Millennials are no stranger to intergenerational conflict, having famously been at war with Boomers since they came of age. Millennials have been described as entitled, avocado-toast-loving snowflakes intent on destroying the economy with their wanton greed by a generation that was essentially guilty of everything it accused Millennials of (except maybe avocado toast, that one’s on Millennials). However, to Millennials, these insults read as poor attempts at punching down from a generation that had little concept of what life as a Millennial is actually like. The generation has had to deal with multiple economic downturns, the Iraq War, the growing threat of climate change, and skyrocketing costs for things that the previous generations were able to secure much more easily, such as college and housing. Getting knocked for liking a certain bougie breakfast food was child’s play.
But time is a fickle mistress, and no generation is safe from the mockery of a generation that succeeds it. In June, the Millennial reckoning began in the form of Gen Z roasts that were far more accurate and brutal than anything Boomers have levied at them over the years.
The Gen Z roast of Millennials began, as most Gen Z trends do, on TikTok. There, users began making videos parodying Millennial buffoonery with hyper-specific roasts that Boomers could only dream of pulling off. “Stop lumping Gen Z in with Millennials,” said teen @mayalepa on TikTok. “I don’t want to be associated with a generation that thinks ‘Harry Potter’ is a personality.”
@mayalepa inspired by @wholesam
Comments on the video began piling on. “They be 34 talking about ‘I’m a Hufflepuff,'” said one commenter. “Like grow up and do a line of coke already.” Another wrote, “‘Ugh I hate adulting! Just give me a pizza and some wine!’ like sis, Rebecca, you are 32 and an alcoholic please sit down.” And this was hardly the only instance of TikTok videos roasting Millennials. One TikTok finds a woman holding a cringeworthy pose one might find in a typical Millennial Twitter avatar, complete with the description: “NYU ‘14. Writer. Wine lover. Doggo lover. Coffee obsessed. Hufflepuff. #ImWithHer. We are the daughters of the witches you couldn’t burn.” For anyone who’s been on Twitter, the TikTok represents an amalgamation of the typical vapid, nominally feminist bloggers who regularly rack up thousands of retweets with insipid jokes about how Donald Trump is gay with Vladimir Putin. While some Millennials have been dunking on these types of people for years, seeing the satire from the outside was surprising, but also viscerally satisfying.
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) June 16, 2020
gen z: (roasts millennials)
millennials who have been doing that for years: haha right on little dudes
— 🐀 zilly ✨ | TWEWY!? (@ZillySqueaks) June 14, 2020
Perhaps the roasts of Millennials were taken in better stride because Millennials view Gen Z as “on their side.” After all, it’s much easier to take a ribbing from a friend than an enemy. Since Boomers dubbed Millennials the “Me generation” and began levying attacks at their supposed entitlement, Millennials responded with criticisms of the Boomer generation’s responsibility in the various global failings of the 20th century, like climate change and the economic collapse of 2008. This came to a head with the “OK Boomer” meme in 2018 and 2019, which essentially drove Boomers nuts, and Gen Z was there alongside the fight, albeit with a more surreal, trollish approach to the meme, making anime-inspired TikTok dances laughing at Boomers. With exceptions, Millennials and “Zoomers” have a keen awareness of the tense political climate that’s dominated the 21st century. It’s only natural that both generations would express that by memeing on the class that goofed up the world.
Gen Z’s advantage in this fight is the bizarreness of their insults. To Boomers (and many Millennials), “Zoomer” memes feel like an in-joke made all the more infuriating because of how difficult they are to understand to an outsider. The surreality of the current meme landscape is very much Gen Z’s doing. The generation grew up on the heels of Millennial experimentation with formats like deep-fried memes, irony-posting, and Vine, intrinsically understanding and growing from them the same way Millennials easily expanded the potential of smartphones and image macros. That led to an impenetrable wall of irony that permeates the best Zoomer memes. When streamer and TikTok user Neekolul went viral for her rendition of “Oki Doki Boomer,” she struck a chord that was made all the more effective because people on the outside had no idea what the hell was happening.
— neekolul (@neekolul) March 2, 2020
If Millennials want to avoid the kind of combative relationship they have with Boomers, they must embrace Zoomers, surreal memes, skin-crawling TikToks and all. If they take on the dismissive attitude their forefathers gave to them, Millennials risk becoming “Boomers” themselves. However, if they continue to take the intergenerational ribbing in good humor and acknowledge that the older generation will never be cool in the eyes of the younger one, they may find a powerful ally in Zoomers, ready to enact more change — and make better memes — than Millennials thought possible.