Saturday, December 30, 2023

Lost Saturday Nights

Welcome to both the weekend and the end of 2023! Hard to believe it's finally over, but you made it through. Took long enough, I'd say. This has been a long one.

For this last post of the year, I wanted to take you through a real blast to the past all the way from 1997. Several people online have been kind of enough to upload entire TV blocks from the last time television was worth watching, and one of them includes the Snick (Saturday Nickelodeon) block from the 1990s. It includes their entire block, commercials and all, from a time when there was still cohesiveness left in the overall culture. You will get quite the culture shock watching this today, because it really does feel like it comes from another planet.

Clear one of your lighter weekends aside, and spend the Saturday night doing what so many millions did decades ago when they all watched the same thing. It's quite a trip seeing such a thing today.

So why did I choose to share this, never mind do so as the final post of the year? What relevance does it have now?

Truth be told, I wanted to highlight what it was Gen Y was watching back in the day and why they still pine for a time that is long gone and not coming back. and make no mistake, it was all primarily Gen Y kids who were watching this back then. Millennials were rug rats or toddlers in the late '90s and Gen X were already out in the world for years at this point, so none of what you see here is aimed at them. It is aimed at a specific demographic deliberately lost to time (though one that you can rediscover for yourself right now.) What you will also see here is the last wave of television programs with actual effort put behind them, because this is the last time anyone would think they should have to work to gather audience attention instead of coast of brand worship for over two decades. This is a peek into a strange window of a time that only existed for the briefest flicker of the past century, yet it has somehow lived rent free in a generation's head ever since.

I'm not sure it'll ever fully go away until Generation Y themselves are gone. This era simply impacted them too deeply.

Now, much of this could be just nostalgia worship, not unheard of for a member of Generation Y, as there is no shortage of such a thing rearing its head these days, but one viewing of even a segment of the above block will show you that it is more than that. There you will see the only thing Gen Y kids had for themselves: their entertainment.

Nickelodeon in the 1990s was a beast, as we've discussed before, and their success was no fluke or misplaced memory of how things were: there was a lot of effort behind the scenes to get things running. The commercials were the same. Effort was put across everywhere to make things come across so effortless. Though these are commercials, one can see by the energetic camera sweeps and angles, the dynamic music, and even various mediums from live action, animation, and even Claymation, on top of many other forms, that they meant business. Now if you look at a commercial it is the same rehashed State Farm one from twenty years ago only with quirky Millennial dialogue and winking humor that was tired back in the '00s. They truly don't make them like this anymore. To be honest, it's probably because they can't. A lot of this seemingly simple stuff is not being passed on and is falling into obscurity. Eventually we're going to have to reinvent the wheel, yet again.

But I digress.

You could be cynical about this old era and say such things were created purely for monetary gain and contained no artistry in them, and that would be fair to an extent, but that's underselling how much work was put into this stuff. They still had to use attractive aesthetics and elbow grease to get this stuff off the ground, and you can find no shortage of behind the scenes footage now that will blow you away with the amount of effort put in. Modern programming, but contrast, might as well be made by AI (and, honestly, probably already is) due to how lazy and predictable it has become. None of it carries over anything made back then.

What I'm saying is that I'm not just sharing this for nostalgic reasons. Though Nickelodeon would, in a few short years after this, fall off a cliff into mediocrity after handing the reins to weird perverts and suits that truly didn't care at all about anything but rehashes for an endless money pipeline, there is a reason its life up until the end of the 1990s engendered much respect from its audience. No one celebrates the Nickelodeon of today, not even they do, it is always the '90s that is remembered. Their entire image today is built upon your memories of the 1990s, for instance. That is how much they know they have little to offer otherwise.

Unfortunately, after being bought by Viacom in the mid-90s, the network slowly devolved to the point where it became a walking corpse of mediocrity and stale product. That is where it remained for around two decades, but it says a lot that those early years still are fondly remembered long after everyone stopped watching the network.

And long after kids stopped watching TV at all.

