’90s Heartthrobs

Take me back to the 90s, please.

There’s something about the thought of a 90s heartthrob that evokes the joy and rebellion of my youth. They were not simple crushes, but teen idols that represented everything from attitude to fashion through the characters they played and lifestyles they lead, remember? How could you forget Edward Furlong’s John Connor from Terminator 2: Judgment Day? A film with amazing special effects and a cool blend of sci-fi and action. Furlong played a streetwise kid unaware of his importance. With his slightly longer layered hairdo, army getup and amusing phrasing like, “no problemo” or “hasta la vista, baby” he was the coolest persona for teenagers to connect with; something parents would not understand. It was brilliant.

And then there’s my favourite, who still proves he’s not just a thing of the past, Johnny Depp. Although he looked typically 90s off screen, it was his titular role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape that saw his wild 90s locks on display. Perhaps though, Johnny preferred era films like his role as a 50s bad boy with a softer side in John Waters’ 1990 film Cry-baby.

Early in the 90s, Johnny started dating Winona Ryder, another quintessential 90s crush. They starred together in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, a delicate and dark tale of a grotesque Frankenstein-esque character (Depp) who falls in love with Kim (Ryder), a glistering angel. Fun fact, Depp got a tattoo with the words ‘Winona Forever’, but after their break up he laser edited it to ‘Wino Forever’. Regardless of Johnny not looking his best and Ryder looking quite fair, they were together in what was downright amazing film – and that was amazing.

Winona could do no wrong and oozed that 90s, feminist chic, which I’ve personally since learned a lot about. With her bob and heavy eyebrows she was against ‘the system’, especially as Lelaina Pierce in Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites. Winona plays a cynical, ex-graduate who works on a documentary capturing the disenfranchised lives of her roommates and friends; who would have thought! Perhaps a little pigeonholed, Ryder seemed to alwas play that book-ish existentialist, but you could always rely on her to deliver that persona to screen well.

Without knowing me, this probably seems shallow or subjective, I do agree since this is my nostalgic recollection of my youth. However, I do love the 90s still, perhaps even more now that I can appreciate the context better. And I do think it’s still important to have someone that inspires us on screen. This could still mean a heartthrob in the good-looking sense, or someone that represents something more personal or idealistic.

I have a new 90s heartthrob, one that I have recently re-discovered, whom I would not have paid much attention to at the time. It is Laura Dern, or more specifically Dr. Ellie Sattler in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic, Jurassic Park. Dern plays a paleobotanist, independent of children and marriage. Sattler isn’t a minor passive character and proves on many occasions she is strong and as capable as Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill). When there’s major Dinosaur action, Sattler is there.

Sattler proves to be a female character more than simply there to be looked at, she is a strong and intelligent character that I can hold on a pedestal. While she may not have muscles like Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sattler challenges and embraces femininity in a different way. Sattler is still a nurturing person, coded and typically feminine, but her active presence is what makes her character more than a two dimensional representation, which is so important on screen and to me personally. But for now, take me back for some 90s girl power.

– L.A.