Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > The 1990s was Last Great Decade for People Living in USA and West: 1

The 1990s was Last Great Decade for People Living in USA and West: 1

Here is a series I first contemplated writing about five years ago, though the core idea occurred to me a bit before that and in an unexpected place. See.. spending too much time looking at the less frequented parts of the internet often results in me noticing unusual correlations, trends and patterns which escape the attention of most people. About seven years ago, I was going through a newsgroup about new large architectural projects all over the world and noticed an odd trend. Increasingly the most interesting and large building projects in the world were in Asia, not North America or Europe. Some of you might attribute this to Asia finally catching up to the West, and initially considered that possibility. Then I noticed something else.. most of the few large building projects in the West were increasingly way over budget and took far longer than expected. More interestingly, the results were usually of poor quality and full of poor design choices.

And then I started noticing this same basic trend in many other areas, from drug discovery and computer technology to video games, movies and music. It was as if the past 15-20 years have been one continuous blur of stagnation if you were living in USA or any other western country. Some of you might say that smartphones, “machine learning” and other assorted bullshit is a sign of progress. But is it really? Think about it.. Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile could be used to browse the web, check email, play games, watch movie clips, take photos, utilize GPS and many more things almost 20 years ago. The biggest “advance” smartphones represent is that they are permanently connected to high-speed cellular networks because data rates are now very low. Has all that hype about “machine learning”, “deep learning” and “AI” translated into any worthwhile improvement in your quality of life? Can you think of a counter example?

While I would like to start this series by talking about how technology has stagnated, a better (more popular) place to start would be how cultural products has either stagnated gotten worse. While trends in music and video games will be addressed in subsequent posts, we will focus on trends in films and TV in this post. But before we go there, let us first define the 1990s. In my opinion, the 1990s began on December 26, 1991 and ended on September 11, 2001 though it kinda dragged on until August 31, 2005. The period between those dates was the last time the west (especially USA) was dominant and relatively prosperous. As you will see, these dates define that decade in many fields. It is as if this time-span was the last hurrah for the western socio-economic model including neo-liberalism (and neo-conservatism).

Now let us get back to the main focus of this post, namely the almost complete stagnation of creativity in western films and TV shows (including online offerings). Here is a question- Do you remember any film or TV show released within the past 15 years that was not a direct derivative of something released earlier? Do you remember anything financially successful or unsuccesful that was not a direct derivative of something from before 2006? But why does this matter? Well.. because almost decade in the century before 2006 witnessed multiple major new trends that were not a direct derivative of something from the past one. To be fair, some of it was due to technological advances and changes in social mores. But much of it was driven by people experimenting with new ways to present novel material. Confused? Let me explain..

Consider the 1920s, with german expressionist cinema (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Pre-Code Hollywood movies, Russian Cinema (Battleship Potemkin, October). Can anybody deny that these represented new ways of making and editing films, not to mention the fact that they tackle hitherto untackled subject matter- at least in cinema. Or take the 1930s with its classic monster movies, Hollywood musicals, Disney Cartoons, Leni Riefenstahl’s documentaries etc. The 1940s had Film Noir and other memorable movies such as Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, Casablanca etc. To be clear, I am not suggesting that previous decades were full of good, let alone original, movies. But it is clear that every decade in the century prior to 2006 saw the emergence of new and influential trends in cinema. However, we haven’t really seen anything similar occurring in the past 15 years.

The 1960s had tons of new trends, as did the 1970s. Even the 1980s had their new trends from low-budget horror movies to summer action blockbusters. There was much innovation in western cinema for a century before 2006. But the something, or more than one thing, happened western cinema became boring, repetitive and (most importantly) forgettable. I have briefly touched on some of these issues in my post about the current rash of film remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels and I sort of started talking about this topic in a post a few months ago– but never got around to building on it. And yes, I am aware that there are broader sociological trends at work. But whichever way you try to explain, it is hard to argue that the past fifteen years saw the alsmot total stagnation of creativity in western cinema and TV shows.

Don’t believe me? Well.. here are some facts. Most of the LOTR trilogy was filmed in New Zealand between October 11, 1999 and December 22, 2000, and the first movie in that series came out on November 20, 2001. The first X-men movie was released on July 14, 2000. The first film in the highly successful Spider Man franchise came out on May 3, 2002. The Matrix was released in 1999, as were the following important movies: Star Wars: Episode I, Office Space, Election, The Mummy, American Pie, The Blair Witch Project, The Sixth Sense, The Green Mile, Fight Club, American Beauty, Sleepy Hollow and many more. 1998 saw the release of important movies such as The Truman Show, Armageddon, Deep Impact, 1998 version of Godzilla, The Big Lebowski, Wild Things, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and many more.

