When Blockbuster recently closed its remaining 300 locations, cinephiles everywhere mourned the loss of those blue-and-yellow polos, Nerd Ropes, and that creaky metal flap that welcomed overnight returns. Fittingly, one ironic customer decided to lament the video behometh’s death knell by renting Seth Rogen’s apocalyptic comedy, “This is the End’’ — the last video ever checked out at Blockbuster. Like corporate bookstores — which are suffering their own slow demise — Blockbuster was once considered an unhip bogeyman, but now that it has been reduced to rubble, it lives in that same downy wistfulness we’ve placed on other ’90s fads, like slap bracelets and thug “Looney Tunes’’ T-shirts.
But for those suffering through ’90s withdrawal, 2013 has been a redemptive breath of fresh air. Seattle’s boho chic, made popular by Sleater Kinney and Pearl Jam, was well represented at New York Fashion Week in August, Spike Lee and Alanis Morissette both announced that they’re heading to Broadway, and NBC gave word that it’s adapting a definitive Gen X film classic into a primetime sitcom. From flannel to Fox Mulder’s pensive countenance, here are 14 cultural touchstones that have helped usher back in the grunge era.
Sept. 7 marked the inaugural Cassette Store Day at roughly 100 retail stores and music venues in the United States, Europe, Canada, and South America. In the digital era, consumers are beginning to show a thirst for something tactile, as evidenced by the parallel ressurgence in vinyl records. Now this cheap and accessible form of pre-recorded music is being promoted by bands like At the Drive-In and The Flaming Lips, not to mention sentimental audiophiles still pining over the loss of the mixtape. Cassettes reached their commercial peak in the ’80s after Sony introduced the Walkman, but hard-core romantics (not to mention punk and heavy metal bands, which have been the major catalysts of the comeback) held onto the technology well beyond the emergence of the CD in the mid-’90s. Younger generations might not understand the appeal, but professing your feelings to a would-be-lover through an mp3 file just doesn’t translate no matter how much Crowded House and The Cure you slap onto a digital file.
‘Jagged Little Pill’ on Broadway
The album that proved that Popeye impressions and woodchuck marionettes are irresistible to the ladies, Alanis Morissette’s angsty breakup album, “Jagged Little Pill’’ was the highest-selling album of the ’90s. Now Morissette and producer Vivek J. Tiwary, who helped launch the stage version of Green Day’s “American Idiot,’’ are collaborating to adapt “Jagged Little Pill’’ into a Broadway musical.
“I look forward to taking the heart of Jagged Little Pill and expanding its story, fleshing it out into ever deeper layers of emotionality, specificity, humanity, power, physicality, spirit and fabulism,’’ Morissette said in a release.
The stage version will include all tracks from her Grammy-award winning album as well as some new original compositions. Two-time Tony Award winner Tom Kitt has signed on to provide orchestrations and arrangements.
‘Boy Meets World’ is all grown up
The only TGIF show that could eclipse our nostalgia for Urkel and Uncle Jesse, the “Boy Meets World’’ reboot, “Girl Meets World’’ is currently filming and set to premiere on Disney in January 2014. The show will follow Riley, the tween daughter of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) as she traverses the always hilarious terrain of adolescence. Rider Strong, who played Cory’s best friend and trailer park punching bag, Shawn Hunter, is rumored to show up in a cameo. Also, the voice of K.I.T.T., better known as Mr. Feeny, will return to the hallways of John Adams High to dole some well-mannered advice in a mustache and sweater vest.
Mulder? Scully? Just maybe.
Over the course of nine seasons and two movies, Chris Carter’s homage to the supernatural kept Sam Goody stores afloat with sales of “I want to believe’’ posters and “the truth is out there’’ T-shirts. Now agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully could be back to fight more bark creatures and halucogenic fungus.
In October, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson joined a New York Comic Con panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of the “X-Files’’ premiere, and they addressed the possibility of getting back together.
“All the principals are on board, including ‘X-Files’ creator Chris Carter,’’ Duchovny said on Reddit. “Gillian and I want to do it, so it’s really up to Twentieth Century Fox at this point.’’
