1990s kids lived in a pretty amazing time. We witnessed the start of a whole new age, in more ways than one. During our childhood, the internet rose to prominence, becoming the all-important tool it is today. We also witnessed the turning of the millennium, when the year 1999 became the year 2000. But aside from all the wonders and awesomeness that the 90s brought, there were also a lot of pretty traumatic things that still reside in our subconscious minds to this day. A lot changed during the childhood of 90s kids, and not all of it was good. There were a ton of tragedies that happened during this time. People like Lady Diana, Curt Kobain, Biggie Smalls, Tupac, and many others all shocked us with their passing. There are almost too many of them to list in one article.
There were also all kinds of crazy pop culture events that left us heartbroken and traumatized. Movies started to become way more scary and serious, and even shows that were made for kids included some pretty dark scenes. The education system changed and decided the best way to make sure we behaved the right way in society was to scare the living daylights out of us. The dangers of drugs, smoking, and unsafe s*x were drilled into us from a young age, and it was pretty shocking for a lot of us. And of course, there were numerous terrorist attacks and a changing geopolitical atmosphere that shocked all of us, not just 90s kids. Here are 15 things that completely traumatized 90s kids.
15. Anti-Smoking Commercials
We all remember the days when smoking seemed like one of the most horrible things you could ever do. And of course, it is. But the constant anti-smoking commercials and public service announcements were actually really traumatizing, and definitely tried to use fear to steer us away from the bad and unhealthy habit. And in many cases, it worked. Kids made a vow never to smoke after seeing some pretty nasty images and videos from people who had been smoking their whole lives. Then again, for many people it didn’t work, and they went on to smoke anyway.
There was one series of especially traumatizing commercials that showed people with a “stoma,” a small hole in their throat which makes it easier to breathe. These are given to people who have been smoking their whole lives. Many kids were pretty shaken by this image, and questioned what kind of messed up world they’d been born into…
14. Jack’s Sad Ending In The Titanic
In the 90s, there were also a ton of really traumatizing movie moments which involved the deaths of characters we had grown to love. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the death of Jack in the movie The Titanic. This movie is one of the most successful films of all time, and pretty much everyone has seen it at least twice. Leonardo DiCaprio made one of his first big appearances in this movie, and his character went through a real transformation in the movie that required immense acting skills.
This character went from feeling like he was “king of the world” at the beginning of the movie to sinking slowly into the cold dark depths of the ocean at the end, and this really broke a lot of people’s hearts. Even the toughest and coldest individuals admit that they were brought to tears when Jack died. These moments may have made this movie amazing to watch, but they also left us kids feeling pretty traumatized.
13. Mufasa’s Fate In The Lion King
Another famous death in 90s movies happened in the animated film The Lion King. This moment is probably buried deep inside the subconscious of most 90s kids, and it was probably one of the first times many kids were confronted with the idea of death. Kids movies back then weren’t afraid to scare and shock us, and this scene from The Lion King is a great example of that. Scar tricks Mufasa and ends up killing him by digging his claws into Mufasa’s paws as he’s hanging on for dear life. As he hits the ground on the rocks below, his son finds him but it’s obvious that Mufasa is not going to survive.
Many of us cried at this moment, and it’s something that really stayed with so many of us. This was a film from a much earlier time, when Disney still made “cartoons” instead of computer-animated films with Pixar. There’s something really nostalgic about these cartoon movies, and a lot of 90s kids probably wish that Disney would bring back the old school animation methods seen here.
12. The Tragedy Of 9/11
September 11, 2001 was perhaps the most traumatizing memory of our entire generation, let alone 90s kids. But if you were a child in the 90s, this moment was probably very sad and shocking. For the first time, the West was confronted with the hard truth that even their first world cities were not safe from attack. This definitely woke a lot of people up, and nobody who experienced this event will ever forget it. There was something really surreal about this moment, and many people were in a strange sense of denial when it happened, as if it was all a bad dream.
Many lives were lost and many families and friends lost loved ones. The symbolism of seeing the biggest buildings in the biggest city in the world come tumbling down was immense. This was the West taking a major hit, and a lot of us probably felt like this part of the world was untouchable. There were also a ton of different conspiracy theories that got thrown around following the attack, and this only made this attack seem more strange and disturbing.
