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The TV series that defined the elder Millennial culture

The O.C., Dawson Creek, Gossip Girl, what did they have in common? Who were they talking to?

The TV series that defined the elder Millennial culture The O.C., Dawson Creek, Gossip Girl, what did they have in common? Who were they talking to?

From 1 August, Paso Adelante, a Spanish series TV, which came to Italy in 2004 and ended in 2006, will be available on Netflix Italy. This news was received with great joy and nostalgia by young adults, the so-called millennials, who used to tune in to Italy 1's afternoon programme after school.

@netflixit L’inizio di tutto #pasoadelante #danza #serietv #netflixitalia #perte #netflix original sound - Netflix Italia
@dielletv Chi si ricorda di loro? #pasoadelante #upanext #pasoadelanteitalia #perte #neiperte #neiperteee #foryoupage #foryou #fypシ suono originale - dielletv

The TV series that has shaped the pop culture of the Millenials

Alongside Paso Adelante, which depicted the lives and often complicated, dramatic love stories of students and teachers at the prestigious Carmen Arranz School of Performing Arts in Madrid, Dawson's Creek was another classic from this period. This series revolved around hypersensitive Dawson Leery, who wanted to become a director like Steven Spielberg, and his friends Joey and Pacey, played by the talented Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson. Dawson's Creek made Michelle Williams known to the world. Although the series first aired in Italy from 2000 to 2003, it was frequently repeated, becoming an older millennial classic mixed with newer productions, much like Gilmore Girls, which aired from 2002 to 2007 and was created by the ever-creative Amy Sherman Palladino. The series, a semi-serious tale of mother and daughter, left an indelible mark on the era of international television at the time with its dry humour and fearless female protagonists. It is no coincidence that its creator is still at the height of her success with the recently concluded series The Marvellous Mrs Maisel.

Among the more recent shows, it is essential to mention The O.C., a Californian story with an indie soundtrack about a hapless teenager from Chino who is taken in by a wealthy family in Orange County and has to come to terms not only with his old life, but also with his new one. It aired in Italy from 2004 to 2007 (still on Italy 1, of course). Also, Gossip Girl (2008-2013) brought real fashion trends to Italian high schools. Headbands, bows, colourful tights and the attitude of a queen bee, for example.

@netflixit Noi con la voglia di Rory dopo le vacanze di Natale #netflixitalia#gilmoregirls #unamammaperamica#rorygilmore#lorelaigilmore suono originale - Netflix Italia

These series, which were both products and influencers of their time, have become part of the cultural and media baggage of older Millennials. Even almost 20 years later, they still debate the characters and their choices. Debates about Rory Gilmore's perfect partner between Dean, Jess and Logan are immortal on social media, and who hasn't cited the scene where Marissa Cooper throws the deck chairs into the pool? Or the New Year's Eve kiss between her and Ryan? It's not just about nostalgia; it's about leaving lasting traces in pop culture, a shared visual and lexical vocabulary that identifies a generation. Every generation has one.

What are the differences between the TV shows of yesterday and those of today?

Looking at these shows through the lens of 2023, we see that the focus was primarily on the tragic and turbulent loves of youth. The characters, while young on paper, were portrayed by adult actors and were often trapped in masks that were only temporarily shifted or overcome. So there's the nerd/outcast (Dan Humphrey, Dawson Leery, Seth Cohen), the it girl (Marissa Cooper, Blair Waldorf, Serena van der Woodsen), the quiet heartthrob who was sometimes controversial (Ryan Atwood, Chuck Bass, Jess Mariano), and so on.

@vauziaedits gossip girl classic vs reboot #gossipgirl #chuckbass #blairwaldorf #serenavanderwoodsen #maxwolfe #audreyhope #juliencalloway #gossipgirlhere #TheRealPussinBoots #iconic original sound - vauzia

Even when "social" issues were introduced, they were usually entrusted to supporting characters, and storylines related to alcohol abuse were ubiquitous but resolved off-screen. What we saw on screen were exaggerated conflicts, loss of virginity, tears, problems with parents and friends, and violence. Just think of the homosexuality of Jack McPhee in Dawson's Creek or the homosexuality of Serena van der Woodsen's brother Eric.

@tayhage Do you like the original Gossip Girl style or the reboot?! #xoxogossipgirl #gossipgirl #trend #blairwaldorf OG Gossip Girl Style or Reboot Style - Taylor Hage

What has changed? The current TV series are more diverse and varied. Sometimes they may seem absurd, but they dare more. Social issues are brought to the fore, the protagonists have different backgrounds and nuanced stories. The screen seems to have become wider and the tolerance threshold for what is considered "scandalous" has shifted, with a new focus on discrimination and conversely on inclusion. It's not a competition, nor is it about deciding which product is better or worse, but about what these TV series say about the generation they were created for. They reflect their sense of aesthetics, their sense of humour, their values and their favourite and most talked about topics. Perhaps they also offer a glimpse into the future by providing a preview of the next TV series for the young people of Generation Alpha.