Are you still reeling from the revelation that skinny jeans and side parts are no longer cool? Well that’s too damn bad, Jessica, because Gen Z have come up with another way to make fun of millennials, and this time, they’re not coming for one or two sartorial choices, but for our entire aesthetic. Thanks to the rise of the catch-all insult cheugy, declaring millennial lifestyle staples as cringey has gotten easier than ever before. If the emergence of a trendy new term is making you want to, not take a nap, but just rest your eyes for a bit, then I regret to inform you that
you’re old you’ve come to the right place. WTF is cheugy, am I cheugy, is writing an article explaining cheugy, cheugy? The answer to those last two questions is definitively yes, so at least you’re in good (if you loosely apply the meaning of “good”) company.
The term cheugy, which, since I know you’re about to ask, is pronounced chew-ghee (hard G sound), was actually coined in 2013 by a then-high school student to describe people who, as the New York Times put it, “are slightly off-trend”. The term gained popularity on, where else, TikTok, after a video posted on March 30th went viral. For a visual definition of cheugy, think of MLM boss babe energy, millennial #girlboss aesthetic, and anything the cast of Vanderpump Rules would have worn in seasons 1-3. Chevron is cheugy; Gucci belts with the overlapping G’s are cheugy; captioning an Instagram with “thank u, next” is cheugy; I haven’t gotten the official report yet, but I’ve got to imagine statement necklaces are extremely cheugy. (Using an adverb before cheugy may or may not be cheugy.)
To put it more precisely, Urban Dictionary defines cheugy as “another way to describe aesthetics/people/experiences that are basic”; the second most popular definition says it’s something that was “stylish in middle school and high school but no longer in style.” If you aren’t sure, here’s a quick rule of thumb: pretty much everything you hold near and dear is probably being derided at this very moment by college kids and high schoolers via a made-up word that sounds like what Vice would name their next food vertical.
Here’s the thing. While some millennials are already probably mounting their defenses of Starbucks and Live, Laugh, Love signs, let’s just… not. Have we forgotten that we based our entire personalities for multiple years around appropriating the term “basic” within an inch of its life? What, it’s only fine for people to make fun of pumpkin spice lattes, but we’re drawing the line at blanket scarves? Let’s not turn this into the skinny jeans and side part war, which was fun at first, but got completely blown out of proportion once we got to the stage of making musical parodies telling Gen Z to “kindly shut the f*ck up”. (Even worse is that this battle that still rages on to this day despite it now being almost shorts weather.)
I get why the emergence of cheugy feels like a blitz attack on millennials, but there’s a difference. What hit me so hard about the skinny jeans/side part debacle, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, is that I never considered those stylistic choices to be trends, much less up for debate. You parted your hair on the side because that was simply what you did—god forbid you part your hair down the middle and make your face appear rounder! You wore skinny jeans because that was just the style, and because we didn’t want to get caught dead wearing mom jeans. I never questioned these things, and to hear that these elements I took for granted were secret markers of my uncoolness this entire time felt like being told the color black was suddenly cringey. Who even am I?? But this other stuff? Take it! Who cares? Like, I really hope chevron is not a cornerstone of your personality.
It’s one thing to not want to part your hair down the middle (I tried it; doesn’t work for my face shape, but if you can rock it, more power to you), but it’s another thing to live in a fantasy world where no trend in which you participate ever goes out of style. Millennials, I know we grew up as the darlings of the internet and never imagined a time when we would not be the hottest and most in-demand age group for publishers, advertisers, and brands, but it’s literally the circle of life. Did I think I’d be a washed-up old hag before my 30th birthday? Not really, I thought I’d have a bit more time, but c’est la vie! The internet is a fickle place. At least this way I can now lean into my lifestyle of only wearing leggings and doing bath bombs and face masks—which is probably cheugy to do. I might as well embrace it and get a stemless wine glass that has “yes way rosé” screen-printed on it in gold script.
We’re all cheugy in some way or another. Lasagna might apparently be cheugy. Don’t fight it. It’s fun to be kind of embarrassing! What’s the alternative, constantly changing your entire aesthetic to fit in with what people decades younger than you find trendy? You’ll never win that game. No matter what term you call it, that’s the worst look of all.
Image: Jose Martinez / Unsplash
As demonstrated by the most recent skinny jeans and side parts scandal that rocked millennials everywhere, tying ourselves to shared generational labels is a pillar of meme culture — or broadly, today’s culture. Generational stereotypes have fueled the formation of countless online communities, but they’ve also caused hot-blooded arguments across age lines. After Baby Boomers criticized Millennials for not buying houses, it sparked economic discourse around responsibility and capitalism, and the “OK Boomer” meme popularized during the 2020 election signified Gen Z refusing to feign respect for racist and misogynistic elders. To say the least, there is weight and substance behind these memed stereotypes.