11. The Matrix “Belly Button Bug”
There were many movie scenes that were pretty traumatizing in the 90s, but one that really stuck with a lot of us was the scene from The Matrix where Agent Smith puts some kind of insectoid machine into Neo’s belly button. He wakes up thinking it’s just a dream, but when he comes into contact with Morpheus, they find out that the insect is still inside him. The scene is pretty shocking, because until this point, the movie was fairly straightforward. In the scenes leading up to this one, we saw some neat action scenes, but most of us had no idea it would slide into such a horrific moment as this one. The kids watching were definitely horrified.
What’s surprising is that this was the only real “scary” moment in the entire Matrix Trilogy. After this one, the movie kept it pretty much within the action/sci-fi genre, although the scene where Neo wakes up from the matrix is pretty shocking, as are the scenes where we see babies being born into the Matrix.
10. The Original IT
This year, IT was rebooted and was one of the most successful films ever at the box office. Part of the hype surrounding this movie was the fact that the titular clown had been completely redesigned with a totally different appearance. He was much more of a monstrosity, with immediately shocking features that aimed to scare and spook the audience on first sight. It obviously goes in a very different direction than the original IT movie, which came out in 1990.
The original movie featured a very different-looking clown, but this clown traumatized just as many kids as the one in 2017 is currently scaring. True, the clown didn’t look as immediately spooky upon first sight, but there was something bizarre and surreal about this clown that made it very unsettling. It bore more of a resemblance to a real clown, and that’s what made it really scary. At first glance, it looked almost happy and jovial, but as you look closer you see that there’s something very, very wrong with this clown.
9. Getting Totally Traumatized By The “Birds And The Bees” Talk In Class
One of the most traumatizing thing for a lot of kids during the 90s was “s*x ed” class. During the 90s, things got a lot more liberal in the classroom, and new policies started to take action. Giving children an extremely thorough education on s*x was seen to be the best approach to ensure safety with intercourse, and no major details were left untouched. All of these weird s*xual slang terms we had heard were explained in very graphic and awkward detail.
But perhaps the most traumatic thing of all was learning about various STDs. Teachers went into extreme detail about every single STD, and many students remember feeling dread form in the pit of their stomachs as they learned about all the horrible things that could result from intercourse. Some of us were so traumatized we became reluctant to even think about it, which was probably the result our teachers were hoping for.
8. Your Parents Getting A Phone Call From The Internet Company Because You Were Using Napster Or Limewire
The 90s were a pretty awesome time to be alive. This was largely because of the freedom the internet offered. The internet was so new that attempts to police it were limited and in their early stages. That meant that the internet was a lot more “free” and private than it is now. Music was pretty easy to pirate and download illegally with the use of applications like Limewire and Napster (which are now defunct). Many of us tried to download movies, music, and even books with this software, and then felt like total hackers when it actually worked.
Then came that traumatic and guilty moment when the internet company either called or emailed your parents, telling them that someone in the household had been caught illegally using software and violating the terms of service for the internet provider. Then you were forced to have a “talk” with your parents about how stealing was wrong and that internet shouldn’t be used for those sort of things. Some of us changed our ways after that… Some didn’t.
7. Watership Down
Definitely one of the most traumatic cartoons ever made was Watership Down. This seems like a kids cartoon about rabbits and other woodland creatures at first, but there are some scenes in it which are totally horrifying, and probably unsuitable for kids to even watch, let alone adults. There were all kinds of really scary moments on a really regular basis. The original movie was actually released in 1978, but then there was a TV series which came out in the 90s.
The author, Richard Adams, admitted before his death in his late 90s that he “perhaps made Watership Down a bit too dark.” In truth, this is a bit of an understatement. As children’s cartoons, the TV series actually got a rating in the UK which meant that young children weren’t even allowed to watch it. There were so many graphic scenes involving small animals. Rabbits savagely fought each other, sometimes even to the point of death. It was almost sadistic at times.
6. Goosebumps Books
Most of us remember the Goosebumps books from back during elementary school. These were books which made reading “cool,” and kids used to collect these almost fanatically. There were known for their interesting covers, and the fact that the titles on the cover were “bumpy” and three-dimensional on the paper. Although these were a huge fad in school, some of these books were actually pretty freaky. This was apparent just by looking at some of the covers, as they depicted scenes that looked like they were taken straight from actual horror movies made for adults.
