Authors Note: For my “Nostalgia and ‘Old’ Media” capstone class this past semester, I had the honor of interviewing my best friend, Nicole Randone. In this unit, we were tasked with interviewing people in our lives with the central question being, “how do people remember media of the past?” The following is the excerpt I wrote about Nicole, a fellow digital content creator who has a strong affinity for the early 2000s.
Growing up, yearning for a sense of belonging, and struggling to learn about who you are can be difficult. In the age of the internet and social media culture, trends fade out with a blink of an eye and it becomes a game of trying to keep up. For Nicole, she lives in the early aughts, when girls dressed in Juicy tracksuits that matched their Sidekicks and guys wore puka shells and Von Dutch trucker hats. Nicole and I met through a Twitter group chat in 2016 to connect fans of “Girl Meets World” and one of the show’s leads, Sabrina Carpenter. The two of us clicked and we talked for hours on end as if we had known each other all our lives. In interviewing her, we realized that we both became fans of the show under different circumstances. Nicole grew up loving shows from the late ‘90s and early 2000s that her older brothers first introduced her to.
“Well, when I think of my childhood, I think about being with my brothers because I was always around them. What ties into the media thing is I feel like so many things I love, they loved first. For example, I have memories of watching “John Tucker Must Die” and listening to Good Charlotte with my brothers. I also secretly watched “Degrassi [The Next Generation]” with them because I wasn’t allowed to watch it but they were.”
Even though she grew up in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Nicole has a stronger attachment to this time than the present. Women in the 2000s embraced their sexuality and individuality through colorful fashion with frosted makeup and tanned skin. “Growing up I always saw these early 2000s TV shows and movies that weren’t in my target age demographic but were my brothers’— so for me as a little girl seeing these characters, I could not wait to grow up and be that. So, I saw girls wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits and driving Volkswagen Beetle Convertibles [like Brooke Davis from “One Tree Hill”] and going to Fall Out Boy concerts.”
Characters from TV shows and movies were not the only shining examples of who she wanted to be. Nicole’s role model from childhood and present-day has always been Barbie. She credits a lot of her imagination and creativity to playing with her Barbie dolls. She continued to play with them until she was 17 but it wasn’t by choice. This pressure to “move on” came from those around her telling Nicole she had to “grow up”. A recurring theme from our conversations is the strange force from society to move on from childish media to something more grown-up. Embracing her love for this era is her taking back the idea that people have to abandon what makes them happy:
“By the time I became a teenager, all these things that I thought I would have, fell out of trend and were not attainable for me anymore. I remember one day; I was on the bus looking at my playlist and every single song was from the early 2000s! I thought ‘wow, I must like this era of music’. That same night, I went on Netflix and I was like, ‘oh my god! Everything on my watchlist is from the early 2000s. I realized that I was still trying to become like that teenager I always wanted to be. So, after that realization, I made a conscious decision to make it happen. I bought 20 different Juicy tracksuits, I got a CD player, CDs, and DVDs. I got everything I wanted but never knew I needed.”
As it turns out, Nicole is not the only person who feels a deep attachment to this era. In the past five years, she has been able to make Y2K content and has built a large community that revels in 2000s nostalgia along with her.
Nicole has been making videos on her YouTube channel since 2016. One of the first 2000s related videos she uploaded is, “I lived like an early 2000s Teen for 24 hours!! + my Juicy Couture Tracksuit Collection”. Other videos on her channel include early 2000s inspired morning routines, hauls, showing off her CD collection, and popular early-aughts character lookbooks. Starting in 2017, Nicole started an Instagram account [@misss2005] that is centered around Y2K pop culture with the late 1990s sprinkled throughout. The page has grown over time and sits with 116,000 followers. On the muted feed, her page is filled with pictures of fashion trends, celebrities like Paris Hilton and Hilary Duff, and screencaps from her favorite movies and TV shows. Her infatuation with the early 2000s is more than a connection or feeling; it’s a gravitational pull to a time where technology was clunky but individual in style.