As digital natives in a digital world, Gen Z’s cultural influence is undeniable, but the one stereotype that overpowers the rest is that we are “diverse.” A quick Google search will show you that Gen Z is labeled as the “most diverse generation in history” and that we “demand diversity in the workplace.” However, of the top 100 creators on the social media platform most commonly associated with Gen Z, TikTok, the vast majority are white or white-passing. Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, the golden girls of Gen Z, are thin, upper-middle-class white women. Simply put, it ain’t adding up: if we’re so diverse, why aren’t the people we idolize?
When Addison Rae appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in March to perform multiple dances originally created by Black TikTokers, it sparked a conversation about white mediocrity. D’Amelio and Rae are certainly not as talented as Keara Wilson, who created the “Savage” dance that propelled Addison Rae to superstardom, or Jalaiah Harmon, the originator of the “Renegade” dance that did the same for Charli. But comparing talent isn’t the problem: these women took Black choreography and used it for their own benefit, and were rewarded. Whether it’s subconscious or not, the fame that we’ve given them is because they fit the mold of who women are supposed to want to be.
In the same way that millennials adore celebrities like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the supposedly diverse and inclusive Gen Z continues the cycle of rewarding attractive, rich, white women for existing. While society’s cultural icons have evolved from supermodels (1990s) to celebrities (2000s) to reality stars (2010s), the skin color and proximity to wealth of our superstars has remained consistent. Despite their wealthy, white California childhood, the Kardashians adopted Black culture to differentiate themselves from the thin blonde stars popular in the 2000s. They injected their butts and lips to recreate features found naturally on Black women, appropriated Black hairstyles, almost exclusively dated Black men, and recreated age-old Black and Latina fashion trends.
This look was, yes, a departure from parallel generational icons Paris Hilton and the Olsen Twins, but it wasn’t new. Black women, who grew up wearing wigs and had naturally big lips, certainly aren’t growing multimillion-follower fan bases or offered the cover of Vogue, but rather are discriminated against for living out their own culture while white women run through their trends faster than Fashion Nova can produce a rip-off.
The Kardashians shared everything from their petty fights to brutal divorces, parental blowups, and personal anxieties on national television. But the “relatability” or “reality” they may have shown on TV does not a billion-dollar empire make: they wouldn’t have had the lip kits, curvy shapewear, or half as much media coverage without appropriation.
TikTok was supposed to democratize the social media industry with an algorithm that let anyone get famous — or at least “TikTok famous.” Instead, we’ve repeated the same process of propping up white women who manipulate Black culture to appeal to the masses, yet remain safe from systemic racism in their peach skin. As the biggest Gen Z idols in the world, Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio pocket millions while the Black girls who created the dances, and the music they dance to, remain nameless or endure hate at an alarmingly higher rate. Black creators’ followings remain significantly lower, and their sponsorship deals even sparser. Meanwhile, these white TikTok stars are hanging out with the Kardashians, with nary a Black woman in sight.
Would we still be idolizing these people, however, if corporations like NBC (the network that airs Jimmy Fallon’s show) and TikTok itself weren’t inching us in that direction? In March 2020, an internal memo was leaked revealing that TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t push darker, disabled, or “ugly” videos, making it significantly harder to “blow up” as a Black creator even if you have better content. Most of the companies giving out these sponsorship deals are run by majority-white Millennials or Baby Boomers who are inclined to stick with the already-advantaged white women that look like them or their children.
We won’t reach equality for these influencers until the most prominent corporations and influencers make a conscious effort to give Black creators the exposure their white counterparts get. Companies must do this through providing equally lucrative sponsorship opportunities, and the biggest celebrities must take responsibility for benefitting from the systems that allowed them to grow by offering slices of their fame to prop the culture originators up.
Gen Z definitely cares about diversity, but the systems in place created by previous generations don’t allow that to be reflected in our culture idols. If algorithms don’t allow Black creators to make it on their own, it’s up to influencers and social media users to make conscious choices to highlight and reward that talent, or we’ll be watching history repeat itself for the next generation, too.
Image: Todd Williamson / E! Entertainment
Does anyone else feel like the last few weeks have been some of the bleakest so far? Nearly a year into the pandemic, the combination of terrible winter weather, vaccine frustration, and just general life stuff have created a perfect storm of bad vibes, and it seems like a lot of us have been feeling it. But you know who hasn’t let the less-than-ideal mood get in their way? The celebrities on TikTok. To them, February 2021 seems like any other month, and that means they’re still cranking out the content that just makes you go “…why?” From Gen-Z to Boomers, some of our favorite famous TikTokers have been doing their worst lately, and here’s your latest batch of cringe.
@heidimontagCan you pull down your mask if you see papperazzi? ##fyp ##foryoupage ##beverlyhills♬ original sound – heidimontag
Heidi, Heidi, Heidi… I’ve grown accustomed to Heidi’s weird TikToks around the house—the terrible lip-syncing and random product placement of Spencer’s crystals throughout the videos, but this is a new level of cringe for her. She and Spencer are walking down the street, and she asks if she can take her masks off for the paparazzi. Obviously, the answer is no, but seeing her get so excited to have her picture taken just makes me kind of sad. Idk, maybe I’m still in my feels about Framing Britney Spears, but I have a hard time not getting angry at the thought of invasive celeb photographers. Heidi’s also been ramping up her content about #filming, so it seems like the new season of The Hills should be coming soon.
