Full House. Baywatch. The O.J. Simpson trial. The X-Files. Independence Day. Gilmore Girls. Mystery Science Theater 3000.
What do all these ‘90s staples have in common? Besides the fact that every person should experience all of these movies/TV shows at some point in their life?
They are all getting rebooted or have already been brought back to life in some way, shape or form. It may be 2016, but '90s fodder is the hottest thing right now, and TV networks and movie studios are scrambling to bring back the good ol' days. According to Den of Geek, there are over 100 movie remakes and reboots currently in the works, and a large percentage of them fall right between 1990 and 2000. And you can't flip on your TV without seeing something about Fuller House, The People v. O.J. Simpson or some other small screen ode to the ‘90s.
The buzz around these projects often reach supernova levels, and the more people want something, the more Hollywood will give it to us until we drown in nostalgia. What's the deal with this recent surge of ‘90s love? Will it ever stop? And is there something about the ‘90s in particular that has led to a proverbial assembly line of film and TV reboots?
To get some answers, we talked to Dr. Jean Twenge, professor of Psychology at San Diego State University and author of Generation Me. In short: nostalgia is an extremely powerful selling tool, and millennials are craving it more than ever before.
"Every generation seems to long for their childhood and revels in the nostalgia of the pop culture of that time," Twenge explains. "Boomers did this for the ‘60s, GenX for the ‘80s. Remember the VH1 show I Love the ‘80s that was popular about 10 years ago? Nostalgia is a powerful connection to a time when things at least seemed more innocent and simple."
20th Century Fox
While every generation will always long for their childhood days, it appears that the millennial generation is having a tougher time letting go of what they felt growing up in the ‘90s.
"The nostalgia for the ‘90s might be particularly strong for the Millennials, however. The ‘90s were, arguably, the last good decade—the last time the economy was doing pretty well and the last time we weren't worrying about terrorism," she tells us. "Many Millennials experienced a ‘90s childhood of peace and prosperity, only to enter adulthood during the Great Recession. It's like someone baited and switched them. So going back to the ‘90s seems especially appealing to them. It was a safe and prosperous time as well as being colored with the usual nostalgia of childhood."
The WB/ Ron Batzdorff
Because millennials are so desperate to cling to the feeling of that particular decade, Dr. Twenge expects that this wave of sentimental reboots will probably get bigger before it finally crests and crashes.
"Given these factors, I expect the nostalgia over the ‘90s to last even longer than, for example, GenX nostalgia over the ‘80s," Twenge predicts. "I think studios (and perhaps toy companies) have a great opportunity to tap this nostalgia, particularly if it focuses on the peace and prosperity of the era, and on shows and products that were popular with kids at the time. Those kids are now Millennial adults who are still somewhat surprised to find themselves without the bright, safe futures they imagined for themselves when growing up in the ‘90s. They love the idea of recapturing that time, even if it's just through an escapist TV show."
We assume there will eventually be backlash to all these throwback projects. That's the cycle of Hollywood. Consumers love something. Hollywood gives it to them in droves. Consumers become sick of it, complain and then move on to find something else to love. Repeat.
Until the inevitable '90s revamp backlash, let's just celebrate the fact that we live in a world where we have more cheesy sitcoms, more ridiculous action movies and more classic cartoons. Hello, childhood...oh, how we have missed you. Don't leave us yet.