New Shows, New World

The rise of these new shows along with influences from marches, walks, and protests have had a valuable impact on Generation Z kids.

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This past year, Netflix has released a wave of new shows targeting teen audiences. Shows like “On My Block” and “13 Reasons Why” have generated a large amount of buzz among teenagers. These shows received favorable reviews from critics and teenage viewers because they exposed many real issues that teens deal with in their lives.

The big issue that “13 Reasons Why” tackles is bullying. The main character in “13 Reasons Why,” Hannah, endures various forms of bullying from her peers: from sharing inappropriate pictures of her on the Internet without her consent, to her friends spreading false rumors about her, to being sexually harassed. “13 Reasons Why” is an important show for teens and young adults because it brings into light an issue that is not often talked about publicly. According to StopBullying, “[As of 2014], about 49 percent of children in grades 4-12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month.” According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, about half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying, with up to 20 percent experiencing it regularly.

Shows like “13 Reasons Why” are important because they give a real life look at what it feels and looks like to be bullied. Instead of just reading statistics, kids can watch how bullying affects others and realize how some of their actions are harmful. Not only does the show leave a lasting impression, but “13 Reasons Why” elicits conversation among a mixed audience of teens, teachers, and parents about how to end bullying. According to author Julia Glum of a Newsweek article, teens in Michigan’s Oxford High School started a project called “13 Reasons Why Not” to talk about bullying and suicide prevention.

In an article by Anna Silman in “The Cut,” teens talk about the way they approached their friends on issues like bullying and suicide after they were introduced to the show. One teen from Iowa observed, “We had a boy commit suicide at our school, and no one knew how to handle it. [After watching the series], my friends and I would sit down and, honestly, we’d ask each other, ‘Have you ever had these feelings before? Have you ever gone through something like this?’ It’s weird to sit down and have these conversations with your friends, after watching a show that was so powerful. I feel like the show is making people talk about it, and it’s a positive thing if it’s making teens have conversations with their friends and family and peers about tough subjects they wouldn’t talk about otherwise.”

Another show that targets a teen audience is “On My Block,” which zeroes in on issues that are relevant to teenagers, such as love and friendship. Four best friends start high school together as a pack. Over the course of the show, two of the four friends develop feelings for each other and struggle with how to handle them, all while trying to navigate their first year of high school. One of the four, Cesar, is affiliated with and later taken into a gang, which changes his outlook on life. As a part of the gang, Cesar believes that he is stuck there for good and can’t break out.

The show is unique in that one of its main themes is gang violence, a problem many Americans often overlook or underestimate. According to Helping Gang Youth, in the U.S., “40 percent [of gang members] are juveniles (under 18)” and there are about “400,000 teenage gang members.” According to Teen Help, teens join gangs for prestige, tradition, or a sense of belonging. As the show features a diverse cast and is set in a predominantly Black/Hispanic neighborhood, it highlights the issue of gang violence, which is relatable to many teens throughout the country. “On My Block” reveals challenges and problems many people are struggling with and helps to give realistic solutions to those problems.

These new shows, which illuminate many different issues that teens face now, are extremely important. The shows also highlight what the characters do to overcome these problems, such as when Cesar’s friends try to help him leave the gang.

These shows have encouraged and empowered students to stand up and fight for what they believe in, like in Oxford High School’s attempt at suicide prevention. Recent marches and protests, like Stuy’s own “Stuy Says ENOUGH!” walkout have been student-led. In light of recent shootings, gun violence protests have become more prevalent with kids at the center fighting for what they believe in. While the shows don’t have a direct impact on student activism, there seems to be a correlation between the rise in popularity of these teen shows and student activism.

The popularity of these new shows along with the influence of marches, walks, and protests have had a valuable impact on Generation Z kids. Gen Z students are smarter, safer, and more mature, and they want to change the world. The new wave of shows and ongoing activism has fueled these Gen Z kids to want to make the world better.