All Of The '90s Pop Culture References In 'Little Fires Everywhere'

by Rebecca Patton
Courtesy of Hulu

Spoilers ahead for Little Fires Everywhere Episodes 1-3. Although there are a few time jumps, Hulu's miniseries Little Fires Everywhere takes place in the late '90s. More specifically, the series — premiering Wednesday, March 18 — starts in August 1997, as both Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood) and the Richardson kids go back to school.

However, the series is not entirely linear and includes several flashbacks. In Episode 2, for instance, audiences see Pearl as a baby in May 1983. Later in the season, Little Fires Everywhere author Celeste Ng told Cleveland Magazine that there will be a flashback episode, which portrays younger versions of both Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon). "We see how they became the women they are in the present moment of the show," the author said. "Elena really needs to be in control. Part of the reason is what she experienced earlier. It's the same with Mia."

But since the bulk of Little Fires Everywhere takes place in 1997, there are plenty of great pop culture references from the first three episodes, with more assuredly to come as the series continues to air. So if you're a fan of Lilith Fair, Richard Linklater, The Real World, or Nirvana, you've come to the right place.


'The Real World'

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Elena's eldest children, Lexie (Jade Pettyjohn) and Trip (Jordan Elsass), love kicking back and watching The Real World: Boston. "It will be hard to beat San Francisco, though," Lexie tells Pearl, who is a newcomer to the '90s reality series.


The Music

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It would take up way too much real estate to separately mention each musician or band that's name-checked, but suffice it to say, they're all very '90s. At the kids' homecoming dance alone, the DJ plays "Waterfalls" by TLC, "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba, and "It's Your Birthday" by Luke, among others.

Audiences also learn that Izzy is a Lilith Fair fan, while Pearl and Moody write Kurt Cobain lyrics on their arms. "Fiona Apple's right," Izzy says after her terrible first day of school. "The world's bullsh*t."


'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

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"OK, Buffy not recording is not a 911," Lexie tells her friend over the phone. "And plus, it was a re-run anyway. It premieres next week.... She doesn't want to be a slayer anymore, so."

At this point, the series would have been going into Season 2, so it was early in the iconic show's run.


Ellen DeGeneres

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There's a rumor going around school that Izzy is gay, and her classmates love calling her "Ellen." In one scene, she opens her locker and finds the comedian's famous Time April 1997 cover tacked to the inside, which devastates her.


Grey Poupon

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"Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" one of Lexie and Brian's friends asks before their homecoming dance, which is a reference to the early '90s mustard commercial.


'The Vagina Monologues'

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Elena is thoroughly disgusted by Eve Ensler's 1996 play The Vagina Monologues, which her gynecologist friend has insisted the women read for book club.


'Before Sunrise'

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After homecoming, Moody and Pearl make plans to watch the '95 Richard Linklater film, which he insists is "way better" than going to a stupid high school dance.


Carmen Electra

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In Episode 4, Trip watches a TV show that's being hosted by Carmen Electra, and subsequently turns to ask his younger brother: "Do you think that Carmen Electra's hotter than Jenny McCarthy if you like, didn't have to listen to her voice?"

"I think you're vacuous and destined for manual labor," Moody shoots back.


Lilith Fair

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Izzy is already an established Lilith Fair fan — something that has stood in as a metaphor for her sexuality. In Episode 4, Elena reads a copy of Newsweek, which features a cover story on the '97 iteration of the music festival. Later in the episode, Izzy finds the corresponding article, "All the Fair Ladies," on her bed, implying that her mother knows she's gay.


The Halloween costumes

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Pearl dresses like Scary Spice for a Halloween party, while Lexie and her friend both show up dressed as Posh. Brian is dressed like Bill Clinton, "the first black president," and there's also a Wayne from Wayne's World, Cher from Clueless, and Julia Sweeney's SNL character Pat in attendance.

Fortunately, there's several more episodes to go in Little Fires Everywhere, so there are likely more '90s references coming down the pipeline.