The first Austin Powers movie came out in 1997, the first Jurassic Park in 1993. The first Scream movie came out in 1996 and the first I Know What You Did Last Summer in 1997. The first Toy Story came out in 1995 and the first Shrek movie in 2001. Can you think any equivalents in post 2005-era? Oh, and even the 40-year-old virgin came out in 2005. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy came out in 2004. Superbad was filmed in 2006 and had been under development since 2000. Once again, I could keep going on and on- but you get my point. Pretty much every single major movie released in past 15 years can with very few exceptions directly trace its roots to the pre-2005 era. In the next part of this series, I will show how that the same is true for TV shows including their streaming variants. We will also start going into why this major socio-cultural-economic shift (aka stagnation) began in earnest around the mid-2000s.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Gern Blanderson
    January 27, 2020 at 5:49 am

    We are in the golden age of entertainment options today. The best it has ever been. I will agree with your premise that movies have stagnated, but entertainment and options have exploded and are better than ever. We have streaming music, video games, streaming TV, internet and more options to entertain than ever before. Movies are just one component of this, but movies are going away the same as when America passed thru from the radio show era of the 1930s and 1940s and ushered in the TV era.

  2. January 27, 2020 at 11:31 am

    I think it’s interesting how The Matrix had a chance to choose an arbitrary future date as “the peak of civilization”, but they just left it at 1999. I also heavily agree with you on technological advancement as well. It’s wild to me that we landed on the Moon in the 60’s and honestly I don’t think we’ve moved that much further from that point at least in regards to the exponential increases tangentially implied by Moore’s Law.

    As for Moore’s Law, I’ve heard that silicone transistors may be approaching full capacity and we need to find a stronger material to enable further development. The last good TV shows we’ve had were Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Art is downstream from the culture. It’s obvious you’re on to something here.

  3. hoipolloi
    January 27, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    Porn is the next frontier in entertainment. It will take a few decades for the remaining prudishness to wash off and introduce porn in the mainstream.

    • P Ray
      January 28, 2020 at 1:41 am

      Traci Lords was in Wing Commander, Sasha Grey has gone mainstream.

      Of course, if you are a tall girl in porn like 5ft 10in Zoe Voss / Melissa Kimbro (also in America’s Next Top Model where you MUST be at least 5ft 7in … and in America the average female height is 5ft 3in) … good luck, except in Star Wars (5ft 11in to be a Storm Trooper).

      Tough if you’re tall and a woman. Maybe that’s why the biggest names in porn are short or even spinners – women smaller than men have the greatest pool of suitors to choose from BUT they really look ridiculous especially when she’s 4ft 11in but needs a 6ft 3in man to “make her feel like a woman”.

      VR porn is probably going to be more mainstream. Because it’s more discreet.

    • godot
      January 29, 2020 at 9:12 am

      3DCG porn is pretty great.

  4. January 27, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    One thing that seems to have killed rock music was computer production. In the 1990’s you still had somewhat “live” performances. There was always studio trickery and things like bringing in session musicians to polish things up. But then you had things like auto-tune and beat detective where every drum hit is locked to a grid. It might clean up some sloppiness but it also took away some feeling. I wonder if there is any correlation between this and CI in films, the timeframe seems similar…

  5. Jack Sparrow
    January 28, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Everything traces back to mass immigration. The early 1990s didn’t see such huge massive waves of immigration or H-1B Indians taking away jobs from Americans and turning towns into segregated Little Indias or Little Mogadishu. The massive wave of migrants in the West then pushed for “diversity is our strength” initiatives and the advent of the social media and electronic tools like the smartphone to amplify these thoughts caused all these industries (tech, hollywood) to play into the identity politics that have brought about their demise.

    • Jack Donovan
      January 28, 2020 at 3:26 pm

      Another Jack, man you are soooo right! Those H1B Hindu Muffins took my spot at the local porn theatre (spelled like olde English to make me appear almost 100 IQ points on the Steve Sailer IQ test!) Now when AD thinks a beautiful woman is licking his little luv worm, its another H1B and not yours truly.

      I know his is the phantasy…

      https://images.app.goo.gl/98at1hCQxoCbiyPk8

  6. BlacquerThanU
    January 28, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    dude! u HAVE TO give us your views on the coronavirus! Isn’t that kinda stuff your specialty in your field of work (or at least to some degree)? Should we be worried or is it likely to just mutate into nothingness? Is China lying about the numbers (seeing Wuhan empty in videos is worrisome to me)?

