16 Lost Causes You Couldn't Help But Root For In The '90s

If you were an angsty adolescent in the ‘90s, you probably would have refused to admit to fuzzy feelings like “optimism.” But even if you spent most of your time trying to be one of the disaffected characters of Reality Bites, there were certain lost causes in the 90s that you just couldn’t stop yourself from rooting for, even when you knew the case was utterly hopeless.

Although looking back, I tend to think of the ‘90s as a time of bright colors and infectious, sugary pop music (it was, after all, the age of the Spice Girls and *NSYNC), when I was actually living through it, I favored a more cynical strain of pop culture. In my angsty, overdramatic teenaged brain, I imagined myself to be a real life Daria, facing off against the Quinns of the world. I was pessimistic and sarcastic, and the rest of the world Just. Didn’t. Get. It. (Of course, that’s how I wanted to be. In reality, I was probably just a run-of-the-mill confused, sullen teenager). But despite all of my wannabe angst and cynicism, there were certain things I just couldn’t stop myself from being optimistic about. Things I wanted to do, events I wanted to see, TV couples I wanted to make out and be together forever. I’ll admit it: Underneath all that adolescent existential torment, I was just wanted everyone to be warm and nice and happy.

Keep reading for 16 things you knew were hopeless cases — but that you kept rooting for anyway.

1. Keeping your Tamagotchi alive


You were always torn when it came to your Tamagotchi: On the one hand, you wanted it to live and thrive and have a happy Tamagotchi life. On the other, all those beeps and cries for attention were super annoying, leading you to ignore and often hide your little electronic pet. But somehow, even after your eggy friend died from neglect for the fifth time, you’d still restart it, optimistically believing you could keep it alive this time. (You couldn’t).

2. Your hair’s ability to hold a crimp for more than three minutes.


All of the sparkling teen starlets of the ‘90s silver screen had perfectly crimped hair, often twisted into spiky, butterfly-clipped half-updos that look ridiculous now but were the bomb back in the day. But there you were, crimper in hand (Mine was white and pink!), trying and inevitably failing to achieve the same hair glory. How did Barbie make it look so easy?

3. Angela and Jordan Catalano


In the ‘90s, adolescents everywhere could sympathize with Angela Chase and her massive crush on mysterious, silent, hot Jordan Catalano (aka baby Jared Leto) on My So Called Life. We all cheered when they got together* and cried when they broke up, but, let’s be honest, did anyone actually think that those two were going to be anything good in the long term? Sadly the show was canceled before we got to see how the rest of their relationship would play out, but IMHO it had “lost cause” written all over it.

*(Oh my God, the scene when he goes to her locker, and holds her hand in front of his friends, and Buffalo Tom is playing in the background?? That was 20 years ago, and I’m still not over it.)

4. The return of Ginger Spice.


The world cried a giant “Say it isn’t so!” when Geri Halliwell (aka Ginger Spice) announced she was leaving the Spice Girls in 1998. Many fans never gave up hope that Ginger would eventually bring her “Girl Power” flavor back to the band, and they were finally rewarded when the Spice Girls reunited — Halliwell included — in 2007.

5. Being allowed to wear crop tops to school.


Crop tops, halter tops, and mini-skirts were majorly trendy in the ‘90s, but that didn’t mean ‘90s teens were actually allowed to wear them in school. (Except in movies. Apparently high schools in ‘90s teen movies don’t bother with boring stuff like dress codes). My school’s dress code didn’t allow any of that, and yet every year, I’d go school shopping with visions of adorable, cropped cardigans and plaid mini-skirts in my head, only to realize that it wasn’t going to fly with my teachers.

6. Lunchables being as awesome as you wanted them to be.


In ‘90s school cafeterias, Lunchables were prized more than any other thing, and represented the peak of the food trading hierarchy. But they were never really as good as all that fanfare promised they would be. You’d always find yourself vaguely disappointed by the wet lunchmeat and stingy amount of crackers, but that didn’t stop you from trying to trade for them at the lunch table the very next day.

7. Peace in the Real World house.


You started every new season hoping that the cast members would all get along and be best friends and have fun adventures, but things would always fall into conflict and drama. Turns out that when people stop being polite and start getting real, everyone turns into a bit of a jerk. (Or a LOT of a jerk. I’m looking at you, Puck).

8. Buffy and Angel.


I loved Buffy and Angel together, but a boyfriend that you can’t have sex with because he’ll turn into a demon and murder your computer teacher is not someone you have a future with. Of course, that didn’t stop Buffy fans from wishing those crazy kid could make it work.

9. Hair Jewels.


Am I the only one who simply could not make these things work? They were basically stickers for hair, except they didn’t really stick. Mine had Velcro backing that would sort of catch onto my hair and sort of not, so 10 minutes after putting them on, they’d be falling off. But did that keep me from trying it again a week later? Nope.

10. Convincing your mom to let you watch Beverly Hills, 90210 in the fourth grade.


Confession: I was obsessed with 90210 when I was in the fourth grade. It was too mature for me, but I didn’t care because the 25-year-old high schoolers in that show were so cool. But when my mom happened to catch the episode in which Brenda and Dylan have sex on prom night, she banned it. I spent every Thursday night for a year trying to convince her to let me watch, based on the insanely optimistic assumption that she would eventually give in. She didn’t. (By the time I was allowed to watch it, I had already moved on to better, brighter things, aka Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

11. Having a non-creepy experience in a chat room.


The Internet is an amazing, world-changing thing, but now we are all well aware that it is also full of creepsters. Adolescents in the ‘90s were a bit more naïve, and, if they were like me, would visit chat rooms about their favorite subjects in hopes that it would be an awesome community experience made possible by The Future. Instead, it was usually adults on IM pretending to be15 years old and talking about wanting to “cyber.” Shudder. Did that stop you from logging onto AOL again the next day to try out a different chat room? Of course not.

12. Johnny and Winona getting back together.

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were the peak of early ‘90s cool. Is it any wonder that after they broke up, we spent the rest of the decade fantasizing that they would get back together?

13. Your parents figuring out how to use a computer.


At the dawn of the Internet age, many of us were forced to stand by and watch while our parents tried to learn how to send email for the first time. It was like watching a stranded dolphin flop around on the beach.

And yet you still held out hope that eventually something would “click,” and your parents would learn to send email and use the printer without calling you for help. It’s 2016, and you’re still waiting for that to happen.

14. Having a school dance be as cool as the one in She’s All That.

Movieclips on YouTube

I’m not talking about the “Am I a bet?” debacle — I’m talking about the best scene in She’s All That: The moment when the whole school engages in a prom dance-off, and everyone happens to know the choreography in advance. At every lame school dance I went to, I kept waiting for that to happen. IT NEVER DID. (sob).

Side note, this guy’s hair is the most ‘90s thing to ever happen:

15. Getting to live in your own version of Empire Records.


In the ‘90s, working at a music store was basically the coolest job you could have (Clearly, the second coolest was being the Slayer). Tragically, your dream of selling CDs while dancing to angsty music with your friends/coworkers and damning the Man will never be realized, because CD stores are dead. What would Empire Records even look like now? How do you stick it to the man in the age of iTunes?

16. Ever being as cool as Shirley Manson.


I’m still waiting for this one.

Images: Warner Bros., Giphy (14); YouTube