Superman 64: A Cultural Artifact

For my final assignment in this project, I’ve decided to take on a game from the 90s that I’m sure anyone who saw this project expected me to look at eventually. Superman 64 is notorious for being considered the worst N64 game ever made. Developed and published by Titus Interactive, this game was released on May 29, 1999. It has been absolutely decimated by critics time and time again and I, like so many others, have my own opinions on this game after playing it. They just might not be what people want to hear.

My verdict? This game really isn’t that bad.

That’s not to say this is a good game. Far from it. This thing is bad. Like, it’s really, really bad. And I’ll get to why that is later but for now, just know that I don’t think it’s irredeemable.

The entire plot of this game is that Lex Luthor has kidnapped a number of Superman’s friends and trapped them in a virtual world. It’s up to Superman to infiltrate this digital world and rescue his friends before Lex does something to them? I suppose? It’s really not very clear on that but it’s not really important. Playing through the game, it’s really easy to forget that there’s a plot at all. Most of the time you’re just kind of doing chores.

Gameplay is split between two different sections. In what I’m calling the “Chore” section, Superman runs around doing various tasks while a clock ticks down. I call these tasks chores because I have absolutely no idea how they relate to the plot of the game. In the first level alone the player is tasked with flying through rings, throwing some cars, flying through rings, flying a car to safety, flying through rings, freezing some tornados, and also flying through rings. There isn’t much mention of Lex Luthor and the only indication that this might be related to your friend’s situation is that Superman is there. The whole ordeal is fairly tedious and doesn’t result in a very rewarding feeling.

They’re even in a line! It’s not so bad….

Having said this, I want to take a moment to respond to one of the largest criticisms this game has. Namely, that the
ring sections are too numerous and too difficult. To this, I say that y’all don’t know how to play this game because I had no trouble with the rings whatsoever. There are way too many rings to fly through, mind you. Like, there is an absurd number of rings to fly through and I can’t imagine how they could be important to rescuing people. If Superman has a quota of rings he has to fly through before helping anyone in need then it’s no wonder Metropolis is always in such a state of chaos. It’s not that hard to actually fly through the rings once you understand how they work though. A common criticism of these sections is that Superman controls badly, taking wide turns and going way too fast to accommodate some of the sharp turns the game expects you to make. These people, I think, have been playing the game without knowing how to control Superman. See, both of these are valid criticisms but what steps can be taken to counter them? Every game has mechanics that work against you in some way and a player has to be able to adapt. In this case, I find that tapping the B button to continue flying at a steady speed rather than constantly accelerating to the maximum is much easier to control. Then, as far as moving Superman goes, you have to look at him as a car rather than a person. He’s got a lot of power to that flight and as a result you have to make small corrections when you get out of line. The N64 controller admittedly isn’t great for making such subtle motions but once you get the hang of it, the ring sections do become much more manageable.

Or, for people who like quick solutions, you can just set the game to easy mode in the options menu to completely remove the rings. I’ve been hearing about this game for years and I had no idea you could just turn off the rings. It’s arguable that having to remove content from the game to make it playable is ridiculous but I’ll get to that very soon.

The other main section this game has to offer is the more ground-heavy plot sections. Here, you’re encouraged to land Superman and run around fighting enemies and finding clues to rescue people. It’s also here where I had to give

up on actually trying to play Superman 64 by myself. While Superman’s flight controls are fairly fluid once you adjust to the learning curve, getting around on the ground is constantly jittery and annoying. He controls more like a tank here and having to reposition yourself over and over in order to land a hit on a bad guy is grating. Whereas the rings from earlier have a very forgiving hit box, the enemies require you to be standing right on top of them in order to do damage. However, their ranged bullets stop you for a moment as you try to move forward and there is no moment of invulnerability. This means that enemies can repeatedly fire at you, keeping you from getting close. Also, the bullets hurt you which means Titus has no idea what a Superman is.

No, seriously, isn’t he impervious to bullets?

Given that I could no longer progress in this game, I turned to online playthroughs to see what the rest of this game had to offer. It was at this point where I discovered the absolute best thing about Superman 64. When performing speedruns, most players use glitches in order to skip through entire plot-based sections. I watched with awe as one runner walked directly into a locked door in order to clip through to the other side and complete the stage in less than a minute. Clipping through walls to find areas where Titus’ design team clearly never intended for players to go is such a common strategy when playing this game that it got me thinking. In his book “Half-Real,” Jesper Juul claims that video games are a combination of rules and fiction. If that is the case, then does it matter who makes up the rules?

