Spice. Up. Your. Life.
My younger self suffered something of an identity crisis. When my friends and I sang Wannabe on the steps in the playground I was always Posh Spice, with my hair shoved down the back of my jumper so it resembled a bob. At home my sister and I made up elaborate dance routines to Say You’ll Be There, but she insisted on being Posh Spice, so I wore pink and played Baby Spice. But when my friend from next door persuaded me to join a home video version of 2 Become 1, I borrowed a pair of Adidas jogging bottoms to become Sporty Spice.
More than 10 years later the Spice Girls still loom large in the British cultural imagination. The 90s pop sensations have staged a comeback tour, appeared at the Olympics Closing ceremony, and now the latest West End offering – Viva Forever – is a musical with a plot line strung together from their hits. But what did the iconic quintet teach us about life in the 21st century?
1. Girl power rules the world
The Spice Girls burst onto the scene in 1996 with an empowering message for their young female fans. They trumpeted ‘girl power’, a phrase which entered the dictionaries as “a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness and individualism”. Was this an advert for feminism, or a distraction from it?
2. It’s cool to be British
As part of the current fad for all things British, union flag dresses have re-appeared in the shops as a reminder that the Spice Girls led the way. Although despite our monarch-mania, perhaps we wouldn’t all go as far as pinching Prince Charles’s bum…
3. There’s no shame in being mad about your mum
When the girls were asked by their team what mattered to them the most, they ended writing a song about their mums. We’re all probably guilty of having treated our mums as a taxi-laundry-chef-nurse-maid. It’s time to show them some love and gratitude. Come on, sing along now: “Mama, I love yoooou…”
4. It’s always gotta be sisters before misters
The girls were uncompromising in their belief that building good solid friendships should be a top priority. If there was a new man on the scene, they were sure to warn him: “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.” After all, relationships may come and go, but “friendship never ends”.
5. It’s fine to let loose on the dance floor
You’ve got to swing it, shake it, move it and make it; slam it to the left, shake it to the right, shake it to the front; and then slam your body down and wind it all around. Certainly sounds energetic…
6. You can work hard and still be a good friend
In their film Spice World, the band have to get their priorities straight. Eventually, they discover that it is possible to balance a demanding career and genuine friendships. As long as you have a bus that can jump.
7. Too much of something is bad enough, but too much of nothing is just as tough
In an age where our lives are saturated with options for things to keep us busy, and friends are just a tweet away, we can easily feel overwhelmed. But an even greater problem is the loneliness and boredom which can lurk behind the chaotic exterior.
8. When it comes to relationships, there’s no rush
Many of the Spice Girls’ songs were quick to promote short-term sexual relationships, yet they were also willing to stand up for themselves when it was needed, and shout: “Stop right now, thank you very much.” Sometimes it’s important to “slow it down” and “read the signs”. If “it’s going too fast” then it can be a warning sign that “it won’t last”.
9. You’ve got to look for the rainbow in every storm
The Spice Girls spearheaded the movement of poptimists who remind us to see the best in life whatever it throws at us. In their appealingly simplistic formula, “when you’re feeling sad and low”, “all you need is positivity”.
10. What we all really, really, really want is a zigazig ha