Let’s Embrace Our Cringey Phases

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Let’s Embrace Our Cringey Phases

Anabell Xu, Staff Writer

Looking back on the past is awkward. Reflect on your own and you may find an emo kid with eyeliner posting “deep” things on their social media, Minecraft parodies, demon-kitsune DeviantArt original characters (OCs), self-insert fanfictions, diaries we made when we were seven-years-old, and old crushes that we may have had. I found my old fanfiction page that I made when I was ten-years-old, and I wanted to burn it to the ground. The cringe is serious.

Our generation’s cringe-worthy culture features weeaboos, Minecraft, Fortnite dances, and Musical.ly artists. Watching ten-year-olds try to floss is one of the most cringe-inducing things I have ever seen, in addition to that one guy doing a Musical.ly with his dying grandfather in the background. And these kids are given hell for it.

It’s not like mocking people who do “cringy” things is new. I spent a good afternoon looking up all of the Deviantart OCs I could find, and the comments were brutal. People were telling each other to “kill themselves” and mocking the artists about how “cringy and unoriginal” their creations were. There’s an entire subset dedicated to cringe humor on the Internet, where we mock emo kids with 15 layers of eyeliner and middle schoolers singing at their school assemblies. We tell them to grow up faster, in a sense. We tell them to stop doing what they have fun doing, to stop expressing their creativity and to stop being “so cringy” for writing Batman fanfiction.

I hate this. I absolutely despise it.

Listen, I’m not here to tell you to praise the people who make “dark” Harry Potter fanfiction or the kids who rage so hard at League of Legends that they smash their keyboards. I think their actions are cringy, too. But nothing, absolutely nothing, warrants people sending death threats to these kids or shutting down all of their creative engagement.

Take the demon-kitsune DeviantArt OC with a dark past. Sure, the character is generic now. But give a couple of years, and with enough natural growth and learning, the artist may learn that there are other ways to make a character interesting and that not everyone has to be an edgy fox with mass murder in their history. We may see a natural progression into a writer who develops complex characters and maybe even writes a best-selling book one day. But that entire creative process can be destroyed at the beginning by one person telling the artist that their ideas are horrible and that they should never try to be creative again.

We were the Gangnam-style dancers that teenagers mocked in our day. How many people learned more about K-pop and started a passion for dance because of it? How many animators started off making anatomically horrible drawings of anime characters? How many future game developers may Fortnite have accidentally created?

Cringe is a natural step in the progression towards maturity. As we establish our foundations and begin to branch out, every step we take will be naïve and simplistic. We don’t understand how to make things more exciting or how ridiculous we look trying out something new. And that’s okay! It’s how people grow. But stymying that process by ridiculing or shaming someone for having fun or trying to be creative has the potential to destroy that process. Shame can prevent someone from ever trying something out again. And that’s not worth the few laughs you can get.

So cringe at Musical.ly parodies, anime fanfiction, and bad art all you want. But remember that there is a person behind the screen that could create something much better in the future. The past may be awkward, but the future won’t necessarily be.