“I feel so connected to a time that I am so passionate about and I feel like I belong in it because I relate more to it. Like, when I read magazines or I buy thrifted CDs or DVDs, I am not aggravated by old technology, I love it!”
Jonathan Sterne mentions this throughout his piece, “Out With The Trash,” about how technology has a “planned obsolescence” date once the item is bought. Sterne says that the ‘newer’ technologies are now defined by their decomposition and not to have longevity in use (17). At this point, technology was not as attached to you all the time. The simplicity of CDs and DVDs helps her feel more connected to that period. Sterne does not account for the nostalgic use of technology. Lucas Hilderbrand does have a more romantic view of older technology than Sterne in “Inherent Vice”. Hilderbrand focuses on the “aesthetics of access” and how there is an inherited problem with technology becoming more complex as time goes on. He deems this as a “digital dilemma” where it becomes difficult for mass audiences to be able to access the media they love and how they become dependent on devices to decode these media texts (Hilderbrand 20).
Nicole has started collecting DVDs, CDs, and magazines and wants to start collecting VHS tapes soon. She didn’t have a CD player, radio, or DVD player so collecting was not something that she did when she was younger. Music was another medium that her brothers introduced to her. A lot of the music they played she liked, especially the ones that were on the soundtracks of the movies she watched with them.
“I also used YouTube and watched Lyric videos if I wanted to listen to something or what my brothers played. I have such vivid memories of being in the car after my brothers got their driver’s license and listening to music they burned onto CDs. I have kept the CDs they made from high school; I love them! It’s like I have these personal mixtapes that my brothers made.”
In the present day, she does have Spotify but when she is on her stationary bike, she listens to CDs on her player. When she is in her room, she has songs that appear repeatedly on her playlists. Some are, “Girls Do What They Want” by The Maine, “Dirty Little Secret” by The All American Rejects, and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy. She doesn’t listen to many current artists. She often listens to soundtracks from the new Netflix show, “Julie and the Phantoms”, and the Disney+ spinoff, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”. For renting videos, she did not have a Blockbuster near her.
“There was a family-owned store near our house. I am so sad that it is not there anymore, I vividly remember going in there and I am so sad it is not there anymore. Recently, I found a video that was in my brother’s things when he moved out. It was John Tucker Must Die and it has the stamp, so he rented the video and never brought it back!”
The magazines she collects now were out of her demographic at the time, like from 2004-2005, when she would have been around 5 and 6 years old. Now she collects magazines like Teen People and Seventeen. Recently, she posted on Instagram pictures of her HSM 2 special edition of Teen People Magazine. When she was young, she covered her walls with the M and Tiger Beat posters of the stars of Disney Channel. Now, she covers her walls with posters of James Lafferty and Chad Michael Murray.
Nicole’s favorite show of all time was also introduced to her by her brother.
“When I was growing up, my all-time favorite movies (other than High School Musical and The Lizzie McGuire Movie), was John Tucker Must Die and A Cinderella Story. One day, I was watching John Tucker for the billionth time and Mikey started telling me that my favorite actress, which was Sophia Bush, was on a show called One Tree Hill!” Nicole has seen the first four seasons of OTH so many times that I wouldn’t be surprised if she had Nathan Scott’s basketball stats memorized. “Chad Michael Murray was also on OTH which led me to ‘Gilmore Girls’. Fun fact, the night before a big Math test, I watched the last episode Chad was in “Gilmore Girls” and I was so distraught about it, I failed the test.”
As of a few months ago, Nicole started a second account called @misssrewatch to watch her favorite shows from the beginning. She posts screencaps with highlights from each episode with her followers discussing iconic moments and ones that were controversial. Having an online community of people that share the love of the noughties adds to the infinite list of reasons why she is infatuated with the early 2000s. At the end of the day, connecting with others to navigate the world around us is all a lot of us can ask for. Making playlists for each other and discussing “One Tree Hill” theories does make life more fun.Follow my blog with Bloglovin