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'90s Pop Culture References Your Kids Will Never Understand

Kids today will never know the struggle of having monthly hour limits on your internet.

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1. "Not the Mama!":

ABC Television / Via

Dinosaurs, the series about the Sinclairs, a family of anthropomorphic dinosaurs, ran for four seasons on ABC -- and, believe it or not, was actually not the most WTF show on TGIF (looking at you, Aliens in the Family). Of course the breakout star of the show was Baby Sinclair, who had several catchphrases, the most memorable being "Not the Mama!" which he would sling at anyone who was, in fact, not the mama.

Fun fact: Jessica Walter (aka Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development) voiced mama herself, Fran Sinclair. Kevin Clash, who was the longtime voice of Elmo, voiced Baby Sinclair.

2. Wendy "The Snapple Lady" Kaufman:

Snapple / Via

It's hard to believe, but it's been over 20 years since Kaufman, then a real-life employee of Snapple, uttered the memorable line "Hi from Snapple" before answering customers' letters in those memorable commercials.

3. Log:

View this video on YouTube

Be honest, it's impossible not to think of The Ren & Stimpy Show and not get this jingle stuck in your head. Remember it's "Log, from Blammo!"

4. Marky Mark:

Calvin Klein / Via

Long before he was a ~serious~ actor, '90s kids knew Wahlberg best as Marky Mark, the lead rapper of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and, of course, also giving us good vibrations with his iconic Calvin Klein Underwear ads (eat your heart out, Justin Bieber).

Fun fact: In 1992, Marky Mark wrote his memoir and dedicated it to his penis (eat your heart out, Justin Bieber)!

5. "Donna Martin graduates":

CBS Television
CBS Television

Quick recap, in case you forgot (but of course you didn't): Donna was almost not allowed to graduate after getting caught drunk at prom, so her West Beverly classmates, led by goody two-shoes Brandon Walsh, protested the decision by chanting the ICONIC line "Donna Martin graduates!"

Fun fact: According to Jason Priestley, he and the rest of the cast were actually yelling "Donna Martin masturbates!" 'cause they knew the sound people would be redubbing the chanting during editing.

6. "Be kind, rewind":

Via Twitter: @90sdecade

Shit, kids don't even own DVDs today, much less VHS tapes. But one thing's for sure: Nothing ruined the excitement of putting a VHS tape in only to find it was at the end or in middle of the tape. And rewinding it took FOREVER.

7. Dancing Itos:

NBC / Getty Images

Twenty years ago, the O. J. Simpson trial dominated not just the news, but also pop culture. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno took O.J. Simpson mania to next levels of WTF with the Dancing Itos (based on the trial's judge, Lance Ito), who were basically dancers who came out and danced during the monologue for, well, really NO reason.

8. Getting 12 CDs for a penny:

Columbia House / Via

Who was scamming who when it came to ordering CDs from Columbia House or BMG? Admit it, that copy of Jagged Little Pill is probably from a CD order you placed and then never paid for. 😉

9. Urkel:

ABC Television / Via

How big was Urkel? Well, so big they could've renamed Family Matters "The Steve Urkel Show" and nobody would have noticed. Urkel not only had the only important tie-in merchandise (board games, dolls, lunchboxes), but he also had his own cereal.

Fun fact: Urkel, in a true sign of '90s greatness, had his own song and dance: "Do the Urkel Dance."

10. Double Dare:

Nickelodeon / Via

NOTHING was more stressful than watching the kids on Double Dare compete in the near-impossible physical challenges. At the same time it was frustrating, 'cause you knew if you were on the show you could totally beat it. 😁

11. Screening your phone calls:

NBC / Via

Ah, those days before caller ID became a common and affordable feature on phones, when the only way to know who was calling was to not answer and wait till they left a message on your answering machine. If you think about it, we still kind of do that — we look at our phone when it rings, wait till the person leaves a voicemail, and then decided whether or not we want to listen to the voicemail.

12. Star 69:


The ultimate weapon against a prank caller! Star-69'ing their asses, and ~scaring~ them. Well, it also sucked if you used it too much, 'cause it was like 10 cents each time you did it.

This also marked the end of the carefree days when you could call your crush, lose your nerve, and hang up over and over again.

13. Dr. Kimberly Shaw rips off her wig on Melrose Place:

CBS Television / Via

After faking her death following a drunk driving accident, Kimberly comes back to take revenge on Michael Mancini (who was driving the car) and reveals to us that she didn't leave the accident unscathed, in easily one of the most shockingly unexpected '90s TV moments. 😱

14. The Encyclopaedia Britannica Kid:

Encyclopedia Britannica / Via

Do you remember him? He was the annoying geeky kid who had a report due on space and got it done thanks to Encyclopaedia Britannica (oh, and the voice of God or something, who was talking to him from out of nowhere).

Translation for kids today: Encyclopedias were like Wikipedia that you paid for, but well-sourced and semi-accurate.

15. Gift certificates:


Before there was such a thing as gift CARDS, the only way you could get credit to your fave stores was through gift certificates, which usually resembled fake money or bonds. Best of all, if you didn't spend the whole thing, you usually got the difference back in CASH. 🙌

16. Pure Moods:

View this video on YouTube

Has there ever been a commercial that made you want to buy a CD more?! Seriously! You probably still can hear all the song snippets in your head.

17. Madonna vs. Courtney Love:

MTV / Via

The blonde bombshells went head-to-head in 1995, when Courtney Love famously interrupted Madonna's post-VMAs interview with MTV OG reporter Kurt Loder by throwing a MAC compact at the Queen of Pop from below. Madonna famously quipped "Courtney Love is in dire need of attention right now" before throwing a few shady jabs at her.

18. The crackling sound of dial-up:

AOL / Via

"You've got mail" wasn't the only sound bite that America Online users came to associate with "signing on" to the internet.