@brycehallroots @joshrichards @imgriffinjohnson♬ original sound – Bryce Hall
If you’ve read my articles in the past, you’ll know that Bryce Hall is my least favorite of the Gen-Z hot guy cohort on TikTok. Aside from practicing terrible COVID behavior, he also just seems like a f*ckboy, and this video of him and two of his Sway House buddies shotgunning energy drinks isn’t doing anything to dispel that notion. At least they’re wearing shirts in this video, because I was actually starting to wonder if they owned any clothes other than t0o-tight sweatpants.
@drphilThis new grand baby better hurry up!
♬ Rugrats Theme (From “Rugrats”) – Just Kids
Dr. Phil has always been one of my least favorite people on TikTok, and this video of him looking longingly out the window as he waits for his grandchild to arrive is so staged it hurts. Why does this old man have a BIB on his shirt? And how much did he have to force his wife to play along for the video? Also, he clearly hasn’t been able to get his botox during the pandemic, because homeboy is looking way older than I remember. Anyway, his son Jordan McGraw had his baby with Morgan Stewart, a girl named Row Renggli, so hopefully his weird videos will be replaced with cute baby content soon.
@jamescharlessurprise… 🤰🏻💕 what should I name her♬ Still Into You by Paramore – Ariam
Last week, James Charles pulled two different social media stunts in the time it takes me to get out of bed n the morning. On the same day he tried to trick us into thinking he was bald, he also posted… a fake pregnancy announcement? We all say that bizarre recreation of Beyoncé’s nude pregnancy photos on Instagram, but you may have missed this TikTok where he shows off his “transformation.” I still don’t understand why this was ever a thing, but I hope James got the attention he was craving.
@charlidameliolink to sign up for @step in my bio💗 ##steppartner♬ original sound – charli d’amelio
I’m all for TikTok creators like Charli hustling and making money from their platforms, but taking financial advice from someone who was born in 2004 just doesn’t sit right with me. She’s advertising for Step, a banking and debit card service aimed at teens, which is supposed to help them build credit and learn about money management. Sounds like a smart idea, but I feel like they should be aiming their marketing at parents of teens, not kids who are scrolling on TikTok. We’ve seen people like Billy McFarland and the Kardashians market some questionable cards before, so I’m not trusting any famous person when it comes to financial advice.
Images: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com; TikTok
A few months ago, when I was on my second or twelfth break from writing a paper I should have finished weeks ago, I turned to one of my favorite forms of distraction: TikTok. When I opened the app, I was greeted by a young woman with a heart drawn on her cheek describing some personality traits that she never realized were related to her ADHD diagnosis. This was the first time I had seen a TikTok about ADHD, though it didn’t surprise me at all to see that type of content on the app. Nice. The app I use to constantly distract myself from whatever work needs to get done that day is trying to tell me I have an attention problem. The more I watched, though, the more I noticed that this went a lot deeper than the FBI agents in our phones knowing way too much about us; there was an emerging trend of people, particularly women, talking about what it’s really like living with ADHD.
In fact, there are so many people talking about this that if you search “ADHD TikToks” on YouTube, you’ll find hours of video compilations of TikToks about the condition, especially in women. There are TikToks about the unusual symptoms in girls, TikToks explaining misconceptions about ADHD that have prevented women from getting a diagnosis until later in life, and videos of women describing the difficulties of their lives before they were able to receive a proper diagnosis. There are even tweets and TikToks from women who didn’t get an ADHD diagnosis until they recently saw a TikTok about ADHD—very meta. So, what’s really going on that stopping these women from getting the diagnosis they need?
Why Are All These Women Not Getting Diagnosed?
Many of the women in their TikToks discuss a common experience: how the belief that ADHD is a “boy’s disease” prevented them from getting a diagnosis. It’s true—when ADHD was first being researched, it was thought to be a hyperactivity disorder that only affected men during their childhood years, and the studies would only include young white males. That racist and sexist research is what was used to guide the writing of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders), and science’s foundational understanding of ADHD. At that point in time, only the most hyperactive young girls who presented similarly to boys could hope to get an appropriate ADHD diagnosis. Today, the gender difference in diagnoses of ADHD persists, and about three boys are diagnosed for every one girl, but this might have less to do with more boys actually having ADHD and have more to do with them exhibiting the more “stereotypical” features of it.
@princessaspien🌻ADHD Traits In Girls🌻 #adhd #fyp #autism♬ original sound – Chloé Hayden
In addition to the bias in diagnostic criteria, boys with ADHD who have hyperactive traits just tend to get noticed by professionals more often: they are more often hyperactive, aggressive, and impulsive, while girls tend to be usually dreamy and easily distractible. The boy who can’t sit still in class and talks over the teacher multiple times a day is probably going to get more attention than the girl who spaces out in math class.
