'OK Boomer': World reacts to NZ politician Chloe Swarbrick's use of meme in Parliament

Chloe Swarbrick's swift deployment of the meme-of-the-moment in Parliament on Tuesday has gone as viral as the phrase itself.

"OK Boomer," the Green MP said, after an Opposition politician - believed to be National's Todd Muller - disputed her claim the average age of Parliament is 49.

The quick retort has made the 25-year-old a hero to Millennials around the world, if the reaction on social media is anything to go by. They say they're tired of putting up with a political landscape dominated by their elders, in particular the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) who don't understand - or flat-out refuse to acknowledge - the pressures faced by youth in the modern age.

Not perhaps since National MP Maurice Williamson's 'big gay rainbow' speech has a scene from New Zealand's Parliament generated as many headlines worldwide as Swarbrick's quip. 

The Washington Post called it a "glib retort often employed by Millennials and Gen Z" that flew over the heads of the few MPs present in the House at the time.

"The reaction inside the New Zealand Parliament Building was muted - perhaps because the room was nearly empty, or perhaps because Swarbrick's casual use of internet jargon did not resonate with those in attendance, who, if they were like the average lawmaker, were twice her age."

Chloe Swarbrick.
Chloe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Parliament TV

UK paper The Independent also called it "glib", but also "deft", while ABC News reported Swarbrick as moving "the latest generational clap back phrase... from the court of public opinion to parliament". 

Time magazine picked up the yarn, saying Swarbrick "shot back... a common retort used by young people when confronting condescension from older people". 

CNN said she replied "without missing a beat" as a "man sitting behind her chuckles at her put-down", referring to Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

MTV effused support for the meme-aware MP's swift response, noting that in the US Senators and members of Congress are on average 62 and 58. 

"Across the world, the people who vote on policies that largely affect future generations likely won't be around to see much of those effects come to life," wrote the network's Ella Ceron.

Where did it come from?

The phrase "OK boomer" first emerged in early 2019, and Google Trends data shows it was popping up in searches around July. It started picking up in mid-October on Chinese-owned social media site TikTok, but the New York Times - which has yet to report on Swarbrick's retort - sent it mainstream in an article on October 29 called ''OK Boomer' Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations'. 

"'OK Boomer' has become Generation Z's endlessly repeated retort to the problem of older people who just don't get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids," wrote Taylor Lorenz, reporting it was being used to hit back against anyone over 30 - a group including Millennials, Generation X and Xennials alike as well as Boomers.

Swarbrick fears she might have killed the meme, however. 

"It's not something that I intended to do," she told Stuff

For the record, Swarbrick's claim 49 is the average age of a Member of Parliament in New Zealand is about right - and at 50, Muller isn't even a Boomer.

"I'm wondering whether in 2050 when @_chloeswarbrick hits her mid fifties, will she still be the millennial force for change or will she quietly reflect that those Gen X’s knew a thing or two," he tweeted on Wednesday. "I of course will be very focused on the next cup of tea."

According to Google Trends, in the past 12 months New Zealand has ranked sixth in the world for googling the phrase 'OK Boomer', behind the US, Slovenia, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia.

In the past day however we've shot into the lead, with Google suggesting related topics such as "legislator" and "heckler'.