In her seminal essay, Notes on ‘Camp‘, Susan Sontag wrote that “to name a sensibility, to draw its contours and recount its history, requires a deep sympathy modified by revulsion.” In our contemporary era, sensibilities seem to come and go and come back again at an incredibly quick pace; culture moves at lightning speed. But culture is also a continuum, and history can be a tool to observe and unpack contemporary phenomena. With that in mind, we decided to channel Sontag as we try to explain not camp but the newest sensibility on the block: cheugy.
A new-but-old sensibility, cheugy is a Gen Z term to describe a distinct style – mostly jokingly, mildly pejoratively, and usually aimed at millennials. The inimitable Taylor Lorenz has already written about cheugy for the NYT (the first sign that a bit of internet culture is headed towards its peak and subsequent decline), writing that cheugy can “be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard.”
There are now boundless TikToks that break down cheugy into an easily digestible visual language; and if you’re inclined towards text, Urban Dictionary now has several definitions of the word. Unsurprisingly, there’s also a whole IG, Cheug Life, dedicated to documenting all things cheug — which in and of itself feels like a cheugy interpretation of meme accounts.
Because the word seems to have shifting definitions, we thought we’d pull a Sontag and jot down some musings on cheugy, rather than diving into a formulaic essay. And anyway, an essay? From a millennial? Cheugy.