Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment
Alright, so you know of TikTok. It was in the news last year when former President Trump was trying to ban the app in his fight with China, and it’s the place where people dance to viral songs, share cooking tips, and generally try to make each other laugh.
It can be easy to brush off these newer social media apps as child’s play, though.. That was once what people did with Facebook and Twitter, so tread lightly there, because TikTok is a genuinely fun, easy way to pass the time, be amazed and send some funny videos to your friends. My wife and I have, somewhat embarrassingly, passed entire evenings sending TikToks back and forth to each other and laughing.
But the app also tells us quite a bit about where entertainment and technology is at – Gen Z is a generation of creators. I’m speaking in generalizations here, but that’s all generations are, right? So anyway, in general it seems Gen Z isn’t quite as happy as my millennial generation or gen X or the boomers or any other generation has been with simply consuming TV shows and music and movies, they want to participate in it. Teen superstar Olivia Rodrido has openly discussed intentionally writing moments onto her album “Sour” to generate TikTok videos, and the plan worked like gangbusters. While it may be tempting to call this a cash grab or an attempt at manufacturing virality, I don’t think that’s quite it. Olivia Rodrigo is simply a part of Gen Z, she understands what captures their attention – her album is full of mixing and matching sounds from the past with sounds from the present in a way that’s honestly reminiscent of TikTok itself. It’s a mixing bowl of all different kinds of content that somehow works together. She didn’t write TikTok moments into her music in a cynical way, she did it to invite others into her album and to allow the meme-slash-TikTok culture continue to grow through repetition and internet humor. It’s been said for a while, but it’s becoming truer everyday – everyone is a creator now, and even if TikTok the app dies out, TikTok’s general vibe probably won’t go away anytime soon.
I’m Evan Rook