DiscoverHidden ForcesThe 1990s and the Cancellation of the Future | Chuck Klosterman
The 1990s and the Cancellation of the Future | Chuck Klosterman

The 1990s and the Cancellation of the Future | Chuck Klosterman

Update: 2023-02-062


In Episode 296 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Chuck Klosterman, a bestselling author and essayist whose work focuses on American popular culture. His most recent book about the 1990s describes a decade that happened long ago, but not nearly as long ago as it seems.

The 1990s happened between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Twin Towers. During that time, one presidential election was allegedly decided by Ross Perot while another was plausibly decided by Ralph Nader. At the start of the decade everyone’s name and address was listed in a phone book, and everyone answered their landlines. By the end, exposing someone’s address was an act of emotional violence, and nobody picked up their cell phone. Pop culture accelerated without the aid of a machine that remembered everything, generating an odd comfort in never being certain about anything. On a 1990s Thursday night, more people watched any random episode of Seinfeld than the finale of Game of Thrones. It was the last era that held to the idea of a true, hegemonic mainstream before it all began to fracture.

What is it about the 1990s that makes it feel this way? “The feeling of the era,” writes Chuck Klosterman “and what that feeling supposedly signified, isolates the 1990s from both its distant past and its immediate future. It was a period of ambivalence, defined by an overwhelming assumption that life, and particularly American life, was underwhelming.” That was the thinking at the time. It is not the thinking now. Now the 1990s seem like a period when the world was starting to go crazy, but not so crazy that it was unmanageable or irreparable. It was the end of the twentieth century, but also the end of an age when we controlled technology more than technology controlled us. It was as Chuck Klosterman writes “a good time that happened long ago, although not nearly as long ago as it seems.”

This episode is part of a larger series that we’ve published over the years on television history and culture, technology and the human experience, and the transformation in our perceptions of the world and what it means to be a human being. You can find these and other related podcasts on this week’s episode at, where you can also access to the second part of today’s conversation by joining one of our three content tiers. This gives you access to our premium feed which you can use to listen to the second part of today’s conversation on your mobile device using your favorite podcast app just like you are listening to this episode right now.

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Episode Recorded on 01/31/2023

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The 1990s and the Cancellation of the Future | Chuck Klosterman

The 1990s and the Cancellation of the Future | Chuck Klosterman

Demetri Kofinas