    • P Ray
      January 28, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      China is definitely lying about the numbers.

      When junior researchers discovered the virus, they were censored and told they could be arrested.

      They had to invite a SARS-era professor to validate their findings and present them to get around the government censorship.

      Also, the Communist party put politicians in charge of their bioweapon/”research” facility in Wuhan … not healthcare professionals with job experience.

      All of this was documented in a Hong Kong article, that is now unreachable because of China’s “one country two systems” …

      but in reality, anything that shows up the leadership to be stupid or only concerned with looking smart, damn the reality. It’s actually “one country one system” … because nobody is going to step in front of the Chinese government to say they’re lying.

      The other aspect of the concealment is because China is important, both in the UN Security Council AND the World Health Organisation … which is why the SARS-era professor was needed … he lent credibility to the censored researchers.

      Also proving another point:

      Your qualifications mean NOTHING if influential people don’t trust or respect YOU.
      On the other hand … YOU DON’T NEED QUALIFICATIONS … IF influential people trust and respect you.

  7. hoipolloi
    January 28, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    Mass immigration is perhaps the main cause for a big decline in American public life since the 1990s. It is caused by the mass greed of U.S. corporations who would not hire locals and always look to pay a few dollars less to people from third-world countries. If that is not possible, they would send the jobs off-shore. The decision makers in the Congress did not stop this in time. A gentle note to fellow Americans, many non-European immigrants are not happy either with this situation. They too are in fear of being replaced by graduates who are fresh off the boat and loss of Western values in the society.

    • Rick Rotor
      January 28, 2020 at 6:40 pm

      The 1990s was a great era simply because mass immigration from non-Western countries wasn’t a big issue. Now, San Francisco is unrecognizable with all the Indians and Chinese around everywhere. Muslim populations from the third world have sky rocketed in America. You can’t go to a Texas town or a National Park without seeing massive number of fresh off the boat H-1B Indians congregating everywhere. With the push of immigration, industries now cave to please these new customers. Hence, everything is now become about identity politics. Even the Blacks have joined into this shenanigans. That’s why, Hollywood makes comic hero movies, and music is no longer “American Folk style”, but more, immigrant friendly bad English crap!

    • P Eay
      January 28, 2020 at 7:07 pm

      What you’re really talking about only negatively affects MALES.

      Women can and do trade their pussy everywhere for special treatment AND as long as the economy is good OR money can be printed without adverse effect (since everybody else holds debt in US dollars AND don’t want to see the value of that debt fall, they will either ignore the extra dollars in circulation OR devalue their own currency) … that will continue.

      Enjoy dat “female empowerment” that both allows them to choose poorly AND finances their irresponsibility.

  8. abprosper
    January 28, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    The 90’s were the last great decade because the USA still had a recognizable and functional culture and the fragmentation the internet creates most as a defense an insane culture does not make for a socially pleasant to live. Its bad enough the US birth rate is at an all time low and trending down to Russia in the 90’s level with increasing mortality

    In terms of human happiness the Internet is if anything a net minus as the bulk of humans of all types would be better served by being around other living humans. In essence it allows us to function better in a damaged society. People going to pubs and hanging with friends makes for a better society.

    I always wonder why people insist on assuming more tech will always make life better?
    In real terms once you have material security, comfort , a bit of luxury and if you have good health, you’ll quickly reach the point where you don’t need and can’t benefit from more.

    Now sure a radical extension of human lifespan and medical tech improvements would be welcome but beyond that, meh.

    People compensate with virtue signalling and status whoring/competition which ends up making everything worse.

    Get rid of that and people die off in the mouse utopia so my guess is that humanity will end up having to wreck it all .

    Note that this is rare knowledge, the Matrix film call it out directly. Its just an impossible to fix.

    For the US there are two simple reasons nothing can be fixed as is. some of it is actual policy differences but bulk of it is money. As soon as meaningful change is tried, anyone with a vested interest buys off the political classes or puts unlimited sums of money into the hands of someone who will do their bidding. Money needs to no longer be speech.

    A caveat re: the US. Its not coming back period and will be lucky to survive a couple of more decades intact. The caveat to that is that if 40-50 million people are repatriated and all immigration especially cheap labor ended, the US while it won’t spring back can buy itself a few more decades,maybe a century or so in some recognizable form.

    This would probably require an authoritarian, ultranationalist state run by people impervious to rule by the monied classes as well as new Constitution and an interregnum of 20-40 years with no elections., The US need Putin On Roids basically.

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