Growing up in the 90’s was hard. Sure, we benefited from technological advances, economic growth and Bill Clinton’s smooth sax solos, but as a whole, 90’s culture was a clusterfuck – a fever dream full of competing identities and ideologies. Luckily, a few key role models stood out as beacons of hope during this dark time- molding a generation of sarcastic, yet empowered, baaaaad bitches.
10. Vada Sultenfuss
I don’t even know how many times I’ve watched the movie, “My Girl,” but I once cited Thomas J. as my first celebrity crush (holler at your girl, Macaulay).
That said, Vada Sultenfuss had it all –a sweet-ass mood ring, a cool 1970’s cruiser bike, and a good head on her shoulders. While other girls were playing dress up with their girl friends, Vada was the quintessential tomboy – climbing trees and making blood oaths in the woods.
A couple years later, she took a trip (gasp, ALONE) to California, got her ears pierced (without telling her parents) and most importantly, made out with a hottie while “Bennie and the Jets” played triumphantly in the background.
When I dream, I dream that I’m Vada Sultenfuss.
9. Alex Mack
Vada wasn’t the only tomboy, though.
When Alex Mack came around in the mid-90’s, it felt like, for a second, contemporary conventions of beauty were thrown out the window in exchange for hassle-free hair and a good pair of sneakers. During this time, Alex perfected the art of being cool. Did she wear flannel? Only tied around her waist. Did she wear baseball caps? Uh, only backwards. Did she know how to get out of a sticky situation? Yes, by turning into a puddle of liquid silver and floating out of the room. Handled.
For most people, Alex’s “quirk” would’ve been a problem, debilitating at worst. But looking back, I can recall a handful of times when I would have rather melted away in the face of high school embarrassment: coughing profusely after inhaling my first drag of a cigarette with my unattainable upperclassman crush (you know who you are); being hit by a shot-put in track practice and needing to be carried off the field by one of my coaches; and of course, my awkward first kiss with the marching band’s lead trumpeter under the bleachers at a football game. Blegh.
8. Angela Chase
Angela Chase was so sad most of the time that you found yourself hating her. “Stop crying, Angela Chase!” I constantly screamed at my television when Angela was being a BIG. FUCKING. BABY. for no apparent reason. But on the inside, you were secretly rooting for her because her tryst with Jared Leto was proof that you could snag Jordan Catalano, too.
Angela’s parents didn’t quite understand her, mainly because her transformation from cookie-cutter Claire Danes to sullen, brooding, Angela Chase happened seemingly over night. “My So Called Life” was part of the “find yourself” movement that happened in 90’s television, and Angela’s journey was accompanied by sassy gay friends and a hearty dose of unrequited love.
Okayokayokay, maybe you didn’t want to be Angela Chase, but that’s only because you were living her “so called” life.
7. Harriet the Spy
Please, what child doesn’t dream of being an under cover agent?
If you had a spy kit growing up, you’re probably guilty of stereotyping anyone with a mod haircut as “suspicious,” and at some point, someone probably read your secret journal and it felt like your life was going to end.
I feel you bro.
But Rosie O’Donnell was Harriet’s nanny, and aside from fostering a creative atmosphere, she taught her how to take responsibility for her actions and become a well-adjusted human being (and NOT some entitled little shit). She encouraged Harriet to hold onto her aspirations and become a writer; which prompted me to nag my mom to buy me the composition notebooks that I, of course, used to play M.A.S.H. during science class. You can’t win ‘em all.
6. Clarissa Darling
Clarissa was cool. Clarissa didn’t really care about anything that happened outside of her bedroom window. But most of all, Clarissa was very fashion forward. She mastered the art of power clashing and rocked a side pony like it was her job. She was so cool, in fact, that she had dreamy boys climbing up ladders just to hang out with her.