So, Are The TikToks Right?
Obviously, anyone can post anything on TikTok at any time, and you can’t blindly trust every single video that you scroll past on your page. That said, it is absolutely true that ADHD can present differently in women. Unfortunately, the research is still pretty slim, but there is some literature on the differences. In a recent episode of ADHD Experts Podcast, Ellen Littman, PhD describes some of the lesser known problems that women with ADHD can face, which include tactile sensitivities, headaches including migraines, stomach aches, sensory problems, sensitivity to changes in light, and sensitivity to odors. Littman also describes how the evaluation tools are still skewed toward male behaviors, and how “many instruments are not normed for women’s values, so we are still perpetuating the idea that it is much easier to be diagnosed if you look similar to hyperactive males.” In addition to being dreamier and more distractible versus hyperactive and impulsive, young girls may be more likely to internalize their symptoms and feel anxiety around them. This makes getting a diagnosis even more important. Girls who aren’t told they have ADHD and given appropriate help and accommodations may feel like they’re less competent than their classmates or peers or that something is really wrong with them.
@peterhyphenAs a guy with ADHD, I don’t know what it’s like firsthand for the girls and women out there. Please make yourself heard in the comments! #ADHD #ADD♬ original sound – Peter Hyphen
It’s important to note that no two people are going to have the exact same experience with any diagnosis, so a video about TikTok-user-7543009’s individual experience with ADHD doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone who has it. And, if you find yourself relating hard to the symptoms described, and feel that it is negatively impacting your daily life, you should reach out to a medical professional.
Regardless of whether the videos apply to every single person with ADHD, the important part of this trend is that TikTok is providing a platform for women to express experiences that were underrepresented in research or in clinical tools, and having these conversations can help more people get the help they need.
And It’s Not Just ADHD
TikTok has opened the door for important discussions surrounding women with ADHD, but that’s not the only medically underrepresented group it’s helping to shine a light on. For example, there is a large community of women with autism, like @Paigelyale, who discuss having faced stereotypes about what autism looks like, which led to issues getting a diagnosis. Beyond autism and ADHD, there are TikTokers making content about their experience being deaf, living with OCD, even what it’s like to try to make pie with Tourette’s.
Social media platforms have come under scrutiny in recent years for issues such as promoting the spread of misinformation to being designed to negatively impact users’ mental health. (A 2017 survey dubbed Instagram the worst social media platform for mental health and wellbeing.) But the silver lining is that for some reason—whether it’s the algorithm, the nature of sharing quick videos, or the unfiltered approach—TikTok is creating a space for people to speak openly about a slew of important issues, including mental health. TikTok has given these creators a platform where they can talk candidly about their experiences and bring to light the issues that truly matter to them, and has given scrollers a community of people they can relate to, in ways they may not be able to with their IRL friends. This content has also provided some of the 800 million TikTok users with exposure to these groups that they may not have otherwise had. Mental illness, neurodivergence, and disabilities often come with a heavy stigma, and more representation from people who seem funny, cool, and relatable helps correct misconceptions and remove that stigma.
Kristin Wilson, LPC, Vice President of Clinical Outreach at Newport Academy, a mental health facility for teenagers dealing with mental health issues, told Yahoo! that the type of mental health conversations happening on TikTok “can help teens feel that they are not alone in their struggles and create an online community of support.” Psychiatrist David J. Puder, MD, told Psycom.net, “I think we can do a lot to reduce stigma and get people into mental health treatment. Knowledge is empowering to people who might not otherwise have access.”
These types of conversations can also be a double-edged sword, with some experts fearing that these videos could glamorize mental illnesses. It’s also crucial to keep in mind that TikTok isn’t a substitute for receiving treatment. Still, experts stress that if you do your own fact-checking and don’t take TikTok users as armchair mental health professionals, these types of videos can help reduce stigma and encourage people to seek out mental health treatment. In a time when social media has a reputation for doing more harm than good to our mental health, these communities on TikTok are consistently proving otherwise.
Images: XanderSt / shutterstock.com; princessaspien, peterhyphen / TikTok
Making fun of the generation above you is part of the natural order of aging. We make fun of our parents for not knowing how to reboot the WiFi router, our parents probably made fun of their parents for being afraid of rock ’n roll, such is the circle of life (minus Gen X, which appears to get away relatively unscathed due to an intense dose of middle child syndrome). This is all to say that I’m not surprised that Gen-Z are clowning the generations above them, but I am a little surprised that they’re coming for millennials and not their own parents who, I just learned today and am now spiraling because of the revelation, are largely Gen X. What did we ever do to you? *Thinks back to all the times we called Gen-Z children, dismissed them as being 12 years old, etc.* It’s a mystery.
