Hey Darling Ones,
As you may remember I read Chuck Klosterman’s new book, The Nineties, last week. I read a lot of it twice because I was really fucking sick Monday and nothing stuck with me, so I gave him another go just to make sure I was right in my assessment of the book.
I was. It’s a hot mess of things that happened in the 90s, the importance of which were determined by Chuck Klosterman. That’s the only common thread I can find through these disparate topics that include Pauly Shore, something I’d never heard of before called “The New Sincerity,” college football playoffs/bowl games, The Matrix, doping in 90s baseball, and Zima.
The book is not very good and the arguments he puts forth on the significance of some of this bullshit are frequently flimsy and occasionally specious. It’s typical Klosterman fare where instead of making a point he just inundates his readers with a salad of 50¢ words so he appears smart because nobody takes the time to parse what he’s actually trying to say.
“But it’s hard to exaggerate the pervasion of self-constructed, self-aware apathy that would come to delineate the caricature of a time period that already feels forgotten. . .” SEE WHAT I MEAN?
His continuing popularity baffles and infuriates me. He’s seen as a cultural critic, which I hate because that gives the things he chooses to focus on way more weight and significance than maybe they deserve. It also means the things he chooses to not write about seem insignificant. That’s what is infuriating, because what he chooses to focus on are the same things most white, male, GenX straight dudes focus on. So things that were important to all the other people who can’t check off all those boxes are pushed ever further into the fringe.
Honestly, I was kind of shocked Klosterman wrote an entire book about the 90s and never mentioned Riot Grrrl and third-wave feminism or discussed at any length the AIDS crisis.
So yeah, I have about 206 bones to pick about this book but I’m choosing my bones wisely, limiting to only the most important bones of all the bones.
The first one is about “Reality Bites.”
Warning, there’s gonna be some spoilers here. If you haven’t seen this twenty-eight-year-old hilariously and often cringingly dated romcom yet and you want the ending to be a surprise, stop here.
Klosterman argues that 1994 is the only moment in time where Lelaina (Winona Ryder) would choose genuine Troy (Ethan Hawke) over artificial vanilla Michael (Ben Stiller). He argues that Michael treats her better than Troy does. He argues the only reason she chooses Troy is because in 1994 she’d never go for anyone with a whiff of sell-out about them.
Except, there’s a a lot more wrong with Michael than the fact that he stands for nothing and is a sell-out.
In the movie Michael steals Lainey’s documentary, and shows it to the big wigs at faux-MTV without her permission. That’s kind of a big deal. Not only does Michael do that, he lets them edit her work without her knowledge or permission, and then premieres it to more big wigs without showing her first. Then, when she does finally choose Troy, he steals the concept of her work and makes a ham-handed knockoff while taking all the credit.
Michael is a dirtbag.
Troy’s not the greatest either, and this movie falls into that trope where romantic interests say horrible things to each other to mask their true passion and love. Barf.
Anyway, Klosterman makes the point that both Baby Boomers and Millenials see this movie the same way and that Lainey should have chosen Michael. Though if he were to ever be able to open his mind even the tiniest of little bits and see things from a not white-heterosexual dude perspective he’d realize that no matter who Lainey chose it would have been wrong in the eyes of the future.
Because, surprise, women cannot do things right. If Lainey had chosen Michael she too would be a sell-out who chose comfort and money over her true passion. Choosing Troy means she’s shallow and concerned with how people see her. . . maybe? I’m not entirely sure why Troy is the bad option here. Sure, as I said, he’s kind of a dick, but so was virtually every other 20something in the early-to-mid 90s. I thought that was our job.
However, he’s really wrong about Millenials being #TeamMichael. If I know anything about Millenial women it’s that they would say fuck this false dichotomy. Lainey should have told them both to fuck off into the sun, and then those women would write 9402 fan fics about Vickie and Lainey falling in love.
And they are right. One thing I have learned from my Millenial sisters is just because you’re given two options that doesn’t mean they are the only options.
Why of all the 206 bones did this one stick in my craw so much? Because, much like Michael, Klosterman did not take Lainey’s work into account. Her work is really important to her and this is made clear throughout the movie. Also, while he views Michael as someone who treats her better, all I see is a bland nice guy with zero actual interest. Troy’s kind of dick but at least he has the face of Ethan Hawke, loves to read books, and challenges Lainey on her bullshit.
Still, the correct answer here is that Lainey chooses nobody because romantic validation by a man is not the be all and end of all of a woman’s life.
P.S. Raise your hand if you can literally hear the picture at the top of this post in your head.