There’s no word yet on whether or not Kathy Griffin will be reprising her dual role as nuclear dopplegangers Betty Templeton and Lulu Pfeiffer.
‘Jurassic Park’ in 3D
Besides (maybe) John Grisham, no author satiated that ’90s itch for mass-market escapism better than Michael Crichton. His novels have been notoriously butchered in translation (observe Queen Latifah murdered by jellyfish), but when he paired up with Steven Spielberg for “Jurassic Park,’’ the duo was able to bring dinosaurs to life. Crichton’s tale of science run amok was his most successful book, and the film version became a pioneer in CGI effects. The results were said to have inspired George Lucas to embark on his “Star Wars’’ sequels and Peter Jackson to tackle Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings’’ trilogy. This summer, “Jurassic Park’’ was re-released, becoming Spielberg’s first film to be retro-fitted with 3D technology. It earned a respectable $46 million at the box office, according to IMDB, and was well worth the admission price just to see Timmy blast off on a 50-foot IMAX screen.
What Doc Martens were to the grunge crowd, Timberland “wheats’’ were to the hip-hop community. The yellow, steel-toed boots (that could only be cleaned by a pencil eraser) were a regular accessory for DMX, Wu-Tang Clan, and even the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Now the boots are back and have been seen on Rihanna, Kanye West, and the Kardashians. Beyonce even Instagrammed a photo of her family’s Timberland obsession. Next up for the fashion obsessed? Let’s hope it’s Starter jackets, “No Fear’’ shirts, or Umbro shorts.
Big Hugs Elmo
In 1996, the Tickle Me Elmo doll inspired “Elmo-mania’’ where retail clerks were regularly trampelled on Black Friday by stampeding crowds of desperate shoppers. The Elmo fad became a symbol of gross consumerism and has been parodied countless times, including on “South Park’’ this month as the “Stop Touching Me Elmo’’ doll. But that hasn’t stopped further versions from annually emerging, like the Tickle Me Ernie doll and the Tickle Me Extreme Elmo. The latest reincarnation is the Big Hugs Elmo, which sings lullabies to your slumbering children and dutifully spoons you in a rapturous embrace. It has more than 50 phrases, like “Elmo loves getting hugs from you,’’ and “Let’s pretend we’re rabbits! Boing, boing, boing.’’ Pets, friends, parents: It’s all arbritrary if you can get your hands on Big Hugs Elmo this holiday season.
Indie icons return
2013 has been a banner year for the return of eccentric geniuses. In February, My Bloody Valentine finally released their third studio album, “m b v,’’ a record that’s been in the works since Kevin Shields and his shoegazer bandmates signed with Island Records in 1992. Following their ’91 release, “Loveless’’ (named one of the 500 Greatest Albums of all Time by “Rolling Stone’’), the lead singer “went crazy’’ and retreated from the public eye. Shields’s Salingeresque withdrawal lead fans to rabidly speculate on the troves of unreleased material he was hoarding. My Bloody Valentine reunited in 2008, but their current fall tour is the first to feature new material in more than a decade.
Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum is another brilliant musician who suffered a nervous breakdown due to media scrutiny. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’’ wasn’t an immediate financial success, but is now considered one of the most influential indie albums of all time, inspiring the likes of Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and The Decemberists. Neutral Milk Hotel disbanded in 1999, but announced their return to touring in April.
‘Before Sunrise’ comes to a close
In September, “Vanity Fair’’ named Richard Linklater’s “Before’’ trilogy one of the 25 best love stories of all time. “Before Sunrise,’’ the loquacious debut of Jesse and Celine’s saga, perfectly captured the spontaneity and manic energy of young love. The tale of two travelers who meet and fall for each other aboard a Vienna-bound train, was an immediate critical hit in 1995, inspiring Roger Ebert to call it “a ‘Love Affair’ for Generation X.’’ That initial tryst only lasted 24 hours, but it has since spawned two sequels, the final installment of which was released this summer. In sharp contrast to the original, “Before Midnight,’’ looks at the far-less sexy enigma of lasting love and the malaise of “happily ever after.’’ At times awkward and deliberately prosaic, Linklater’s finale is nonetheless unerringly authentic and one of the finest portraits of true romance ever caught on film.
