Reality Bites - The Truth Behind 90s Fashion and Other Deep Stuff

Today I put on a movie I've already seen a million times while flipping through channels in my youth (watching the same movies over and over again is my only true hobby): Reality Bites. I was weirdly obsessed with Gen X movies as a 10-13 year-old, and I watched so many of them all the while feeling rather dismissive of their message. I mean, it never seemed to me like it was really worth all that angst if you're choosing between a) being a weird loser your whole life while hanging around with a bunch of wacky friends, or b) selling out and becoming a rich bazillionaire with a BMW. Neither of those ever seemed like a bad option, or at least it's not that hard a decision to make.

But that's basically the plot of Reality Bites: Winona Ryder has to choose between Ethan Hawke (hunky depressive loser-jerk) and Ben Stiller (career-minded boring nice-guy), who are stand-ins for the larger cosmic options (be cool or sell out). None of it really makes sense (Winona doesn't sell out cos, like, sex with Ethan Hawke is too awesome and MTV is consumerist crap or something), but there's a lot of great 90s fashion material to be discussed. See below.

She wears nothing but crap the entire movie. In a good way. The last screen shot is of her when both Ethan and Ben give her pledges of undying love. And she's wearing a grayish t-shirt and some jeans. Winona Ryder was reportedly drawn to doing Reality Bites because she was looking "to wear blue jeans for a change" after doing some period pieces. Wish granted. She also gets to wear one of those vests that were invented in the 80s for future first grade teachers to wear forever.

But let me just state for the record THAT I LOVE YOU WINONA. And that she and Ethan Hawke would have made a hotter celeb couple to me than Johnny Depp and Wino Forever. This movie is worth existing just for the pairing, honestly.

Oh, I forgot to mention Janeane Garofalo plays Winona's best friend. Janeane's character is a manager at The Gap, which, if you don't remember, is a retail clothing store that was a big deal in the 90s for reasons I'll never quite understand.

She's definitely my favorite in the film. The movie doesn't clarify, but her character seems to have an obsession with the 70s. Below are screen caps of her room. At one point in the film when she is angry with Winona's character, she slams her bedroom door shut in Winona's face and starts blasting "Burn, Baby, Burn (Disco Inferno)" by the Trammps. I want to be this woman some day.

I already have the amazing circular glasses. (Check out my profile pic for proof.)

For our final look, here is a scene with Swoozie Kurtz, who plays Winona's mother, portraying left over fashion from the 80s. I love that her short sleeves are rolled up and that there are shoulder pads on that t-shirt. So uncalled for.

Maybe I didn't convince you that Reality Bites is worth watching 400 times, because it isn't, but I really did get something new out of watching it this time. First of all, the 12-year-old-me was right: the 90s was a magical innocent time when it was fun to be angsty cos there was nothing better to do. I am now that post-college Winona character, but I don't have a choice; my generation is told to take what it can get. In the first scene of the movie, Winona gives a speech to her class as they all graduate college, and she says that the answer to their generation's problems is "simple," but that she doesn't know what it is. She's right: it was simple, but she didn't know what it was. It was actually the Internet. It was a great boost to the economy in the years that followed the movie's release.

So here's to the Internet, folks! I'll continue to try to make it as a web designer/Etsy shop owner, but I'm kind of waiting for the outer space market to open up so I can diversify my business(es) into the intergalactic economy. Yknow. Vintage alien apparel. ...OK JK REALITY BITES, BYE.


  1. Oh my god, ethan hawke is so fat in this photo!!!

    Anyway, did you hear that Richard Linklater is making third sequel of Before Sunrise?
    It's been 9 years since they made Before Sunset.

  2. What does Ethan Hawke do these days? I honestly don't know.