Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Still from \'My Life With The Walter Boys\'
Still from \'My Life With The Walter Boys\'
Culture > Entertainment

‘My Life With The Walter Boys’ Has Gen Z Obsessed With An Emotionally Unavailable Man

If you’ve finished watching Netflix’s latest YA series, My Life With The Walter Boys, or read Ali Novak’s book that inspired the show (Wattpad girlies, I’m looking at you), you’re probably siding with one of two teams: Team Cole or Team Alex. Similar to Belly’s situation in The Summer I Turned Pretty (Conrad or Jeremiah), the Walter Boys protagonist, Jackie, is interested in both Cole and Alex Walter. 

What I’m about to say may be a hot take to some, but for me (and many others), it just makes sense. If you were Team Conrad from TSITP, you’re most likely Team Cole; and if you sided with Jeremiah from TSITP, you’re probably Team Alex. But why? My Life With The Walter Boys is, IMHO, getting as much hype and recognition as TSITP when it first aired in 2022, and I think it’s largely because of the debate over who Jackie should be with. (BTW, the answer is Cole). 

Even though the show hasn’t even been out a week yet, #ColeWalter has over 200 million views on TikTok, while #AlexWalter has over 159 million views. I don’t know about you, but this is giving me major déjà vu to the #TeamConrad vs. #TeamJeremiah TikToks when they were trending. It’s clear Cole/Conrad girlies are in the lead so far. 

While I’m on Team Cole and Team Conrad, I can’t neglect the fact that both these men are emotionally unavailable, players (at times), and TBH, total a-holes. But for some reason, Gen Z loves a character like this, and they continue to be fan favorites. Why is this? Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for My Life With The Walter Boys Season 1 follow.

Cole Walter… where do I even begin with you? I’ll start by stating the obvious and the good parts about him, before the bad. Cole is hot. He’s your “all-American,” blonde, athletic, attractive character. He has girls swooning over him and is by far the most attractive Walter brother. But, he isn’t the nicest, most caring, or compassionate fella. Even though he’s helpful to Jackie when she first arrives at the Walter home (shows her around, makes her lunch, etc.) and is clearly into her, he’s leading on (and being super rude to) Erin. While I’ve been Team Cole from the start, it’d be wrong of me to forget his flaws. 

Still from \'My Life With The Walter Boys\'

Cole’s character, and the way he treats girls, seems to be clear from the start. The same is true for Alex Walter. Alex is clearly interested in Jackie as soon as she arrives in Colorado and tries to spend time with her while showing her around, but Cole does it first. Of course, Jackie might not know it from the start, but the viewer can see how much Alex is attracted to Jackie from the beginning. 

Of course, Alex and Jackie end up dating, but Cole and Jackie still have something lingering. Despite Alex checking most of the boxes to be the “ideal” boyfriend, it seems like most people were still waiting for Jackie and Cole to end up together, even though he leads her and Erin on (justice for Erin!), chooses partying/spending time with girls over his family, and, is overall emotionally unavailable, most people still root for the two of them to end up together. 

In an effort to learn more about Gen Z’s infatuation with emotionally unavailable fictional characters, I spoke with psychologist David Tzall to get some professional insight about this. Tzall notes that this obsession isn’t unique to Gen Z, but it may seem more heightened than other generations due to various factors, particularly, media. “I think the media, however, does play a role in saying that this happens more in this generation than others as younger generations often get a bad rap and are looked down upon by older sects,” Tzall tells Her Campus. “It’s easier to view younger generations as lazy or weak or incapable of having a relationship.” 

Although Jackie is independent and quite social, there are things she keeps to herself, therefore, making her emotionally unavailable in some aspects, as well. So, this makes me wonder: Would a relationship with two emotionally unavailable people work? Tzall says, “I could see this being an issue and less likely to happen because there needs to be at least one person in the relationship that is motivated and engaged about making it work. It’s not healthy if there is one pursuing and the other is consistently pulling away, unavailable, or aloof.” Hmmm, sounds familiar, no? 

However, this isn’t always a bad thing. While opposites attract, commonalities attract, too. “If both are aloof and unavailable, there is no one to do the pursuing. Unavailable people are probably less likely to find one another and stay with one another because there needs [to be] at least a catalyst from one person,” Tzall notes. 

All of this can’t be said without wondering, why do we root for the emotionally unavailable character when there is a perfectly good competitor we should be supporting? According to Tzall, “We root for the unavailable character because there is a desire to see people grow and mature. We want people to develop and change and it gives us some type of hope that people are not stagnant, but rather dynamic and can move toward self-actualization.” So if you’re a believer in the “I can fix him” theory, this is probably connecting a lot of dots. 

“It’s too boring to just see a character be emotionally unavailable and just have that person stay that way. It makes for a good story for someone to encounter some type of conflict and then overcome it when they realize that it is no longer working for them,” Tzall explains. 

Of course, this trope is not unique just to TSITP or more recently, My Life With The Walter Boys. It’s common in the media for a reason, according to Tzall. “ I think instinctively we want to feel that we can change someone, whether they want to or not, simply because it would benefit us and make us feel better,” Tzall says. “It makes us more comfortable and is comforting to think that there are not just emotionally unavailable people out there in the world that are beyond repair.” 

Whichever team you choose to side with, Team Cole or Team Alex, remember to honor the quality of your relationships and self-worth. If you find that being in a relationship with a guy who you think you can fix is only making your life worse, drop it. But, that’s just IRL, it doesn’t mean you have to become a Team Alex supporter. Just sayin. 

Eileen is a senior at Fairfield University who is studying Communications with minors in English, Professional Writing, and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies. She has a passion for magazine writing and hopes to pursue a career in the field. Eileen is the Entertainment & Culture Intern at Her Campus where she covers all things pop culture, entertainment, and internet trends. Eileen was formerly a National Writer for Her Campus from April 2023 - January 2024. Eileen is one of the Campus Correspondents (CCs) at Her Campus' Fairfield University chapter. She oversees the entire chapter and works with her other CC to curate ideas and events for HCFU. She also mentors and trains the editorial team and helps create content and boost engagement alongside the social media team. In her free time, you can find Eileen creating new Spotify playlists, getting a sweet treat with friends, or obsessing over Taylor Swift. If she isn’t doing that, you’ll likely find Eileen with her six best friends from school talking about their “Big Three”: "Normal People," their favorite "Dancing With The Stars" performances, and Greta Gerwig's "Little Women."