Countering Culture: Cringe is cool now

George Metcalf on 6 April 2023
Cow looking into sea with text: "i am cringe, but i am free"

Meta Cringe is everywhere, from TikTok to TV. But what is it? And why is it so liberating? Let’s dive in…

“Another unbearable watch” reads one comment. “Thanks, I hate it” reads another. Believe it or not, these are actually words of the highest praise, for it means the creator has succeeded in their goal and made something cringey as fuck. 

TikTok is filled with this cringey content. Dodgy viral dancers performed to an unwilling public, eye-watering thirst trap videos that scream someone check this guy’s hard drive, chronically online individuals with the worst takes imaginable to name a few. These are all accidental though. 

There are actually those who seek to make you cringe with caricatures of the worst people in the world. They could be people you went to school with, particularly shitty customers in the pub, or Boomer parents not quite realising they’ve just said the most devastating thing ever. Whoever the subject and whatever the situation, all of these videos are an example of Meta Cringe. 

What is Meta Cringe? 

Meta Cringe is a broad term for content or comedy that intentionally cringes us out. It presents a character we know is wrong and allows us to have a collective laugh at the arrogance and entitlement that fuels these kinds of interactions. 



♬ original sound - Delaney Rowe

The person being portrayed is often in a position of power over us as an audience. They’re a boss, a parent, a teacher, a customer, that person in our English class who just loved to give the quiet ones shit for no reason. We couldn’t laugh at them then, but we can now. 


flexitarian 🤪

♬ original sound - Alistair Green

I am cringe, but I am free 

Outside of the TikTok trend, being cringe has become synonymous with being yourself. In fact, these days it’s the people who try to present themselves with a contrived version of what’s cool who are now cringey.  

@theslappablejerk “Ok even if she’s 20, it’s apples and oranges” #cringey #agegap #leonardodicaprio #gretathunberg #foryou ♬ original sound - Jack Ryan

Think of the guy flexing a Supreme Box Logo on Instagram or someone posing with a sports car that they definitely don’t own, a few years ago that might have been considered #goals, but now it’s just kinda sad. Why? Because it’s not authentic. And there’s nothing more cringey than inauthenticity in 2023. 

@outtpig Its the scariest thing ever #POV #comedy #relatable #family #childhood ♬ original sound - OuttPig

Wider cringe culture 

Even celebrities, the most contrived, brand-conscious, PR-trained people in modern society are embracing a slightly less polished version of themselves. Whether it’s Julia Fox’s no-frills apartment tour, or the continued success of Nathan Fielder, intentional cringe is everywhere. 

@theboski house lager cheers pal #fyp #comedysketch ♬ original sound - Boski

How do we separate cool cringe from actual inane cringe you may ask? It all comes down to intention and execution. Cast your mind back to the Imagine video of all those celebrities during Lockdown, there’s no way that was ever going to be anything other than hard to watch for all the wrong reasons. 

Is this cultural shift positive or negative? Are we just letting people exist authentically? Join the Student Hut Community today and let us know in our panel.

George  Metcalf
George Metcalf on 6 April 2023