TikTok Teens: Turbulent Identities for Turbulent Times

Louisa G. Rogers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Through the examination of two subcultural fashion trends spawned on the micro-vlogging platform TikTok, this article will consider how the mythic functions of the archetypal ‘clown’ and ‘rebel’ have been redeployed by Generation Z TikTok users in an attempt to push back against prevailing beauty ideals. These short-form film performances reveal the specular world-view of a demographic that is as used to being watched as it is watching others. The bulk of TikTok’s content revolves around viral trends; dances that spread by mimesis, hashtags that agglomerate universally relatable human experiences and the usual aspirational travel and fashion material. Those that break away from this mould find themselves in algorithmically led micro-communities (self-termed ‘core aesthetics’), which form satellites around more popular content forms and occasionally gain virality themselves for their freakishness or downright surrealism. The ‘clown’ and ‘rebel’ are still seen as liminal characters in the social space ‐ affording them certain freedoms from the visual dominance of celebrity culture but also requiring certain compromises; existing at the fringes is, by definition, to be excluded and ‘othered’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-400
Number of pages24
JournalFilm Fashion and Consumption
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


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