This week, we’re looking at youth’s reaction to the Friends reunion, and the frenzied Matt LeBlanc meme moment that the Irish internet enjoyed in its wake. We’re also looking at Gen Z’s strong mental health self care ability through the lens of Naomi Osaka, and the battle for young people to have use of public space for recreation while Ireland’s emergence from lockdown is still fragile.
FAME // FRIENDS REUNION: THE GEN Z TAKE & THE MEMES
Last Friday, after a relatively short lead-in from the announcement, The Friends Reunion dropped into our streams and started colouring the waters of conversation like bad fake tan in a bath. It was such a soupy mess of 90s nostalgia that a chunky 30% of the streaming public tuned in to it on the night.
Despite the fact that the show’s original airing bypassed Gen Z, the show still resonates with many after its arrival on the streaming platforms allowed mass binging. Why?
Emotional Realness: There was some emotional realness from Matthew Perry who shared his deep yearning for the studio audience laughter during recording, which hinted at his addiction issues, viewers commented on his slurred speech but there was a genuine sense of vulnerability from the actor and the director afterwards called for kindness from the public. Revelations that Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer had been “crushing hard on each other” during the whole period of “will-they-won’t-they” narrative of the earlier series had the internet melting with what might have been. The warmth and camaraderie of the cast drew viewers into the story beyond what they ever expected and the combination of humour and likeability has transcended generations, nations and language barriers.
2021 Relevance & Collaborations: The reunion featured soundbites from young people all over the world who had found Friends to be a constant comfort throughout their lives, including the biggest boyband in the world BTS. And shortly after the reunion, Friends fan Ed Sheeran, released a video of himself and Courtney Cox performing the iconic dance from Season 6 Episode 10, “ The One with The Routine”. Next gen stars like Cara Delevinge and the Biebers also featured as fans, broadcasting it on their social media.
The Backstories/Behind The Scenes: There’s no denying the impact of the series has moved far beyond its original 90s faithful acolytes, but some of the beauty in the reunion lay in its time capsule nature. The writers discussed how ending it when they did was one of the most masterful strokes of the series. It went out on its apex rather than greedily stretching out the narrative beyond the audience’s interest. The lives of the characters are nicely encased in amber, never to be resurrected for any cack-handed feature editions.
The Memes : The stand-out star of the show for Irish internet culture was unquestionably and hilariously Matt Le Blanc. Pics of the actor sitting back with his arms folded started to flood the internet almost instantly with him being compared to an avuncular Irish male with seamless accuracy.
The memes came torrentially, each one funnier than the last. Irish Twitter was having a full flex.
The essence of what we were all recognising was surgically pinpointed by Blindboy, who weighed in with an analytical query on his stance in a tone of awe asking: “I’ve never seen an American cross their arms like that. This pose is Hiberno body language. It echoes the duplicity and contradictions present in Hiberno English. It’s highly defensive, but is a sign of happiness and relaxation. Who taught him this?”
But as is the life cycle of memes, it burned like a firework before being dead by Monday, but the news of le Blanc’s adoption as Ireland’s friendly uncle had gotten out, and bemused pieces began showing up in overseas media in the UK, and even in the US.
Surfing meme culture is the holy grail but it can prove to be a risky business, especially with the hottest and fastest memes. Even one day outside the trending window can appear dated, although this offering from Heinz Ireland, was timely, simple and fun.
TRANSFORMATION // YOUTH FIGHT FOR PUBLIC SPACES
A weekend of good weather and revelry in Dublin, Ireland led to the Irish government decrying public behaviour once again, in the wake of rubbish left behind and videos seen online of a festival atmosphere on the city streets. While the waste was to excess, many young people we have talked to feel the blame has been unfairly placed on them, instead of appreciating their need for socialising and the provision of public amenities. The city’s OOH advertising is largely taken up with posters urging us to ‘Think Outside This Summer’, however the city isn’t (yet) optimised for outdoor socialising.
“I feel a bit misplaced, like the country doesn’t want us. Young people are really getting the tough end of the stick at the moment. We’re demonized. You don’t see family areas that are flooded get any criticism. All I hear about is stuff being closed down. It’s not promising for us. I’m here for the next year but if it doesn’t change I’m not sticking around. One thing after another hits you and you think ‘what am I doing here?’ The government hasn’t given any indication they care about us. ” Ben, 22
As countries all around the world continue to embrace ‘outdoor living’ the provision of outdoor spaces, or lack of, will continue to expose inadequacies in urban planning , and (hopefully) lead to better planning for public spaces.
PLANET // NAOMI OSAKA SPEAKS UP
“...I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018…here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self care…” Naomi Osaka (23)
The Japanese Tennis ace Naomi Osaka (23) was in the news this week for pulling out of the French Open due to the reaction from her pulling out of press obligations in advance of the tournament to preserve her mental health.
This sparked a wider conversation on the relevance of press conferences and traditional media when the elite athlete has a rapport with the public via her massive social media presence.
“At 23 years old and with four Grand Slam titles to her name, Osaka is already in the top 0.1% of professional athletes on the planet in terms of success, fame and wealth. Forbes has her as the highest-earning female athlete of all time, on the back of numerous elite-tier endorsements. Her exposure is a natural reason why journalists want to speak to her above almost all others. Osaka's press conferences are among the busiest on Tour. The unscripted format of 'pressers' means she could be asked any type of question from any corner of the room, filled with media from around the world. … Osaka, like many other athletes at her level, need never to do another press conference again if she so chooses. Modern media means she can broadcast her voice and her image on her own platforms, as she decides, to 2.4 million Instagram followers. Every photo, video and quote can be approved by her before it's broadcast to the world. She's at that level now. But she's not alone… It's clear that both tennis and other sporting bodies need to take this very seriously and consider how they can work with their athletes and how traditional media fits in. This week may have just been the catalyst for something that's been brewing for quite some time.” Patrick O’Brien, Client Services Director, THINKHOUSE
The events also brought to light wider generational tensions around mental health and expression: “The debate is a microcosm of a wider, rarely dissected tension between what millennials and Gen Z require or even at times demand of the spaces and working environments they enter, versus the generations that came before them regarding attitudes towards work and mental health.” Joanna Jarjue in The Mirror
As a generation, Osaka’s is among the first to speak more freely on this subject - doing it in their own way on social media where they can be candid and unfiltered in how they present themselves to others. Rather than be seen as a challenge to authority, many youth saw the tournament’s response as insensitive, deeming Osaka’s actions as a plea for understanding, a brave decision (especially not unrelated to numerous uncomfortable questions arising from the dynamic of her fielding questions on heritage to an audience of majority white men). The overall response from around the web and her peers was one of support.
- Lean into the reunion of familiar favourites. Comfort and nostalgia are powerful tools for engaging consumers and youth audiences. What can you reunite your target audience with in new ways?
- Beware the superhot meme. Only the most immediate action on some memes is effective, and jumping on too late is transparently try-hard.
- Mental Health conversations are now happening in places previously unseen. It’s important to always be on the supportive side of the conversation. Is there a mental health policy in your workplace fit for younger staff?
- Public space is at a premium. What could you do to help encourage the healthy interaction of your consumers with their city?