Young Americans are fed up with the stereotypical romantic plotlines they often see on TV. Image: ShutterstockY
oung entertainment fans in the US would like to see less sex in movies and TV shows. According to a study that polled Generation Z on their preferences, they would like to see more content with platonic relationships focused on friendship. This demographic in general finds that film and TV scripts contain too many stereotypes.
For nearly half of the teens surveyed (47.5 percent), sex isn't a necessary plot element in most movies and series, according to the annual "Teens and Screens" report from the University of California's Center for Scholars and Storytellers (CSS). In fact, 44.3 percent think romance is overused in the media, both on TV and on streaming platforms and social networks.
Young Americans are fed up with the stereotypical romantic plotlines they often see on TV. More than half (51.5 percent) are calling for stories that focus more on friendship and platonic relationships. And 39 percent even want more "aromantic" and/or asexual characters on screen.Also read: Gen Z: Future of the workforce comes of age
This younger generation, more interested in authentic content, tends to be skeptical about the dominance of stereotypical heteronormative relationships in storylines and denounces the lack of diversity. "The stereotype of how romantic relationships are included and often feel unnatural, forced, or toxic was ranked 4 out of the top 10 most disliked stereotypes. The top stereotypes/tropes mentioned in this category included relationships being necessary to be happy, male and female leads always having to end up together romantically, love triangles, and more," the report outlined.
What young viewers would prefer to see
US-based teenagers would like to see more programs with positive, inspiring plots, with characters who manage to overcome obstacles. They would also like to see protagonists who lead lives not unlike their own, but they 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 themes 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 the topics lower on the list of topics American teenagers want to see. A surprising finding, given that Generations Z and Alpha are more aware of these societal issues compared to other generations.Also read: What keeps Gen Z and millennials awake at night? Here's what the numbers say
Among teens identifying as LGBTQIA+, topics around non-binary and LGBTQIA+ 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 percent), followed by real life issues that impact society (26.5 percent). Older (29.4 percent), LGBTQIA+ (33.8 percent), and POC (29.4 percen) adolescents most wanted to see real life issues that impact society," notes the report.
Tired of stereotypes, particularly related to race
Racial stereotyping, particularly casting characters of color as villains, or characterizing them as such, is something else that irritates this demographic. "Black people specifically being depicted as villains, criminals, or antagonists was the fifth most disliked stereotype," the report found.
While teenagers 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." Some 42.2 percent of participants believe that this vision is unrealistic, while 37.8 percent still believe in it, and 20 percent have no opinion. On closer examination, more POC adolescents (42.5 percent) find the American dream unrealistic, compared to 40.1 percent of white teenagers.Also read: How members of Gen Z are honing their 'personal brand' for success in the job market
This generation is at odds with certain myths that have been propagated by films and TV series for many years. Unrealistic scenarios that advocate hard work or that everything always goes smoothly are the second most decried stereotype among young people.*This report was based on a survey conducted among 1,500 American teenagers aged 10 to 24, in August 2023.