Another viral trend is sweeping the nation, and this time, it’s a phrase: “OK Boomer.” It started on TikTok as a response to criticism from older generations, specifically ideals of the past. It has become very popular within the past few months due to its media coverage, but it may have originated as early as April of 2018. While younger generations think of it as a funny clapback, there are some mixed feelings about the saying.
Usage of “ok boomer” has touched many spheres of society – it’s not just a meme. In early November, New Zealand MP Chlöe Swarbrick was heckled in Parliament while speaking about a climate bill when someone tried to interrupt her to dispute her use of the claim that the average age of parliament members is 49. She cut them off with with an “ok boomer.”
It’s already become part of numerous memes. Videos tagged with #okboomer have been viewed more than 40 million times. Some with entrepreneurial spirit have designed and sold shirts with the slogan on it. One US art student has already earned more than $25,000 on sales from her hoodie that adds “have a bad day” to the phrase. Clearly, it’s growing in popularity. Even Chacos® hopped on the bandwagon, posting a picture captioned “Climate inaction got you down?”, paired with “ok boomer” printed in block letters on the straps of a pair of their shoes.
While most of the younger generations don’t see much harm behind the funny phrase, arguing that it’s not that serious, many people from the boomer generation feel attacked. People from older generations have called the phrase ageist, a slur, and have compared it to derogatory words (“the n-word”, for example). But, as John Mulaney once said, “If you’re comparing the badness of two words, and you won’t even say one of them? That’s the worse word.”
For many teens, “ok boomer,” became a rallying cry, a turning point, and a way to push back when the world is falling apart. As a retort to being called a “snowflake,” the phrase can give those who criticize young people a taste of their own medicine. It can even be applied (albeit jokingly) to anyone who displays narrow-minded or conservative attitudes, regardless of age.
Whether you are of the opinion that it’s a harmful saying or not, there is one thing that we can be certain of. “Ok boomer” is highlighting the divide between generations, and polarizing political views. It is something that America increasingly struggled with over the past decade, we’ve become a nation divided. It’s us or them, with what feels like no middle ground. This separation won’t fix any of the problems that the younger generations are facing (take climate change for example). And while blaming the boomers for our problems is a funny hashtag, soon we’ll need to start solving these issues ourselves.