Obviously, Titus had some ideas in mind for how they wanted this game to play out. They included levels that were designed in specific ways in order to indicate to a player where they are meant to go and what they are meant to do. However, Superman 64 is actually so broken that players reject these indications and instead create their own rules, thus reshaping the entire experience of the game. As an English major, I often remind myself that authorial intent is inherently worthless in most works of fiction but here authorial intent is not only worthless, it’s actively worked against. It breaks down the barrier between designer and player, in a sense. By creating strategies that use the game’s flaws against itself, players are acknowledging a designer’s presence in the code of the game and deciding that they, as player, know best instead. It’s a fascinating process and, even more than that, it’s a fun process.

A perfectly analogy for this game in a picture.

By making a broken mess of a game, Titus removed a lot of the potential fun. Games are often fun because they give you constraints and goals to achieve and being able to work within the system set before you in a successful way can be a rewarding experience if done correctly. If the system is broken, then it’s much harder to achieve success due to having unclear rules. However, by imposing your own sense of order on this digital world you can realign the game’s goals and make the game in your own image. Thus, a game initially about Lex Luthor kidnapping Superman’s friends instead becomes about the player in the physical world attempting to reach the game’s end through whatever means possible. And that’s fun stuff.

Bearing this in mind, I dove back into Superman 64 one last time to try to find my own way of having fun with it and discovered that the practice mode is actually really great. As discussed before, I find the flying controls to be pretty nice and enjoyed flying through rings all the time. Practice mode is basically just a big open space of a city where you can fly around to your heart’s content, learning how to play the game and acclimating to things. When you don’t give yourself a goal though and you just allow yourself to glide around Metropolis (or, at least what you can see of it. The draw distance is terrible!) it’s possible to have a really nice, calming time. It reminds me of games like Minecraft where you are given a specific goal but you can ignore it if you like to just have a good long walk. It’s soothing and mind-numbing in the best way.

So, like I said before. Superman 64 isn’t a great game in the formal sense. It’s something akin to shattered glass sculpture that you can kind of tell the shape of. All the parts are there and you can see where it was supposed to be something in particular but really it can’t be called a “game” anymore with all the mess. Still though, when you put it into the right light, some really cool colors can still shine right on through.

The Power of the Playstation

What makes the Playstation an interesting console to study is that it exists almost by accident. It was born out of a failed collaboration project between Nintendo and Sony, which itself was born out of an accidental collaboration between Nintendo and one of Sony’s engineers, unbeknownst to his superiors.

Ken Kutaragi first developed an interest in video games after seeing his daughter lay the Nintendo Famicom. So when Nintendo began soliciting engineers for a new sound chip for the Super Famicom, Ken began work immediately. Without telling his bosses at Sony, Ken developed the SPC700 chip for Nintendo’s new console. When Ken’s work was discovered, he was almost fired on the spot. The only reason he kept his job was because Sony president Norio Ohga supported him.

The partnership that was never meant to be was born from that sound chip Ken designed. Nintendo was so pleased with the results that they immediately commissioned Sony for a new peripheral for the console, this time a disk reader. In addition to the disk add-on, Sony would be allowed to design their own Nintendo console and develop first party software for it with full licensing rights. This deal heavily favored Sony as it allowed them to break into the gaming industry by riding Nintendo’s back.

Naturally, Nintendo feared empowering Sony in such a way, and instead opted to break their contract with them in favor of their biggest competitor, Philips, who offered Nintendo a better deal. Here’s the kicker though, Nintendo only announced that their contract was canceled the day after Sony debuted their Nintendo console. President Ohga was furious.

It was right about here that the entire executive team at Sony decided that video games weren’t their thing and that the company should move in a different direction. It was here that the Playstation could have died, if not for our boy Ken Kutaragi. Ken convinced Ohga that the console project could be salvaged to make a profit. Ohga believed in Ken, and despised Nintendo for what they did, so he was all for making it happen. Thus, the Playstation was born.

Utilizing 650MB disks (I know, right?) as opposed to the traditional 12MB cartridges, the Playstation offered unprecedented power, leading to the rather hilarious “It’s more powerful than God” ad campaign. But a newcomer to the console game can’t just drop new hardware into the market and expect it to sell. Turns out the Playstation’s good luck streak was still far from over.

The Playstation, for being a brand new console, broke into the industry to immense success. But why? What was it that drew people’s attention? It is incredibly difficult for a contender on the console market to enter the scene period, let alone out of nowhere with no prior experience. For decades now, we’ve only had three major console manufacturers. And before the “big three” we know now (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft), there were only three major competitors (Nintendo, Atari, and Sega) with a smattering of a few smaller companies outputting consoles that didn’t catch on quite as largely. So needless to say, the market isn’t really welcoming to newcomers; it’s extremely selective. And given that two of the previously mentioned six competitors aren’t in the console market anymore, it’s fair to say it’s pretty cruel too.

