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Rejoice, Media (Finally) Gets Gen Z Right

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As a member of Gen Z (2002 babies represent!), I often find myself trying not to laugh when I see how we’re portrayed and characterized in movies and TV. I’m not sure if other generations have dealt with this struggle, but I think the way Gen Z is depicted in popular media could not be more inaccurate than how we genuinely are.

There are so many movies and TV shows that center around characters born in this generation, but they all miss the mark of how young people these days actually talk, act and dress. Shows like Euphoria and, in its earlier seasons, Riverdale, are set to take place in the present-day with their protagonists being members of Gen Z. But to be frank that’s where most of their “Gen-Z-ness” ends. The young people we see on screen are not consistent with the same actual young people that they’re catered to and supposed to be mirroring. Rather than having Gen Z characters behave like Gen Z-ers, a lot of teen shows nowadays influence rather than represent the generation as a whole. This influence can be seen in plenty of popular trends in speech and dress among young people. Examples of such include the Euphoria makeup craze and the matching purple I.AM.GIA set Maddy from Euphoria wore in an episode of the show gained massive popularity among young Gen Z viewers.

Now I’d like to also say that there’s nothing inherently wrong with being inspired by your favorite shows, but I do think it’s interesting how things marketed towards this generation don’t represent them authentically.  However, there have been a couple of recently released projects that I think encompass Gen Z so well. They don’t exaggerate or mock any aspect of Gen Z and are very fair in their portrayal and costuming. Seeing these was such a breath of fresh air for me. They’re all just so real

BODIES BODIES BODIES

Gaining popularity for all of the wrong reasons (if you know, you know), A24 film Bodies Bodies Bodies includes characters that are so Gen Z it feels like I’ve met them before. The movie is a very satirical approach to Gen Z yet contains a lot of accuracy in its depiction of Gen Z. The characters are very in touch with the prejudices and crises in the world many Gen Zer’s have faced and sometimes (like the characters in the movie) pride themselves on. Being the first generation with unlimited worldwide internet access, Gen Z is hyper-aware of events like international conflicts, power imbalances and just about anything bad.

We are a generation that was taught, or discovered due to our boundless internet access, nearly everything under the sun at dramatically inappropriate ages. The characters in Bodies Bodies Bodies express all of this beautifully. Characters throw around buzzwords, claim they are being silenced when met with disagreement and are rarely seen without phones for the bulk of the film. It’s not only hilarious but it’s also so plausible; this could actually go down between some rich 20-somethings.

DO REVENGE

Do Revenge pays homage to older teen movies and cult classics all while expressing Gen Z sentiment and flare. While watching this movie, I was so drawn to the characters, dialogue and humor. Played by Austin Abrams who you may know from Euphoria the movie’s it-boy, jock character Max is a skinny white boy who claims to be interested in intersectionality and feminism. While men like this exist in other generations, Gen Z-ers love guys like this. See any young girl’s celebrity crush list and you’ll understand where I’m coming from— Harry Styles, Timothee Chalamet, etc. The way the characters speak to one another also stuck out to me.

In comparison to her work in Riverdale, I could see myself saying the things Camila Mendes’s character, Drea, said. The conversations she had with Maya Hawke’s character, Eleanor, were conversations I’ve had with my best friend (granted we aren’t trying to pull half of the things they are). There’s also so much Gen Z-level sarcasm and humor woven into the movie. I’m trying to not spoil anything I mention in this article, so it’s hard to give the examples I’d like to give without giving context and, therefore, spoiling the movie. But, below is a clip of the movie that’s been circulating online that captures this sarcasm and Gen Z humor so perfectly. All in all, Do Revenge is not only a love letter to the past, but it also embraces the present.

Heartbreak high

Heartbreak High centers around a group of Australian teens trying to find their way through life after a map revealing all sexual encounters of everyone in their grade gets discovered. Everyone in the show is a teenager and acts as such. In characters like Darren and Sasha, the show reminds viewers that this show belongs to Gen Z. Darren, our black nonbinary lead, makes perfect pop culture references that are in line with the time.

For example, there’s a moment in which protagonist Amerie cuts her own bangs and Darren sings the infamous “not the bayang” TikTok audio at her and I was on the FLOOR. Sasha reminds us of the social justice aspect of Gen Z. She’s “woke” and prides herself on it, organizing protests and events to stand up for what she believes in. There’s not a single character that feels out of place. The costuming for this show is also spot on with our generation. Everyone just looks and acts the part in this show and I love it so much. Please watch it!

I think with shows and movies like these, there’s going to be a shift (hopefully) in media and more accurately represent this generation. We aren’t little sex-crazed people with the need to cancel anything and anyone. We’re people, just like the ones before us. We’re just Gen Z.

Shia is a senior at UCF majoring in Psychology on the clinical track. She’s always loved pop culture and writing about it is a dream of hers. Aside from that, she loves all things music, books, and language.
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