Meet the teens running fan pages for 2000s TV shows that aired when they were babies
- Teens are running TikTok and Instagram fan pages for TV shows that aired in the 2000s.
- It's part of a larger trend of Gen Z's fascination with the Y2K era.
- "The 2000s shows just have a better vibe," said one teen who runs a "Gossip Girl" TikTok page.
If you ask 14-year-old Grace Holloway for her favorite TV show, she'll tell you that it's "Gossip Girl." But when "Gossip Girl" aired its first episode in 2007, Holloway was not yet one year old.
Holloway runs @marriedtochuckbasss, a "Gossip Girl" fan page on TikTok with over 30,000 followers. She's one of many teenagers running a fan page for a show that aired before their time.
Streaming platforms have opened up the door for today's teens to discover yesterday's young adult shows, and they can't get enough. Whether it's because of the attractive 20-something casts, unrealistic storylines, nostalgic fashion, or the fantasy of a pre-social media adolescence, today's teens love these shows. And in some cases, new generations of young fans have led to their resurgences in popular culture.
Holloway started watching "Gossip Girl" on Netflix when she was 12 after her 16-year-old cousin told her to watch it. Since then, she's rewatched the series three times.
"It's been my favorite show since I watched it," she said. "I watched Gossip Girl TikToks and wanted to make some of my own, so I started the account." Holloway also posts about "Gilmore Girls" (2000), "The O.C." (2003), and "H2O: Just Add Water" (2006), among other shows from the same era.
The teenagers I interviewed for this article expressed the same opinion: today's TV shows, and especially teen dramas, just aren't the same as their early aughts predecessors. They overuse or improperly use social media. They're less heartfelt and vulnerable. They're repetitive. They have more sensitive storylines (no romanticized sexual assault in 2021), for better or for worse. They're more realistic and therefore less aspirational.
"The modern TV shows try too hard to be trendy," Holloway said. "The 2000s shows just have a better vibe."
Early 2000s shows are finding new fans in Gen Z
Dr. Sharon Ross, a professor of cinema and television art at Columbia College Chicago, told me that new young adult content airing on streaming platforms today is frequently too youthful, or too mature, for teens. "They just haven't figured it out like The WB or The CW did," Ross said.
16-year-old Ariella Taylor runs @paceyfilms, a "Dawson's Creek" Instagram fan page. Taylor said she first discovered the show when it was added to Netflix in the United Kingdom, where she lives. Taylor was born in 2005, two years after "Dawson's Creek" finished its six-season run.
Taylor said she mostly watches teen dramas from the early 2000s and '90s and doesn't enjoy modern TV shows because "they don't have that hint of nostalgia."
The Gen Z fascination with early 2000s television is part of a larger trend of teens trying to relive the Y2K era. "They worship the early 2000s style and maintain an encyclopedic knowledge of 2000s pop culture," wrote The New York Times' Taylor Lorenz in 2019.
They have a deep curiosity about the era, largely sparked by the glamorized version they've seen in popular culture. "I wasn't there [in the '90s], so I'm thinking, 'What was it like at that point?' I've watched lots of behind-the-scenes clips and it just looks like a great time," said Ariella Taylor of @paceyfilms.
Morgan Magats, 15, told me that modern TV just can't compete with early 2000s shows.
These fan pages feel like anachronistic mashups of two different worlds. Edits of "One Tree Hill" are set to Olivia Rodrigo songs, where Hilarie Burton's Peyton Sawyer is the infamous "that blonde girl." Doja Cat plays in the background of clips of Topanga from "Boy Meets World." Outfit videos with Shein clothes are inspired by Joey Potter from "Dawson's Creek."
Young fans are driving the cultural resurgences of older TV shows
Social media and streaming platforms allow for older shows to find new fans and, in some cases, popularized them anew. "Gossip Girl" has a 2021 reboot, now streaming on HBO Max. Lead actors from three beloved early 2000s shows have new rewatch podcasts - "Welcome to the OC, Bitches!" for "The O.C.," "I Am All In" for "Gilmore Girls," and "Drama Queens" for "One Tree Hill."
"The real driver - especially with the reboots and podcasts - is the current generation of fans, because they know that there is a really media savvy market out there," said Ross, the Columbia College Chicago professor. "What really makes fandom take off is giving back to the fans, to have that podcast or that reboot."
These blast-from-the-past podcasts are as much for the new fans who discovered the shows streaming as for the loyal fans that have been there since the shows aired. In a recent episode of "Welcome to the OC, Bitches!" hosts Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke, who played Summer Roberts and Julie Cooper from 2003 to 2007, had a guest appearance from a 21-year-old fan named Katie who runs a popular Instagram page.
"We're doing this podcast for people like you," Clarke told Katie, who was a toddler when "The O.C." aired.
When we spoke prior to the release of the "Gossip Girl" reboot, Holloway said she was excited to watch it, but thought it could never live up to the original. A day after the reboot came out, Holloway told me she "really likes it so far."
The original "Gossip Girl" on The CW had a rating of TV-14. The reboot, however, very much leans into the HBO of it all, with a TV-MA rating and multiple explicit sex scenes that some have called "soft porn." It may be too mature for a 14-year-old, but new young fans aren't the main audience for the reboot, according to Stitch, a fan and media studies scholar who writes Fan Service, a fandom-focused column in Teen Vogue.
"They're appealing to the original audience," Stitch told me. "But they don't mind if the new generation of viewers comes along for the ride and gets invested as well."
Ross said the appeal of "Stranger Things," which is set in the 1980s and is one of Netflix's most popular shows, demonstrates that shows like "Gilmore Girls" and "One Tree Hill" may continue finding new fans for years to come.
"There's a possibility that some of these shows will stick for the next generation," Ross said.
Fandoms find homes on different social media platforms
Stans, defined as "extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fans" by Merriam-Webster, have always thrived on the internet. Social media has provided a platform for fans to show their love for something, usually through creative endeavors like fanfiction, video edits, or fan art.
As social media platforms have gone in and out of fashion, fandom accounts have changed homes. For millennials and older members of Gen Z, they were on Tumblr. Today's teenagers are on TikTok and Instagram.
"Stan accounts on Tumblr were text and photo-heavy, focused on telling stories and sharing information about an artist or piece of media. Now, stans on TikTok and Instagram use these platforms in the same way that influencers do," Stitch said.
The world of social media itself also plays a role in teens' appreciation for older shows. Though Gen Z is known as the social media generation, "there's this appeal for shows that are technologically removed," Ross said.
According to Holloway, Taylor, and other teens I spoke to, the portrayal of social media on TV is never done quite right.
But "at some point," Ross said, "somebody is going to figure out how to do a good teen show that incorporates social media."
Until then, the 2000s will continue to rule the school, with fans like Kristina Kotzan, 17, who runs a "One Tree Hill" TikTok fan page, trying to introduce them to new audiences.
After all, as Kotzan said, she's just hoping to "keep ['One Tree Hill'] alive."
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