So how did Sony carve out a spot?

By happy accident, mostly. The “big three” of the time that Sony would have to compete with were Nintendo, Atari, and Sega. Atari was pretty much out of the game by the time the Playstation dropped in 1994. The failure of the Atari Lynx to beat the Nintendo Gameboy in the handhelds market combined with the overall poor sales of the Atari Jaguar spelled doom for the company by the time Sony arrived on the scene.

As for Nintendo, they were giants of the industry that easily crushed the competition at every turn. To compete with them would have been suicide for the Playstation and Sony wouldn’t have quickly gone the way of Atari. So it is quite fortunate for Sony that they didn’t have to compete with Nintendo at all. Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo 64, was delayed multiple times, and didn’t come out until a year after the Playstation, giving Sony a comfortable head start at being a reliable competitor.

This leaves Sega. Unfortunately for Sega, they were on their way out too, they just didn’t know it yet. They released the Sega Saturn that year, and it was the Playstation’s only real competitor on the market until the eventual release of the Nintendo 64. Like the Playstation, the Saturn also used 3D graphics for its games, but it lacked the power the Playstation had to make it look good. Additionally, the Playstation’s retail price was $100 cheaper than the Saturn, making the Saturn the overall inferior choice.

But video games were hitting it just as big in the United States as in in Japan. If a Japanese company was going to succeed, it would need the support of consumers in the west as well (and vice-versa obviously.) At E3 1995, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Steve Race, took to the stage for a keynote address. He was introduced with a long speech specifically designed to build anticipation for what was called a “brief presentation.” Steve sauntered casually over to the podium, cleared his throat, and said one word. The price heard round the world. $299. At this price, the Playstation was not only powerful but easily accessible as well. Ultimately, it wasn’t even a real choice for consumers. The Playstation was the best available option.

And it wasn’t like they were going in with nothing either. Sony designed the Playstation specifically for ease of development. With a cheap and fair licensing system and a built-in marketing budget, it was a no-brainer for developers to sign on. Sony had nearly 100 development contracts before the console even launched. Developer support coupled with the Playstation’s power allowed Sony to woo high-end industry veterans to develop games for their console, immensely improving its value to consumers. RPG powerhouse Squaresoft even broke their contract with Nintendo to develop the Final Fantasy series for the Playstation.

By happy accident, or dumb luck, the Playstation broke into the console market with only one real competitor that they grossly outclassed. It just happened to come at a time when consumers in the east and west had nothing better to buy, at a price that was practically a steal for a home console. Combine that with their extensive library of games, and Nintendo’s sluggish start during that console generation, and Sony was able to put out a hit. A hit that reached its fourth iteration in 2013 and is still going strong.

Surfin’ The Net of Communication

90s Communication Through the Net

Although I was not able to contribute much to the 90s Console Livingroom because my project was mostly intellectual versus physical, I still learned a lot through this Individual Study. I spent a lot of time using the Way-Back Machine, and fighting through the mass amounts of broken, non-existent, and non-coherent links, images, and webpages. I had to use suggestions from friends who were into the Internet in the 90s, as well as articles and listicles found online which reference the “oldest working webpages still around!”

Some of my favorite aspects of the old websites I found were the adorable minimal CSS in the HTML. More than just nostalgia, I almost feel a closer connection to the basic webpages because of how complicated some web-designs can be. Plus, I love the way that the 90s had this over excessive use of exclamation marks. I connect with the over excessive use of exclamation marks on an emotional level.

“Your Link to the Internet!”

The aesthetics of old HTML appeal to our nostalgia, as 90s babies. For me, the design appeals to the minimalist side of my brain. I found a few more websites which can be found on my own blog, and took a bunch of screenshots while I was diving through the Old Internet.

Bliss was a real photograph by Charles O’Rear in 1996, and the most iconic wallpaper of all time.

I even looked into the original Windows background which most 90s babies remember at the drop of a hat. I’m pretty sure my parents still used that background until was the photograph was retired in April 2014.

While I specifically wanted to look at how Internet users in the 90s talked to each other with this new medium of communication. I originally had a big idea that I wanted to install on the computer in the room, however time got away from me and my computer skill “eyes” were bigger than my reality “stomach.”

I wanted to add more to the room, however my topic was already limited in physicality.

They’re almost cute theyre so basic.

I did however complete a research paper which I compare how communication has changed from the 90s until now, and how technology has influenced our society in ways previously unimaginable. In the paper, I do analyze Emojis and Emoticons and why the use of them in computer mediated communication is important. We use Emojis and Emoticons to add emotions to the messages we send through text. Emotions which we would normally convey through our facial expressions and body gestures, but have not visibility through the computer, or other digital devices.

