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LOS ANGELES — Is Gen Z the “prude generation”? A new study finds many teens and young adults think there’s just too much sex on TV. Researchers discovered most young people would rather watch stories focusing on friendships and platonic relationships — or “nomance.”

Nearly half of 13 to 24-year-olds say romance is overused on screen, and a similar amount think television and films don’t need to show sexual content at all. Romantic tropes ranked as the number four most-hated TV stereotypes among teens, according to the University College of Los Angeles (UCLA) study.

The data could spell the downfall of traditional “Happily Ever After” tales, as youngsters appear to be fed up with shows presenting relationships as necessary for their happiness. The poll also reveals many young adults are bored of love triangles and are fed up with male and female leads always hooking up in the end.

Modern teen classics “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” supercharged the love triangle trope, but it’s become so common that the new generation has soured on it. Instead, 39 percent of today’s youngsters say they prefer to see more asexual and aromantic characters represented. The vast majority preferred to binge-watch all this content too, rather than waiting a week for a new episode.

UCLA Professor Yalda Uhls linked the new trends with the “epidemic of loneliness,” adding that research shows young adults are having less sex than their parents did at their age, and many prefer single life.

“While it’s true that adolescents want less sex on TV and in movies, what the survey is really saying is that they want more and different kinds of relationships reflected in the media they watch,” Prof. Uhls says in a university release.

“We know that young people are suffering an epidemic of loneliness and they’re seeking modeling in the art they consume. While some storytellers use sex and romance as a shortcut to character connection, it’s important for Hollywood to recognize that adolescents want stories that reflect the full spectrum of relationships.”

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(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

The study reveals that this year, teens want familiar content. Last year, their favorite topic was “lives unlike my own,” but this year, that came in at number nine. Meanwhile, “lives like my own” soared to number two.

They picked Mr. Beast’s YouTube channel as the most authentic media – it has 200 million subscribers and is run by the biggest YouTuber on the planet, Jimmy Donaldson, who packs his channel with side-by-side wealth comparison videos such as “$1 vs $100,000,000 House!”

Next up for most authentic media were TV shows “Stranger Things” and “Heartstopper,” the film “Barbie,” and the series “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” Gen Z consistently and overwhelmingly chose TikTok as the most authentic media platform.

Adolescents also preferred original content: 56 percent picked original movies and TV shows over remakes, franchises, or shows based on books, comics, or graphic novels.

“As a member of Gen Z myself, I wasn’t surprised by some of what we’re seeing this year,” says UCLA’s Stephanie Rivas-Lara, the youth engagement manager of the study.

“There has been a wide-ranging discourse among young people about the meaning of community in the aftermath of COVID-19 and the isolation that came with it. Adolescents are looking to media as a ‘third place’ where they can connect and have a sense of belonging — and with frightening headlines about climate change, pandemics and global destabilization, it makes sense they are gravitating towards what’s most familiar in those spaces.”

Though this may be the year of familiarity, superhero movies still ranked fourth. In terms of the demographics on screen, teens chose “White Man” as their ideal hero this year, but in 2022 they picked “Black Man.” Slightly older participants picked “Black Woman” as their chosen hero. Most teens continue to select “White Man” as their villains.

Twice as many adolescents would pick all-in-one binge releases to weekly drops — 50.5 percent expressed a strong or slight preference for devouring a whole show, while 25.5 percent favored weekly episode drops.

The comprehensive annual report surveyed 1,500 people between the ages of 10 and 24, in line with the National Academy of Sciences’ definition of adolescence. Each age bracket had 100 teens, and the overall group closely reflected the U.S. 2020 census in race and gender.

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South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.

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