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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

On Demand: 'Generation,' confusion, emotion and other things that end in -ion


I’ve only recently reconciled with the fact that I’m a member of Generation Z. Beyond being a Sagittarius born in the Year of the Dragon, I’m not quite sure where I expected to lay in the generational matrix; though, one viral tweet did confirm that I’m an honorary member of the Black Eyed Peas.

I mean, what is a “generation” anyways? I am self-prescribed to the age group where middle school meant Tumblr grunge, Hollister-brand t-shirts and Motorola Razr phones; I refuse to share that identity with the scary TikTok teens that patrol the streets now.

So basically, I, like every other Gen Zer, have a love-hate relationship with labels.

HBO Max’s “Generation” grapples with similar internal conflicts. “Generation” is a teen dramedy made up of 16, approximately 30 minute-long episodes released between March and July of this year. The show was created by father-daughter duo Zelda Barnz, 19, and Daniel Barnz, drawing influence from their experiences as a queer family. In its one (and tragically only) season, the series focuses on an ensemble of high schoolers in Orange Country, Calif. as they navigate their sexuality, relationships and all of those life complexities that emerge with them. 

Obviously, there’s a plethora of high school TV shows and the good ones distinguish themselves by developing niche aesthetics: HBO’s “Euphoria” (2019–) is cinematic and intense; “Sex Education” (2019–) on Netflix brings a colorful blend of raunchiness and empathy. “Generation” stood out as being unabashedly and refreshingly queer in a way that felt authentic and intimate while playful and fun.

The main characters are loosely involved in their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. There’s Chester (Justice Smith), ultra-confident start athlete with a 4.1 GPA and an assortment of cropped tank tops to match. Cool-girl Riley (Chase Sui Wonders) is a strong-willed and charming photographer — I’ve never been more attracted to a TV character in my life. And there’s wallflower Greta (Haley Sanchez), who also nurtures a crush on Riley. Plus, there are the bickering twins Naomi (Chloe East) and Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) and their conservative mother, as well as another bunch of multi-dimensional characters to meet. 

“Generation” runs with the whole Gen-Z bit, smoothly incorporating our daily tech and trends accompanied by a pop-heavy soundtrack. It’s intentionally absurd (childbirth in a mall bathroom) and sometimes painfully awkward (proclaiming love to a crush’s voicemail). 

At age 20 I’m still a bundle of unbridled emotion and confusion. Talking to people I like is hard. Talking to people I even remotely “like like” is a whole other hayride. For me, “Generation” captures that feeling of frustration and excitement that comes with trying to understand other people when you hardly know yourself. And, especially as someone who is overly invested in fictional lives, the show offered a generation of teenagers who carved their own little notch in my heart.

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