As for the physical room, I was able to contribute a pink file cabinet I had actually found in a thrift store for about $5. This did not have anything to do with what I contributed to the project. However, the pink cabinet was helpful for my other peer’s project by being a space to store items, and adding to the 90s aesthetic in the room. Another participant in this project wanted to base the 90s room we created on the room in Clarissa Explains It All, so we went with a pink theme, and my file cabinet added to that.

My favorite part of the whole project was hearing about the other students on campus enjoying the room. I was excited as to what we were going to do with the room, but the fact that other students felt comfortable enough to play the games, watch movies and television shows, and hang out in the area. I think once more of the campus knows what we are doing, we will have even more visitors, helpers, and contributions.

Finding Gameboy Color Games

I have always loved playing games on handheld consoles versus other ones. My brother always loved playing on the Playstation, controller in hand, eyes on the television but I’d prefer to curl up on the couch with my entire device in my hands, close to me, rather than farther away. So it was no surprise that my involvement with this project turned to the Gameboy Color.

I still had my Gameboy Color from when I was a child and with research since I was a little kid in the 90s myself, I proved the console was created in the 90s which means it was perfect to add to the room.

Since I hadn’t played with it in a long time as I kept getting the newer and newer Nintendo consoles (the Gameboy Advance, DS, and now 3DS), I had to do some cleaning work to make it look presentable. Besides a few scratches on the screen that noting could be done for and, to be honest, who doesn’t end up putting scratches on any screen whether it is console or phone, the only bad part of it was dirt under the buttons. It was the thing to do in my neighborhood as a child:  when we were allowed to play outside, we’d take our Gameboys and play together, resulting in dirty buttons. So I got out as much as I could, since I could actually see the dirt as the color of the console is called atomic purple and that specific color was translucent so that you could see the hardware that made up the console. So once that was done, the Gameboy was good to go.

My next challenge however was what games to add to the room with it. Since the games had to be from the 90s, and hopefully games that a teenage girl in the 90s would want to play, I had to find games from that time that weren’t too boyish and were more gender neutral as there wasn’t too many games made for girls or if there was, reviews of the games showed how badly made they were.

What I had.

I had two games myself that were made in the 90s:  Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and Pokemon Red. Ironically enough, they were the only games that I still had and to this day those franchises are the ones that I still mainly play games from today.

 

As there aren’t a lot of local places around town that have Gameboy Color games that were reasonably priced, I turned to eBay to find my games. I looked through all the Gameboy Color games that were available and picked out a list of ones that I thought would fit the criteria and then I matched those games against a list of games and their year. My list shrunk significantly after that but I was able to get some games that were still on my list.

What I ended up with.

After countless watching because, even though they’re older, Gameboy games are still pretty popular, I was able to buy four games:  Bug’s Life, Arcade Classic 3:  Galaga & Galaxian, Kirby’s Dream Land 2, and Harvest Moon gbc.

I still wanted more games to add to my collection but my list had dwindled from when it first began and some of the games I wanted to get weren’t being added to eBay. There was one game that I wanted to get, the name of which I won’t mention as I was unable to get it, that no matter how long I watched, the bid would always increase more than what I could pay, every time.

So in the end, my collection totaled to six games, all of which I believe a teenaged girl in the 90s would play and I learned to how play the bidding game on eBay.

 

The Digital 90s

The Windows 3.1 desktop splash screen

With more accessible personal computers and the rise of the internet, the digital landscape expanded drastically throughout the 90s. In the exhibit, we wanted to give visitors the chance to experience 90s computer hardware and software firsthand, especially through access to the decade’s operating systems and games. The room’s Linux computer contains three virtual machines to run 90s Windows operating systems: Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and Windows 98. They contain many of the bundled software for the systems, including paint programs and, in the later operating systems, Internet Explorer. Windows 3.1 starts in the MS-DOS command line, and desktop mode can be accessed with the “win” command. The machine itself can be accessed through the Clarissa user account, and with the password backtothe90s.

Several popular 90s computer games and software are available in the room or installed on the machines, including Myst, DOOM, Sam & Max Hit the Road, and The Neverhood. While these games are difficult to install successfully and play on the Windows virtual machines, they can still be examined as an artifact. Myst, for example, is stored in the original box. Its cover shows an anonymous figure flailing as they fall towards the game’s island, and the information surrounding this image advertises the game for Windows 3.1 and 95. The Neverhood‘s user manual contains lore on the Neverhood as the game’s setting, and contains more information on the game’s developers.

