It’s the year 2008. The day is Friday. Location is your elementary school. It’s your classmate’s birthday, so your multiplication table lesson ends an hour early for cupcakes and celebrations. Your teacher plays “The Magic School Bus” on the TV stand that drives into your classroom. Your best friend is coming over after school. Before your mom picks you up, you trade for a rare Pokémon card. On the drive home, the Black Eyed Peas play “Boom Boom Pow” followed by Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”. You spend the afternoon running outside and watching Nickelodeon. You might even be able to treat yourself to a Cosmic Brownie as a snack!
I just described to you the feeling of pure bliss. For many my age, nothing can beat the simple, good feelings of the 2000s, partly because we were kids with few worries and partly because of the culture of the time. Now, as young adults, there is a growing nostalgia for the era of our youth. Especially in the social media realms, there is a big resurgence of 00’s pop culture. To the dismay of some, trends like trucker hats, low-rise jeans, and even wired headphones are making a comeback.
Since trend cycles are known to repeat themselves every 20 years, the revival of the ’00s comes at just the right time. A distinct 2000s influence is creeping into all facets of popular culture. Take music as an example: pop punk dominates the pop music scene, and rap albums are taking on the style of ’00s mixtapes. Public figures from that era are also reappearing: the Jonas Brothers have reunited, Nas is winning Grammys, and Paris Hilton, I recently learned, is now a chef.
In keeping with the 20-year rule, much of early 2000s pop culture itself borrowed from the 1970s. Bell bottoms morphed into bootcuts. Disco & Funk became Electronic & Hip-Hop. That 70’s Show, a tribute to the eponymous decade, ran from 1998 to 2006. The cyclical nature of trends is undeniable. Now we see a unique 2020s-is-2000s-is-70s style of clothing and music: Take “Levitating,” a disco-inspired rap-inspired chart-topping hit, or Silk Sonic, a duo that looks and sounds straight from soul train. Given our current socio-political climate, it is not surprising, and I would even say, that it is necessary for us to relive the 2000s.
The repetitions in pop culture of these eras are not without reason. The socio-political contexts of these times (from an American point of view) are amazingly similar. In the 2020s, as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen humanitarian crises unfold in Ukraine, Palestine and on our own southern border (to name a few). In the 2000s, the country faced the aftermath of 9/11 and the “war on terror.” The 1970s were no less turbulent, amid the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. All three eras are also marked by a technology boom with the proliferation of computers in the 70’s, the internet and mobile phones in the 00’s and the increasing dependence on our devices in the 2020’s. Finally, and perhaps most sinisterly, we emerged from notorious presidential regimes in every era: Trump (2017-2021), Clinton (1993-2001), and Nixon (1969-1974). To make matters worse, all three presidents were removed from office or, in the latter case, resigned early.
As a distraction from the social, political, and economic turmoil, people sought refuge in popular culture. In the 1970s, “after Watergate, many people withdrew from politics altogether. They turned to pop culture instead — which is easy in such a trending, fashion-forward decade.” In the 2000s, the obsession with celebrity culture — think Britney Spears — served as a form of escapism. In the 2020s, TikTok’s whipped coffee and happy dances brought joy, hope, and distraction to users during quarantine. I think many of us, myself included, are quick to dismiss pop culture as superficial, consumerist, or melodramatic. However, it is evident that it has a powerful ability to balance the sometimes unbearable weight of politics, pandemics, and problems in our lives.
As the babies of the 2000s reach adulthood, the generation turns from trend followers to setters. Our upbringing influences our preferences; Things that feel familiar – the fads of our youth – are coming back into fashion. At a time when much of our growing up has been eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a collective longing for a simpler, more stable time. Thanks to the unprecedented nature of recent years, Gen Z has captured an overwhelming nostalgia, expressed through the sounds of music, the looks of clothing, and the feelings of our youth.
The recent re-release of a ’00s video game epitomizes why reviving that era is timely and necessary. Animal Crossing was a pandemic phenomenon, as described in the Guardian article It’s uniting people: why 11 million are playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons…Nintendo’s record-breaking new game was embraced by an isolated world. Animal Crossing has a pure-hearted feel that has brought people together during the pandemic. It’s the same purity that shaped our childhood.
The stickiness and silliness of ’00s-inspired fads is just what we need right now; a reminder that lightheartedness exists despite the darkness that often surrounds us. I am not now challenging you to be overly hedonistic or to forget the injustice and adversity around us. However, I am saying that if you have to wear a jeans-on-denim-on-denim outfit to feel some joy, then so be it.
MiC columnist Jameel Baksh can be reached at email@example.com.