Well, although I’ve probably talked about this before, I thought that I’d look at early-mid 2000s nostalgia today. After all, this time period is probably still just about recent enough at the time of writing for it not to be a major source of pop-culture nostalgia in the way that the 1980s and 1990s currently are. So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about random ways to add some early-mid 2000s nostalgia to your story.
I’ll mostly be focusing on early-mid 2000s Britain (and to a lesser extent America) here and this article may well turn into more of a nostalgic ramble than any actual serious advice. Although, of course, the irony here is that when I was a teenager during the early-mid 2000s, I never actually thought that I’d get nostalgic about such a “crappy” part of history. Of course, in comparison to the modern world… Anyway, onwards with the article.
1) Horror, gloom and angst: Although the 1990s technically ended in the year 2000, they probably ended culturally on one terrible day in 2001. The mood of optimism, innocence and hope that characterised a lot of 1990s culture came to a reasonably abrupt end after 9/11. Although this resulted in more polarised politics, wars, more authoritarian government in both the UK and US etc… It also had an effect on popular culture too. In short, things got a bit gloomier, more “serious” and angst-ridden. This is one of the core cultural differences between the 1990s and early-mid 2000s.
Of course, this change was most noticeable in the thriller genre. Whilst the relative peace of the 1990s forced writers, screenwriters etc… in this genre to come up with imaginative, wonderfully silly and gleefully unrealistic plots, almost everything in this genre suddenly became focused on serious topical stuff like terrorism, moral issues surrounding torture etc.. during the early-mid 2000s (eg: TV shows like “24”). In this time, the detective genre also saw more of a shift towards police procedural type stories that focused on forensics etc.. (as seen in TV shows like “CSI” etc..)
This change in mood also had an effect on films too. One of the interesting things about the early-mid 2000s was that horror movies were actually a popular genre of cinema for a while 🙂
Not only was Hollywood remaking a lot of suspenseful, supernatural-based psychological horror films from Japan (with “The Ring” being the classic example), but it was also a good time for the zombie genre (eg: films like “Shaun Of The Dead”, “28 Days Later” and the “Resident Evil” films) and for new horror franchises in general (eg: “Final Destination”, “Saw” etc…). Of course, some slight hints of the superhero genre (eg: “X-Men” and the first “Spiderman” film) popped up sporadically in cinemas, but they were thankfully still just an occasional infrequent novelty back then.
Likewise, horror was also a popular genre in videogames too 🙂 Yes, the survival horror genre was invented in the 1990s (in both “Alone In The Dark” and the original “Resident Evil”), but it reached its zenith during the early-mid 2000s with games like “Silent Hill 2”, “Silent Hill 3“, “Project Zero/Fatal Frame”, “Forbidden Siren” and possibly the remake of the original “Resident Evil”. It was a good time to be a fan of horror videogames 🙂 Another cool thing was that most horror games of the time still used the classic “tank controls” that – whilst obtuse to modern gamers – are surprisingly intuitive if you grew up with them.
Even music was affected by this gloomy mood too. Not only was the most popular type of heavy metal music during the early-mid 2000s Nu Metal music (and, later, shouty angst-ridden metalcore music). But, even more melodic popular rock/metal groups often tended to have a bit more of an angsty and/or gothic influence to them. This was a time period where both Evanescence’s “Fallen” and HIM’s “Love Metal” albums were reasonably popular 🙂 Yes, at the time, I didn’t really think that they were as good as the 1980s heavy metal I was also listening to, but I still really miss the days when records like these could actually have mainstream chart success.
Likewise, pop-punk music was also afflicted by the angst-ridden mood of the time. Whether it was the slightly heavier, more morose and/or gloomier sound of The Offspring’s “Splinter” album, Sum 41’s “Does This Look Infected?” album and Green Day’s “American Idiot” album when compared to earlier albums by all three bands, early-mid 2000s pop-punk music certainly reflected the mood of the time. And, yes, pop-punk was actually still a popular genre then 🙂
2) Culture, phones and the internet: Both the internet and mobile phones existed in the early-mid 2000s. But, mobile phones were thankfully just phones (not portable computers. Seriously, text messaging was still an exciting new thing. Yes, phone cameras existed on high-end phones – but the picture quality was often atrocious) and faster broadband internet was also only just starting to be widely introduced too (with many people still using dial-up internet).
The blissful absence of smartphones also meant that lots of other portable things were more popular (eg: portable MP3/CD/Cassette players, digital cameras, paperback books, disposable film cameras, wristwatches, notebooks [the paper type] etc…) too. Not only were these more reliable (eg: if your CD player runs out of battery, you can still write stuff in a notebook, read a novel or check the time on your watch) but – novels aside- they often weren’t the type of all-consuming distractions that modern smartphones are. They were functional single-purpose items that didn’t get in the way of life.
The landscape of the internet was also very different too. A few examples of this are the fact that many pages were still optimised for slower dial-up internet (and for desktop PCs too 🙂) or the fact that “social media” tended to consist of more localised, private or topic-focused things like forums, MSN Messenger, MySpace etc… Or the fact that video streaming wasn’t really a thing (Youtube began in 2005 and Netflix was still a DVD rental company during the early-mid 2000s). Or the fact that there was a lot more variety and competition when it came to search engines (*sigh* I miss AltaVista).
Likewise, because the internet was less of a well-developed thing and smartphones didn’t exist, it was less of a distraction too. People actually went to pubs/clubs, read books, played local mutliplayer videogames/ had LAN parties, hung out in town, went to the cinema, took photos of places and other people (rather than of food and of themselves) etc..
3) Fashions and physical media: The fashions of early-mid 2000s Britain tended to be a bit more understated/ordinary, although some fashion trends and subcultures (eg: “emo” fashion, Burberry caps, hoodies, short-sleeved flame print shirts layered over T-shirts, chain wallets, “Boho chic” etc…) emerged during this time. Still, the “look” of the early-mid 2000s is probably a bit more subtle, understated and less out-there than the “look” of decades like the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
Still, one of the really cool things about the early-mid 2000s was that it was one of the last times where physical media was king 🙂 It was a time when CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes (yes, you could still buy them back then), paperback books, magazines and game discs/cartridges were were a lot more widely used. Yes, “100% digital” media certainly existed back then too – but, with the exception of a few sites like the early versions of iTunes and possibly Steam, physical media was usually what people chose when they were actually buying entertainment.
But, although I don’t want to ramble too much about physical media, it had all sorts of cool effects on everyday life.
Whether it was how your book/CD/DVD collection could also add a bit of life and personality to a room (and is a million miles away from the cold, soulless minimalism that is so popular these days), whether it was things like demo discs on videogame magazines or CD singles in shops, whether it was old ex-rental VHS tapes in gigantic cases (I once found one of “Army Of Darkness” that contained the alternate ending. For years, I thought it was the actual ending of the film), whether it was buying a random second-hand book by one of your favourite authors – only to find that it is a signed copy (this happened to me at least twice with Shaun Hutson novels) etc… I have a lot of nostalgia for the heyday of physical media and, for some things at least, still vastly prefer it to modern “100% digital” equivalents.
And, on a more general level, because physical media was more popular, things like record shops, game shops, second-hand shops, magazine racks, bookshops etc.. used to be a bit more common during the early-mid 2000s than they are today. Kind of like how payphones were also a lot more common because mobile phones were slightly less ubiquitous.
Well, although this turned into a bit of a ramble, I hope it was useful 🙂