Karens, Libbies, and Edgelords: The Cancel Culture Issues New Labels

Whether liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, most Boomers and a great number of older Gen Xers would agree that their generations encouraged open debate. The very idea of pressuring a venue to cancel a speaker because that person had an opinion that ran contrary to the younger generation’s collective political thought not even a consideration. Yet, these days, it has become routine for entertainers, political commentators, and others to be forced into cancelling events due to the demands of their critics.

This has resulted in Gen Y (and, in some circles, even Gen Z) being referred to as the “Cancel Culture.”

In another writing on this blog, I discussed the Millennial’s increasingly vocal criticism of Boomers. Many members of Gen Y seem to believe that their life woes can be traced to the (allegedly) overly-priviledged and socially irresponsible Baby Boomer Generation.

However, Boomers can take heart (not): Gen Z is now coming into its own. As such, it has begun to engage in some of its own labeling. According to this Nov. 14 Buzzfeed article, the labeling goes something like this:

  • Boomer Generation: “Ok, Boomer”–a dismissive way of referring to those individuals Gen Z finds to be a bit out-of-touch with the challenges of today’s society.
  •  Gen X: “Karens,” a term to describe Gen Xers who are “privileged from the system the boomers set up for them and [are] now acting entitled and working against Gen Z….They’re [deemed to be] usually racist, homophobic, and transphobic, don’t believe in vaccines or climate change, and are mostly also the parents of Gen Z children.”
  • Gen Y/Millennial: “Liberals.” Enough said.

And what does Gen Z call itself? “Edgelords,” a term Merriam-Webster (online) describes in this way:

The word has taken hold to refer to one who makes wildly dark and exaggerated statements (usually on an internet forum) with the intent of shocking others. There is usually a tone of nihilism to such remarks, the kind that might be flagged by a counselor as anti-social behavior.

To be honest, I rarely encounter any Gen Z students in my college classes who are so bleak in their world view. Then again, I teach a majority urban African-American student population. My students are too busy grappling for bus passes and ways to pay for school supplies to be a nihilist. In fact, I have found most of my students to be pretty responsible. They take criticism well. They take their assignments seriously. They don’t discriminate by race, gender, religion, or in any other way when they need assistance and advice. There are no “Karens” or “Ok, Boomers” in their world. My students don’t have time for that nonsense.

Perhaps, then, the real problem is not that Boomers or Gen X are overly-priviledged and out-of-touch. Instead, perhaps it is the middle- to upper-middle class Gen Y or Z members who are the ones who have so much priviledge and so much spare time that they sit around coming-up with labels all day and being triggered when a comic doesn’t make a politically correct joke. In my world, the label for folks like this is “hypocrite,” which is not a label any generation should want to earn.