The rAWR-ing 20s: Gen Z Revives Scene on Tik Tok

Nostalgia has been the weapon of choice for several years in the world of marketing. Retailers, media companies, and authors have the formula down: capitalizing off old trends or ideas is a surefire way to avoid the stress of coming up with new concepts, to generate revenue, and to spark public attention – positive or not. 2020 was the year in which this concept has extended to social media. Months of relentless boredom and unrest have left people turning to their comfort media of choice or falling back into old habits to create a sense of certainty. 

This tendency towards the past has been overwhelmingly adopted by a group who never experienced certain trends firsthand: teenagers. Young people have overwhelmingly embraced noughties fashion: low-rise jeans, belly button rings, and frosty lip gloss have made a comeback, all thanks to people who weren’t even conscious when these items first hit shelves. Some teenagers, however, have instead revived another weirder hallmark of 2000s culture, adopting not only the style but the music and mannerisms of the day. In an unlikely yet passionate resurgence, scene kids are back.  

Scene was pioneered in the early 2000s as a cheery and colorful response to emo, its moodier cousin in counterculture. While most emo music stuck to the formula of anguished vocals and prominent guitar riffs, scene’s sound was more haywire, a candy-coated concoction of pop, electronica, rap, and hardcore that appealed to primarily young people. Today, its glitchy sound and crass, chantable lyrics have struck a chord with teens on the video-sharing platform TikTok, with many finding it the perfect soundtrack for their alternative makeup tutorials or punchy cosplay videos.  

Scene kids in the Netherlands in 2010. Tynewijne/Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

In scene’s heyday, Myspace was the social network of choice to post oversaturated selfies, share your favorite song to your wall, and, if the Hot Topic gods were looking upon you, chat up band members. Since Myspace went largely defunct in the 2010s, though, both new and seasoned scene kids have found a home on TikTok. Girls in cakey black kohl liner paint “raccoon tails” into their hair with Manic Panic dye. Couples wearing Invader Zim hoodies lip sync to 30H!3 with Monster Energy drinks in tow.  

Tik Tok user @madmolly is one of the app’s reigning scene queens. Image reused under Fair Use Doctrine

It’s possible that one catalyst for scene’s second wave is that most teenagers have been confined to online social interactions since the pandemic hit. Similarly, the Internet was a pillar of scene’s zeitgeist in the 2000s, largely due to the ability to exaggerate or romanticize parts of your life online. The 2008 economic recession was a catalyst for escapism on social media, leading scene kids to craft an alternate reality on their screens. Myspace usernames like “KristineKancerxXx” or “dEvInDeM0LiTi0n” were worn with pride, providing users with a virtual ego boost and a sense of identity. Scene kids adorned their photos with digital glitter and crunchy filters – that is, if the photos even belonged to them. Many users hid their true selves behind fake profile pictures and names, a phenomenon known as “catfishing.” The web has remained a constant factor amid global turmoil, leading teens to turn to the Internet as an escape.

Scene kids used elaborate Myspace profiles to express their identities. Image reused under Fair Use Doctrine 

A notable difference from the movement of the past is increased awareness regarding online safety. Alternative subcultures have a history of predatory behavior, an issue that is prevalent both at shows and over the Internet. Dahvie Vanity, lead singer of the popular scene/crunkcore outfit Blood on the Dance Floor, raped a 14-year-old girl he met over Myspace in 2007 and would use the site to groom numerous other minors who liked the band. Nervous about the potential negative impact of scene’s second wave, millennials involved with the original movement have been taking to TikTok to warn newer participants about its darker aspects like catfishing, grooming, and cyberbullying.  

In turn, younger scene kids have condemned the gatekeeping that has plagued the movement in both its past and current iteration. Despite its seemingly happy-go-lucky attitude, the first wave of scene could be exclusive, ostracizing people who couldn’t afford the trendiest hair dye, suspenders, or lip piercings. Additionally, the experiences of white scene kids continue to be placed at the forefront, leaving much of scene’s told history incomplete. Scenesters of color have spoken out against this erasure, uplifting each other on Tik Tok. 

With an intent to remember the past and change the future, scene kids soldier on, most of them preaching messages of acceptance and fun on social media. Quarantine provides a shield for young people to experiment with their appearance or identity at home, encouraging self-expression and development. Additionally, Gen Z’s consciousness regarding social issues suggests a gradual goodbye to the lurking issues of the movement. Scene’s increase in popularity is a testament to the movement’s ethos of being authentically yourself and joining a community of friends – even if they are on the Internet.

Liv Collom is a .WAV staff member, she wrote the article. Mia Giacinto is a .WAV staff member, she created the graphic.