young man in window (l) young man making air quotes with caption 'cringe content' (c) young woman screaming (r)

@fuzzz99/TikTok @deadinmygraves2/TikTok @cam_lang_/TikTok

TikTok trolls are using “cringe” to cover up their transphobia

Examine the types of people you consider cringe.

 

Tricia Crimmins

IRL

In each edition of web_crawlr we have exclusive original content every day. On Tuesdays our IRL Reporter Tricia Crimmins breaks down the trends on the popular app that will make you cringe in her “Problematic on TikTok” column.  If you want to read columns like this before everyone else, subscribe to web_crawlr to get your daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.


If you’ve been on TikTok long enough, you’ve probably come across a video from Mol, a trans TikToker who is known for posting incredibly earnest videos. In many of Mol’s videos, he has chronic baby voice and talks about his coming out journey. His TikToks are saccharine and focus on kindness, community, and being one’s true self. 

Numerous TikTokers have categorized Mol’s videos as “cringe.” As defined by Dot senior reporter Audra Schroeder, cringe is “secondhand embarrassment to a situation or experience, and you know it when you feel it.” Many have stitched and duetted Mol’s videos showing themselves recoiling and physically cringing at Mol’s voice and behavior. 

But the response Mol has gotten from their videos goes beyond what other cringe-Tokers receive from their content: Other TikTokers are genuinely cruel to Mol. 

In a video Mol recently posted showing Halloween face paint, commenters made fun of the color of his teeth. Some commenters refer to Mol as “it” in the comments of his videos. And in response to a TikTok Mol posted about a former suicide attempt, many commenters told Mol that he should attempt suicide again.

Cam Lang, a PhD student and trans TikToker has a theory about why Mol’s cringe content has received more hate. They say it’s because when people say Mol makes them cringe, what they actually feel—and express—is transphobia.

“Labeling someone as cringe allows [commenters] to safely interact with their transphobia without fear of repercussions,” Lang says in their video. “Because it reinforces this freakish nature of what it means to be trans to them.”

They also extend their cringe vs. transphobia theory to Elphaba Orion Doherty Doherty, another trans TikToker who posts cringe content, and whose TikTok account was recently banned.

Lang goes on to say that when a person “subverts gender expectations and then acts in a cringe manner,” people see them “so far out of the social norm” that they are no longer treated as human.

Why it matters

The hate Mol has received has been so brutal that they’ve taken a break from TikTok before. Last year, Mol said that he “mentally [could] not handle TikTok anymore,” and begged his LGBTQ followers to engage with his videos so his content would be shown to the queer community and allies, and not transphobic trolls.

Examine the types of people you consider cringe: Is it because of their behavior? Or, does it have something to do with their identity?

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