The thing is, there are many things that would make millennials an easy target for a good roasting — from the low-hanging fruit of mashing avocado and putting it on toast and treating it like culinary innovation for years to the obsession with a particular pastel shade of pink (what even was that, anyway?) to the fact that we made fun of our parents for wearing oversized round glasses only to, decades later, sport the same oversized John Lennon-inspired rims. I’ve got to hand it to the youth, though, because they continue to think outside the box. They don’t go for the obvious; instead, they mock millennials for things like sporting a side part, wearing skinny jeans, and the most egregious, using the crying laughing emoji. And that, friends, is where I draw the line.
I can admit that skinny jeans are not the look for everyone and we took our obsession with it a bit too far. Likewise, I’ll give you that I had some truly heinous exaggerated side part years (mostly in college, but I’ve burned all the evidence.). But you will have to pry the crying laughing emoji from my cold, dead hands, and I will tell you why even though I’m sure nobody asked.
Now I know what you’re going to be asking first because it was my immediate thought, too: if Gen-Z doesn’t use the crying laughing emoji, how to they indicate laughter? Apparently, they use the skull emoji.
There are a few things wrong with this.
Now, I do feel bad being harsh on Gen-Z because they are simply ignorant. They do not remember the time when we millennials had to figure out ways to differentiate between various amounts of laughter. They were simply not alive (or at least, they were nonverbal) for the agonizing days of deciding whether something was simply funny (lol), very funny (rofl), outright hilarious (lmao), or literally-falling-on-the-floor hilarious (roflmao). Certainly, there are situations in which something is so funny you’re (figuratively) literally dead, necessitating the skull emoji, but there are levels to this sh*t. Personally, I like to progress from the crying laughing emoji to the slanted crying laughing emoji to the skull, and if a joke is really good, to the coffin or the urn. Everything cannot be skull emoji because everything is not skull-emoji funny. To ascribe every joke to this level of humor is simply an impossible standard, one that waters down the very genius of using the skull emoji in this context in the first place.
On top of that, the fact that using this emoji for its intended purpose is scorn-worthy kind of makes me want to, to borrow their own phrase, yeet myself into the sun. Oh, what, it’s too predictable? Too literal? Would it be ok if we used the crying laughing emoji ironically? Because I do that sometimes, like when I openly and honestly express my feelings and then need to add a little something at the end so that nobody takes me too seriously. Is that ok??
The crying laughing emoji exists for a reason, and I will not be made to feel ashamed, and I welcome my eventual roasting on TikTok.
And by the way, anyone with a widows peak cannot rock a middle part, and I’m too short to wear any cut of jean other than skinny jeans.
I’m “I had The Facebook when it first came out” years old, which is to say I’m an “older millennial.” Suffice it to say, I was a late Instagram bloomer and only joined Twitter in order to check up on my favorite Broadway musicals and their actors. Thus, it is only fitting that the world of musical theatre is what brought me to TikTok several months into the pandemic that universalized the social media platform.
It started with Grocery Store: The Musical, composed by Daniel Mertzlufft (@danieljmertzlufft). But the big guns came out with Ratatouille the TikTok musical. Sometimes called Ratatousical, the sensation started with Em Jacobs (@e_jaccs) making a sweet, silly ode to the cartoon mouse. From there, the project took off, with Mertzlufft giving the number the full Broadway treatment, which led to other users writing new songs, choreographing, designing sets and playbills, and gaining internet traction using the “duet” feature on the app.
Soon, real, fancy Broadway stars were clamoring to be a part of it, and the powers that be decided to do a recorded version, tickets to which would raise money for The Actors Fund, a national human services organization which gives financial support to people who work in the arts. To date, Ratatouille has raised over two million dollars for the Actors Fund, making it the organization’s most successful event.
The recorded version of the musical, which was directed by Six creator Lucy Moss, starred Emmy nominee and Broadway alum Tituss Burgess as Remy the rat. Other people you might recognize are Wayne Brady as Django, Tony winner André De Shields (Hadestown) as Ego, Andrew Barth Feldman (Dear Evan Hansen) as Linguini, Adam Lambert as Emile, and Tony nominee and Emily in Paris star Ashley Park as Colette.
The musical benefit streamed on New Year’s Day 2021, just a week after a certain Regency drama premiered on Netflix. Bridgerton exploded like the Duke on his bedsheets (ew) and everyone and their mom watched it. So, it was inevitable…
Abigail Barlow (@abigailbarlowww), a rising pop star mentored by Meghan Trainor, with glorious unicorn purple hair, asked the world on TikTok, “What if Bridgerton was a musical?” on January 10. She proceeded to belt out, “Daphne’s Song” which later became “Oceans Away.”
The world was listening, and now #Bridgertonmusical is #trending. Barlow teamed up with Emily Bear (@emilythebear) and together, they became Barlow and Bear, the next musical theatre creation duo. Speaking of duos, the duet feature enabled people to take Barlow’s idea and run with it. “Oceans Away” became a duet with Simon, then it transformed into an opening number with verses from all the major players from the show. TikTok user @Elchoreography, a sister duo, did gorgeous choreography for several of the Barlow and Bear numbers, while other users designed sets, made playbills, and wrote additional numbers.
