'OK Boomer' Is The Meme A Clueless, Out-Of-Touch Generation Deserves
You know what “OK boomer” is: the very latest in intergenerational stone-throwing, this time from the youngs to the olds in the form of a viral meme (what else?) that’s unexpectedly caught fire over the past week.
The rush of recent online and media recognition for “OK boomer” has been great enough to spark a flood of self-serious think pieces, New York Times pearl-clutching and even a parliamentary dunk from an New Zealand MP.
The meme began as a Gen-Z joke, born from TikTok lip-sync compilations, about the folksy ignorance of the Baby Boomer generation, whose out-of-touch jowl-shaking arrogance on issues such as climate disaster, identity politics and contemporary progressivism is baffling to a generation buoyed by action, inclusivity and change. It’s the kind of attitude that’s inspired such Facebook pages as “Boomers mistaking the Betoota Advocate for news”.
Now, while the Z-ers have likely moved on to newer and shinier things, the joke has been adopted and dragged beyond relevance by the Boomers’ natural enemies: the Millennials.
And it’s fair enough that Millennials -- my own generational tribe -- have so enthusiastically taken up the catch-cry of “OK boomer”, even as the meme begins to fade from relevance with the very group that created the drag to begin with. Millennials have long been a target for Boomers: in the media, in the workforce, on the parliamentary floor. There’s a lot of disdain for “Millennials” -- often misidentified simply as “get off my lawn!” young’uns, whether they fit the appropriate age demographic for a millennial or not -- emanating from the generation for privilege preservation, and they’re not shy about sharing it.
There’s a New Yorker piece called “Millennials Are the First Generation in History to Inspire Think Pieces about Millennials”, and the joke is a little bit that Millennials are entitled and self-obsessed, but it’s a lot about how the generations preceding us are even more obsessed with us than we are with ourselves. Boomers are certainly not wholly to blame for the slew of “studies” and think pieces and about how millennials have “killed” everything from movie theatres to health insurance to bar soap but, look, they’re a lot to blame.
And they’re also a lot to blame for the economic instability, unsecure housing, inaccessible education and apocalyptic climate future that’s fallen into the laps of millennials -- and the generations that follow. Hence: “OK boomer”.
So, Millennials have a bit of their own to get back on the Boomer generation, and the hunger for “OK boomer” reflects just a touch of that score-settling.
And devil’s advocates can and will waggle their fingers at “OK boomer”, with varying levels of credibility, but intergenerational ribbing is a long-held social tradition. One of the most memorable jokes from Frontline, Working Dog’s brilliant 1990s current affairs mocumentary, was of a slimy middle-aged middle manager remarking on Gen X-ers: “Kids these days, they just don’t want to work!” It’s a line that could be repeated, verbatim, about millennials -- or even Gen Z-ers -- today.
And, let’s not forget, the Boomers were the original rebel generation. Born in the “baby boom” after World War II, to so-called War Babies, Boomers were socially conscious, radical upstarts: the world’s very first angsty, agitating teenagers. A joke like “OK boomer” would’ve been considered the height of cool by a young Boomer crowd. How times change.
So it’s only fitting that the generation that’s had farthest to fall -- from radicals to great upholders of the status quo -- is plagued by a viral meme like “OK boomer”. It’s a fitting joke for a generation as lost and intransigent as the one controlling our parliaments, our universities, our media et al, shaking their fists at change.