Rebecca Schuman | Longreads | March 2018 | 9 minutes (2,305 words)

The ’90s Are Old is a Longreads series by Rebecca Schuman, wherein she unpacks the cultural legacy of a decade that refuses to age gracefully.


After Richard Linklater’s Slacker became an unexpected box-office hit in 1991, every major studio in the United States dropped untold amounts of money trying to clone its success — that is, to duplicate a film that cost $23,000 to make and whose entire raison d’etre was that it did not care about success.

Some offerings, such as Cameron Crowe’s Singles (1992), succeeded in spite of their own distributors’ low expectations. Others, such as then “indie comic” (!) Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites, succeeded in spite of, or probably because of, their own craven cynicism. (There was also Threesome, Lord help us all.) These films relied, without exception, on two crucial tropes:…

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