Grunge is back
After Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994, grunge, for all intents and purposes, was dead. What unraveled afterward was an anemic roll call of pretenders; the Scott Stapps and Gavin Rossdales braying like Eddie Vedder. But grunge has had a bit of renaissance thanks to the release of Pearl Jam’s “Lightning Bolt’’ in October (which is already being heralded as a darkhorse in their discography), Mudhoney’s “Vanishing Point,’’ and the upcoming Sub Pop reissue of two of Soundgarden’s early EPs, “Screaming Life’’ and “Fopp.’’ Even more impressive is the September release of the deluxe, 20th-anniversary reissue of Nirvana’s “In Utero.’’ The album that was supposed to reflect Cobain’s break from his newfound, and much-resented celebrity status, proved just the opposite. DGC purportedly cleaned up the results, much to the band’s chagrin. The new mix was overseen by bandmates Chris Novoselic and Dave Grohl and demonstrates the intended rawness, and back-to-basics approach initially intended by Nirvana.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
For years, producer Michael Bay has been rumored to be working on a horror movie inspired by the Ouija board, you know, something subtle to pair with his other Hasbro-inspired travesties (a fourth Transformers movie is coming to theaters in 2014!). But Bay simply won’t be satisfied until he’s fondled and bastardized every nostalgic property from our childhood. Now he’s taking on everyone’s favorite pizza-slinging crime fighters, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or as Bay has entitled the film, “Ninja Turtles.’’ The movie won’t be released until Aug. 8, 2014, but the producer has already reportedly irritated fans of the original TMNT by casting a caucasian Shredder, dropping their “teenage’’ status, and implying that the four brothers wouldn’t even be mutants, but aliens. Bay has hired original scribe Kevin Eastman, but his concessions hardly inspire confidence. Considering Bay’s track record, it wouldn’t be surprising if Master Splinter became a rapping squirrel and Krang was portrayed as a rocket-propelled spleen.
If Teddy Ruxpin and the Wisecracking Alf doll mated, there’s a good chance their offspring would have looked a lot like Furby. These disturbing, owl-gerbil hybrids were the must-have toy when they debuted in 1998. More than 40 million Furbies were sold in their first three years of existence. Who could resist an all-seeing robot that insisted on jokes and songs through a series of burbing “wees,’’ “doos,’’ and “loos.’’ Now Furby is back with Amazon.com, Target, and other retailers calling it one of the hottest holiday toys for 2013. The updated Furby is even more attractive to consumers because of its expressive LCD eyes and the ability to adapt its personality to user behavior. But how does it express “creeped out’’ in Furbish?
Inspired by Jam Master Jay and LL Cool J circa “Bigger and Deffer,’’ rappers like Rakim and Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog — not to mention the cast of Nickelodeon’s “Salute Your Shorts,’’ — made bucket hats one of the most baffling fashion statements of the ’90s. But now, thanks to brands like Rag & Bone, ONLY., Supreme, and Obey, the droopy headpiece is back as a runway favorite. Hip-hop has even gravitated toward it as evidenced by this year’s SXSW festival in Austin where Usher, Earl Sweatshirt, and Kid Cudi were caught modeling variations of Blossom’s favorite chapeau.
‘Reality Bites’ is a sitcom
In one iconic scene in “Reality Bites,’’ the 1994 cult comedy being developed into a half-hour sitcom by NBC, Wynona Ryder’s character, Lelaina Pierce, is asked to define the word “irony’’ in a job interview. Executive producer Ben Stiller must know the feeling. The “Reality Bites’’ costar is essentially living his role as network stiff, Michael Grates. Original screenwriter Helen Childress returns, focusing on filmmaker Lelaina and her group of slacker friends suffering through the recession-plagued economy of the early ’90s. Will the doily dress rear its hideous, crocheted head? Will Troy Dyer — the original, greasy hipster — resurrect the “Good Times’’ drinking game? Will Vickie and Sammy dance to The Knack’s “My Sharona’’ over bottles of Evian and tubes of Pringles? It would be completely “naive’’ to think otherwise.