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  • Marielle Bokor

Valentine's Stanleys, Sephora Tweens and Twilight Collabs are The Latest Social Media Kaiju (But It's Not That Serious)

We're never going to be this cool. Photo by Anna Shvets:

They say everything old is new again and at least to my “geriatric” millennial eyes it means my generation’s being sold nostalgia while the Gen Z kids are making TikTok "get ready with me" makeup tutorials for the 90’s grunge look. We’re getting old and they’re thinking they invented messy eyeshadow and runny mascara and the Ninja Turtles. We’re shouting at clouds and they’re buying styrofoam cup stylized imitation Converse, for some reason. 

I’d love to say we of this generation are above moral panic but to be honest, go as far back as you care to google it and you’ll find that everything from comic books to pinball machines were encouraging kids to become one of Satan’s minions or tear the very fabric of the modern family apart. Too much radio time to too much TV time to too much time on phones and Roblox and Fortnite (Oh my!)

And what’s a moral panic without some sense of exaggerated danger in the form of a threat to something we’re all supposed to collectively hold dear to us?

We watched our parents buy into the censorship and leaned real hard in the opposite direction. Sure, we didn’t start the fire, but we definitely didn’t think that playing Dungeons and Dragons was going to open you up to anything but math, strategy and longlasting friendships. Are we above it?

No, and bad habits die hard.

That said though, a lot of moral panics these days, at least for us as elder millennials, boil down to a raised eyebrow or a rolled eye. 

We needed something with less stakes, perhaps. Less stressful than a threat to everything we are and hold dear. So, we hopped on social media and started making brackets for Disney movies and snack foods. And recently, we started the petty panic epidemic, with a monster of the week to banter about that’s just about as rubber and nonthreatening as those little jelly Godzilla finger things you got out of gumball machines at the grocery store.

If you understand when it stops being hilarious and starts being dangerous (think violating people’s boundaries, mockery, not being inclusive), then you can have some real fun of getting a little mad about things that don’t really matter much. On social media it’s an art form. Play the game, vent some stress, and dip out when you just don’t care anymore. Right?

Or is it a little more insidious than we thought, and a little bit too fine a line to want to walk before you’re following in your parents footsteps and banning things instead of having conversations.

The perhaps infamous by now (but very handy - stainless steel works!) Stanley lineup. Via Twitter.

There’s always a new “thing” to fixate on, and right now if you’re in the realms of TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Insta, you might be noticing a three headed monster emerging. 

This month’s targets have been chosen, and it starts with Stanley cups. This polarizing cup is a suburban status symbol and launched a company that had previously sold thermoses to construction crews into a limelight they hadn’t really seen before, despite having the same or better quality stainless steel bottles on offer for decades.

From mommy blogs and play dates it hit magazines, TV shows and the internet at large, and suddenly, and without warning… Starbucks, aka Starby’s to our successors and Stanley collided for one super-mega commercial colossus in the Valentine’s Day limited edition Stanley pink. Not any pink and red: candy heart pink and Russell Stover’s special selection red. And as soon as they dropped a Target release date, it was on. Before you know it, everyone and their mom are at Target behaving badly seconds after strolling in the door to get their mitts on two mugs that, let’s face it, may survive car fires but aren’t really very different from any other stainless steel travel mug. 

Meanwhile, a makeup company that’s graduated from indie to mainstream, mostly by embracing the magic of the “collab” in a much more successful way than McDonald’s, who thinks that a collab just means adding "X" something to a regular Big Mac Meal and putting it in an adult happy meal box.

ColourPop's made an even bigger name of themselves lately, going from just creating great indie makeup that competed with high end dupes to creating eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks to match the mood of your favorite IP, from Animal Crossing to Avatar to Sailor Moon, Harry Potter (a major misstep, and a dealbreaker for many) AND a brand new IP that folks just a little younger than me who didn’t cut their vampire-show teeth on Buffy the Vampire Slayer hold dear: Twilight.

So what’s the problem here? Everything from highlighters that don’t shine properly to “false advertising” for announcements that show a deep blood red lip not available using anything in the kit.

I mean, but she's adorable. We can all agree on that, right?

Moving on from that we’ve got the Sephora tweens. These little monsters are said to have spawned forth from some of our own loins, and perhaps even more shocking, if you want to buy into what’s weirdly become a sort of legitimate panic in some circles, they’re at the makeup stores behaving badly. Mixing up Drunk Elephant smoothies in their Lululemon and…this is all because of gentle parenting! These kids don’t ever get told no and…

Here’s where that fine line starts to come in. And this may be an unpopular opinion, but it’s the premise that takes it from eyeroll to exclusion and starts witch hunts and plays into dangerous agendas. 

I have the lived experience of being a tween. No matter who you are, if you take an honest look back at that “special” time of your life you’re likely to find trauma, drama and angst. You’re also likely to recall yourself as a surly sarcastic little thing that didn’t think it was cool to like anything, hated the way adults did everything, and deeply idolized actual teens and twentysomethings. At least in my cis white female circles, this very critically involved things like Lip Smackers, cucumber melon body lotion, Clinique Happy and CKOne, and edgy little Urban Decay eyeshadow pots. 

Via Bath and Body Works online website.

We were the mall invaders. We were the samplers of every single thing in Bath and Body Works and neighboring Yankee Candle and the ones laughing and running past shelves full of glass bottles and somehow not passing out in Perfumania. We were the hellions with war painted arms from swatching all the things at the MAC counter who would bother the makeup artists to do looks on us and then if we were lucky afford one or two things they used that we’d then take home and desperately try to reproduce with Cover Girl and Wet & Wild. 

Did we leave a mess? Maybe we tried not to, but probably. Did we become sullen, whiny, sometimes sobbing messes when we couldn’t buy the WHOLE look from the MAC counter? 

Were we not, dare I say, little shits to our parents and some poor store staff who were just trying to do their jobs?

It’s this very thing that got me thinking: maybe we’re better off with positivity instead of panic, even if it’s petty. While we’re all aiming for respectful interactions with other humans, let’s not forget that we’ve all gotta figure it out some time, and as much as we insisted it’s not “just a phase, Mom” luckily, it really is. 

Turning tweens into the latest threat to society isn’t anything new, but it’s not going to help anything, either. And as we’ve learned from Cady Heron in Mean Girls, “calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter.”

It might be fun to laugh at soccer moms clamoring for the last pink Stanley at Target, and it might be easy to demonize the tweens being obnoxious and making a mess at Sephora, but it’s probably wiser to keep it to an eyeroll and a doomscroll and try not to cast too much judgement on people’s choices or journeys, because while we might be doing better at staying away from extremes, there’s more room for accepting people for who they are, even if they like pineapple on pizza. 


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