Young entertainment fans, at least in the United States, would like to see less sex in movies and television shows, according to a recent study that polled Generation Z on their preferences.
For nearly half of the teens surveyed (47.5%), sex isn’t a necessary plot element in most movies and series, according to the “Teens and Screens” report from the University of California’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers.
In fact, 44.3% think romance is overused in the media, both on TV and on streaming platforms and social networks.
Young viewers are fed up with stereotypical romantic plotlines they often see on TV. More than half (51.5%) are calling for stories that focus more on friendship and platonic relationships, and 39% even want more “aromantic” and/or asexual characters on screen.
This younger generation tends to be sceptical about the dominance of stereotypical heteronormative relationships in storylines and denounces the lack of diversity. “How romantic relationships are included – and often feel unnatural, forced, or toxic – was ranked 4 out of the top 10 most disliked stereotypes,” the report outlined.
“The top stereotypes/tropes in this category include relationships being necessary to be happy; male and female leads always having to end up together romantically; love triangles, and more.”
US teenagers would like to see more shows that have positive, inspiring plots, with characters who manage to overcome obstacles.
While they would also like to see protagonists who lead lives similar to their own, these viewers also put characters whose lives are totally different from their own on their wish lists.
Friendship, family, social minorities, injustice and current political and social issues are also themes that young viewers are requesting, alongside those that are already rather prominent in films and TV shows (action scenes, fights, superheroes, dystopia).
Content dealing with climate change, immigration and LGBTQIA+ causes are among topics lower on the list of topics young viewers surveyed wish to see. This is surprising, given that Generations Z and Alpha are more aware of these societal issues compared with others.
Among teens identifying as LGBTQIA+, topics around non-binary and community identities top the list of most popular storylines, followed by content on mental health, then content featuring characters leading lives similar to theirs.
“Adolescents’ top choice was to see issues that mirror their personal life and are relatable (29.6%), followed by real life issues that impact society (26.5%). Older (29.4%), LGBTQIA+ (33.8%), and people of colour (POC) adolescents (29.4%) most wanted to see real-life issues that impact society,” the report noted.
Racial stereotyping, particularly casting characters of colour as villains or characterising them as such, is another factor that irritates this demographic.
“Black people specifically being depicted as villains, criminals, or antagonists was the fifth most disliked stereotype,” the report found.
While teens are interested in seeing more hopeful, uplifting content, telling incredible stories about inspiring life journeys, they are at the same time questioning the myth of the “American Dream” – the ideal in which equal opportunity is afforded to every US citizen.
Some 42.2% of participants consider this vision unrealistic, 37.8% still believe in it, and 20% have no opinion. On closer examination, more POC adolescents (42.5%) find the American Dream unrealistic, compared with 40.1% of white teenagers.
All in all, this generation is at odds with certain myths that have been propagated by films and TV series for years. Unrealistic scenarios that advocate hard work, or that everything always goes smoothly, are the second-most decried stereotype among young people.