If you’ve scrolled on TikTok in recent months, chances are you’ve come across #corecore. “What is #corecore,” you ask?
Some say it’s Gen Z’s generation-defining art form, and some say it’s just another TikTok aesthetic that will come and go in the blink of an eye.
The Origin of #corecore
At its core (no pun intended), corecore expresses what it feels like to exist online in the 21st century. The name references the stream of aesthetics that has blown up on TikTok in the past few years. TikTok enormously influences pop culture amongst Gen Z regarding music, movies, and fashion. Popular aesthetics like cottagecore, y2k, and coquette, all experienced considerable spikes in popularity through TikTok and in some cases, were created on TikTok. Not all of these trends have equal popularity or longevity, but they all have moments of obsession on the platform. Aesthetics are often claimed for a short trend cycle on TikTok with a lifespan of around three months.
The Importance of Aesthetics
Some aesthetics, however, last longer than three months, withstanding the ever-changing trend cycle of TikTok. For example, cottagecore is widely known beyond TikTok, and Y2k fashion has made an enormous resurgence in clothing stores. To understand what makes an aesthetic a passing trend versus what makes it last, I contacted TikTok creators that post cottagecore and y2k videos. A cottage core creator, @choccyoatmilf said that cottagecore is “much more than [an] aesthetic, closer to a lifestyle of comfort and self-sustainability and all-around bliss.” Y2k creator @stephermer claimed that y2k “resonates with [her] because it’s nostalgic to [her] life and special.”
For these creators, the aesthetics go beyond pleasing the eye and are directly related to their individual expression and livelihood.
What exactly is Corecore?
That brings me to the newest “aesthetic” taking TikTok by storm: corecore. While other TikTok aesthetics provide personal meaning, corecore discusses issues facing humanity. Many corecore videos critique the fast-paced way we consume media. Corecore videos are longer than typical 15-second TikTok, using seemingly unrelated video clips and images with background audio to evoke a greater feeling and meaning. InTheKnow.com defines corecore as “an ironic social commentary on the over-saturation of media and how it desensitizes us to or even romanticizes violence.” Corecore’s critique of social media is ironic because it is being consumed in the same way the content it works to critique is being consumed. You can’t blame corecore for its hypocrisy, though. It’s just working with what it’s got.
The Need for Corecore
Is corecore just another passing TikTok aesthetic that will be forgotten in 3 months time? The jury is still out on that one. More than anything, corecore is a reaction to the rapidly changing TikTok trend cycle and reflects the impermanence of life in the internet age. According to The Healthy Journal, 167 TikToks are watched every minute each day. The speed at which we consume online content today is unprecedented. Corecore takes advantage of the need of meaning in this chaos of internet culture and shows us we are not alone.
Aesthetic or Art?
Corecore is essentially a pushback against the hyper-online lifestyle so many of us have become accustomed to. It makes you wonder, is corecore truly the art movement of Gen Z? Wikipedia defines an art movement as “a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a specific period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades) or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years.” Corecore tackles issues of modern society, which separates it from the other TikTok trends, that mostly focus more on fashion.
TikTok user @thacart4, a corecore creator, believes corecore is important because it “allows us to express feeling and emotions that can’t be expressed through words using visuals.” Corecore emphasizes the collective rather than the individual, like many other TikTok aesthetics do. It reflects on humanity as a whole, aiming to act as a type of catharsis from the online world they inhabit. When you look at it like that, corecore does seem like an art movement of the modern age. That being said, there’s no telling how long it will last. The lifespan of a TikTok trend is unpredictable and—more often than not—very short. While it may fit the concept of what an art movement should be, its lasting impact is unknown. It could be just another blip in the TikTok trend cycle…and only time will tell.