So what this post is meant to do is give you one last look at a time currently fading away into the past as we also move into a new era. We're about to leave the early 2020s for the mid-20s, closing in on 30 years from Cultural Ground Zero and wrapping up the epilogue of modernity. In a sense this is meant to put this rapidly disappearing era into context of where we are today.

Though I do believe there are clear examples of us finally moving out of this dead state, there is still much work to be done. Only by looking into and remembering that which worked in the past can we even hope to build something better to begin with. As mentioned above, I think we're on the road to doing just that now. It's only by recognizing where we've gone wrong that we can find the right point to build from again and start from there.

You might wonder why something as frivolous as children's television blocks and restaurants that had their peak a quarter of a century ago matter today, and I can tell you the simple reason why--everything matters. Not everything is the equivalent of the Berlin Wall falling or the Iraq War in how it affected world events going forward, but events that affect those on a personal level also affects how they will act in the future and who they will eventually become. Though their past was weaponized against the same generation in order to save Brand Names and corporations run by those who had nothing to do with any of said products' success in the first place, it doesn't change the fact that they were able to do this at all for a good reason.

Even more than aging Gen Y kids, it is the corporations that cannot risk having their customers forget the past. It is all they have left after spending two decades dismantling everything that built them up. They need these Pizza Hut Classics now because they have no future without them as all else melts into a generic grey goo nothingness. And even the more oblivious and out of touch executives have to know this by now.

That Gen Y still remembers so much of the entertainment they grew up with when most every other generation doesn't, is partially because theirs was made by craftsmen at the peak of their game using everything that came before them to make something fresh. It wasn't just one area of the world, either. Remember that the 1980s through 1990s was also the peak popularity period of Japanese anime which also cracked the market overseas for the first time before their bubble burst, not to mention this was when video games also broke out big in a way no one expected. It was also the last period the record industry had any relevance outside of psyop'd urbanite teenage girls (and wannabe urbanite teenage girls) and the last time the blockbuster movie could guarantee a huge return due to the ubiquitous nature of rentals as well cable airings pumped into their coffers, despite the clear overall drop-off in quality from the decade before. In other words, Gen Y still remembers what it was like, even when they were told they are remembering it wrong by those who should know better, and don't. They grew up in the best toybox the world has ever seen, and it's hard to put that aside now that the toybox is long since broken and left empty.

But, as has been pointed out before, we are at the end of the irony age, where Gen Y is now making the decision to finally be sincere for once or face the growing suicide rate that they currently lead in. This has been a long process of decay that's finally hit rock bottom. Remember also that Gen Y spent the 2010s destroying themselves. Now they are either waking up, or choosing to do the worst to themselves to avoid facing the truth of the situation. The toybox is not only gone, but it's all they have left. The only solution, therefore, is to build something better.

The 2020s, in other words, has to be the period in which Gen Y finally becomes the generation we need them to be. This is their last chance, and I think they all know it. It is truly do or die time. No longer can we afford to be the butt of a long-lasting joke by people who hate us. We need to put them aside and start building our own future.

My generation grew up with the greatest toys of all time, but we also grew up with the worst personal and spiritual life up to that point in modernity. We didn't know how to fill the void we were left with when the material world dumped us around the time 9/11 showed us that there was no promised Utopia of endless progress coming. This might be why so many Millennials might not realize just why the '00s was hated as much as they were. They weren't around to see the overnight switch from a hopeful future into a misery mire of poisonous vitriol that clung to our souls for the past two decades. So many of them think it was always this way, because it's all they've ever known, but it's not. We have to do more than just expect misery as the baseline.

Nonetheless, it continued like this for a long time. The future looked as bleak as the present was, and with the ever-common zipper blues and the growing destruction of cohesive communities through legalized vice and mix-and match replaceable population, you are left with no one to trust or believe in as the ceiling caves in on you. Where else was a Gen Y kid supposed to go in this bizarre wrong timeline they could never have possibly seen coming? So they hid in the corner with their toys. And that's where they've been holed up ever since.