Here’s the thing. Ratatouille the TikTok Musical was cute. It was fun and a little silly to see Kimmy Schmitt’s Burgess pretend to be a rat. The recorded staging was well done, but it’s hard to imagine it being an actual Broadway success. Dancing rats are usually busy battling it out in The Nutcracker and the logistics of a musical set in a kitchen with a little rat on stage with humans are perhaps more than even The Lion King (and, oof, Spider-man musical) director Julie Taymor can handle.
But the Bridgerton musical is goooooood. Like, better than a lot of current Broadway good (sorry Tina Fey, I love you, but looking at you, Mean Girls). It’s poppy and sexy and, from a physics perspective, possible. Can you imagine watching those beautiful costumes move live on stage in all those ballroom scenes?
But what next? Barlow has said on her account that the next step is to make a concept album that may someday be pitched as a real, live musical. I’m here for it. I’ll buy it.
We, the watchers, are witnessing the creation of something in real time, which never used to happen. We’d have radio silence from an artist, say Taylor Swift, and then BAM BAM double pandemic albums. And, unlike any “professional” art creation, we are invited to participate.
Is the TikTok musical the future of content creation? Furthermore, is it the future of arts creation? Should we all be crowdsourcing our creative endeavors? Would the general public be a good source to weigh in on the next Marvel movie? Would letting more people into the process keep all the movie directors from being abusive asshats? Or would it dilute the artistic playing field, making every art form into a version of American Idol?
As a creator myself (hello) and an old person (millennial), I find it hard to believe I could give myself up to that process. To collaborate is to accept criticism. To work with others is to share the credit. Many creators want to work in a vacuum and emerge victorious with a fantastic product, curated with only the “best of the best” producers, designers, etc. It is exclusive and inaccessible to gate-keep the process and often leaves out those in marginalized groups. Only the popular kids get to see how the sausage gets made.
But what if we gave the everyday person the chance to shine? What if the next iteration of Broadway and even storytelling and art-making in general is the group project? What if, instead of no one else being in the room where it happens, we let everyone in? Should we democratize making art?
To refer back to our culinary rat, too many cooks might spoil the broth, but what if we let the Remy the rats of this world bring their creativity into the kitchen? Anyone can cook, as the Ratatouille musical purports, and perhaps anyone can make the next great artistic sensation.
Images: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
If 2020 is remembered for one thing, it will be how TikTok truly blew up and finally became impossible to ignore (trust me, I tried). Okay, obviously some other important stuff happened this year, but for today’s purposes, let’s just focus on TikTok. While a lot of Gen-Z kids and ~content creators~ were already on the app before this year, the pandemic activated something inside the rest of us, and normal people and celebrities alike flooded onto TikTok like never before.
Some celebs are unexpectedly good at TikTok (Jason Derulo’s special effects are continually impressive), but many others have struggled to master the format. Each week for several months, I’ve been cataloging some of the most cringeworthy celebrity TikToks, and now that this bizarre year is drawing to a close, it’s time to look back on some of my (least) favorites of 2020.
@drphil##YouHaveTo stop calling me “daddy.” I ain’t ya daddy.♬ A Moment Apart – ODESZA – Hannah Stater (she/her)
I don’t want to be too negative here, so I’ll start by saying that at least Dr. Phil’s TikTok account isn’t boring. He’s out here doing the most, giving psychology tips, chugging cranberry juice, and dancing in a Grandpa Joe costume. I don’t particularly like any of it, but at least he’s trying. But this video of him imploring his followers to stop calling him “daddy” is straight-up bone chilling. Never has it EVER occurred to me to call him that, and it concerns me that enough people have for him to address the issue. Guys, PLEASE don’t.
@tyrabanks##Boo 🎃♬ original sound – Tyra Banks
Tyra had kind of a random resurgence in popularity this year, as people spent their quarantine reliving all the wild old seasons of America’s Next Top Model, and she landed a new gig hosting Dancing With The Stars. Her hosting work on TV has always had a slight unhinged energy to it, and her presence on TikTok is really no different. This TikTok—one of several she filmed in a row, judging from the repeated outfit—features her acting like she’s in some kind of horror movie, and screaming random words in her sentences. Okay, now I actually think a Tyra Banks horror movie could be kind of amazing.
@foodgod♬ original sound – foodgod
If you follow my weekly list, you’ll know that Foodgod brought a lot of cringe this year, but most of his videos are of him shoveling nasty food into his mouth like a hungry animal. Those are upsetting, but in the spirit of keeping things interesting, I’m highlighting this truly bizarre video of him riding off into the sky on a stationary bike. As he calls into the distance “FG phone home,” I can’t help but ask myself, what the f*ck is happening here? Where did this concept come from? Did he pay someone to edit this? I need ANSWERS.
