Unit 7: 1990's
You will examine how an increased interest in entertainment is reflected in pop culture
You will identify emerging influences on social interests and focus
You will discuss the rise of the “skill-less star” and its effect on pop and american culture in the future
The 1990's was a period of time when the United States was coming to terms with it’s new reality as we prepare to enter the 21st century. The 1990's brought a technology boom and a rise of internet technology companies that created great economic success. But as technology continues to take up a larger portion of our daily lives, some fears over this relatively new technology begin to take over the nation. Towards the end of the decade many were concerned with a program failure known as Y2K. A theory that thought computers would essentially crash because most computer programs and records were cataloged with a two digit year code instead of the more complete four digit code (i.e. '95 instead of 1995). This put the tech industry on high alert and the world waited as the 1990’s turned to the 2000's and nothing happened.
Besides technology, the United States was continuing its economic prosperity as it established a new partnership with Mexico and Canada creating a free trade zone to improve trade between North American nations. This new program was known as NAFTA or the North American Free Trade Agreement and was considered a major step forward as nations learned to leverage the expanding global market. NAFTA and other economic plans by President Clinton put the United States back on track in terms of government spending, for the first time in decades the government had a balanced budget and an annual surplus to pay down American debts.
President Clinton did not escape the decade without a major scandal of his own. Soon after his election the president was subpoenaed to give a deposition in an ongoing real estate scandal called Whitewater. The President was then accused by Paula Jones of sexually harassing her when he was the Governor of Arkansas and in the course of that investigation it was discovered that the President was having an affair with one of his White House interns Monica Lewinsky. The president denied the allegations and testified in a grand jury deposition that he did not have sexual relations with either women. The courts had found that while the president can not be charged while in office investigations can continue which led to the presidents testimony. President Clinton later admitted to having a relationship with Monica Lewinsky and the U.S. House of Representatives quickly voted to impeach him for perjury. The senate ended up not acting on the charges, but President Bill Clinton becomes the second president in United States history to be impeached.
The 1990's had its struggles with social progress as well as the nation continued to battle rising homophobia. Gay Americans were being attacked and denied the right to work across the country and in the armed services soldiers were being targeted and kicked out of the military for their sexual preference. With this growing divide, President Clinton passes the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy which prohibits service members from asking about or sharing sexual preferences. This policy however, still allowed the military to discharge soldiers who came out publicly as homosexual. At the time this policy seemed like a huge step forward to ease tensions and in many ways it did just that, but as history looks back on this policy it is considered regressive and harmful.
A new era of race relations also emerged in the 1990's when police brutality and a justice system that protected officers and disenfranchised African Americans was on full display. A man by the name of Rodney King was being chased by police and when they detained him the officers began to beat Rodney King severely on live television, thanks to an overhead helicopter covering the chase. The police were ultimately charged with excessive force but, not one of the officers was found guilty. As a result of this seemingly unjust verdict, huge riots broke out across the country, but particularly in L.A. where the incident occurred, protesters demanded a change to police policies and the criminal justice system. New policing measures were put in place that involved community policing and police departments ended to the aggressive and noneffective war on drugs.
These changes were not enough for many Americans and many looked for a more public rebuke of the criminal justice system. Shortly after, America got it’s chance with a highly publicized murder case involving a former NFL star and his ex- wife. O.J. Simpson is a black man and his ex-wife and her boyfriend at the time were both white. O.J. was accused of stabbing them both to death. The criminal trial became primetime television and the evidence seemingly proved his guilt, but a jury found him not guilty and set him free. O.J. has since found himself in a mountain of legal troubles as he appears to confess to the murder in a book he published title “If I Did It”.
Rodney King and the O.J. Simpson trial may have highlighted the renewed racial tension in America, but it failed to capture the greatest threat to a stable America - domestic terrorism. The 1990’s brought the rise of mass terror events like the Oklahoma City bombing where bomber Timothy McVeigh in 1995 parked a van full of explosives at the base of a federal building killing countless people and terrorized a nation. The era of mass killings to promote an outlandish political conspiracy or to spread a message had arrived. Four years later Columbine High School was attacked by a student using assault weapons, thanks to these major acts of domestic terrorism the police forces in America needed to improve their tactical training and once again depart from the role of community liaisons and transition to a more militaristic force.
The 1990's gave the United States and the world a lot to look forward to, but it also exposed the many challenges this new world would present.