“Hey Gen Z, you can suck it/ You can’t tell me what to wear,” sang TikTok user @sarahhesterross. In the now-deleted viral video, Sarah Hester Ross calls out Gen Z’s disdain for skinny jeans and side parts, a trend often associated with those who grew up in a time before TikTok. Needless to say, the video was trolled by Gen Zers; the sound litters the For You page of many users who use it to mock her.
Hester Ross is a musical comedian who enjoys making songs based on popular TikTok trends. Her inspiration for the viral song was seeing others post about the generational divide.
“I was picking up the trend from the millennial standpoint,” she said.
But Hester Ross was unprepared for the response she would get from the younger generation.
“Mob style, [it was] mob style and I gotta hand it to them. They work together and they were connected, and I’m like, ‘Good for you guys,’” she said.
But amid these videos seemingly pitting teens and adults against each other, we should ask ourselves where this disdain even came from. When did Gen Z and millennials first declare war on each other?
Dr. Howard Smead, a history professor at the University of Maryland, said this phenomenon is nothing new.
“The young generation gets older … around 25, maybe a year or two earlier, they realize that they’re not kids anymore,” he said. “So you have that, and then they kind of start looking over their shoulder at the younger generation and it’s going to be different in one way or another, and there’s many ways that they can be different and they start to think, ‘Well, gee, that doesn’t look good, that seems kind of irresponsible.’”
Hester Ross said she can see how that mindset played into her original TikTok.
“I guess now that they’re older, [millennials] feel like ‘Now I can make fun of people,’” she said.
She used to have an act in her comedy routine making fun of millennials, she said, but after realizing she’s part of that generation — and understanding how millennials have been bashed in the media — she took the bit out.
While there’s some understanding as to why millennials make fun of Gen Z, why does it seem to be reciprocated by the younger crowd? Erica Javadpour, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences, attributes her dislike to their sense of humor, which she calls corny.
“They’re the ones who make the ‘Rosé all day,’ ‘Coffee in one hand, confidence in the other [posts],’” she said.
Senior cell biology and molecular genetics major Jared Cunanan cites a similar dislike.
“On a surface level, [it’s] just how quirky they can be,” Cunanan said.
But this rivalry extends beyond the scope of a bad meme. The social landscape millennials grew up in versus that of Gen Z creates drastic differences on a political level.
“I feel like we’re the first generation that had everything at our disposal.” said Javadpour. “It’s not really an era of, you hear what your parents say and then you just kind of grow up believing that … the majority of people I’ve seen, they go and they do their own research.”
This level of informational awareness seems to have increased as time goes on. With social media, it is now easier than ever to take a stance and hear the voices of the traditionally unheard. Although opinions can be shared to any extent, some young people still feel that their desires and thoughts are not taken seriously by those in power.
“It’s a insecurity or a thing that kids have dealt with — and I call them kids because they’re younger than me. I know some of them are young adults as well and they’re in their early 20s, but I do think [the video] hit a button that made people feel uncomfortable,” Hester Ross said.
Hester Ross isn’t far off in her observations. Members of Gen Z feel that insecurity.
“People will always argue, ‘Well, millennials and Gen Z are kind of being handed the short end of the stick,’” Cunanan said.
Whether it be issues related to the economy, climate change or other political matters, some of this anger may stem from resentment over not being listened to because they’re “just kids.”
Dr. Smead recounted a quote from Socrates: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
While there aren’t any TikToks these days complaining about children “gobbling up dainties,” it’s safe to say there will always be a negative view of the younger generations. In a cycle as old as time, we’ll always question the kids — whether they’re ancient Greek civilians or Charli D’Amelio doing the Renegade in her bedroom.