault craze
Your first encounter with the Disney Vault was probably in 1997, on the occasion of the 55th anniversary VHS distribution of Bambi. The release was promoted with an unsettling advertisement: images of Bambi frolicking in a thicket set to the ticking of a clock, and an anonymous voiceover urging the audience to purchase a copy of Bambi before it would be resealed in the Disney Vault "for years to come…" All of this concluded abruptly with the tolling of a bell that sounded not unlike a death knell, recalling the scene in which Bambi's mother is killed by a hunter.
If you were permanently traumatized by this commercial and quickly snatched up your copy, you're not alone. Yes, we all fell for the Disney Vault panic in the '90s. And you'll be happy (or maybe embarrassed) to know that Bambi will soon be available in perpetuity on Disney's forthcoming streaming service, Disney+.
Today, Lunchables, which first hit shelves in 1988, come in 26 flavors, including Breakfast Waffle & Bacon Dippers, Kabobbles, and Pizza Treatz (yes, that's the actual spelling). Throughout the entirety of the '90s, the simple crackers, cheese, and ham iteration sold like hot cakes, despite having little to no nutritional value. Nonetheless, we all ate them up.
Having a bowl cut
If you were a child, teen, or tween in the '90s, chances are high you had one of these haircuts. Just like their parents did with them in the '70s, '90s parents put bowls over their kids' heads and trimmed the excess hairs. And then, the "cool" thing to do was part the hair down the middle. The result was… Well, if you don't already have these tragedies committed to memory, it's best to keep it that way.
Doing "the Macarena"
To be fair, "the Macarena" never really died—and is in fact still played to this day at parties, weddings, sports games, and roller skating rinks around the country. But the song enjoyed its greatest popularity in the latter half of the '90s. In 1996, after the Bayside Boys remix of Los Del Río's dance track hit airwaves, it spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard's Hot 100 chart! Meanwhile, we were doing this dance anywhere and everywhere we could, without any shame.
Did you know the game of Pogs dates back to the roaring 1920s in Hawaii? According to Pogs: The Milkcap Guide, it was originally played using the caps of Haleakala Dairy's fruit juice blend of passionfruit, orange, and guava—hence the name "P.O.G." Historic as it may be, it doesn't make it OK just how obsessed '90s kids were with stacking up caps, knocking them down with "slammers" (which were just heavier caps), and counting the face-up chips to determine a winner. Also, can we talk about how morbid the caps' images were? Why did we like this game so much again?
Exclaiming "As if!"
This is what you said when your best friend ripped you off in a Pog trade, among other situations. (That gold slammer was pretty coveted, after all.) The phrase is a sterling example of "Valspeak," or "Valleyspeak," made popular by the 1995 film Clueless. And while we're at it, let us remind you that it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty.
Listening to "All Star" by Smash Mouth without a trace of irony
"All Star" has recently enjoyed a bit of a comeback, in part due to its association with Shrek (a frequently meme'd pop culture entity) and in part due to Smash Mouth's not infrequently viral Twitter account. For the most part, the ska-punk tune is played as a joke in karaoke rooms and at apartment parties. But, when it first graced our ears in May 1999, we ate it up without a hint of irony. Are we embarrassed? Hey now…
Betting it all on WordArt
A "WordArt" title instantly bestowed mystique to even the shoddiest of middle school essays. The tool had its limits, of course—not all school subjects were equally suited to the cheerful and enlivening effect. (Yours truly discovered this the hard way, in an 8th grade essay on the Trail of Tears.) But when it worked—as seen here—boy, did it work.
Hiding behind "It must not have saved!"
If you were a child of the '90s (or early 2000s), there's a good chance you carted your homework around on floppy disks; that way, you could work on assignments at home and at the school's computer lab. Or, you could use it as an excuse, i.e. "It must not have saved," the great nephew of "The dog at my homework" and the cousin of "My printer didn't work."
Here's how "It must not have saved" worked: You realized that your Trail of Tears essay was due the next day and not the following Monday (hypothetically, of course). You opened up Microsoft Word and saved a blank document to the floppy disk. Then, when you opened it at the computer lab at school, you yelped an Oscar-winning: "Oh no! There's nothing here! It must not have saved!" We're not proud of it, but it worked at the time!
Struggling with Clippy, the Microsoft Office Assistant
Clippit, or Clippy, was an interactive animated character that came preinstalled with Microsoft Office for Windows (1997–2003 version). If you used Word at any point in the late '90s, you probably met Clippy—and summarily lost your temper with him. (Sorry, Clippy.)
