Welcome to Posh People TikTok, referred to from here on out as PoshTok, a phrase that brings me no joy to type. It’s a place where WAP stands for Waitrose & Partners and the R-rate refers to the number of Range Rovers daddy owns. If billionaires have been busy growing their wealth by 27 percent during the pandemic, then their offspring have been even busier - churning out content about what it’s like to have a fat trust fund and multiple pairs of Hunter wellies. As Tatler gives way to TikTok, what in the grouse-shooting hell is going on, and why can’t we look away?
The concept of PoshTok is simple: what if having a shit-ton of money didn’t just mean nice stuff, but also: internet clout? Its content tends to play up the posho experience, either for laughs or glamour. The “jokes” side of PoshTok, which is about as beige as the family golden lab, relies on rehashing tired Michael McIntyre-style Live at the Apollo observations, (“Have you guys ever noticed how rich people … drink Möet and … play golf???”), or punchlines that reaffirm the private school student as a bloody-good-ruddy-nice-hapless chappy. To give an indication of what counts as “funny”: one viral video sees a boy batting a teabag into a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee mug balanced atop an Aga, with a cricket bat.
On the other hand, you have creators whose content is more focused on documenting the posh lifestyle. Seventeen-year-old private school student Abi, whose account has amassed 1.1 million likes, explains that after she made a few initial videos, “people started commenting that we reminded them of Gossip Girl”. As a result, when making content, she “tends to film in the older part of the school buildings […] and include some good looking boys”.
Her videos, and others in the same “aspirational” private school genre, usually include sweeping shots of the school grounds, and are exclusively populated by people who could well be extras in The Crown, accompanied by the hashtags #hogwarts and #harrypotter.
Occasionally, the line between attempted comedy and documentation blurs, usually with uncomfortable results. One account with 431,000 followers frequently films short “point of view” videos, where she makes outrageous and clueless statements in character as a blonde, preppy private school girl. It’s a character that is clearly distinct from her everyday self: a blonde, preppy private school girl. In one video, she delivers the line: “It’s just such a shame we couldn’t go on daddy’s yacht this year!”
“This isn’t funny when it’s literally you,” was one typical response.
Across PoshTok, there’s an implicit disdain for poor people that’s generally expressed as hating “Labour peasants” or “chavs”, and occasionally vocalised explicitly (one rap features the lyrics: “I’m Tarquin the Third, I’m about to steal your bird […] You’ll see me in my Range Rover, can’t stand that working class odour.”)
Being utterly oblivious is treated as a neutral quirk, like having bad eyesight, rather than an indication of being financially insulated. In one video, titled “Guessing slang with my posh mummy”, a woman leans against an Aga while her teenage daughter lists off various “slang” words. When her mother fails to guess the term “wagwan”, the daughter explains that it’s a greeting, a bit like how “in Latin, you’d say Salvē”. The video ends with the daughter defining the term “my ends” as: “my area, like, the Royal Borough”.
As someone who thinks COVID’s entrenchment of wealth inequality is a bad thing, why am I spending my evenings watching teens who may or may not turn out to be related to Dido Harding do the Renegade? Surely TikTok should provide me an escape from income inequality, not a window into it?
The key to understanding PoshTok’s appeal can be found by comparing it to celebrity quarantine posting. They’re both similar in content, given that they both feature massive houses and deranged people totally out of touch with reality. Yet, while PoshTok’s popularity has soared, celebrities have been faced with mass scorn. So why is the guillotine out for Ellen DeGeneres and J-Lo, but not Tilly and Tabitha from Cheltenham Ladies?
One of the most grating narratives to emerge from the pandemic, espoused by everyone from Boris Johnson to Gal Gadot, has been the notion that, somehow, “we’re all in this together”. Celebrity quarantine posting has been underpinned by the idea that the hoarding of extreme wealth is acceptable, if only it can be made relatable. So, while PoshTok’s unrestrained declaration that we’re not in this together might be disgusting, it’s also satisfying to be provided a mask-off moment for the upper classes.