A scene from Myst

The games in the room represent a small fraction of the computer game timeline of the 90s. Myst and DOOM are two of the most significant early games of the decade; Myst’s advanced graphics and DOOM’s need for fast performance led consumers to buy better computers to play the games, and DOOM, along with other early first-person shooter games, boosted the popularity of its genre and led to advancements in fast-paced multiplayer gameplay. In contrast to many of the very masculine games of the 90s, one game available in the room is Hasbro’s My Little Pony: Friendship Gardens for Windows. This game, released in 1998, is a remnant of the 90s “games for girls” movement, during which many mainstream and indie developers tried to cater to the girls and women who were being excluded from the video game market.

Memories of 90s computers and games have become quintessential artifacts of 90s nostalgia; no matter what operating system they might have used, it’s easy for anyone who owned a 90s computer to remember the sound, feel, and clunky appearance of the machine’s software and innerworkings. The 90s room aims to bring this experience back to its returning visitors, and introduce 90s technology to the decade’s strangers.

90s Entertainment and Culture

The television is an integral part of 90s culture and one’s experience with the 90s exhibit. It’s the place where families bond together with the help of various forms of entertainment, like television shows, commercials, and video games. The commercials given to the world in 90s are some of the most memorable commercials for being vibrant, quick and unpredictable.

Where the Culture Happens

Many of the commercials aimed at the young demographic showed them what it mean to be a cool kid at the time with the use of mascots skating around, wearing shades, spitting some rhymes. Some of the more iconic commercials that feature plenty of effects were also for the same demographic. The rapid zooming both in and out, plenty of rapid fire jump cuts, and colorful hypnotic spiral effects were featured in plenty of the commercials that I found throughout this course.

Screencap of the Super Mario Allstars Commercial

The shows that aired on television in the 90s had a bigger effect on the culture in one’s home more than commercials did. After some research, I was able to deduce that shows could change the way some parents and children acted towards one another. For example, say that a family watches a decent chunk of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. After a while, the children may start sassing their parents more of seeing Will Smith doing the same to Uncle Phil(James Avery) or the parents may act a bit stricter and encourage their children to work harder.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. NBC.

Just about any show can alter the culture of one’s home if the family allows it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad to have the culture change in your home. This just shows how media is an important part of our lives. That importance has only increased since the 90s thanks to technology evolving so quickly and drastically changing the culture of not just the homes, but of every human being.

