Everything I know I learned from ’90s pop culture

Allan Lamb

I, like many my age, consider myself a child of the ’90s.”

I remember when Bill Clinton was elected, and before that when the USSR broke up into a bunch of little countries I still don’t know all the names of. I remember the abrupt shift in obsession from Ninja Turtles to Power Rangers.

I learned what cholera is and the difference between “diseased” and “deceased” from playing “Oregon Trail.” I learned that there are such things as Creole food and an activity called spelunking from playing Where in the “World is Carmen San Diego?”

Jurassic Park taught me everything I know about dinosaurs and genetic engineering. The “G.I. Joe” crew taught me what to do when a kitchen fire gets out of hand, a friend gets a bloody nose, when powerlines fall down and when I’m approached by strangers in red Econoline vans. I had to clean up several messes in the kitchen after attempting to repeat a science experiment I learned from Bill Nye or Mr. Wizard.

Computer games, movies and television taught me much more than how-to’s and information. I learned some pretty high-concept things.

I remember hearing the announcement of Kurt Cobain’s death and somehow understanding, but not completely knowing, its significance. Also, like many my age, I learned the meaning of irony from Alanis Morissette. However, like Cobain’s death, I understood irony long before I learned to articulate it. The earliest instance of irony I recall encountering was in a cartoon series I watched every Saturday morning: “The Real Ghostbusters.”

I remember knowing that these Ghostbusters weren’t real; they were cartoon characters. I knew that the “real” Ghostbusters were Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, so I figured the title of the cartoon was some type of joke. I saw the intentional disconnect between the name and the named, and, being a kid, I accepted it for what it was.

The first time I recall discussing irony directly was in my high school freshman English class. I, along with my classmates, learned that the concept Alanis explained to us through a song could also be found in the works of Shakespeare. Recalling this class, I remember the grade I received: a D.

That 15-year-old who didn’t care for reading or writing is now a 23-year-old, weeks away from graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in English. Isn’t it ironic?

Contact all editor Allan Lamb at [email protected].