Criticism in the age of TikTok – a video essay

How Gen Z’s favourite app points to a new form of cultural criticism.

* Voted one of the best video essays of 2019!

Charlie Shackleton

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Downloaded over a billion times since its launch just two years ago, TikTok has taken the tech world by storm with its endless stream of viral dance routines, comedy lip sync clips and impenetrable intertextual memes. And with a user base seemingly comprised of nothing but whip-smart 15-year-olds, it’s become perhaps the definitive online home of Generation Z.

Last month I went to the Melbourne International Film Festival, intending to mentor a group of young Australian critics on the ins and outs of contemporary film writing. Instead they mentored me on the art of TikTok, and in the process pointed the way to a whole new kind of 21st-century criticism.

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