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“Boomers” may have invented the internet, but now the term is being used as an insult, one used to relentlessly own the olds every single day. And why wouldn’t we – they collapsed the global economy in 2008, play a large part in bringing about the climate crisis, and squall “snowflake” at anyone with a modicum of interest in genuine social justice. The boomer-hating mostly comes from their own children, people who simply have no hope of leading a life of the same level of comfort. Is the collective vitriol the least they deserve for allowing the free market to destroy the planet? It’s not for me to say.
Recently all the hateful energy directed at the post-war generation who lucked out on a healthy job market and decent life prospects has merged with laser-like focus into one, devastating phrase: “OK Boomer”. The meme has gathered an astonishing pace on social media in recent weeks and is even being monetised (more on that later) but how exactly did it come about? Here we look a little deeper and break it down:
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Defining a meme is always risky given their fluid and constantly changing nature, but this one is fairly self explanatory. On the face of it, “OK Boomer” is a dismissive, sarcastic term used to mock something that is inherently “Boomer”. It might be said or posted in response to things like Barack Obamalecturing young people on the problematic nature of “woke” culture, or your dad telling you that there are plenty of jobs out there you just have to un-dye your lucid green hair, or every single political cartoon in a newspaper.
Any great artistic movement has its pioneers and its central figures, but it’s often the case that great works emerge from a collective working with similar ideas and motifs. It’s the same with memes, except instead of moving from realism to abstractionism, people are basically just coming up with different ways to say they hate their dad on Twitter, each slightly different and more refined than the last, until one simply posts “OK Boomber”. We can enjoy each individual “OK Boomer” piece for its own beauty, but pinning down a singular creator would be near impossible.
WHO CAN FALL VICTIM TO IT?
You may think you’re in the clear, but frankly, no one over the age of 20 is safe from “OK Boomer”. Even though it calls out one very specific target (Boomers, a generation most often defined as those individuals born between 1946 and 1964) what constitutes a Boomer is becoming increasingly vague. Essentially, Millennials are getting caught in the crossfire here, in what is primarily a Gen Z-Boomer beef. As Millennials move into their late 20s and 30s, many of them are downing their swords in the intergenerational battleground – on the internet at least – maybe because they’re focusing on trying to work themselves out of billions of pounds of student debt.
THE MOVEMENT HAS PASSION, DRIVE, AND PASTICHE
Gen Zers (those at school and just starting college or university) have picked up the mantle with a passion and drive that has long since waned in the Millennial cohort. When passions flare, concentration can be lost, and Millenials are finding themselves on the receiving end of the put down. Which is fair enough. I’ve only ever posted once on TikTok and I still have Facebook so to anyone under the age of 20 I am at least 50 per cent boomer. We’ve gone AWOL in the fight somewhat, so maybe we deserve it.
HOW IT’S TRAVELLING AND BEING MONETISED
A 2019 meme wouldn’t be a 2019 meme without merch. Introducing 19-year-old Shannon O’Connor, who has taken the meme into the final stage of its life cycle with a run of fluorescent “OK Boomer” hoodies instructing anyone over the age of 30 to “have a terrible day”. She told the New York Times: “The older generations grew up with a certain mindset, and we have a different perspective. A lot of them don’t believe in climate change or don’t believe people can get jobs with dyed hair, and a lot of them are stubborn in that view. Teenagers just respond “Ok, boomer”. After she promoted the merch on TikTok she soon received over $10,000 (£7,715) in orders. “It’s like, we’ll prove you wrong, we’re still going to be successful because the world is changing.”
Elsewhere online, Jonathan Williams, a 20-year-old college student, has dropped the tune “ok boomer,” with its biting lyrics: “It’s funny you think I respect your opinion, when your hairline looks that disrespectful.”