How the Popular Culture during the Early 1990s Foreshadow America in the

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Howthe Popular Culture during the Early 1990s Foreshadow America in theYear 2017


HowPopular Culture in the Early 1990s Foreshadow America Today

Sincethe turn of the mid-20thcentury, TV became the most conservative of entertainment media.However, the situation started to change around early 1990s as TVembraced more controversial political and social issues. Thedeparture from self censorship aligned with a move by entertainmentmedia to cater for new audiences, particularly younger audiences.Largely,the characteristics and tensions inherent in the popular culture ofthe early 1990s, particularly political and social satire, foreshadowcontemporary American society.

Characteristicsof the Popular Culture during the Early 1990s

Marinobserves that early 1990s was an era in which alternative lifestylegained mainstream acceptance as phenomena such as grunge gainedstrength.1Similarly, this was a time in which racial tensions reached newheights. Shows such as TheSimpsonsgained notoriety and fame in American popular culture for deliveringa biting satire on the American culture and society heavily based onprogressive politics or leftist politics. Foxnetwork’s InLiving Colorsatirized previously taboo topics such as homosexuality andgovernment corruption.2

In1992, former Vice President, Dan Quayle, lamented the growingphenomenon of absent fathers and blamed it on Hollywood’s culturalelitism.3Quayle accused Murphy Brown, a fictional presenter on a televisionnews-magazine show, of eroding the moral fabric of America by bearinga child out of wedlock. Quayle projected that America would reap thefruits of the breakdown in social mores, especially for denigratingthe significance of fatherhood.

TheExtent to which the Characteristics and Tensions of 1990s PopularCulture Foreshadow Cotemporary America

The1990scan be considered as possibly one of the most turbulent, divisive,and racially charged period in America.ABC,in its TV series CivilWars,featured an episode in which an African American father soughtcustody of his mixed-race son contending that a loss of custody wouldalienate the boy from his African American heritage. However, theboy’s Caucasian mother objected to such arrangement contending thather son would suffer economic and physical security loss. The CivilWars’episode affirms that the division between whites and blacks was verymuch present in America just like today. White suburbs are stillsafer and economically better relative to black neighborhoods.Secondly, the racial divide between African Americans and whitesremain palpable in 2017 just like the early 1990s. TheLos Angeles Riots of 1992 confirmed that the American society wasstill scarred by racism.4Thoughthe United States prides itself as a melting pot of cultures, a landof the free where diversity is celebrated, it seems that interactionbetween the races is still viewed as unnatural,which explains why movements such as Black Lives Matter have grown instature today.

Theearly 1990s also mirrors contemporary American society with regard tothe nature and structure of the American family. Toa large extent, Quayle’s prediction foreshadows American familylife in 2017. It is estimated that close to 40% of children inAmerica grow up in homes where fathers are absent, which has hadsignificant implications on American families.5Other than the lack of financial support, the absence of fathers hasyielded to psychological disadvantages, particularly an increase indelinquent activity due to poor development of self-esteem andpositive identity.

Inconclusion, the early 1990s was a revolutionary time in popularculture. Undoubtedly, the tensions and characteristics of popularculture of the time predicted the prevailing values, norms, andpractices manifest in the American society today. Theanarchic social arrangement explored by the popular culture of early1990s is manifest in America in 2017. America has continued toexperience a breakdown in the family structure, compounded by theerosion of social order and personal responsibility.


Carter,Bill. “Back talk from ‘Murphy Brown’ to Dan Quayle.” TheNew York Times,July 20, 1992. Accessed March 17, 2017.

Erlich,Reese. “TV series tackle social issues: But are producers tackingmore risks, or simply looking for cheap drama?” TheChristian Science Monitor,January 7, 1992. Accessed March 17, 2017.

Heinemann,Isabel, eds. Inventingthe Modern American Family: Family Values and Social Change in 20thCentury United States.Frankfurt: Campus, 2012.

Marin,Rick. “Grunge: A success story.” TheNew York Times,November 15, 1992. Accessed March 17, 2017.

Owen,Ken. “2002-Dan Quayle ’69 and Murphy Brown’ 10 years Later.”YouTubevideo,3:33. Posted [May 14, 2013]. Accessed March 17, 2017.

1 Rick Marin, “Grunge: A success story,” The New York Times, November 15, 1992, 9, Accessed March 17, 2017,

2 Reese Erlich, “TV series tackle social issues: But are producers tacking more risks, or simply looking for cheap drama?” The Christian Science Monitor, January 7, 1992, Accessed March 17, 2017,

3 Ken Owen, “2002-Dan Quayle ’69 and Murphy Brown’ 10 years Later,” YouTube video, 3:33. Posted [May 14, 2013], Accessed March 17, 2017,

4 Isabel Heinemann, eds, Inventing the Modern American Family: Family Values and Social Change in 20th Century United States (Frankfurt: Campus, 2012), 269.

5 Bill Carter, “Back talk from ‘Murphy Brown’ to Dan Quayle,” The New York Times, July 20, 1992, Accessed March 17, 2017,