In the past couple of weeks, I have seen a rise of “corecore” or “nichecore” TikToks on my For You page. Though that is not the focus of this article, from these two trends a subcategory of sorts has emerged, that being “hopecore.” Fellow Digital Culture writer Katelyn Sliwinski writes that corecore “feels like a group of people who are connecting their own suffering and wrestling with the meaning of life to media.” At a first glance, hopecore and corecore seem to be completely unrelated. In the context of social media “-core” is usually used to describe a kind of aesthetic or style. So, it can be deduced that hopecore is an aesthetic centered around hopefulness. Though this is true, scrolling down the tag on TikTok reveals a level of sadness under that hope.
Just looking through the tag itself on TikTok, it seems harmless and even motivational. The edits under the tag, many of which feature the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, are usually focused on actors, politicians and successes of people of Color. A lot of these edits center around the underdog narratives of these figures to demonstrate that anything is possible as long as you work hard. These edits are truly having a profound effect on a lot of people: One comment states, “Hopecore getting me through. My days are getting better.”
Many of the edits focus on the stories of athletes, actors and political figures of Color who are often ignored in larger media. These figures and their stories are often ignored because mainstream media is, for the most part, society-making media, meant to bring society together by focusing on the majority group or opinion. In the United States, this type of media serves a white audience, which perpetuates a mono-culture where whiteness is the standard and marginalized groups are neglected. In contrast, segment-making media caters to smaller, niche communities where marginalized groups can thrive, like “hopecore” videos.
The distinction between society-making media and segment-making media used to be exclusive to TV and film, but with the introduction of digital media, this has changed. Society-making media now encompasses a wide range of content such as articles, viral videos and popular memes. In contrast, segment-making media targets specific niche communities and interests, such as “corecore” or “hopecore.” While society-making media can perpetuate negative stereotypes and reinforce dominant cultural norms, segment-making media too can create echo chambers and reinforce divisive views. For example, “hopecore” may promote positive thinking and motivation, but it can also glorify these attitudes to an unhealthy extent.
The line between society-making and segment-making media is often blurred in social media, as content created for a specific audience can also go viral and appeal to a larger audience. This can further extend the echo chamber of beliefs to a greater number of people, which can have both positive and negative consequences.
When we think about “hopecore” from a positive perspective, it becomes clear that the representation and motivation it provides are important. As Mira Nair states in “This Changes Everything”: “The power of what you see in childhood really gets into the DNA of what becomes possible for you growing up.” When individuals see themselves represented positively in the media, they are more likely to feel a sense of pride and belonging. Conversely, negative representation or exclusion from representation can have negative effects on self-image and mental health. In the U.S., with people from many different cultures, the fact that white people still make up a majority of the media can exacerbate these negative effects. Though 10-30 second edits may seem insignificant to some, they can hold significant meaning for others, inspiring hope for their own possibilities. All of this is a positive thing, right?
I grew up with first-generation immigrant parents. For this reason, it is hard for me to see this trend as wholly positive and motivational. I see many of these edits consistently portraying the “American Dream,” that idea that the U.S. is the land of opportunity and as long as you work hard enough, you can gain success for you and your family — no matter your race, ethnic background, gender or sexuality. A lot of these edits perpetuate the message that if you just work hard enough you too can reach the position of these acclaimed athletes, actors and other such figures — if you simply pick yourself up by the bootstraps.
On the surface, I don’t think these edits reinforce bad messages and it is great that people are receiving positive motivation. As someone who constantly grew up with the rhetoric of the American Dream, then found the bitter truth that no matter how hard one tries, the dream is not attainable for everyone, these videos make me feel conflicted. Yes, these edits are hopeful — that is their purpose — but there is a line between hope and the truth. Many of the sports stars shown in these edits like Kevin Durant, whose mother made extreme sacrifices for him to reach his success, further reinforce an underdog narrative, which furthers the videos’ impact. These messages are especially inspiring for those of us who come from marginalized communities or low-income families. Nevertheless, not all of us can make it to the top no matter what we do.
The American Dream is promoted to people of Color and expects us to put in the work to ascend the socioeconomic ladder without doing anything to help the issues that plague many low-income communities of Color and prevent their mobility. At present, most well-paying jobs require candidates to have some education higher than a high school diploma, but the rising cost of tuition eliminates the possibility of higher education for many low-income students. Yes, some of us can make it to these higher institutions by having the best grades in our schools or excelling in sports, but for those who lay below those high standards, the road is closed off.
This isn’t meant to discourage anyone, because a lot of the figures featured in these edits have done amazing, inspiring things — but we must also acknowledge that, try as we might, the American Dream is not the reality for many.
This sad reality underlies all of these videos, fitting its predecessor of “corecore.” But this sad reality, in many ways, is why these messages are hopeful. Hope, though unrealistic sometimes, serves as a lifeline, guiding people through the challenges of life. Despite this uncertain nature of hope, I cannot help but wish for a reality that aligns with our hopes.
Daily Arts Writer K. Rodriguez Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.