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Home » Column: It’s time to ditch cringe tradition

Column: It’s time to ditch cringe tradition


In case you work together with the web in any manner, you’ve in all probability stumbled upon the time periods cringe, cringy, cringe tradition, or one thing related. Since 2004, Google searches for the time period have been steadily rising. In 2021, worldwide Google searches for the time period “cringe” have been at an all time excessive. In truth, there’s a whole subreddit devoted to it titled r/cringe. The web page boasts over 1.3 million members and options the tagline, “When it simply hurts to observe.”

In response to the Oxford English Dictionary, cringe actually means, “To contract the muscle tissues of the physique, normally involuntarily; to shrink right into a bent or crooked place; to cower. Additionally (of part of the physique): to flinch; to contract.” Through the years, this phrase has taken on a complete new that means in fashionable web tradition. In response to City Dictionary, the fashionable that means of cringe is, “When somebody acts/or is so embarrassing or awkward, it makes you’re feeling extraordinarily ashamed and/or embarrassed.”

Because the City Dictionary definition demonstrates, fashionable cringe is inherently tied to disgrace. Sadly, that’s what cringe tradition has change into — a show of public shaming. Generally, cringe is used to poke enjoyable at people who use their private beliefs as an excuse to harm different individuals or trigger others normal inconvenience — like the person in this video who went to a mall in Amarillo, Texas, throughout Christmastime to inform children that Santa doesn’t exist.

Admittedly, I don’t thoughts individuals “cringing” at somebody who is definitely harming others. It turns into a problem when it’s used to police those that are merely residing their lives. I’ve some private expertise with cringe, primarily as a result of I’m a cosplayer. There are numerous TikTok cosplay cringe compilations circulating on YouTube. Due to the stigma and stereotypes surrounding cosplayers, we’re excellent cringe tradition fodder. 

Probably the most mainstream instance of this got here in 2019 when cosplayer NyanNyanCosplay blew up after posting a video of herself cosplaying Nico Yazawa from the anime “Love Dwell” and dancing to the track “Mia Khalifa” by iLOVEFRiDAY. The inflow of consideration was partially constructive but in addition intensely destructive. A lot of the negativity got here from individuals speculating in regards to the cosplayer’s gender, primarily by using transgender slurs.

NyanNyanCosplay dealt with most of the destructive features of her sudden fame with grace, however that doesn’t make what occurred any much less mistaken. Not solely was the web bullying somebody for simply having enjoyable, however the feedback questioning her gender have been inherently transphobic. After bullies assumed that she was trans, they used it as an excuse to blatantly show their bigotry. That appears to be a lot of what cringe tradition is now — bullying minority teams.

Cringe is usually used to focus on LGBTQ+ of us, fats individuals, individuals of coloration, neurodivergent individuals and anybody else who doesn’t fairly match into society as a complete — nearly a technique to preserve these individuals who don’t match into the perceived establishment in test.

Because the weblog “The Autisticats,” made by autistic individuals for autistic individuals, states, “Cringe tradition on the web is centered across the ostracizing and cyberbullying of people who find themselves seen as having socially unacceptable habits, pursuits, and appearances. … They received’t let [autistic people] be mates with them, however they don’t prefer it after we’re fortunately participating with our particular pursuits in ways in which don’t contain [neurotypical] individuals in any respect.” This toxicity is why innocent physique positivity actions like plus measurement males having enjoyable dressing up as mermaids and autistic nerds discovering consolation in on-line communities are sometimes villainized and laughed at. 

These bullies see atypical people as threats to their perceived notions of society. In the end, othering individuals who don’t slot in is a ploy to try to preserve issues from altering. So, subsequent time we discover ourselves laughing at one thing or somebody for being cringe, we should always significantly think about why.


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