What Does "Creator" Mean Anymore?

According to 'Teen Vogue,' it actually does not matter

Photo (L-R): Presley Ann/Getty Images for LACMA, Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images for Turner, Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Words, Words, Words

Every year, Teen Vogue releases its Young Hollywood package, in which up-and-coming stars with good publicists get to be profiled for being young and hot (physically and metaphorically). This year, the group of rising talent consists of Caleb McLaughlin, Sydney Sweeney, Xolo Maridueña, Patti Harrison, Karena Evans, Devery Jacobs, Morgan Cooper, and Nik Dodani. That is seven actors and one music video director, for those keeping score at home. These are occupations that could be broadly but aptly described as “artists.”

However, feeling beholden to the parlance of the time, Teen Vogue has decided that this is actually a group of “creators,” a word that has a very specific meaning on the internet and a completely amorphous one in the real world. In the package’s introductory article, these eight people are referred to as “creators” three different times. They are creators who “approach their work with heart, vision, and an eye toward representation and justice for their generation and all who will come after.” Creators who “are daring to think about Hollywood differently, challenging the old ways at every turn.” Creators who “at one point or another, found their talents discounted, their dreams challenged, and confidence shaken.”

While “creator” may have once referred to a writer or a painter or an inventor or maybe God, it now most commonly describes people who create videos. People who have enough followers to monetize their TikTok videos through the “Creator Fund” are creators. YouTubers who land six-figure brand deals are creators. Vloggers and cat owners and 20-year-olds who hold up a microphone to strangers on the street and ask “What’s your favorite song?” are creators.

Sydney Sweeney is an actress, not a TikTok emotive facial expression contortionist. Let’s not disrespect her in this way.

In the past, Teen Vogue has used words like “performers” and “actors” to describe what is almost always a bunch of performers and actors. Last year, the publication used the word “creator” for the first time in its Young Hollywood franchise, which made more sense as a catch-all term for a group that included TikTok darling Charli D’Amelio and rapper Lil Yachty.

But there is no sense in calling 2022’s Young Hollywood crew “creators.” What are they creating? One of them creates music videos, I’ll give them that, but are the rest of them creating performances? There is an actual, universally comprehensible word for what they do, and it’s completely fine to use it.