Today is June 26th, 2017, which may sound like just another early summer day, but… it’s not. It’s something much bigger than that. Today marks 20 years since we were all blessed with the very first Harry Potter book. Yes, it’s been 20 freakin’ years since you first got your hands on Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. I still remember what it was like when these books first hit the scene – people were freaking out about them, libraries were all out, everyone wanted one. My aunt and mom first tried getting my younger brother to read them, since they didn’t think I would be interested (I was pretty heavily into The Babysitter’s Club at this time). I didn’t think I would be interested either, but then I read it, since they were impossible to ignore, and I instantly fell in love.
Since the release of the first Harry Potter book, so much has happened in J.K. Rowling’s magical fictional world. There have been Harry Potter movies, plays, prequels, websites, a million and one Buzzfeed quizzes, a ton of internet discourse (some of it interesting, a lot of it annoying), fan-fiction that changed lives, amusement parks… the list could go on and on. Harry Potter was so huge, culturally, that it kind of ended up taking over – and it’s easy to forget about all of the other things we loved in 1997, before Harry, Ron, and Hermione took center stage.
So, since today is the perfect day to think about the past, let’s get nostalgic together and remember the other fun things happening in the world 20 years ago. Because between reading and re-reading The Sorcerer’s Stone, we were also loving all of this other stuff.
A few months after we were given the gift of Harry Potter, we were given the gift of Titanic. We all fell in love with Leonardo DiCaprio, sort of hated Kate Winslet, and sobbed in public movie theaters. And don’t even try to say this gem of a movie didn’t hold up over time, or we will fight.
2. The Spice Girls
1997 was a huge year for the Spice Girls. They were in their prime, they were everywhere, and their songs were some of the biggest hits out there. A few months after Harry Potter came out, Spice Girls released their album Spiceworld, featuring the iconic song “Spice Up Your Life.” We, as humans, were never the same.
AOL introduced AOL Instant Messenger, AKA AIM, in 1997, changing the way we all communicated with each other. Instead of phone calls (like, through house phones – cell phones weren’t a thing just yet), we all started chatting with each other on the Internet – obsessively. We were also all victims of cheesy AIM usernames (mine was PrncssCutiexOx) and ridiculous away messages. Ah, what good times.
Daria was one of a few huge shows to premier in 1997, but it holds a special place in everyone’s heart because it was so different. This was back when MTV was one of the most popular channels out there, but also when they were experimenting with content aside from just music videos. In this case, it worked.
5. Men in Black
In 1997, Will Smith was having a great year. He released his album Big Willie Style (a true classic), he married Jada Pinkett-Smith, and, of course, he starred in Men in Black. The movie came out shortly after HP did, and it exploded – for good reason. It’s still great!
6. Tyra Banks
1997 was also a pretty stellar year for Tyra Banks. She was in the peak of her modeling career, and in 1997, she made history by becoming the first black model to have a solo Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover. This was before America’s Next Top Model, or any of Tyra’s other, uh, antics… and everyone loved her.
7. The Notorious B.I.G.
1997 was a very sad year for rap fans – it was the year when The Notorious B.I.G. (AKA Christopher Wallace, AKA Biggie) was murdered while sitting in a truck. Biggie was shot, pronounced dead pretty quickly, and we’ve been mourning him ever since.
8. Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”
There was a ton of great music in 1997, but one of the biggest songs worth mentioning is definitely Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” You literally can’t hear it without being hit by a wave of nostalgia. It’s so ’90s!
9. Hanson’s “MMMBop”
Speaking of biggest songs of 1997, you literally can’t talk about this year without mentioning Hanson. Around the time Harry Potter came out, this trio of brothers dominated the charts with their iconic “MMMBop.” We changed as a nation.
10. Backstreet Boys’ “Quit Playing Games With My Heart”
Hanson wasn’t the only boy band making young girls like myself swoon – in May 1997, the Backstreet Boys took their European popularity and became popular in America with the release of “Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart.” There are few things more ’90s than this band.
11. Actually, all of this music:
It’s literally impossible to go through every single huge song of 1997. There were too many good ones!
Somehow, someone let a show like Teletubbies become one of the biggest television shows ever when it debuted in 1997 – and I don’t think everyone understands that even now. We were enthralled by it’s vague creepiness, and kids couldn’t get enough.
1997 was a great year for Aaliyah. It was literally the year she graduated high school, and she also managed to start her acting career, become a spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger, got nominated for an Academy Award (for Best Original Song for “Journey to the Past”), performed that song at the ceremony as the youngest singer to ever perform at the Oscars, released “Are You That Somebody?” and got her first Grammy nomination. Damn, girl!
14. Jennifer Lopez
Harry Potter’s big year was also the year that Jennifer Lopez made a name for herself in mainstream media. It was the year she debuted as the star of Selena, and she never left the spotlight after that.
15. Butterfly clips
Aside from celebrities and movies and TV shows, some, uh, fun ’90s fashion was going strong – like butterfly clips. I kind of still miss these, to be honest.
16. George Clooney
If you love George Clooney, chances are good that that love started in 1997, when he was famous for starring in E.R. He was voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive this year, and he starred as Batman in Batman & Robin.
17. South Park
South Park was released in 1997, and it quickly became one of the most controversial TV shows out there…. and not much has changed!
18. Steve Madden platform shoes
Platform shoes and sandals were huge in 1997 – specifically these Steve Madden babies. So huge, in fact, that they made a comeback this year.
19. Hair wraps
Remember when you used to go on vacation in 1997 and you couldn’t come back until you had a small section of your hair wrapped in colorful embroidery floss? Same.
20. dELiA*s catalog
We weren’t shopping at the mall in 1997 – we were ordering from dELiA’s. Okay, fine, maybe we were doing both.
Which one of these memories is your favorite? What did we forget to add? Share in the comments.