Generation Z, like those who came before, are a diverse and nuanced group of individuals. Efforts to caricature us as the 'woke' generation are insulting in the homogenisation of young adultsTobia Nava with permission for Varsity

As an avid musical theatre fan, I was excited to see Renee Rap bring Regina George into the modern day in the Mean Girls musical film. I was also extremely excited to see Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ new creation as the original writers of SIX, and possibly the most successful musical theatre Cambridge graduates. However, this article isn’t about musical theatre. It is about the failure of professional creatives, marketers and businesses to appeal to Generation Z.

We are obviously caricatured as the ‘woke’ generation; our minds and feeds are filled with quickly recycled micro-trends, memes, viral audios and songs. Our vocabulary constantly incorporates new slang: ‘slay,’ ‘eats,’ and ‘okurrr,’ and many of us laugh about being ‘chronically online.’

“I don’t want to be typified into some internet-obsessed, fast-fashion addict that only communicates in three-letter abbreviations”

In the re-done version of the cult classic Mean Girls, it is increasingly apparent that using this culture in an attempt to be relatable to a Gen Z audience feels thoroughly inauthentic, and one might even say cringeworthy. The new Mean Girls, as many fashion critics have pointed out, lacks the timeless, preppy, aspirational style of the original 2004 version, instead opting to clothe Regina in a sheer bodysuit and a Saturn pearl necklace, reminiscent of the Shein hauls and Tiktok fashion trends I have criticised. The stage musical on the West End has recently changed Regina’s sung lines from ‘I never weigh more than 1,15,’ to ‘All the filters you use look just like me,’ which arguably does not remove the body dysmorphia evident in the original line but attempts to bring it up to date to a supposedly internet-obsessed audience. The promotional photographs for Moss and Marlow’s new musical, Why Am I So Single?, feature what looks like an entire ASOS haul and a well-placed ‘selfie’; it already feels out-dated. The teasers of the musical online make reference to Twilight marathons, Grindr and Uber, and are littered with expletives, which I can only assume is another attempt to be quirky and relatable to their young, SiX-obsessed fans.

“Generation Z should be more holistic only in our rejection of these artificial attempts to appeal to us”

These two examples, while taken from my own specific absorption of musical theatre, exemplify two things. The first is that Generation Z is increasingly being targeted and earmarked as the newest generation with growing economic power. Articles like How to Appeal to Gen-Z Without Obviously ‘Marketing to Gen Z’ found in Forbes signify our new purchasing power, and new attempts to manipulate it. The second is that it isn’t working. To me, these two examples are obviously marketing to Gen Z in a way that actually makes the product less appealing. I don’t want to be caricatured and typified into some internet-obsessed, fast-fashion addict that only communicates in three-letter abbreviations. I don’t compulsively use Snapchat filters and I am not a Swiftie. The Generation Z experience is diverse and nuanced; some people find that adding ‘slay’ into their vocabulary gives them a positive new way of expressing themselves, while others shudder at the idea of being told they’re ‘slaying.’


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Generation Z should be more holistic only in our rejection of these artificial attempts to appeal to us; we all have sufficiently diverse experiences and opinions that there is no one way to appeal to us as a generation. In the same way that Buzzfeed now feels inauthentic, and fashion and lifestyle Youtube content (Zoella comes to mind) feel dated, these distinctly 2024 cultural moments will feel extremely of their time in a year or two. I’d like to propose to the author of the Forbes article that not only are attempts to market to Gen Z always entirely obvious, but the way to market to us is to stop reminding us of our position as Gen Z. Then again, perhaps I should not be proposing another method to market to us. After all, the Gen-Z-ification of culture and marketing is just another symptom of the cycle of capitalism. Until we achieve the unlikely feat of breaking free, cringe-worthy media aimed at the next generation will persist and we shall have to cope. In the meantime, what number comes after 7?