It seems like my generation has never before experienced this much nuclear fear. And what do we do with it? Laugh any way we can, for one. Putin has threatened the use of nuclear weapons by increasing Russia’s nuclear forces alertness levels and stating in a national address, “…For those who may be tempted to interfere in these developments from the outside, No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”
Nuclear simulations have come close to capturing the extra-short attention spans of millennials and gen-z, but there’s never been anything like the current real time situation that has ever put this much attention on the reality of the threat of nuclear weapons. And of course the only recourse for a heavy dose of reality is a flood of relevant comedy.
Vlasta Pilot, Los Angeles–based artist and TikTok creator, thinks “Making memes requires a certain level of detachment. How else could you turn actual people and events — and, in this case, human suffering — into content? Here, we see how memes can separate content from its reality, which in this case is literal war (amid the threat of nuclear war) and the senseless slaughter of actual people.”
From the extra-long Putin table memes to TikToks of cats in cardboard tanks, flirty comments on Instagram accounts dedicated to Vladmir Putin begging him to stop Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, and more memes bemoaning what it’s like to live during a pandemic and war (see twitter accounts Ukrainian Memes Forces @uamemesforces and Ukraine Memes for NATO Teens @LivFaustDieJung, for example) it’s clear that what’s happening is a difficult thing to wrap one’s head around, but maybe this content is helping us cope, and I’ll say I prefer laughing over crying any time if possible. Memes also have the potential to inform many on what’s going on in Ukraine and serve as a point of entry for people who might not otherwise be aware of the issue. But still, just to go ahead and state the obvious: the memes that are going viral on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram definitely can’t be defended as information.
Read this opinion article from fellow millennial writer Jill Filipovic for more context and a look at what we can actually do with this pent-up angst besides more doom-scrolling and meme-gobbling:
A new generation is being introduced to the nuclear threat
Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.