Television and the 90s Chick

When many of us think of 1990s television we are filled with nostalgia for the past, millennials longing for a childhood that no longer exists. Television shows such as The Powerpuff Girls, Sister, Sister, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer bring back memories of wanting to be witches, have superpowers, or find a long lost twin. But what else did these TV shows teach us as we grew older? In this essay I will be analyzing the popular 90s television shows mentioned above while also including other hits of the 90s such as Sex and the City, Charmed, and Beverly Hills, 90210. During my analysis I will be looking at trends such as girl power, feminism, and how these shows taught lessons through their storylines. By looking at all of this I plan to see how 90s television shaped the generation that watched them while having a specific focus on girls who watched these shows. Some questions I plan to answer are: Did 90s television aim to impact a certain demographic? What was their intended impact? Was this impact successful? What part did feminism play in 1990s television? What kind of issues were commonly discussed in 90s television and why? Can we trace the impact that 1990s television left to current society?
When originally given the constraints of 1990s teenage girl I wondered: “what topic can I do that will be interesting but also have a considerable amount of resources available?” While I am no longer a big fan of classic, cable television due to the creation of streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube that give a more personalized experience I was a big fan of a cable television during my youth. Many of the shows discussed in my research were shows I watched growing up in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Prior to this paper I ran a blog in which I analyzed 13 different 90s television shows by watching episodes/clips available on YouTube or Hulu with one show a week. During this time I discovered many concepts and sources that I had not known about prior to this project so I started formulate ideas during this process of my research. Currently I have 13 blog entries with each one being about a different television show that is approximately 500 words long so I will be building off of that original research in this paper.
As I started to look for different literature about popular 90s television I found many that encompassed the general ideas of the new normal, feminism, and life lessons/morals to be learned. The first show I analyzed that I found an appropriate application to everyday life and realism was Sister, Sister. In TGIF: Thank Goodness It’s Family: Family Messages in ABC’s 1990s Friday Night Lineup by Kourtney Hanna Smith she first introduced me to the idea of Third Wave Feminism Movement and its influence on 90s television and culture by using Sister, Sister as one of her main examples. In this article Third Wave Feminism is described as, “Third wave feminists were urged to take on feminism in a new way in with themes of inclusion, multiplicity [of diversity in the forms of race, class and sexual orientation], contradiction, and everyday feminism,” (Smith, 2015). The author also puts into perspective the necessity for studying television,” Collectively, television family relations are purposive, that is, they achieve outcomes expected of families such as limitation and resolution of conflict, successful socialization of children, and effective management of day-to-day life. However, such portrayals of family life can be misleading, causing unrealistic positive or negative views of how family life functions or how the world works. Inaccurate depictions in fictional television programs can shape cultural views of the world. Because of these inaccurate fictional portrayals, research is necessary to study television’s effects on human thoughts and behaviors,” (Smith, 2015). This inaccuracy of portrayal and the need for accurate portrayal places the need for realism and different points of view to be important parts of television. This is applied to Sister, Sister through the use of realistic problems teenagers might have and the author describes, “Many of the themes and lessons in Sister, Sister’s early episodes deal with adolescence trials and tribulations. Physical appearance and dating woes dominate the girls concerns, from needing dates for the school dance, to being afraid of having a pimple.,” (Smith, 2015)). Real life issues such as these make the show relatable to everyday girls who are watching at home and can then see the process of events after Tia or Tamera respond to the event. This can be used as a learning strategy for young viewers by analyzing what they are watching subconsciously.
Other literature included discussion on Sex and the City in Sex and the City: A Postfeminist Point of View? Or How Popular Culture Functions as a Channel for Feminist Discourse by Fien Adrians and Sofie Van Bauwel. The description of feminism in television is continued in a more adult show. Here the author notes that the original creators never intended for Sex and the City as a feminist but that in both academic and media formats it has evolved to represent contemporary feminist ideals. This reading specifically places Sex and the City in the postfeminism era that is described in different ways with some finding it to be a marketing technique done to suck women in to buying what the seller is selling through empowerment while others claim that it is meant to be a balance between feminism and femininity (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011).). The authors support that Sex and the City falls under the second claim and that it blends together feminism and femininity in an interesting way for audiences. Aspects of postfeminism such as consumer culture are a common trend in Sex and the City with it being described in the show as, “By consuming, the female protagonists develop their identity. Public citizenship is constructed through the notion of woman as shopping citizen. Not only goods and services are consumed; men can also be situated within this process of commodification. Men are presented as consumption goods for women to buy, consider, fit and return (when not considered useful),” (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011).). When looking at trends such consumerism in television shows it brings us to ask ourselves, “to what extent does the viewer pick up on it and does it change their habits or ideals?”
While I have discussed literature on realism and feminism as tools in television I now move on to intentional live lessons. The best example of this is Beverly Hills, 90210. During my early analysis of this show I assumed it to be very vapid and superficial but as I did research and watched it myself I soon found that it offered advice to the audience on how to deal with serious, real life problems such as sexual assault and economic status. As I started doing research on this show I quickly found a quote by the creators of the show a quote from Aaron Spelling that says, “We have a sign up here that says when you do issues, and God knows we did forty-one issues on 90210 alone, ‘Don’t preach, teach.’ Say things in a way that young people understand them,” and another quote from producers of the show was, “We hope that we can have some impact a) to entertain, and b) when its over to get them [teens] to think about what they have seen, for maybe about five seconds. That was always our goal, just five seconds. And the fact is, it seems that our impact is a little longer than that,” (Magee, 2014). These quotes put the whole show into a different perspective for me. Shows such as Sex and the City did not intentionally include feminist dialogue yet had them anywhere but Beverly Hills, 90210 intentionally put specific storylines, dialogue, and events into their show with the hopes of impacting their audience. Because they did this it allows for more inspection of the reasoning and I think also offers a stronger impact to the resulting media since they created it with specific intentions in mind unlike Sex and the City where things can be found but were not always done intentionally.
For the main part of my analysis I will be combining previous literature on the subject of feminism, life lessons through media, and realism through media along with trends found on scholarly sources about these television shows and my own viewing of the television shows. This is very much what I previously did for my blog posts but more concise and with those three specific points in mind. The shows I analyzed for my blog were Full House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Friends, Sister, Sister, Saved by the Bell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills, 90210, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Clarissa Explains it All, All That, The Powerpuff Girls, Sex and the City, and Charmed in that order. While all of these shows had an impact on society for this analysis I am interested in those that deal with feminism, life lessons in media, and pieces of realism in media the most since they are the most common trends among them and also have the strongest impact on female viewers. Because of this I will be mainly focusing on Sister, Sister for its realism, The Powerpuff Girls, Sex and the City, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for their feminist messages, and Beverly Hills, 90210 for life lessons and morals that can be learned from watching show though this part can also be seen in the analysis of the other shows..