19. Paying for your internet by the hour:

AOL / Via

Or, if you were lucky enough to open your mailbox, getting a few hundred hours free when you signed up for America Online.

20. "I've fallen and I can't get up!":

Long before Steve Urkel reinforced the popularity of this Life Alert phrase by quoting it on Family Matters, kids growing up in the late '80s and early '90s quoted it constantly, thanks to the Life Alert commercials that played nonstop during afternoon cartoons. Were that many old people watching cartoons back then?!

21. "Page me!":


Pagers came with a whole culture all their own -- pager codes became a not-so-secret language pre-texting (143 = I love you, 187 = I'm gonna kill you, and so forth), and there was the added bonus of being asked if you were a drug dealer by any adult who noticed you had one.

22. Arsenio's whoop:

That iconic '90s gesture solidified Arsenio's place in the pop culture pantheon. Well, that and Coming to America.

23. Bagel Bites:

Bagel Bites / Via

Sure, they still make Bagel Bites, but it's not the same -- well, minus burning the inside of our mouths when biting into them, that we don't miss. The novelty has worn off, plus they no longer play the commercial with the jingle — 'cause "When pizza's on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime!"

24. "The Rachel" haircut:

NBC / Getty Images

The layered bob that launched thousands of sexual awakenings, and even MORE trips to the hair salon. Ladies of the '90s knew how to use a round brush with a blow dryer like nobody's business.

25. "Mentos, the Freshmaker":

View this video on YouTube

This series of vaguely European-looking commercials all had one BIG thing going for them, other than their cheesy plotlines — the SUPER addictive jingle: “Mentos freshness, fresh goes better with Mentos, fresh and full of life! Mentos, the freshmaker!”

Fun fact: The original commercials did come from Europe and were dubbed in English.

26. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley's relationship:

- / AFP / Getty Images

Admit it. This still totally creeps you out. If the kiss heard 'round the world had happened like five years later, there is no question these two would have had their own reality show.

27. Jonathan Taylor Thomas:

Primedia / Via

Those eyes, those cheekbones, that hairless face. JTT was the prettiest heartthrob who ever throbbed, and if you weren't sexually awakened by Rachel's haircut, JTT's baby blues probably did you in.

28. Calling someone a poser:

Disney/Pixar / Via

The ultimate insult in a era when it was all about being authentic and NOT selling out to the man.

29. Crystal Pepsi:

View this video on YouTube

Pepsi / Via

The difference was clear. The time on the market was short-lived. The fact that more people didn't question why they didn't leave the artificial colors out of Pepsi from the beginning was a miracle.

30. Mossimo as a high-end brand:

Mossimo / Via

Now you can easily get Mossimo clothing by walking into any Target across the country, but throughout most of the '90s the coveted line was a little harder to get and was only sold at stores like Bloomingdales.

31. Drew Barrymore the wild child:


Dave Letterman was a magnet for dramz in the '90s. In '94, Madonna unleashed a spectacular smattering of curse words that put the network sensors to the test, but it was Drew Barrymore, living up to her former wild child reputation by flashing the host live on camera in 1995, who really left him speechless.

Fun fact: After she posed nude in Playboy in 1995, Steven Spielberg (who famously directed her in E.T.) sent her a gag gift, a blanket with a note saying, "Cover up."

32. Gap "Khakis Swing" commercial:

View this video on YouTube

Back when the Gap was cool, they totally rode on the swing revival trend and found a way to get you excited about wearing khakis — well, chinos, to be exact.

33. Pop Up Video:

VH1 / Via

Today we call it Twitter, but once upon a time having weird factoids run across the bottom of your TV screen was reserved for VH1's hit series Pop Up Video.

34. Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt:

Pool / AFP/Getty Images
Pool / AFP / Getty Images

In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt cut off the entire penis of her then-husband, John, alleging he had raped her. The proceeding trial for it led to a huge media circus, a million penis cutting jokes, and, of course, Halloween costumes. After the trial, John parlayed his infamy into a short-lived porn career.

35. Heroin chic:

Yes, there was actually a time were looking strung-out, half awake, and super unhappy was THE LOOK.

36. East Coast vs. West Coast:

All these years later, it's still surreal that this even happened, and that two talented artists, Biggie and 2Pac, who were at the top of their game, died.

37. Dancing Baby Cha-Cha:

The original viral GIF! It was so big it even made a cameo (somehow) on Ally McBeal.

38. Using 1-800-Collect to make a call:


Yup, this one is probably buried deep down in the recesses of your mind, but there was a time when you had no option but to use a pay phone to call people while out in public. And nothing was worse than realizing you didn't have a dime to make a call and you would have to call collect.

39. The era of the supermodel:

Condé Nast
Condé Nast
Condé Nast

Before having movie stars and celebs on the cover of fashion magazines was the norm, the space was strictly reserved for those mythical creatures known as supermodels (aka Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Kate Moss) – they were truly glamorous rock stars.

40. Trent Lane:

MTV / Via

Is it possible to be sexually attracted to a cartoon? Well, if you grew up in the '90s, you know the answer is yes, and his name was Trent.

41. Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's sex tape.


Any kid who saw this today would be like, "Who are these people?" But this was the ORIGINAL celeb sex tape, and also a pre-internet viral video. Let's be honest, you probably watched it huddled in a friend's living room after school on some grainy VHS copy somebody taped off a third-generation version of the original.

42. Titanic-mania:


This movie was a phenomenon, and unless you were old enough to remember, it's hard to comprehended just how BIG of an impact this had for the longest time on pop culture.

43. Y2K:

Time Inc. / Via

How the hell did everyone think civilization was going to collapse when it became the year 2000, just because our old VCRs wouldn't recognize the year?

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