OJ. The world as it is. Speeds are very slow on the web. I think about the 1990s as a different world, but at the same time, they are very familiar.
But what was it like to live through the 1990s? He spent his pandemic trying to figure that out. His new book, The Nineties, takes readers on a fast-paced tour of what might be the last decade that felt like a decade. It’s called “The Nineties.”
Chuck told us about the 1990s.
During the 1990s, many shows were set in coffee shops.
In the ’70s and ’80s, there was this type of bar for single people. People who were single went to a club or bar called the Regal Beagle on the show Three’s Company. When they weren’t at home, they went there to meet other people, like at a club or a bar.
It was a bad idea by the 1990s. I think the idea of a coffee shop was a less-charged, less-sexualized version of the culture of a night club. Some of it had to do with the fact that Starbucks became this important thing that you could find anywhere and that was also successful. That made it clear how young people lived. What is interesting about a show like Friends, for example, is that the coffee shop is the main setting. So, what’s interesting about the Central Perk coffee shop in that show is that it isn’t like any other coffee shop that’s ever been. It’s not a chain, it’s not cool, it’s big, and it seems to run on the idea that a coffee shop is just a restaurant with no food. There’s no other meaning to it. In this case, there’s an important message about how corporations can use their power for their own good. As a result, the characters become very cool. That’s not the same thing, though, because they want to make a show that people can relate to. That’s what they did. They made this coffee shop that didn’t exist in the ’90s. It didn’t even exist in New York, or anywhere else at any time. In this case, it is the most common idea of a coffee shop, and you can set a TV show there because it can be about anything you want.
Yes, but could the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been made in the ’90s?
Some people thought that independent films would become the centre of film culture because they were made by directors in the ’70s and movies were made on films. You move into the ’80s, and it becomes more of a medium for making things for other people. They asked, “What is a formula that works, who are bankable stars, and how much money do we spend to make sure that even if everything goes wrong, we’ll still make money?” They made movies.
If you have credit cards and don’t have $25,000, you can make a movie for less than that. You can also make a movie that looks as good as a studio film, or at least close to it. So it looked like film was going back to where it was in the ’70s. Then Titanic came out, and it changed everything.
Even James Cameron didn’t see it coming. And that changed movie culture a little bit to how it was in the 1980s in some ways. That’s when we start to see the idea of a Marvel universe, as well as how practical it is to make movies that are mostly about building a world. We learn everything we need to know about a character and a villain the first time they’re shown.
You have to write a book. What did Chuck think about when he asked this question?
I have to stay the same person after I write a book, because the book won’t change. A 29-year-old version of me that I don’t know very well anymore reads my previous books.
It’s not like it’s fake, because that was real when I wrote it. I just have to accept that I can’t change my work. It will be more uncomfortable for me to change the more I do. At the same time, I don’t want to stop changing as a person. People who wrote my first book are now strangers to me.
Make a time capsule for our alien overlords from the 1990s. The US government put you in charge of making the time capsule. What would you do with it?
Great, but not because I have a great answer for you. For this reason, I don’t need to. Everything from the ’90s is still there. We haven’t thrown anything away. We don’t need a time capsule because we live in a world where everything that has ever happened still exists in some way for us, except for the things that we have literally forgotten. The time capsule from the ’90s is probably the world we’re living in right now. We open it up every day, but it’s still there.