The driving force behind keeping the movie business in business, the cinematic preferences of Gen Z and Millennials have made more than one entertainment critic roll their eyes. How, one bemoans, could younger generations choose films such as Disney live-actions when something like “The Farewell” is out there? Are they such a bovine, maturity-lacking population that they can’t handle anything that makes them think, instead going for cheap thrills found in dragons and spaceships and weirdos in capes?
Like most things, there’s more to the story than Gen Z and Millennial’s supposed lack of taste. And this isn’t to say that Gen Z and Millennials entirely eschew movies that make them think. But in a reality that feels way too close to home, Gen Z and Millennials are facing one bleak prospect to the next. From a slew of environmental issues to political discord, younger generations—much to the contempt of cinematic aficionados—find solace in their love of sci-fi and fantasy entertainment over more “cerebral” stories.
In fact, Gen Z and Millennials appear to be more passionate about their favorite sci-fi and fantasy franchises over other worldly matters. When asked which was the ultimate geek franchise, a whopping 14,618 people cast their vote (Marvel reigning victorious with a final 85.6 percentage). They even seriously ruminate over such geeky discussions such as whether or not Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber would cut through Captain America’s shield (unfortunately for Luke, 52.3 percent think not).
And despite the genre dominating the industry for almost two decades, Gen Z and Millennials still haven’t gotten their fill of superheroes. In response to Alan Moore’s comments that the superhero genre is overdone, 76.7 percent of Tylt voters ardently disagreed. They still want more bands of rebels overthrowing wicked overlords, more of the moral overcoming the immoral.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the love for these genres has given rise to the popularity of hopepunk. “Hopepunk” is a fictional subgenre in which protagonists resist the dystopic forces surrounding them through acts of inherent good. As Vox points out, something doesn’t necessarily have to fall under one genre in order to be considered hopepunk; shows like “Game of Thrones” aren’t hopepunk in nature, but characters such as Jon Snow—someone who “fights till the end”—are.
But the real draw to hopepunk over highbrow entertainment is the old-fashioned setup of “good vs evil.” It would be interesting to see how the popularity of sci-fi and fantasy progresses depending on whether times become more turbulent or peaceful. The day our onscreen heroes lay down their swords and capes may be a bit more telling of the times than one would assume.