To start off my analysis I will be looking at realism and the attempt for television to be as encompassing of reality as possible and I will be looking at the show Sister, Sister and the possible impacts this can have on an audience. In Sister, Sister we see, “traditional family values of love, friendship, togetherness, and instilling the importance of hard work and education in children,” (Smith, 2015). The concept of family and love is pervasive among television aimed toward a younger, family friendly demographic. Sister, Sister uses this preconceived notion to shift away from the norm of a nuclear family to allow room for blended families such as the one featured in the show to also be considered normal among viewers. This is used as an example to show the viewers that even though they may not have a family that is the typical mother, father, and children setup that it can still be a loving, normal family. This concept can also be applied to shows such as Full House that deal with the struggle after losing a spouse and features three grown men trying to raise three little girls after the death of their mother. By television providers producing shows that deviate from the norm it broadens what is considered normal in both television and real life.
Moving onto feminism in 90s television I will be first looking at Sex and the City. As I previously mentioned postfeminism was not intentionally added into the show but is a theme among it nonetheless. The show focuses on the career goals and romantic relationships of four women living in New York City. I previously mentioned consumption as a trend among postfeminism. In Sex and the City the women consume men in a similar fashion that many say men consume women: with little regard to the relationship toward sex. In the show, “Women are thus allowed to use men to fulfill their needs and desires. Although consumption seems to be an important topic, it is often mocked and represented with a little irony. This ambivalence and contradiction is typical for postfeminism (that is, situated within the postmodern tradition),” (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011). ). Another aspect that is notable in Sex and the City while also playing a large part in other television is fashion, “Phenomena such as The Spice Girls and Madonna prove that fashion can be a symbol of power and a source of pleasure: Dressing up equals fun, fun equals empowerment’. The process of getting power by means of the body, the image or fashion, is often called “fashion feminism.” Sex and the City offers a lot of attention to fashion and fashion articles. References are numerous: Valducci, Gucci, Dior, Prada, Boss, etc. Fashion and the act of shopping in general are represented as funny. Characters receive power for their fashion sensitivity, the power ‘‘lesbian’’ for example: ‘”The power lesbians, they have it all, great shoes, killer eyewear and invisible makeup.” Identity is acquired through fashion,” (Adriaens and Van Bauwel, 2011). While some forms of feminism claim that femininity is in direct opposition of feminism, Sex and the City shows that they can coexist especially in the form of fashion. Fashion is used as a form of empowerment to women and postfeminism allows women the choice to be who they want to be. This is expressed in Sex and the City through consumption and fashion but also the strong women it is based upon. This example helps to show women viewers that their value is not intrinsically based upon their sex lives and that they can be as free as the men depicted in the show are and it shows how lesbians are seen as powerful without a man and are something to aspire towards.
Next up is The Powerpuff Girls, while vastly different from Sex and the City in regards to the demographic they are appealing to and the storylines, they are both remarked as feminist works. Girl power is a common theme in the show, “The Powerpuff Girls occupy a space more closely related to the “contested terrain” of Riot Grrl third-wave feminism because they reclaim and reinvent girlhood by insisting on the simultaneity of femininity and power. They are indeed cute little girls and do all the things that little girls are “supposed” to do, but they also repeatedly demonstrate more physical and mental strength than all of the men and almost all of the women on the show. They must negotiate between their opposing identities as little girls and superheroes, and they do so fairly well—most of the time at least. But it is in these difficult moments that they most clearly gesture toward the contested and transformative space of feminist agency,” (Hager, 2008). It is through this approach of non-sexualized, strong girls that the show is creating the idea of girl power to their audience. Since this show was most popular among a younger demographic it gave children the chance to see females be seen as strong and relevant members of society while still having girlish, cute tendencies showing that they do not need to be like males to have those characteristics.
The final show to look at for feminist trends is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy is often considered the iconic woman warrior of 90s television, paving the way for future generations of strong females. This show was created specifically for womens empowerment, “Whedon’s Buffy character first appeared in the 1992 high-camp film, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reflecting both the screenwriter’s attraction to gothic horror stories and film and his anger at the omnipresent reality of male violence against women: “This movie was my response to all the horror movies I had ever seen where some girl walks into a dark room and gets killed. So I decided to make a movie where a blonde girl walks into a dark room and kicks butt instead.” While Whedon and executive producer of the TV series, Gail Berman, see their program as supplying role models for young women, Whedon is also attempting to reach young men: “If I can make teenage boys comfortable with a girl who takes charge of a situation without their knowing that’s what’s happening,” Whedon insists, “it’s better than sitting down and selling them on feminism,” (Early, 2001). While he is not directly saying Buffy is a feminist show it is implied through is comparison between watching a TV show about a strong woman or being schooled on feminism. Buffy is a great example of feminist ideas being displayed in television for consumption by both girls and boys. The girls become more comfortable with the idea of being strong, independent women and the boys become more comfortable with women and do not feel threatened. I think Buffy is one of the prime example of 90s television that aimed to raise of women and making it a norm in our society.
The final show I will be analyzing is Beverly Hills, 90210 for its aim to help viewers intentionally. This is also a trait that can be seen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer since both creators made decisions during the creation and run of the show to give the show substance and application into everyday life through empowerment and advice. While I have previously mentioned the way in which Beverly Hills, 90201 wanted to speak to its audience instead of preach at them with the content it showed, during the creation of it writer Darren Star, “remembered the network asking him to write “a high school show that had never been done before. It had to be honest and thoughtful and treat its characters with respect. There have been shows in that vein on TV about cops, about doctors, about lawyers—about everybody but teenagers,” (Magee, 2014). It is through this show that an attempt can be made to breach the gap between teenagers and adults and speak with them about issues such as sexual assault and teen pregnancy in a way that is nonjudgmental and allows the teens to learn from characters on a TV show. Television such as this was created with the intention to fill these gaps and probably helped many young teenagers out, especially teenage girls, who were dealing with these issues at the time and did not know how to deal with them. Shows such as this give an example of a path that can be taken by viewers while also working as a moral compass for the viewer when looking at the show but also real life.
In conclusion, I did not find quantitative data that showed the impact that 90s television had on society but that was not really what I aimed to do. Through analyzing these shows I was able to discover how feminism played a part in their development and viewing while also looking at other aspects such as making television more relatable to the viewer by showing real life situations and by addressing controversial issues to help guide the viewer if they ever come across them themselves. My viewing and analysis of these shows makes me believe that they were successful in trying to educate the public and empower women. Many girls during the 90s had strong, free females to look up to ranging from the cast of Sex and the City to The Powerpuff Girls thus creating a passage for females of all ages to view content that empowered them. Postfeminism is a common theme in many of these shows and can be seen still developing in society today possibly due the media consumed by girls of yesterday.

