‘Daybreak’ an excellent appeal to Generation Z

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"Daybreak" promotional poster courtesy from Netflix.

Netflix’s latest post-apocalyptic teen drama-comedy is a heart-warming roller coaster of subverted expectations and sincere parody. Beyond that, “Daybreak” Season 1, released on Oct. 24, is a great model of where television may be headed, in a world increasingly populated by Generation Z.

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"Daybreak" promotional poster courtesy from Netflix.

The show follows a large cast of teenagers from Glendale High School in an apocalypse that’s turned all the adults into zombie-like creatures called ghoulies.

Since the apocalypse, students have divided Glendale into territories based on their high school cliques.

New student Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford) has been avoiding these territories like the plague but his search for his crush Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett) forces him to get tangled up with a Mad Max-esque clan of Jocks, including Angelica Green (Alyvia Alyn Lind) a troubled 10-year-old genius and jock-turned-samurai Wesley Fists (Austin Crute).

I’m sure that sounds familiar, but “Daybreak” is an original mix of cliches and genres. Most importantly, the show takes pains of target teens today as opposed to teens as they’ve always been for decades.

As the first generation to grow up as binge-watchers, many Generation Z kids are extremely literate in television. Writer Aron Eli Coleite, known for Heroes (2006), and Ultimate X-men (2008), adds to this by assuming a “meta” style that allows him to speak frankly to the audience about what’s happening and what’s to come.

The show is frequently narrated or interrupted by a Ferris Bueller-esque breaking of the fourth wall. It makes for a cheesy effect but also feels like a satisfying nod to the viewer, as if to say, “we both know what’s going on here so why don’t we speak plainly to each other.”

In episode two titled “Shmuck Bait!”, for instance, Wheeler makes fun of the writer’s decision to end episode one with a cliffhanger. In episode nine, Wheeler tells the audience he doesn’t want to talk about something and then accuses the viewer when a flashback forms around him.

For Netflix addicts familiar with every television trope in the book, it’s refreshing to notice that the writer is acknowledging you directly and is challenging you to guess what’s going to happen next.

And that’s not the only way Daybreak targets Generation Z.

For those who have grown up in a politically correct and tolerant environment, fat jokes, racial jokes, gay jokes and sexist jokes have largely become outdated cliches. “Daybreak” understands that this is the case for much of their audience and finds humor elsewhere, such as in awkward sex scenes or outrageous characters like Eli Cardashyan, the king of knock offs.

This is possible largely because the narration is not restricted to straight, white, male Josh, as it seems in the beginning. After the first two episodes, different characters get to share their own version of events from before the bomb (via flashbacks) and after.

Due to this, the story belongs to a wide variety of people and the humor is forced to work without targeting specific demographics. Instead of insulting certain body-types or ethnicities, the school golf team ends up taking the brunt of most put-downs.

The show seems to take its themes directly from the political movements of Generation Z as well.

Like Lord of the Flies” and every child-run-society story since, “Daybreak’s” child-run world is often a commentary on our adult-run one. A big theme of the show is the way the teenagers have to deal with the repercussions of adult actions — a sentiment commonly expressed by teen activist groups.

Between Green’s mom who valued her daughter’s education over taking care of her and a treaty that bans the use of guns called the Emma Gonzales Accords, this show references everything from the green movement school strikes to young people supporting gun control.

While cheesy, hyperbolic and even animated at times, “Daybreak” engages with real sentiments of its young modern audience.

If you’re looking for a new show to watch, “Daybreak” is definitely fresh. I would bet you’ve never seen anything quite like it before but you’ll probably see more like it in the years to come.

Emily Neria can be reached at [email protected]