While scrolling through Twitter the other day, I came across the tweet below which revealed the trailer for the upcoming movie, The Fallout, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.


The movie is Megan Park's feature directorial debut starring Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler. It premiered at SXSW on March 17th, 2021, and is set to release on HBO Max January 27th, 2022. It did well with critics, scoring a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 86 out of 100 on Metacritic. 

Before being the "Chandelier" girl, Maddie was known on the reality television show, Dance Moms, which is most likely where my reality show obsession began. Since I have that Dance Moms fan bias, I am rooting for Maddie and already hope this movie will be the one that helps her break away from primarily being known as Sia’s muse—especially after the controversy surrounding Sia’s movie, Music. The movie faced (rightful) backlash for casting Maddie, who is neurotypical, as a teenager with autism, which Sia then doubled down on, making the situation even worse. The blame here mostly is on Sia and the producers but it did likely have some effect her acting career (movies don’t want to cast controversy). Sia was not offering Maddie any space to evolve, so now that she’s moved passed that, her role in The Fallout might be the boost she needs to advance her career in new ways (she had a role as Velma in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, but it was a small role acting-wise). 


Co-starring with Jenna Ortega was likely a great opportunity for Maddie too. Jenna is a talented young actress (she was a Disney kid too) with some great projects going for her this year, like Scream. Jenna is the film’s lead, and a big part of the reason why it did so well critically. Film critic Audrey Fox says it’s, “a star-making turn from Jenna Ortega,” and film critic Matt Oakes describes the movie as, “the first defining movie of Gen Z”. This is giving off emerging Gen Z It Girl energy, reminiscent of Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley from a prior generation (is it an accident that Shailene is in the movie too? I think not). And by the looks of Twitter, it seems like Gen Z will be gladly accepting her. 


Based on the title and trailer, it seems that the movie will focus more on the aftermath of a school shooting than the actual school shooting. The few words that Jenna’s character Vada and Maddie’s character Mia share in the washroom before the gunshots take place is a good way of illustrating how their characters would not be friends if it wasn’t for the traumatic experience they went through together. The trailer then takes us through scenes similar to other coming-of-age films of their friendship growing as they navigate teenage years. But while other films show teens drinking for the first time because they're curious teens, their behaviour in this story is directly related to trauma. 

In Gen Z, much of the popular content lately is the sad stuff, and like I mentioned last week, HBO Max has started to pull this audience in with the projects they are streaming. Between the new season of Euphoria, which is somehow more intense than the first, the upcoming reboot of Degrassi, and movies like The Fallout, there has been more content that centers societal issues specific to the Gen Z experience. Everything is dark and twisty and sad because our lives have been riddled with dark and twisty and sad things. And while it’s not unique for movies and shows to cover tragedies, this one is specific to a generation that was looking for the closest exit if an active shooter came into their science class. As messed up as it is for a child to have to think about these things, when you grow up in the age of Oxford High SchoolMarjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Sandy Hook Elementary, and so many, too many, others, it’s a reality we have to face. Gen Z is, unfortunately, all too familiar with school shootings shaping our childhood and adolescence. 


These stories resonate because they allow audiences to connect in a way that goes beyond favourite actors, styles, or tastes. We are now in a time culturally where, because of the internet, we are given free range to speak on and be heard about the darkness, the anxiety and pain that surrounds us, in a way that represents us. We saw this with the #NeverAgain campaign and March For Our Lives organized by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Therapy is through a computer screen, self-help guides are posted to people’s Instagram stories, and Bella Hadid is sharing photos of her bawling her eyes out. Because Gen Z is the generation that grew up with the internet, we also grew up with the desire to go deeper than the headlines and connect in a way that makes bubble-gum Disney Channel Original movies not as relevant as they used to be. 

That’s why I have been thinking about this trailer ever since I saw it. 

When that film critic calls it Gen Z’s first defining movie, it’s deeper than just what we will like or what actors and actresses will be the next stars. It’s also about defining what we find important and how we think the media should reflect the world we live in for a greater purpose. I want to see how this movie portrays the intricacies of the trauma and stress that my peers have experienced with school shootings so the world gets a more nuanced understanding of what we don’t see when the news decides it isn’t news anymore. It all comes back to wanting a deeper sense of sympathy to be felt in hopes that it will spark conversation all over social media, our families and friends, political offices, and the world to make change happen. It’s a Gen Z superpower.

The Fallout streams on HBO Max January 27th.