Ten years ago, when baby boomers wanted to spread around some racist crap about President Barack Obama, they did it in chain emails with subject headings like “Fw: Fw: FW: FW: MUSt-See photo of Obummer reading the KORAN to WHITE BABIES.” But as Obama’s two terms wore on, politically opinionated, middle-aged Americans witnessed the viral, connective power of memes. By the time the 2016 election cycle rolled around, with Donald Trump’s youth base on Reddit and 4chan churning out MAGA memes by the hundreds for any old conservative to use — and the candidate himself retweeting them, no matter how bigoted — we’d passed an event horizon. The boomers, that generation born between 1946 and 1964, had embraced the medium.
Now their own shitposts are everywhere, covering the ideological spectrum from “#Resister who thinks America only just became racist” to “xenophobe who wishes we could elect a gun president.” Check out the replies to any Trump tweet and you’ll find lengthy “conversations” that are just people lobbing these images at each other. Looking at a few in a row is like starving your brain of oxygen. They are the end of thought itself.
This garbage has gotten so bad that Trump chuds are now trying to own the libs with a meme that claims the president, while serving in Vietnam, was taken prisoner after a helicopter crash, then helped back into U.S.-held territory by a young Soviet soldier named Vladimir Putin. Seriously, Snopes had to debunk it. If we’re not careful, boomer content could overwhelm the meme economy. Your parents are goddamn out of control.
What are the hallmarks of a boomer meme? Well, let’s break one down in detail. To prove I have no liberal bias, I’ll go with a seemingly “leftist” image macro. Have a look:
The first thing you notice here is the white Impact font, once a standard choice in memes but now usually an indication that you’re dealing with someone years late to social media. Also, the boomers’ eyesight ain’t what it used to be, so they’re deeply invested in wide, chunky, easy-to-read lettering. Amid all the verbiage, you’ve got a bland stock photo (or is it a still from an ad for calcium supplements?) that feels vaguely connected to the weirdest, least relevant part of the text — the dig at people with purple hair. What the fuck does hair have to do with any of this? Who is this meme even mad at? It doesn’t matter. The boomers are focused on a far bigger project: convincing us that their couple of years selling pot out of a van and having unprotected sex make them the bravest generation — and not the one that grew up to sell out completely. They do know the Congress that wants to gut Medicare is, like, the same age as them… right?
Yet, as the helpful “Cursed Boomer Images” account reminds us, there’s more to boomerhood than age — it’s “a mindset.” (There’s even an odd subreddit devoted to memes mocking “30-year-old boomers.”) The mindset combines a reactionary impulse — for example, “I’ve never heard of trans people and I’m scared of them using a bathroom,” or “kneeling black football players hate America” — with an absolute refusal to examine their smug complacence.
It’s even worse than the toxic comment sections of the mid-aughts; at least they had to concoct an unreadable word-salad paragraph condemning Hurricane Katrina survivors for “looting” bread. Now they can scroll through their conspiracy-poisoned Facebook feed and save any reductive, grainy jpeg that lets them feel more smug about their politics — or that simply pats their heads for not being a lazy, entitled millennial (with purple hair!!) — to paste them wherever, whenever.
Enough. I’m begging you, talk to the boomers in your life — young or old — and impress upon them how powerfully annoying their bad memes are. These dumbass posts aren’t “triggering” anyone, they aren’t “destroying” the other side with “logic” or “facts,” and they sure as hell aren’t [laugh-crying emoji].
They only make us cringe and hope for a new platform to escape into, one the boomers have yet to infiltrate and clutter with their actually quite sad little jokes. But at this rate, we may just need another entire internet.