UCLA study shows teen viewers think there’s too much sex in movies and TV

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A new study shows that today’s teens actually have a complaint they might have heard their grandparents gripe about: There’s just too much sex in movies and TV.

The 2023 Teens & Screens report from UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers found that teens — and the 18- to 24-year-old demographic — “think sex and romance are too prominent in TV shows and movies” and would instead prefer to see “more friendships and platonic relationships” presented onscreen.

More than 44% of those aged 13-24 polled say romance is overused in media, and 47.5% maintain sex in the plots of most TV shows and movies is unnecessary.

Instead, more than 51% would rather see friendships and platonic relationships in their content, while 39% want to see more “aromantic and/or asexual characters.”

The study also noted romantic tropes — like male and female leads ending up together by the end credits or the teen love triangle — are on the outs with younger viewers.

“While the popularity of Twilight and The Hunger Games supercharged the love triangle trope, what once was novel has become commonplace, and teens appear to have soured on those storylines,” the report notes.

Dr. Yalda T. Uhls, co-author of the study and adjunct professor in UCLA’s psychology department, notes there are other factors behind the younger audiences’ changing tastes. “We know that young people are suffering an epidemic of loneliness and they’re seeking modeling in the art they consume,” she says.

She continues, “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.”

This reflects in recent studies that showed younger people today are having less sex than their parents did at their age, Uhls says.

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