It almost became a “dare” among kids of whether you were tough enough to actually read them, and some kids felt pressured into reading them when really it was the last thing they wanted to do. The books themselves depicted some pretty nasty and traumatic scenes, and a lot of people would be lying if they said that Goosebumps didn’t give them nightmares on more than a few occasions.
5. The X-Files
The X-Files was another part of 90s pop culture that really traumatized a lot of people. In the 90s, a lot of people started to get really obsessed with aliens, although this movement had been gathering steam since the 1950s with the Roswell Incident and continuous UFO sightings and experiences since then. But with The X-Files, this whole subculture really burst into the mainstream and everyone was confronted with it if they tuned into this show. The X-Files was famous for its eeriness and its shocking content, and not many people could actually watch it before turning it off from sheer fright.
But there was one part of this show that really got people’s pulse’s racing. The music. That theme song was just so creepy and weird… It really stuck in a lot of people’s minds, and even hearing that music now can trigger a frightened response in 90s kids to this day. Do aliens exist? Who knows. But one thing’s for sure. That is some seriously creepy music…
4. When “The Iron Giant” Became Terrifying
Another famous “kids” movie from the 1990s was The Iron Giant. This looks like Disney movie but it was actually released by Warner Bros, some of the pioneers of early cartoons. Although this movie was clearly marketed towards kids, it featured slightly more adult themes and a sense of humor that was atypical for children’s cartoons. The star of the show was a big friendly metal giant who befriends a kid with a single mom in small town USA.
The kid tries to hide the giant from the locals and a snoopy Federal Agent, but when the giant is finally discovered, the military is called in. When the giant is confronted by a huge detachment of the American Military, something is triggered in the robot’s programming that makes it transform from a friendly beast into one of the most advanced killing machines ever to appear in a children’s cartoon. The thing looks like it belongs in a sci-fi horror movie, and it’s genuinely scary when we see its alien form spring out of what we thought was a friendly bumbling giant.
3. The Sad End Of Artax In “The NeverEnding Story”
Okay, this movie came out in the mid-80s, but a lot of 90s kids ended up watching this movie as children. The NeverEnding Story was a wonderful journey that really stimulated our imagination, and showed us all what the true “magic of reading” really was. A normal kid from the big city was transported to a strange magical world with flying dragon-dogs, rock creatures, and all other manner of insane and entrancing beasts. But perhaps the animal that we fell in love with the most was one we were all familiar with – a beautiful horse called Artax.
Unfortunately, this horse ends up passing in a rather sad way, and many of us cried along with the main character as he tried to drag the horse in vain from the clutches of the “Swamp of Sadness.” It was a cruel reminder to all us young 90s kids that death was inevitable, and no matter how hard we resisted and fought it, it would visit us all one day. Pretty dark, I know.
2. All The Y2K Apocalypse Theories
Looking back, one of the things that probably freaked 90s kids out the most was the endless theorizing about what was going to happen when Y2K happened. This was of course the turn of the new millennium, when we switched from the year 1999 into the year 2000. To us kids, it seemed like no big deal, but the majority of adults were convinced, or at least somewhat worried that it would result in a huge cataclysm. No, they didn’t believe that aliens would land or the earth would explode, but they did believe that all computers and electronic devices would fail or go haywire.
This all stemmed from the fact that computers apparently weren’t programmed to calculate dates in the year 2000. And since by 1999 the internet was pretty much connected to everything, people assumed that the computers would shut down when we passed midnight on New Year’s Eve, resulting in banks shutting down, the world losing power, and all kinds of other crazy disasters. To us kids, this seemed pretty scary and traumatic, since we just believed whatever adults were telling us for the most part. But as everyone remembers, the clocks struck midnight… and nothing happened.
1. The Tragedy Of Princess Diana
Another event that traumatized a lot of people was the untimely end of Princess Diana. When the world was first introduced to “Princess D,” many of us immediately fell in love with her. Even though she technically did have royal blood, she was known as the “People’s Princess,” and she was seen as “one of us.” People related strongly to this fairytale story of a “commoner” finding her way into the royal family, and it made us all feel like it was possible for us to do the same thing one day. But no one had any idea that this would end in one of the saddest events in the history of the Royal Family.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana became divorced after a few years of marriage and two children, and the Royal Family was a little embarrassed by the whole affair. Things reached a boiling point when Lady Diana started to become romantically involved with an Arab businessman. Not long after, Lady Diana passed away in a car accident, which was a result of getting chased by paparazzi.
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