This article is by guest writer Carly Aikens.
Generation Z has made a name for themselves as a cohort of progressive and innovative individuals. According to Pew Research Center, Generation Z is the most diverse generation to date. Constantly striving to bring attention to worthwhile causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement, Gen Z uses the platform that has been granted to them. This generation attempts to empathize with others and understand differing points of view.
The influences of generations prior have accumulated into how Gen Z views the world. However, what they grew up with also acts as a direct reflection of their behavior; books, movies and TV shows have innovated and grown alongside Gen Z. Listed below are three cultural phenomena that played an instrumental role in the development of Gen Z and the ideals they hold.
Distinguished as one of the standout series from the early to mid 2000s, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” has carved its way into the life of Gen Z. Sparking an obsession with mythology for many young children, the series not only entertained readers, but informed them.
The titular character of the series struggles with both ADHD and dyslexia before he learns of his paternal heritage. As a child of a Greek god, Percy’s strengths reside outside of academics.
Author Rick Riordan initially created the character of Percy Jackson for his son Haley. Similarly to Percy, Haley has dyslexia and ADHD. What Percy believes to be his weaknesses actually end up helping him throughout the series.
The message of the series proves how important representation is in the media. Allowing children to see characters similar to themselves provides them with a feeling of belonging. Not only does the representation allow for relatability, but it allows children to see that being different is not negative. McKinsey & Company has dubbed Gen Z as “communacohlics” in response to their inclusivity. They believe that performance in a specific field does not control self worth.
“The Hunger Games”
Suzanne Collins’s critically acclaimed series follows the journey of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen as she competes in an annual competition known as the Hunger Games. In the event, adolescents from across the nation hunt each other to the death for sport until a single victor remains. The Games act as a reminder of the failed uprising against the Capitol.
A staggering distribution of power and wealth sets the basis for the story. Those belonging to a higher socioeconomic class not only have a significantly better life, but also have a higher chance of emerging as a victor. As the young main character witnesses the corruption first-hand throughout the series, she becomes a symbol of a revolution.
Rising up against a society that profits off of systemic imbalances in conjunction with one another seems to be a speciality of Gen Z. Collins’s apparent message about the realities of suppression ring clear in both the books and films.
As many can attest, “Coraline” struck a chord with patrons of all ages. Eliciting reactions of wonder and fear, commentators hail both the novella and film as impactful works of art.
As an imaginative young girl with inattentive parents, Coraline finds herself discovering a home away from home. In this idealized world, a seemingly perfect life lies in wait. Drawn into the comfort of a refurbished home and loving family, Coraline’s “Other Mother” offers her a deal: trade her eyes for buttons in order to stay. Coraline recognizes the absurdity of this idea and immediately refuses. Although Coraline appreciates the sentiment of a better life, she would not hand over her freedom to achieve it.
The nuanced messages intertwined within the story of “Coraline” only add to the impact felt by the audience. Gen Z’s rejection of escapism as a tactic has mainly been attributed to the political climate they grew up in, however with the influence of compositions such as “Coraline” this idea has been reinforced.
As Gen Z continues to grow into adulthood and enters the workspace, the ideas they take with them will change the way the world works. Never afraid to take matters into their own hands, Gen Z is the generation who represents the people and continues to fight for equality.