The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

Cringe culture is dead

Liv Degendorfer

  This article was previously published in print on Dec. 05, 2023.  

Quarantine TikTok was a fascinating time, filled with a rapid increase in cosplayers, Mitski’s “Strawberry Blonde” getting hundreds of parodies, and the e-boy and e-girl craze. At the time, people laughed along and recreated these videos,  participated in these trends, and hyped these creators up. Of course, it is not abnormal for these trends to fizzle out and become what the world defines as “cringe.” 

“Cringe Culture” is the process of mocking cringy content, which in itself is defined as content that someone deems embarrassing or worthy of being mocked. This term was first coined in 2017 on the website Deviantart. However, cringe compilations have been around since the dawn of YouTube and Reddit. 

As the four-year mark for this cultural epidemic approaches, these trends are seen more and more in cringe compilations, whether they are on TikTok or YouTube. I have no issues with the general concept of cringe compilations: it is only human for us to find humor in things we find embarrassing.  However, I draw a line when people go from laughing at these videos to becoming hateful towards the creators. 

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This era of entertainment was often created by queer and neurodivergent individuals, two groups of people that became widely visible online during the pandemic. With more time at home, these folks had the chance to explore their physical appearances, the most notable being the Penelope Scott-core makeup. With the bulky eyeliner, hot-pink blush, and black lipstick, this look has become a staple of this period. Yet, as time fades on, people went from hyping it up to making fun of users who still participate in this particular style. 

As mentioned earlier, the largest demographic of people who participated in these trends is queer and neurodivergent people. Even now, the people who still fall into this aesthetic fall under these two minority groups. One specific group that I have noticed being the victim of this harassment, in particular, is gender non-conforming transgender men who adhere to this aesthetic.

Their comment sections are filled with hateful things, making fun of not only their makeup but their gender identity, even going as far as to repeatedly misgender and dehumanize them. This sort of behavior is what I have a problem with.

Liv Degendorfer

Generation Z claims to be one of the most open and accepting generations. Yet, the second someone is a bit out of the neurotypical norm with a niche hobby or an interest that ties back to a media that is labeled as “childlike”, that kindness is thrown right out the window. 

In a world full of hate from bigots, why do we, as the so-called accepting generation, immediately turn our backs on the people who need our support and our love, no matter how different they are? Diversity should be celebrated, accepted, and encouraged even if the aesthetics or behaviors of the people are different from our own.

It seems that the root of this hate comes from the internalized, or blatant, ableism and homophobia that plague our world. It is much clearer when we ask ourselves why we find this behavior odd or embarrassing. As I have repeated previously, it is because it is different than the norm–or is a norm that has been erased with time. 

Both homophobia and ableism come from the world’s distaste for what is “abnormal.” Hence why the behaviors exhibited by “cringy” people spark these feelings in people–as most creators, are again, queer and/or neurodivergent. I find it particularly sad when this hate comes within these communities. The amount of cis-gendered queer people and binary transgender people who gang up on these gender non-conforming binary transgender folks and non-binary people is sickening.

Let’s not normalize this hate, especially within the queer community. 

When it comes to a solution to this issue, I think people should simply mind their own business and let people have fun. In a world where hate is normal, where climate change is rapidly impacting our lives and where the cost of living is increasing but the wages are not, we should let people enjoy what they enjoy.

Everyone deserves an escape from this harsh reality, and who cares if it comes in the form of cosplaying My Hero Academia characters? Or doing crazy makeup while drinking Monster Energy? I know I have my own weird interests, I made my own “cringy” TikToks during quarantine and I may be a bit embarrassing in public but that does not mean I deserved to be harassed for it. 

Please, for the love of god, let people have fun. 

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