The murder of Christopher Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) in 1997, following the 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur, was not only one of the biggest news stories of the year, but it also remains important decades later. USA’s new limited series Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. will explore the case, spanning two separate investigations -- one in 1997 and one in 2006.
This got us thinking about other big news stories of 1997. Maybe they don’t all deserve their own TV series (and, yes, one has already gotten one), but just remembering these stories has brought us back to the 1990s.
The Death of Princess Di
The Princess of Wales died August 31 in an automobile accident evading paparazzi. Two-and-a-half billion people watched her funeral on television to mourn, and Elton John’s tribute reworking of “Candle in the Wind” played for months after. Beloved for her charity work as much as royal obligations during her marriage to Prince Charles, the year’s biggest news story was a tragic one, uniting the world in grief.
El Nino storms can happen every two to seven years, but the one that began in 1997 was so strong, you couldn’t escape it whenever you turned on the weather. It caused tropical cyclones around the world, including storms all along the U.S. Pacific coast, and it only got worse in 1998.
The Hand-Over of Hong Kong
This had been in the making since 1898, when England signed a 99-year lease on Hong Kong territories. It took until 1990 to even agree to the terms, but on July 1, 1997, China took over Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Prince Charles was even there to say goodbye!
James Cameron tried to warn us. He set Judgment Day, when Skynet takes over the world, on August 29, 1997 in the Terminator movies. In real life, IBM’s chess-playing computer Deep Blue defeated chess master Garry Kasparov in May! Fortunately, for humanity, IBM retired Deep Blue before it obtained the nuclear launch codes.
The Kyoto Protocol
The United Nations formed a treaty with 193 countries to reduce greenhouse gasses. It was adopted on December 11 but would set a deadline of 2012 for participating countries to put some environmental policies into action. By then Canada would withdraw, and the U.S. could never agree on it.
The Murder of Gianni Versace
On July 15, Andrew Cunanan shot Gianni Versace outside his Miami home, his fifth victim in a killing spree. Cunanan’s obsession with Versace is chronicled in a season of American Crime Story, as well as a book by Maureen Orth.
Ellen Came Out
Ellen Degeneres, then starring on the hit ABC sitcom Ellen, came out as a lesbian on the cover of Time Magazine. She also had her TV character come out in a highly anticipated and highly rated episode. The show only made it one more year, but Ellen went on to host a beloved daily talk show which, of course, still runs today.
Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield’s Ear
In their June 28 rematch, Holyfield was winning, and in the third round, Tyson bit a whole inch out of Holyfield’s right ear. The crazy part is, Tyson wasn’t disqualified until he took a second bite in the 11th round! Tyson lost his boxing license for year but Holyfield never got his ear back.
Mars Pathfinder Lands
1997 was the year we made it to Mars. Well, not a human astronaut, not yet, but the rover Sojourner landed on July 4. While we haven’t declared independence from Earth just yet, the rover allowed us to explore our solar system neighbor with cameras and gathering samples of the planet’s soil, air, and rock.
Dolly the Sheep Announced
Dolly had actually been born July 5, 1996, but the world didn’t know until February of 1997 that animals could be cloned from cells of other animals. The reaction was a mix of wonder and abject horror from the fear that clone armies could take over the world. President Clinton banned funding for human cloning, so if scientists wanna clone you, you’ll have to foot the bill yourself.
Are you ready to go back to 1997? Watch Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 10/9c!