“Cringe Culture” is Just Bullying for Adults

In the age of the internet, people have found a new way to bully others: cringe culture. Urban Dictionary defines it as “the culture started on the Internet of making fun of people and/or insulting them by calling them ‘cringy’ or ‘cringe’ for doing something which doesn’t harm or somehow insult anyone.” As bullies tend to do, people contribute to this culture by making fun of innocent things like children’s artwork or TikTok videos, hoping to feel superior by putting down others.

When a person thinks of a bully, they probably imagine a teenager, but bullying behavior often continues into adulthood. When I looked into the response America is giving to Marie Kondo, an organizing consultant who has gained some notoriety for her show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” I found that a lot of people, including those who are in the same field as her, have been unprofessional, unkind, and downright disrespectful.

In a New York Times article, writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner described her time with Kondo and other organizers at an annual meeting for the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), noting that many of her peers are enraged by Kondo’s method of thanking objects. “This rage,” she writes, “hides behind the notion that things are different here in America, that our lives are more complicated and our stuff is more burdensome and our decisions are harder to make.” Basically, these other NAPO members believe that Japanese people aren’t complex, hardworking, or burdened by the serious issues Americans face.

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and “The Ellen Show” writer Troy Thomas also displayed this underlying racism in their interactions with Kondo on their respective shows. They did not take Kondo’s methods seriously, and instead insinuated that her work is silly — especially noticeable was when Jimmy was instructed to thank his black socks. “Express my gratitude to the socks?” Kimmel said, incredulous. And after he does so, Kondo tells him, “Perfect,” to which the audience laughs, finding the host’s situation ridiculous.

Such behavior  is undermining an entire culture by deeming Kondo’s methods “cringy.” This goes beyond making fun of a child’s art on social media. The KonMari method Kondo advocates is based on Shintoism, a traditional religion of Japan. Shintoism believes that everything has a spirit, including nature and objects, and must be treated with respect. It is not something people have the right to ridicule.

People put down things such as children’s art or Marie Kondo’s methods because they think it’s silly and because they believe that they are superior to people who enjoy those silly things. These opinions are symptoms of bullying and prejudice, or, in other words, transphobia, xenophobia, elitism, classism, and of course, racism.

Of course, the KonMari method isn’t for everyone, and Kondo herself agrees. Just like Christianity isn’t for everyone, or screamo music, or spicy foods. What a blessing, then, that we live in a world of variety. Instead of isolating the people who do things a different way or live in a way you can’t understand, learn to appreciate the variety this world has to offer.

Joanne Kim is a second-year English major. She can be reached at joannjk4@uci.edu.