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15 '90s Pop Culture Phenomenons Every Parent Has To Explain To Their Kids

It seems like yesterday everyone was talking about Elian Gonzalez and wondering what the new millennium would be like. I hate to burst your bubble, but 1990 was 26 years ago and '99 was 17 years ago. I know, I know — that can't possibly be right, but it is. Somehow all those major moments that defined the decade of Generation X didn't occur "just a few years ago." They're taking their rightful place in the history books. That's why it might feel odd that there will be '90s pop culture phenomenons every parent has to explain to their kids.

You already know that your kids are going to have a hard time believing that you grew up in a house with only one computer, a dial-up modem, a land line, and that social media and the internet were barely in their infancy. So good luck trying to explain some of the events of the '90s that took pop culture by storm, but now seem a little bizarre in retrospect.

If you're having a little trouble dusting the cobwebs off those decades-old memories of news that made the headlines back in the day, then check out these '90s pop culture phenomenons you'll need to explain to your child one day.



This one might not be too hard to explain. You could always compare the Y2K phenomenon to the people you see on shows like Doomsday Preppers nowadays. If don't really remember the Y2K hype, people were concerned that technology — and consequently the ability to communicate, conduct business, and power cities — would have a major glitch and shut down. Why? Because computer programmers speculated that electronic systems would process '00 as 1900, not 2000 and thus some computers wouldn't be able to complete their functions. Thankfully everyone survived even if that meant you endured a couple bruises while fending off crowds and stocking up on Spam, Twinkies, and bottled water at the grocery store


Girl Power

The Spice Girls were in and of themselves a phenomenon, but the movement they helped spearhead is what inspired females of every age to embrace "Girl Power." From the Lilith Fair to the underground scene of the Riot Grrrls, it was an exciting and exhilarating time to be proud of being a woman.



What your away message said on your AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) said a lot about your personality and mood. An all black background with red text meant you probably shopped at Hot Topic and frequenting Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JTT) fan chatrooms meant you most likely collected every poster from Tiger Beat.


Boy Band Battles

There were straight up rivalries between kids and friendships that ended over declaring which boy band they pledged allegiance to. It was a Backstreet Boys vs. N'SYNC showdown. I'm not kidding. I remember two girls getting in a vehemently heated argument and listing all the reasons why N'SYNC was better than the Backstreet Boys. Did anyone even like 98 degrees, O-Town, or LFO?



If you weren't at home, then you were probably at your friend's house right after school to make sure you didn't miss Carson Daly on Total Request Live (TRL). Not only did TRL have all the major stars, but you also got to watch exclusive world premieres of music videos. And if you kid asks what music videos are, just remind them that MTV used to have programming dedicated solely to them.


All The "Dope" Lingo & Quotes

From Urkel's infamous, "Did I do that?" to the poor senior citizen who called out, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!" there were plenty of TV and commercial quotes that seemed to be everywhere. Not to mention movies like Clueless launching iconic '90s lingo like, "As if," "Audi," "Monet," and "Wiggin'," into the pop culture lexicon.


The 'Titanic' Craze

After the world was introduced to future heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet, the craze hit a fever pitch when the classic tale of Jack and Rose's tragic love story was told in 1997's Titanic. Your child might think that this would be a film just for history buffs, but they'd be wrong.


The "Rachel"

You probably know at least one person who got the Friends-inspired hairdo known as the "Rachel" in the '90s. You most likely have pictures of them, too, in case you need to blackmail them for some reason. For reasons still unknown to many, Jennifer Aniston's character on Friends, Rachel, created a hair trend that dominated pop culture.


Weird Food & Drinks

From Crystal Pepsi to purple ketchup, the decade of the 1990s seemed fixated on bringing oddly colored or even clear food and beverages to the masses. For the over 21 crowd, there was also the Zima fad and kids couldn't get enough of the supercharged neon soda, Surge.


The Electronic Toy Explosion

Sure, Beanie Babies and American Girl Dolls definitely had their moment, but they couldn't hold a candle to the frenzied obssesion people had with electronic toys. Furby, Tamagotchi, GameBoy, and more were definitely a major fad in '90s pop culture phenomenon history.


The Dancing Baby

You could say this was the original "viral" meme or the granddaddy of all GIFs, but no matter how you slice it, the vaguely creepy "Dancing Baby" had everyone talking. Just look it up on YouTube, press play, and back out of the room as your kid stares in confusion at this weird phenomenon.


JNCO Jeans & Popcorn Shirts

Some fashion trends from the '90s were popular enough to make a comeback in recent years, like choker necklaces, overalls, and baby-doll dresses. Yet some styles made a splash for all the wrong reasons. From cartoonishly large JNCO jeans to Popcorn shirts, kids might have a hard time understanding how these were ever a thing.


East Coast vs. West Coast

Though a bit of rivalry still exists today, nothing compared to the super intense and eventually tragic battle between East Coast and West Coast rap. The Notorious B.I.G. (or Biggie Smalls) was king of the East Coast and Tupac Shakur ruled the West Coast.


The Original "Found Footage" Film

Movies like Cloverfield, Quarantine, and the Paranomal Activity franchise pretty much owe everything to the original found footage film, The Blair Witch Project. I distinctly remember leaving the theater not quite sure if what I just watched was real or not.


Songs With Their Own Distinct Dances

Though your child is most likely to hear these songs at wedding reception, some of these hits launched '90s dance phenomenons, with songs like, "Macarena," "C'mon Ride It (The Train)," and "Tootsee Roll." Who can forget the Cabbage Patch, The Running Man, or MC Hammer's moves?