Hey Clarissa – 2013 called to say thank you for the gifts you’ve given us, but you should probably invest in some bug spray. Lyme disease is going to be a big “thing” a few years down the road, and it’s coming for your screen-less windows.
5. Wednesday Addams
You liked Wednesday Addams because she had big, buggy eyes and wasn’t afraid to get down with the dead. Plus, her parents let her play with severed hands and electricity- which is every little girl’s dream, right?
In retrospect, Wednesday is probably the reason you like skulls, freak shows and prepping for Halloween as soon as August rolls around. Wednesday was fearless, and her weathered disposition is what made her stand out as a role model in the eyes of budding brooders.
Bonus: Christina Ricci also played “Kat” in Casper, and subsequently, lived in the coolest haunted mansion of all time. “Oh, BRB, I just have to help my ghost friend turn back into a boy, who just happens to be Devon Sawa.”
Swoon, what are the chances?
4. Kat Stratford
Kat was a self-proclaimed feminist who found comfort in her rhyme-time poetry and bands that featured angry girls with guitars. Kat had an admirable “gives no fucks” appearance, a bubbly little sister, and blatant hatred toward the high school jock-turned-sock model.
Kat wanted to start a band, though her overprotective father would never approve. He also wouldn’t have approved of her dancing on a table to the song, “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G., but like, it happens. When she wasn’t speaking out against conformity, Kat was doing anything she could to defy authority- including flashing a teacher to get Heath Ledger out of detention. I mean, I love Heath Ledger just as much as the next Olsen sister, but I don’t know if I’d dive to such depths just go on a paddle boat and paintball date with him.
Okay, I totally would. Where do I sign up?
3. Winona Ryder
Winona was the poster child of weird in the 90’s, which made her more relate-able to those of us who knew we weren’t destined for cover photos. Most of her roles revolved around befriending ghosts, men with blades for hands, or exterminating high school divas, because who run the world? ‘Nona.
The best part about Winona, though, was that she had “total damage” and always seemed to be on the verge of tears. Her roles were often over-acted because when she spoke, Winona felt each angst-driven line with every fiber of her being.
Oh, and remember when she shoplifted just to prove she could do it… or something?
2. Lindsay Weir
Living in the early 80’s, Lindsay ditched her life as a bookworm for the coolest group of “burnouts” at McKinley High. You liked Lindsay because she always did what was right without being self-righteous. She didn’t think dances were worth the hype and put up with Kim Kelly’s drama-fest to explore ~*life*~ and figure out who she wanted to be. Aw.
But this is what made her so likable – her struggle to “find herself” was genuine and easy to relate to. Unlike her fellow “good-girl-gone-bad,” Angela Chase, Lindsay held onto her personal morals and stood up to and for her friends when an injustice had been made.
In the end, Lindsay had it right. Her “stoner” friends grew up to be Marshall Erikson: esteemed environmental lawyer, James Franco: Yale grad and certified babe, and Seth Rogen: who, well, is at the very least a very happy and successful stoner who just wants to party with parents, pregnant women, and the terminally ill. Take that, mom and dad.
1. Daria Morgendorffer
What? Are you really surprised?
I used to have to hide the fact that I watched Daria from my parents because it was on MTV. Thanks to my brother’s loose babysitting rules (i.e. he listens to Tupac in his room while I watch PG-13 movies and MTV), I was exposed to cynicism and snark at the tender age of eight, which I believe molded me into the combat boot-wearing, monotone-speaking, circle-spectacle-donning, dark humored asshole that I am today.
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, you probably have a closet full of trench coats and an overflowing pocket of smart-ass comebacks whenever someone hits on you at a bar.
Cheers to you, Daria, because without you, there is a 99% chance that it would never rain.
A.J. Scott is a contributing editor. She is also a Cleveland native and a Chicagoan at heart. A.J. is currently exploring New York City and trying not to get lost every time she steps onto the subway. She enjoys making her cats dance and eating anything made out of chocolate. Tweet her @abbienamestnik