Dipping into McDonald's exclusive Szechuan sauce
Yes, we all crowded in for this 1998 Mulan tie-in. The collaboration between Disney and McDonald's was an effort to promote the movie's theatrical release, but some offensive advertisements led to the sauce being pulled early. Unfortunately for fans of the tangy condiment—albeit not the racially insensitive commercials and packaging that came with it—it took 20 years for the sauce to make a comeback. But if you remember its initial run in the '90s, you'll also recall the desperate attempts to get your nuggets in that delicious Szechuan dipping sauce.
Tearing up to "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day
If you graduated during any year at the tail end of the '90s, you probably did so to this song, which first hit airwaves on October 17, 1997, and was played essentially nonstop for half a decade after the fact. You also probably slow-danced to it at homecoming, listened to it when you were down, and played it at an open mic night two months after you started taking guitar lessons. For what it's worth, it was worth all the while.
Going to Blockbuster
Now that streaming platforms are king, the idea of Blockbuster seems, in retrospect, outlandish. Imagine if choosing what to watch on Netflix wasn't something you did on your couch, but rather in public, in full view of others. We made our choices—Wild Things, if mom wasn't looking—and we stand by them.
When Delilah Rene, colloquially referred to as just "Delilah," began her radio broadcast in 1996, people were desperate to talk to the radio DJ about their problems. Actually, airing your dirty laundry on national radio was almost as embarrassing as thinking you had a chance of doing so. Nearly 50,000 people still call into the Delilah show each night, but only 50-70 actually reach her.
Being tricked into a bad Pokémon trade
It's a trade every older (more knowledgable) kid "offered" to every younger (less knowledgeable) one: "I'll give you a fire energy for your shiny Charizard!" For those who didn't play Pokémon in the 1990s and might not grasp the egregiousness of this trade, know that, once upon a time, a shiny Charizard card sold for more than $10,000, according to IGN. That's how rare these were. Whether you were the older kid bamboozling a younger sibling, neighbor, or cousin, or you were the bamboozled, you probably don't feel great about it.
Using the pause trick in Super Smash Bros.
In 1999, video gaming forever changed with the release of Super Smash Bros., a fighting game for Nintendo 64 that pitted classic Nintendo characters—like Mario, Link, and Pikachu—against each other in a no-holds-barred melee. And if you played the game, you definitely used the "pause trick." The move was simple: You hit the pause button to freeze-frame the game and point out how "cool" your character looked. The fact that this move was only ever deployed when someone was losing badly? Yeah, we all overlooked that.
Contributing to the dot-com crash
After the success stories of Yahoo!, Lycos, and Excite, everyone and their brother started investing in internet companies, without regard for basic metrics of success and viability, such as, you know, profits.
We all know what happened next: When the bubble burst, and many of these companies went under, some had to liquidate everything they owned in order to offset losses. And we mean everything. As one person detailed to New York Magazine, in a 2006 article, Herman Miller Aeron office chairs—the unofficial throne of dot-com bubble office drones—started piling "up in a corner as a kind of corporate graveyard." Not our proudest moment.
Begging for a Furby
There's a lot of guilt surrounding Furbies, which are still sold on Amazon today. If you were a kid in 1998, you were probably guilty of demanding a Furby for Christmas. But a year later, Furbies were banned from NSA premises in Maryland, as they were suspected, per an internal memo, of containing recording equipment that could be used to conduct espionage. Who saw that coming?
Wearing light-up shoes
The original light-up shoes were L.A. Gear's L.A. Lights, which began distribution in 1992. During their approximate two-year run, L.A. Lights sold about five million pairs a year. Nicholas Rodgers, a Canadian inventor, came up with the design after equipping his children with light-up shoes to better see them while they played outside in the dark winter afternoons of northern Ontario. The rest of us can't really say we wore them for similarly practical reasons.
Copying Rachel's haircut from Friends
Though we now cringe at many aspects of Friends, there was a halcyon era where we all watched the show. The 2004 finale of the sitcom that defined the '90s brought in 52.5 million viewers. The series finale of Game of Thrones, by comparison, drew an audience of 19.3 million. And if you cut layers into your locks to emulate Rachel Green's (Jennifer Aniston) look, then we're sure you're still paying for it with cringeworthy photos and a still not-quite-even 'do. And for a look at the ridiculous fashion from the last decade of the 20th century, check out these 25 Things Cool People Wore in the 1990s.
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