@hannahg11just always thought about this, I know it sometimes takes a while to show but STILL that’s a lot of ppl ##keepingactive ##healthheroes ##thoughts♬ Confusion – Tik Toker
Many of the videos on this list have more of a visual cringe factor, but this one just makes me sad, and a little concerned. Bachelor alum Hannah Godwin has a question: if every single person in the world comes from a pregnant woman, why don’t we see more pregnant women walking around? She’s right that there are seven billion people on the earth, but she seems to miss the concept that those people have been born over the past like, 100 years. I know time isn’t real or whatever, but it’s not that complicated.
@kjapacFollow @adamisgreat14 💥 for a follow back ! ❤️Quick now ! ##fy ##riverdale♬ original sound – KJ Apa
I’ve never watched Riverdale, so I honestly have no real opinion of KJ Apa, but his content on TikTok gives off very strange vibes. For much of the year, he’s been quarantined up in Vancouver with his cast and crew, and things have gotten a little weird. In this video that I think about way too much, he dips his hair into a cup of tea, and then lets the tea drip onto his tongue. I don’t need to explain why this is gross, but it’s also just… not something that people do. Idk, I’m uncomfortable.
@barbara.corcoran@mcuban 👀 ##WIP♬ Lonely – Justin Bieber & benny blanco
Barbara Corcoran is easily my favorite investor on Shark Tank (I met her once, and she was lovely), but when it comes to her TikTok, I’m out. In this video, which is inexplicably set to Justin Bieber’s “Lonely”, she actually looks like a middle school boy wearing a too-big backpack. Something is off from the beginning, but when the imaginary POV in her Shark Tank scenario says they’re going with Mark’s offer, she makes a choking motion as if she’s being yanked off the screen, and the look in her eyes is low-key terrifying. Like, Barbara, are you okay?? Blink twice if you’re okay.
Congratulations, you’ve reached the “WAP” dance part of the list. This trend was fun at first, and some of the videos are super impressive, but unsurprisingly, famous people had to go and ruin it for everyone else. Addison Rae was one of the breakout TikTok stars of this year, and her rendition of the dance is like, flawless, but her mom Sheri really missed the mark. The original TikTok was deleted after Addison got mad about it, but thankfully it’s been preserved on YouTube.
@jackblackChallenge accepted♬ WAP（feat. Megan Thee Stallion） – Cardi B
I couldn’t limit myself to just one “WAP” video, and my other winner is Jack Black’s attempt. I hadn’t really thought about Jack Black in a while, but boy, is his TikTok a trip. I respect Jack Black’s right to do whatever he wants with his Speedo and garden hose, but maybe we don’t need to see the footage. And besides, the choreography clearly needs some more work.
@pilot_peteBarb the Savage♬ original sound – Byjamiemcintyre
Isn’t it wild that Peter’s season of The Bachelor was less than a year ago? His season ended on a low note, with back-to-back breakups with Hannah Ann and Madison, but ultimately he ended with his fourth runner-up, Kelley. I could have included one of Pilot Pete’s sappy videos dedicated to his and Kelley’s relationship, but if I’m honest with myself, the video of his that made me cringe the most was his thirsty AF mom Barb doing this twist on the “Savage” trend. I don’t like that this sound implies moms and wives *can’t* be savages, and Pete’s dad saying this to Barb feels icky. Barb, stick to what you do best: crying about how much you love Hannah Ann.
Images: Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock.com; drphil, tyrabanks, foodgod, hannahg11, kjapac, barbara.corcoran, jackblack, pilot_pete / TikTok; TOP5 / YouTube
This year has been more than unpredictable, but if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s influencers and internet celebrities getting involved in drama. From Danielle Bernstein’s questionable design practices, to Arielle Charnas’ COVID exposure timeline, there’s been a lot of bullsh*t happening online in 2020, and it’s been one of the few consistent sources of joy. This year, we’ve also seen TikTok stars gain millions of followers and a wild amount of attention, and along with that success comes good old messiness. There’s petty nonsense going down in different corners of TikTok every single day, but here are some of the wildest stories from 2020.
Jake Paul vs. The FBI
Jake Paul and his brother Logan have a long history of messy behavior, from Logan offending the entire nation of Japan, to Jake’s stunt wedding to Tana Mongeau. But in 2020, Jake Paul’s chaotic behavior transitioned into criminal activity that was serious enough to catch the FBI’s attention. In August, a SWAT team raided Paul’s Calabasas mansion, where they reportedly seized “a cache of firearms.” The FBI later confirmed the raid was in connection to a June incident, in which Paul broke into a mall in Arizona to film a video at the height of Black Lives Matter protests.
I create the first content house
Then there’s 500 content houses
I start boxing
Now every influencer is a boxer
Y’all gon get raided by the FBI on purpose?
