The 90s are popping up all over the place at the moment, and the decade takes a leading role in the latest issue of Special Request magazine. Focusing on television, the magazine is specifically interested in the days when the TV was the only screen in the house, and so a wide range of 90s TV shows are evoked, from Baywatch and Seinfeld to Eurotrash and Beavis and Butt-Head.
The result is often nostalgic, looking back on this simpler time of lowbrow fun, but there’s also a more unsettling undercurrent running through the magazine: Bill Cosby pops up on one notable spread, his celluloid likeness emphasising the difference between the way we saw him then and what we know now. And two brilliant pieces of fiction tell nightmarish stories of TV taking over the lives of hapless viewers – one by Ben Loory and the other by Haruki Murakami and both previously published in The New Yorker.
There’s no doubt that this is all about TV, but it’s also about the internet; or at least an absence of the internet. The ‘other’ screens that editor Josh Jones implies in his editor’s letter are so ubiquitous today that it’s almost impossible to imagine home, work, or any part of life without them. In an interview about Eurotrash, presenter Antoine de Caunes pays tribute to the “unrivalled team of resourceful European researchers who quickly plugged into a network of loonies across the continent. What’s amazing is that most of the stories were found pre-internet when researchers actually had to read magazines and cold-call strangers to get a story.”
By looking back like this, Special Request provides a reminder of just how much life has changed since the 90s, emphasising the cultural difference between then and now and providing a fascinating look back at pop culture from a different era.
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