But screaming about how you want to be left alone with your old toys is not going to save you from the people who abandoned you in the first place. And with the current meltdown of just about every entertainment industry, as less and less people partake in it, it appears that we are finally learning this truth. Those days are gone, and they're not coming back. We need to create better ones, ones built on more than the mistakes of the past.

Though there are still some signs we are trapped in a prison of our own making. Some of us simply do not want to leave the 20th century behind, and it shows.

There was a recent blowup on social media about a poorly made pinup calendar that was ferociously defended on the grounds that late '90s sexual morals is actually wholesome and pure and that anyone against it must be a prude who hates sex, or whatever lazy outdated cliché you can think of. They simply wanted to excuse vice through bad craftsmanship because they want to continue playing in that broken toybox. They cannot let it go.

The truth is that these Gen Y kids weren't just defending the poorly made calendar itself, they were defending their dead ideals and hopes of keeping performative Man Show parody masculinity alive, because it's all they know. They don't want to build a better future, they want to preserve the trotted parts of the past with everything else. Even now, so many of us live off dead stereotypes of the 20th century and think there is a future here. 

There isn't.

If you want to live in a healthy society, if you want to grow, and, most of all, if you finally want to move on from the ever-present ghost of the 20th century, you have to put the past where it belongs. This means building off what worked, discarding what didn't, and remembering what ideals and chosen paths lead to which end result. Those defending an awful calendar aren't doing that, they just want to be left alone with their old broken toys. Woe to those who call a spade a spade.

But if we're looking at the 20th century objectively, and where the populace is now. How they live off of sugar, alcohol, pills, and porn, in a world of alienation and atomization, then we can safely conclude this path led to where we are now and is a failure. Therefore, that is not what we should be looking to preserve from that time period. It is that simple. There is no argument here.

When you look at something like an old Nickelodeon block from ages ago, you do it to see what was there back then that isn't anymore. What was lost along the way, what can be salvaged, and what can be left to the mists of times. You do not mindlessly rehash it wholesale or throw it all away in the trash, because that is not how anything is built. The past is more than a freezer of dead memories to be thawed out and refrozen whenever you desire, and it is more than a skinsuit to be worn to manipulate others. It is a buried treasure chest that contains just as much gold as it does rusted pieces that didn't survive through the ages. That's just how it goes. It is up to us to parse through it.

Humanity is built on traditions carried forward just as much as it is on ideas tempered with over time. We do this to cast off what doesn't work while keeping what does. That is how we grow at all. The 20th century was defined by Doing The Opposite, and as a consequence, ended up being a failure overall. I'm pretty confident that we are now far enough removed from the era to finally reassess it as such. If we want to salvage that time as more than just a mistake worth burning to the ground then we are going to have to preserve the things that matter, and not continue on with old mistakes. A lot will have to be ejected before we can build right again.

We've long since passed the point where we can afford to keep traveling that dead end path. It's time to take from the past and build in the present for a brighter future. It is time for better ways.

As we head into 2024, and reach the mid-20s, let us finally make our mark on the present and build for the future. This time we'll do it right. I know we can.

Have a Happy New Years, and I'll see you in 2024!

Keep your chin up. Good things are on the way!

1 comment:

  1. It really is shocking that soon, the 20th century will have been over for 30 years. Yet no one can leave that cursed period behind.

    Most telling is that it's the self-styled Progressives who promised a shiny, sexy utopia who are perpetuating dead ideas from the past. What does socialism even mean when every government has been in bed with big business for decades? How can the secular Devil be a clear and present threat when he died in a bunker 80 years ago?

    Even the nerd lords of Silicon Valley, who promised us whiz-bang tech solutions to all our problems, can only mutter litanies to malfunctioning A.I. that's made the internet in 2023 less useful than in 1993.

    Meanwhile, nations our rulers dismiss as "Ten years behind us economically" and "a gas station run by peasants" are dealing us one humiliation after another on the global stage.

    The West is haunted by the ghost of the 20th century. Time for an exorcism.