The Out-of-Touch Adults’ Guide to Kid Culture: Taylor Swift Talks Cringe

The Out-of-Touch Adults’ Guide to Kid Culture: Taylor Swift Talks Cringe
Screenshot: NYU/YouTube

This week, take advice from America’s greatest living artist and national treasure, Dr. Taylor Swift. We also consider cringe, investigate Poppy Playtime, and analyse Master Chief’s power armour.

Taylor Swift advises: “Live alongside cringe”

This week, singer/songwriter Taylor Swift received an honorary doctorate from New York University and delivered a commencement speech to the school’s graduates.

Beginning with a personable “Hi, I’m Taylor,” Swift told the class of ‘22, “I’d like to thank NYU for making me, technically, on paper at least, a doctor — not the type of doctor you want around in an emergency, unless your specific emergency is that you desperately need to hear a song with a catchy hook and an intensely cathartic bridge section.”

But Swift swiftly got on with the graduation style life advice for the class of ’22, saying:

“I will give you some life hacks I wish I knew when I was starting out…Learn to live alongside cringe. No matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively. Cringe is unavoidable over a lifetime. Even the term ‘cringe’ might someday be deemed cringe. I promise you, you are probably doing or wearing something right now that you will look back on later and find revolting and hilarious. You can’t avoid it, so don’t try.”

Embrace the #cringe

Because the world would be a better place if we did everything Taylor Swift tells us to, let’s live alongside some cringe for a bit.

The word “cringe” has been around for a long time, but using it as slang for “second-hand embarrassment” (instead of “to recoil in disgust,” like it says in the dictionary) has evolved over time from “cringeworthy,” a term that became popular on the internet and in media around 2005–2010. Since then, “cringe” has become a universally understood, widely used term term online: Reddit’s r/cringe has over 1.3 million subscribers, and has spawned many more specific communities of cringers, including r/sadcringe, r/cringepics, and r/cringegifs. Over on TikTok, #cringe has over 23.3 billion streams.

So what do we make of younger people’s eagerness to experience, share, laugh at, analyse, and emphasise with the embarrassment of others? Some people say “Look at the cruelty of kids today! They’re cyberbullies, all!” But that’s a load of bullshit. The only way today’s youngs are different from past generations is they have the internet. Kids are sharing cringe-y videos of strangers instead of calling a classmate a terrible name behind their back (or to their face) like you probably did.

Adolescents have always (always meaning “since the 1940s,” anyway) been fascinated and terrified by cringe, even if they called it something else. Teenagers are notorious for their desperation to avoid looking uncool, foolish, or awkward before their peers — a fate worse than death to a 15-year-old — and always enthusiastic to point at someone else’s cringe to deflect their own. Eventually they’ll grow out of it (I mean, hopefully) and gain the wisdom of Taylor Swift, who advised the class of ’22 to not worry about looking foolish, and to strive to be enthusiastic and genuine instead of studied and cool.

Master Chief loses his virginity

You know what’s cringe? Seeing Halo’s Master Chief have sex. But the creators of Paramount’s Halo TV series did it anyway.

(SPOILER!) In episode 8 of Halo: The Series, available on Paramount+, Master Chief strips off his power-armour and gets down with Makee, a covenant spy, while Cortona watches. The video game community is incensed and amused at this scene for a number of reasons:

All about Poppy Playtime and the horror of Huggy Wuggy

Horror game Poppy Playtime has been steadily growing in popularity since Chapter One was released in 2021 (Chapter Two dropped a few weeks ago). If you’re not familiar, here’s the info: Poppy Playtime is an indie survival horror game set in an abandoned toy factory where players encounter terrifying animated toys. It joins Five Nights at Freddy’s and others in the subgenre of games that mine their horror from the seeming innocence of childhood things.

Poppy Playtime is so successful at freaking people out, the authorities have gotten involved! Police in the U.K. and Wisconsin, presumably having stopped all actual crime, have issued warnings to parents about a character in the game called “Huggy Wuggy,” and warned that it might scare children. Did you hear that? The cops say there’s something scary in a horror game! Really earning your salaries, officers. Poppy Playtime is available on PC, iOS, and Android. You can check out the trailer here.

Viral video of the week: The She-Hulk: Attorney at Law trailer

How could you possibly not want to watch a series called She-Hulk: Attorney at Law? It’s like a rejected sketch from 30 Rock or 1990s-era Saturday Night Live, but real! Marvel’s smart decision to put its characters into offbeat stories that started with WandaVision continues with this Disney+ series following Jennifer Walters, whose already busy life as an attorney is complicated further by the fact that she occasionally turns into a gigantic green monster woman. The She-Hulk trailer gives a nice taste of the show’s comedic, self-aware vibes, and YouTube has gone nuts for it: It’s been viewed over 16 million times in the first day of its release. (Admittedly, some of those views are by viewers analysing the questionable choice to use CGI to animate the hulked-out Jessica). The series drops Aug. 17 on Disney+.

 

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