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) November 15, 2020
Jake Paul wasn’t home during the FBI raid, and it’s unclear what eventually happened in the investigation, but clearly he’s not behind bars or anything. Recently, he’s been focused on his boxing career, which I regret to admit is a real thing. Over Thanksgiving weekend, he won his second professional fight against former NBA player Nate Robinson. After his big win, he naturally hosted a packed mask-free party at his house, which Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub called “a slap in the face to the Calabasas community.” I guess Bryce Hall isn’t the only dumb-ass influencer causing headaches for LA government officials. Speaking of which…
Bryce Hall vs. The City Of LA
If we’ve learned anything about TikTok stars this year, it’s that they love ignoring public safety regulations and partying in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Internet celebs like James Charles, Tana Mongeau, and Nikita Dragun have all attended their fair share of questionable gatherings this year, but no one is a more prolific pandemic partier than Bryce Hall. Over the summer, there were many reports of large parties all over Los Angeles, even as coronavirus cases skyrocketed in California. Clearly, something needed to be done, and in response, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that utilities could be shut off at residences where large gatherings continued to be held.
Today I authorized the City to disconnect utility service at a house in the Hollywood Hills to stop the large parties held there in flagrant violation of our public health orders. Parties like these can quickly and easily spread the virus and put our communities at risk.
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) August 19, 2020
I don’t know if Bryce Hall missed that message, or if he just didn’t care (probably the latter, let’s be real), but he continued to have big parties at his rented Hollywood Hills home. Two weeks later, Mayor Garcetti made good on his threat, and released a statement announcing that “The City has now disconnected utilities at this home to stop these parties that endanger our community.” He claimed that the home had “turned into a nightclub in the Hills,” which is still my worst nightmare, pandemic or not. We never found out exactly how long Bryce had to go without utilities, but I’m hoping it was at least a few days.
Ariana Grande vs. Bryce Hall
The award for most delusional TikTok personality of the year also goes to Bryce Hall, who somehow thinks Ariana Grande gives a sh*t about him. Back in October, Ariana did an hour-long interview on The Zach Sang Show to promote her new album, and at one point the conversation turned to the pandemic behavior of TikTok stars. She name-checked Saddle Ranch, a western-themed restaurant in LA that’s become a hotspot (for TikTokers, but also probably for COVID). She asked, “Did we all need to go to f*cking Saddle Ranch that badly that we couldn’t wait for the deathly pandemic to pass? Did we all need to put on our cowgirl boots and ride a mechanical bull that bad? We all needed that Instagram post that badly?” I love this energy.
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Obviously, being the clown that he is, Bryce Hall—who spent Halloween at Saddle Ranch with his girlfriend Addison Rae—decided Ariana was talking about him, and spoke out about her comments. He said on the Hollywood Raw podcast that it was “obviously like, a marketing move,” explaining that “because she knew that TikTokers have a high audience, she knew that a lot of people would agree, because there’s a lot of people that hate TikTokers already.” Despite seeming annoyed at Ariana indirectly calling him out, Bryce admitted that “like, she’s not wrong.” Fair point that people hate TikTokers, but LOL that Bryce thinks someone as famous as Ariana Grande needs to start drama with him to get some press for her new album. And also, stay the f*ck home!
Charli & Dixie D’Amelio vs. Paella
The most recent controversy on our list came just a couple weeks ago, from TikTok’s first family, The D’Amelios. 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio has had a meteoric rise this year, becoming the most-followed person on TikTok, and recently becoming the first account to pass the 100 million follower threshold on the app. At some point in this whirlwind year, the D’Amelios decided that they should start a family YouTube channel, which like, yikes. If I told my mom we were starting a YouTube channel together, she’d kick me out of the house. Anyway, one of their great ideas for a video series was “Dinner With The D’Amelios,” where they would be joined each episode by a different celeb guest at a family dinner.
The first episode featured our problematic fave James Charles, and there were actually some interesting moments where they talked about getting famous so young, and how James has become a mentor to Charli. But things went south when chef Aaron May presented them with a homemade paella for dinner. Charli and her sister Dixie were shocked to discover that the dish contained snails, and Charli asked the award-winning chef if she could have dino nuggets instead. Dixie took a small bite of snail, gagged, and ran outside to vomit. The D’Amelios received a great deal of backlash for their tone-deaf reactions to the traditional dish, and Charli also got dragged for her comments in the video about being annoyed at how long it was taking her to reach 100 million TikTok followers.
tomorrow i will be back posting normal content with a smile on my face! at the end of the day i know i am a good person with a good heart and i will never change that about myself. i love you all!! 💕
— charli d’amelio (@charlidamelio) November 20, 2020
On the day the video came out, Charli lost over a million followers, while James Charles and other major influencers came to her defense. Since then she’s rebounded, and she finally hit her coveted 100 million—hopefully she got to celebrate with some dino nuggets.
Like it or not, it looks like all of these TikTok stars are here to stay, and as long as they’re looking for clout, there’s going to be drama involved. Can’t wait to see whose house gets raided by the FBI in 2021!
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Images: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; jakepaul, mayorofla, charlidamelio / Twitter; brycehall / Instagram