‘OK, Boomer’ signals power shift in generational dynamic

By Gabby Rente

Lifestyle Editor

Get ready, another TikTok trend is amongst us. The latest joke floating around the app is a clapback directed towards Baby Boomers and the ageist comments directed toward members of Millennials and Generation Z.

The saying became popular earlier this year, after a TikTok went viral of a white-haired man complaining that, “The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.”

Using the duet feature in the app, TikTokers have reacted to this video in many ways, but they all come down to one phrase: “OK, Boomer.”

According to an article done by Taylor Lorenz for The New York Times on Oct. 29, “‘OK, boomer’ has become Generation Z’s endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don’t get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids.”

The trend has become so popular that it even reached the New Zealand parliament, where lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick used the phrase to shut down heckling from a fellow lawmaker while giving a speech on climate change.

But older generations have called the use of the phrase “ageism.” According to a Washington Post article from Nov. 12, a conservative radio host went so far as to call it “the n-word of ageism” in a tweet.

Abigail Disney, filmmaker, activist, and heiress of the Disney franchise, recently took to Twitter herself to defend the younger generations.

“Get over the idea that all things pass, you are old and you need to let history do what history does: move on,” she tweeted.

I took a moment (or two) to scroll through TikTok under the tag #okboomer, and many of the content that came up used audio from a song originally written by Johnathan Williams, a 20-year-old college student, and remixed by Peter Kuli, a 19-year-old student, according to The New York Times. The song contains repetitions of the phrase yelled by Williams and has become the official audio clip for many #okboomer TikToks.

“The song is aggressive and ridiculous, but I think it says a lot about Gen Z culture,” said Mr. Kuli according to Lorenz’s article. “I think because of the internet, people are finally feeling like they have a voice and an outlet to critique the generations who got us into this position.”

Another trait I noticed was how TikToks that used Williams’s and Kuli’s song also recapped experiences of dealing with rude older customers. As a former “sales associate” of Chick-Fil-A, I can attest that the rudest customer interactions I had were with older people, unfortunately.

The way older generations condescend the younger ones is a fact that will never really change. I would argue that using the phrase is Gen Z’s way of claiming some power over the older generation in response to the ageism that the Baby Boomers throw our way.

The use of the phrase “snowflakes” has been used by older generations to describe millennials and Gen Z as entitled and lazy. I think it’s only fair that my generation has their own comeback.

I have always had an issue with the idea of generalizing a large group of people, but I do agree that the consumer trends and years of environmental neglect of the older generations are at fault for the climate issues we have today.

I’ve had debates about climate change with older relatives, but when it comes down to blame I never simply say, “And it’s your fault.” The problem, and others like it — racial and financial inequality — are much bigger than that.

I cannot speak to the idea of feeling “irrelevant” as Disney put it in her tweet thread, but we cannot stop time from progressing, and my generation has already made it very clear that we are taking no more slander. Just like the generations that came before us, we will change history the way we see fit.

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