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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Generation is a series about a group of teens struggling to find happiness and make it through each day at a Southern California high school. Though the tone of the show favors emotional connections, kindness, and authenticity and characters are realistic and grow over time, the levels of mature content are strong. Sexual scenes are frequent and explicit; we see characters having sex with suggestive motions and movements, nudity (including a long look at a male full frontal "dick pic"), jokes about and references to sex. Drinking and drug use is also frequent: teens drink heavily at a party and then regret their decisions; a character in pain is advised to snort "Oxy" so it'll work faster. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and many words connected to sex and bodies: "titty," "dick," "p---y." Characters are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender and sexual identities, with most of the main characters falling somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
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What's the Story?
Written by then 17-year-old Zelda Barnz and showrunner (and Zelda's dad) Daniel Barnz and produced by Girls' Lena Dunham, GENERATION is set in a So-Cal high school and stars a cast of mostly fresh faces. Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) and Naomi (Chloe East) are twins with a smotheringly close relationship yet a few festering secrets; Chester (Justice Smith) walks a line between popularity and rebellion; Riley (Chase Sui Wonders) floats between many social groups in a way that looks confident but to Riley feels mostly empty. As these characters and many others try to make it through their days intact, a flash-forward drama plays out in a mall bathroom. How did we get from here to there? Generations shows us.
Is It Any Good?
It's reminiscent of teen shows both recent (Euphoria comes to mind) and vintage (Freaks and Geeks), but a lean into both sincerity and comedy makes this effort stand out from the pack. One thing Generation gets right immediately -- though the sprawling cast of high schoolers we meet are diverse in terms of sexual and gender identity, race, ethnicity, and outlook, they share one thing in common: everything they feel is the Hugest Thing Ever. Chester, both a star athlete and a confidently queer kid, quietly calls out for emotional support under a facade of bluster; Nathan is willing to accept he's bisexual but hates himself for choosing his twin sisters erstwhile boyfriend for his sexual forays; painfully insecure Greta struggles both with her life-threatening crush on Riley and with her fraught family dynamics.
Generation does made its teens feel immediately specific and real, even if the drama that surrounds them is heightened. The odds are long for the show standing out: after all, as Generation itself tells us in one episode, there's hardly a shortage of shows about "this secret life of teenagers hoo-ha" (this choice bit of dialogue is placed in the mouth of Nathan and Naomi's mom, a priceless Martha Plimpton). But there's something that feels genuine about the writing and the acting; the teens are fumbling for relevance, ease, and cool, while plainly telegraphing anything but. At one point, Chester perches on a distraught Nathan's lap and assures him that it's all going to get better from this point forward. "Will you remind me tomorrow?" Nathan asks, distracted but interested. "It sounds like something I'll want to remember." Generation captures something real and painful about teenhood that viewers will remember too.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about stereotyping. What instances of stereotyping exist in Generation? Do the characters reflect the groups you see among your peers? To what degree is stereotyping necessary for the comedy to be effective?
Families can also talk about whether it's OK to show teen sex, drinking, and drug use on television. Do shows like Generation present a realistic view of teen life, or is anything exaggerated for entertainment? What would the real-life consequences of the characters' behavior be?
Generation contains nudity, particularly male full-frontal nudity, which is very rare in American movies and TV shows. Why? Why do you think women are shown nude more frequently than men? How often is the nudity in Generation related to sex and how often is it nonsexual -- e.g., people bathing or changing? Does it matter?
- Premiere date: March 11, 2021
- Cast: Chloe East, Lukita Maxwell, Haley Sanchez
- Network: HBO Max
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 4, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
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Freaks and Geeks
Stellar teen dramedy explores angst, experimentation.
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For kids who love teen drama
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