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DALL·E 2023 10 26 02.06.24 Vector graphic of a spacious living room setting with a wall mounted TV displaying a colorful but neutral user interface. In front of the TV a group
DALL·E 2023 10 26 02.06.24 Vector graphic of a spacious living room setting with a wall mounted TV displaying a colorful but neutral user interface. In front of the TV a group


UCLA Study Reveals Teens’ Shift Towards Platonic Themes Over Romance in Media

NOTE: This article is 6 months old and may not include the most recent information.

Recent research from UCLA offers a fresh perspective on the viewing habits of today’s teens and young adults. Gone are the days when romance and sexual themes took center stage in their preferred TV shows and movies. Instead, the spotlight is now on friendships, platonic relationships, and a broader range of human connections.

Key Findings:

  • Media’s Overemphasis on Romance: The “Teens & Screens” report by The Center for Scholars & Storytellers at UCLA found that 47.5% of respondents aged 13-24 believe TV shows and movies place undue emphasis on sex and romance. Conversely, 51.5% wish to see more content centered around friendships and platonic interactions. Notably, 39% highlighted the need for increased representation of aromantic and/or asexual characters.
  • Rethinking Romantic Clichés: The survey also revealed a growing disdain for romantic stereotypes. Common tropes, such as two leads always ending up together or the ubiquity of love triangles, have fallen out of favor. Themes like these, once popularized by series like Twilight and The Hunger Games, have now become too commonplace for the contemporary youth audience.
  • Seeking Authenticity and Representation: The study sheds light on the youth’s yearning for genuine content. Shows and platforms perceived as authentic, like MrBeast’s YouTube channel and series like Stranger Things, are gaining traction. Additionally, there’s a strong push for content that mirrors the viewers’ own lives, reflecting a desire for relatable narratives.
  • The Broader Context: Dr. Yalda T. Uhls and Stephanie Rivas-Lara from UCLA emphasized the profound impact of recent global events on these preferences. The aftermath of COVID-19 and its ensuing isolation, coupled with alarming headlines about climate change and global instability, have influenced the youth’s media consumption. Many are seeking solace and connection in familiar narratives and spaces, using media as a “third place” to find a sense of belonging and community.
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For those interested in diving deeper into the findings and understanding the nuances of the survey, the full report can be accessed here.

The implications of this study are crucial for content creators and media professionals. As the entertainment industry evolves, there’s a pressing need to diversify storytelling and craft narratives that resonate with the lived experiences and aspirations of today’s youth.

Trevor Decker


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