The week in culture #007
The internet is full of content that can make us laugh, freak us out and fill us with hope for the human race. But it’s more than just trolls and lols. If you know what to look for, memes, tweets and everything in between can serve as an early warning system for cultural and behavioural shifts. Every other week, we’ll be highlighting a few you might’ve missed.
This week, among other things, we’re exploring OK Boomer, the Jessica Jingle, and why Home Depot is blowing up on TikTok.
OK Boomer is a symptom of a divided digital society
‘OK Boomer’ is a term used predominantly by young people as a dismissive response to opinions and behaviours that signify outdated values and beliefs. As with most things on the internet, casual usage has been tracked back a few years, but since it became a trend on TikTok, it’s really blown up. Here’s an example in context:
OK Boomer addresses a breakdown in intergenerational communications. Technology has the ability to enable nuanced and sophisticated interactions, but in an increasingly noisy digital space, communication is regressing. The loudest voices get the most attention, and against this backdrop, healthy conversation is losing ground. Whether Boomers vs. Millennials or liberals vs. conservatives, at a time when nuanced communication should be integral, OK Boomer is proof that digital narratives have instead become about picking between two sides.
TL;DR: OK Boomer is a manifestation of, and observation on, society’s current collective communication problem.
The Home Depot jingle is blowing up on TikTok
Back in 2018, the Home Depot launched an ad in the US with a backing track that was pretty dramatic for a spot about tiles. It went unnoticed for a while… until about a month ago, when someone with a TikTok account realised the song was quite catchy. Since then, Home Depot has been riding a wave of internet fame. Here’s an example
Videos tagged #HomeDepot on TikTok have been viewed over 61 million times, and in the last month, there’s been an 80% increase in searches for “Home Depot theme song” on Google. There are a few fairly obvious reasons for this overnight success, including, but not limited to:
- The power of an extremely catchy song in a cultural landscape dictated by TikTok.
- The power of out-of-context humour, which is what so many memes are built on.
- The instant familiarity of Home Depot for teens in America. It isn’t necessarily a brand they love, but as one of the most successful home retailers in the US, most will have been in one.
Most importantly, though, the rapid cycle of TikTok fame is driven by two key factors – creativity and novelty. This means the more unexpected the raw ingredients are, the better. And what could be more unexpected than the Home Depot jingle being repurposed as a Gen Z anthem?
TL;DR: On TikTok, success is driven by creativity and novelty. Against this backdrop, the more unexpected the raw ingredients are, the better.
The Starlink satellite launch was a live tweet of human progress
Starlink is Elon Musk’s vision for truly global internet coverage. The plan is to launch 12,000 satellites into orbit, which will work with transceivers down here on Earth, and on Monday, he launched 60 of them – the second batch this year. And throughout the launch, updates like this one could be found on the SpaceX Twitter feed:
Successful deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed! pic.twitter.com/bpBqO9oYR3
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019
In a recent report from Twitter, which tracked conversations between 2016 and 2019, one of the key conversation trends was ‘Everyday Wonder’, which specifically refers to the wonder attached to renewed interest in space and space travel – conversations around space exploration are up 131%. Part of the reason these conversations draw so much attention online is because they unite us in our humanity, reminding us what we’re capable of as a species. In this context, it’s no wonder SpaceX commands such attention online – its role is to keep us updated on human progress, inspiring awe with every update.
TL;DR: SpaceX enables its followers to track human progress in real-time, ultimately uniting people at a time when many online narratives divide us.
The Jessica Jingle is an example of how movies get famous online
South Korean black comedy Parasite opened in the US in early October, and has since made $11 million in the box office, making it the biggest foreign language film of 2019. Its popularity is largely tied to aesthetically gorgeous art direction and globally relevant narratives around class systems and wealth divides. But part of its success has also been attributed to the Jessica Jingle – a 10-second clip of a main character taking a moment to remember the persona she’s about to adopt in a scam. Here’s a video of it on a loop for 10-minutes:
The mnemonic rhythm she uses – which is commonly used in South Korean schools to help children memorise facts – makes language barriers irrelevant. It’s satisfying to listen to, regardless of your mother tongue. And that’s what makes it so perfectly sharable – in a landscape where ASMR and #OddlySatisfying content are so commonplace, mnemonic content fits right in.
The clip appears in the trailer as well as the feature, and was so widely shared that distributor NEON tweeted a video tutorial of how to say the words featuring the actress. You can even download it as a ringtone. Each of these amplifications demonstrates that NEON understands how movies are consumed and mutated online – in satisfying morsels of bite-sized content.
TL;DR: On the internet, long-form content is often chopped up and re-distributed. The full package is still important, but bite-sized moments should be satisfying in their own right.
@polly_pick_pocket is an unboxing channel for Instagram
This is an Instagram feed dedicated to one Polly Pocket collector’s vast collection of toys, which will make many Millennials warm and fuzzy with nostalgic joy. Admittedly, there are no boxes involved in @polly_pick_pocket’s content. But these close-up videos of pastel-coloured compacts – each handled by a woman with a brighly-coloured manicure – are unquestionably an off-shoot of the video category that blew up on YouTube back in the early 2010s. They look like this:
These posts are satisfying for multiple reasons:
- They’re nostalgic. Polly Pocket’s hey-day spanned the late ‘80s and ‘90s, which aligns perfectly with Millennial childhood.
- They’re satisfying. The soft clicks of opening, closing and playing with these products bears resemblance to ASMR-esque content.
- They’re the next best thing to an offline experience. The close-up footage has a tactile physicality, which is hugely valuable in the digital space.
Unboxing channels were initially a niche pocket of YouTube. But @polly_pick_pocket is proof that the concept itself – satisfying close-up footage of kids’ toys – was powerful enough to be adapted to appeal to any audience, regardless of demographic or platform.
TL;DR: Content trends are often conceived in niche pockets of the internet, but those with staying power will mutate to fit formats and topics across platforms and demographics.
*Header image via @radravioli_