a girl with black hair grins at her phone while a pink cloud of redline-connected identities across media -- including panic! at the disco, nirvana, the powerpuff girl buttercup, the bold and brash squidward painting, rarity from my little pony, american pyscho, and car seat headrest's twin fantasy --- floats above her with the text "LITERALLY ME!" scratched onto it and underlined twice
Courtesy of Katelyn Sliwinski.

Back in January of this year, I took a deep-dive on the “core-core” trend that was sweeping TikTok. At the time, the tag was rising in popularity on the platform, filled with video compilations set to melancholic music and depressing cuts of popular movies and television shows. Though the term was created to defy the trope of aesthetics (hence the -core suffix being the prefix as well), at the start of 2023, “core-core” had become an aesthetic of sadness — popular songs surrounding the trend included hits by Mitski and Radiohead, for example. I had this to say about these “core-core” videos: “While it’s true that many of these media clips and compilations contain social commentary, any meaningful commentary is lost in the feeling of utter despair that so many “core-core” videos embody.”

Though this statement rang true in January, time seems to move faster online; this trend has evolved beyond what I’d expected. Recently, I came across a video on my TikTok tagged #corecore once again, but the video had a new tag added: #mecore. There was a tonal dissonance from the previous melancholic aura of corecore — rather than a sappy Mitski song, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was the soundtrack of this video. The list that follows are a few media clips featured in this compilation: A clip from “Lady Bird” in which the eponymous protagonist, Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”), attempts to jump out of a moving car, Cher (Alicia Silverstone, “The Baby-Sitters Club”) from “Clueless” shoving aside a bystander, Cat Valentine (Ariana Grande, “Sam and Cat”) aggressively throwing a chair in “Victorious,” Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain, “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls”) from “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” falling from the sky and pausing mid-fall to admire herself in a mirror. Comments are filled with people tagging their friends, saying things akin to “me” and “so real,” pointing to a sense of relatability. 

What I found particularly fascinating about me-core was its more upbeat feeling; almost all of these videos are set to “Call Me Maybe,” a familiar, nostalgic pop jam. Yet, many of the clips used in these compilations are not overtly positive, often displaying some sort of comically dramatic mania, narcissism or association with “female hysteria.” Other examples of clips I’ve found include Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, “No Hard Feelings”) screaming in fear, and Nina (Natalie Portman, “Thor: Love and Thunder”) of “Black Swan” frantically erasing the word “WHORE” written in lipstick on a mirror. However, they feel tonally different from the sad self-reflection of early corecore videos. They feel fun and comedic, yet heartfelt and personal in their own way. A comment on one me-core video reads, “my bpd (beautiful princess disorder),” serving as a humorous play on the mental health condition borderline personality disorder. Through comments and videos like these, there is a sense of self-love that comes with poking fun at one’s own at-times-irrational behavior. There is no mental health stigma at play here — just chaotic and lovely fun. 

What also strikes me in these compilations is the centering of female-oriented media — notably that the sound on TikTok is not titled “Call Me Maybe,” but “girlhood.” Additionally, in the original me-core video I saw, one comment reads, “boy version please.” Of course, these videos are not exclusive to girls and reflections of girlhood, but there’s a feeling of celebrating feminine media and girlhood within these compilations that really resonates with audiences. Particularly in today’s age, where stereotypes about women continue to be challenged, it’s refreshing to see a celebration of what are often deemed female “flaws” on display.

Every me-core video is different, which is what makes them beautiful; the term “me-core” itself prompts users to consider their own aesthetic. I see the term, and I think about what media clips would make up a compilation about me: what shows and characters I loved as a kid, what I relate to now, what I find funny. The possibilities seem endless. Though people make these compilations to reflect on themselves, they end up resonating with thousands; some of these me-core videos have up to a million likes. Online, there’s a joy in forming a community out of relatability. These moments that can seem so singular, so personal to us, are also experienced by others, and we can collectively bond over these feelings via me-core. If that’s the case, though, why do me-core videos keep getting made?

I believe that the reason is in the nomenclature itself: “Me.” We want one for ourselves. As much as we want to relate to others, we want to be individuals; where one person chooses a “My Little Pony” clip, another may choose a “Shameless” clip. We want to stand out, to have something personal. We want to make our mark online and in the world — a personalized “me”-core that will likely exceed our own lifetimes via the Internet. 

I grew up parallel to the rise of social media, and there has always been a demand for personalization. On MySpace, users could customize their webpage to reflect their own interests and aesthetics. On “Webkinz,” I could customize my house and name my Webkinz however I liked. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more allow for personalized profile photos, usernames or header images. Now, even Apple leans into this idea; you can use widgets to customize your home screen however you’d like, or change the colors and font of lock screen text. When customizing, you can take some time to get inspired by other iPhone layouts on Pinterest, but you’ll likely never want your phone to look exactly like someone else’s, so you’ll probably add a personal flair in some way. 

There’s this funny line of not wanting to be just like everyone else but also wanting to be enough like everyone else that we fit in — I think me-core adheres to this idea, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s amazing to see how many variations of media clips set to “Call Me Maybe” are out there, and I can find something to resonate within each and every one of them. Through this trend, people are able to reflect on the joys and trials of being human, relate to and validate each other and, of course, jam out to some great 2010s music. There’s real beauty in that. Trends like mecore should stick around, because self-love rocks.

Daily Arts Writer Katelyn Sliwinski can be reached at ksliwi@umich.edu.