2022: The Year Gen Z F–kboys Infiltrated Pop Culture
Every generation gets the onscreen fuckboy they deserve—pop-culture representations of the all-too-common breed of man sleazy enough to raise problems, but charming enough to make you forget them for a while. In 2022, the first proper Generation Z model infiltrated movies and TV.
As a species, we’ve long been fascinated with the fuckboy, which is defined by Urban Dictionary as a man who is “fundamentally confused,” “superficially intimate,” and “unable to truly respect and be present with any woman he is with.” Past generations’ fuckboys have included The Graduate’s Benjamin Braddock, Sex and the City’s Mr. Big, Andy’s boyfriend, Nate, in The Devil Wears Prada, and Jason Bateman’s character in Juno. These men are not Billy Zane-in-Titanic-level offenders, lewd dudes who are just outright villains. Instead, they lure you in with grilled cheeses or promises to adopt your unborn child, taking and taking until you’re left with nothing but a specific appreciation for the Taylor Swift lyric, “Karma is my boyfriend.”
Members of Generation Z, as defined by Pew Research Center, are those born between 1997 (that’s me) and 2012, and are now ages 10 to 25. The eldest of this range can still remember life with Blockbuster DVDs, but without smartphones. The youngest, however, were born after Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram had come to define many aspects of everyday life.
This generation in fuckboy has been dabbled in before, namely via Jacob Elordi’s number one gaslighter Nate in Euphoria and some of the smarmier men on both The Sex Lives of College Girls and Industry, all of which returned for second seasons this year on HBO. And who could forget the now dearly departed reality-competition series, Fboy Island, where embracing this identity was incentivized for a cash prize and oodles of Instagram followers? But this space truly started to scuzz up over the summer with the release of Hulu’s Not Okay, A24’s Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, and Netflix’s Do Revenge—a heightened, spiritual trilogy in how Gen Z operates. Within those films—all starring and made by women—emerged an unmistakable commentary on male toxicity, as brought to life by Dylan O’Brien, Pete Davidson, and Austin Abrams, respectively, in a trio of fuckboy characters.
Other entries into this canon would emerge with Hulu’s Tell Me Lies (although that story is technically set in the mid-2000s, Stephen’s patchwork of red flags, as embodied by Jackson White, feel apiece with current Fboy discourse) and HBO’s The White Lotus with Leo Woodall’s “cock” hat-wearing Love Island proxy Jack (and despite his most white-knuckled efforts, occasionally Adam DiMarco’s Albie). As Meghann Fahy’s Daphne put it on the latter show: “I feel sorry for men, you know. They think they’re out there doing something really important, but really they’re just wandering alone.”
In their searching, Gen Z men have often reverted to fuckboy-ery, which abides by three Fs: being fickle, fragile, and falsely feminist. And conveniently enough, in 2022 movies’ and TV’s worst offenders followed this scientifically sound theory.
First, this generation’s fuckboys are particularly fickle, with unlimited options at their disposal via dating apps and social media. Enter Not Okay’s Colin, played by O’Brien. He’s the culture-appropriating weed influencer who Zoey Deutch’s wannabe tastemaker Danni (the film’s “unlikable female protagonist”) so desperately wants to impress. Colin breadcrumbs his vape-clouded attention so sparingly that Danni will stop at nothing, even falsely placing herself at the site of a global tragedy, just to get a follow back. Just as quickly as she earns it, Colin is gone again—but not before calling Danni his “damaged little girl” midway through a cringeworthy hookup.
“Colin, to me, represents all of these scum-bro culture-vulture fuckboys of the internet who embody all of the worst things,” Not Okay writer-director Quinn Shephard told Vanity Fair. “Colin is sort of a walking example of everything that Danni idolizes, and everything that she wants to be.” Shephard added, “Danni has a conscience deep down. I just think that she lacks self-education and self-awareness. I don’t know that Colin has a conscience anywhere.” Deutch couldn’t resist one more dig. “I also think Colin is unintelligent,” she said. “Like a-many-of fuckboys are.”