Sources
1. Smith, Kourtney Hanna. TGIF: Thank goodness it’s family: Family messages in ABC’s 1990s Friday night lineup. Thesis. Middle Tennessee State University, 2015.
2. Hager, Lisa. “”Saving the World Before Bedtime”: The Powerpuff Girls, Citizenship, and the Little Girl Superhero.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 33.1 (2008): 62-78. Project Muse Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
3. Adriaens, Fien, and Sofie Van Bauwel. “Sex and the City: A Postfeminist Point of View? Or How Popular Culture Functions as a Channel for Feminist Discourse.” The Journal of Popular Culture 47.1 (2011): 174-95. Wiley Online Library. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
4. Early, Francis H. “Staking Her Claim: Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Transgressive Woman Warrior.” The Journal of Popular Culture 35.3 (2001): 11-27. Wiley Online Library. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
5. Magee, Sara. “High School is Hell: The TV Legacy of Beverly Hills, 90210, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The Journal of Popular Culture 47.4 (2014): 877-94. Wiley Online Library. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

Interior Design

Clarissa’s bedroom.

The television character Clarissa Darling was a huge point of inspiration when designing the 90s room. The show Clarissa Explains It All ran from March 23, 1991 to October 1, 1994. As a teenage girl in the 90s with an interest in computer game programming, taking tips from the set of Clarissa felt like a good place to start.

Clarissa at her computer.

Clarissa Darling’s bedroom is considered iconic and one of the most enviable bedrooms from TV in the 1990s—just ask Buzzfeed, People, and Gurl. Clarissa’s bedroom is a mismatched, pink, checkered, hubcap-covered, teenage paradise (at least in the 90s). The beige carpet, pastel pink wall, and floral wallpaper come straight from popular design trends in the 90s. The show even started its own trend that didn’t really take-off, but it did make it’s way on to Bustle’s list of 22 Things Every ’90s Kid Wanted in Their Bedrooma pet crocodile in a kiddie-sandbox.

Pink computer chair.

The computer chair in Clarissa’s room should look familiar, there’s a pink version of it in the 90s room. Since there are limitations as to what could be done with the space, decorative pieces like posters and stickers were the best way to show 90s style and design. Pink was brought into the room early with a filing cabinet, so it only made since after researching the popularity of pastel pink to keep the trend going.

Handmade with love.

 

Two pillows where made for the specific purpose of showing popular 90s design schemes, tying the room together and creating a harmonious color scheme between pink and blue. The blue is a normal cotton fabric that introduced the use of floral patterns into the room and the pink is a plain flannel fabric.

Interior design is important because, those who watch House Hunters know, certain trends make rooms look “dated” and no one wants to buy a house with pastel pink walls or floral wallpaper. But most importantly, if a room doesn’t have comfortable furniture and isn’t inviting, then who would want to stay in it and play some rad 90s video games?

 

 

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