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The new and improved "it" men of Generation Z

As new trends emerge in fashion and media, teens and young adults are shifting their focus to a new group of Hollywood heartthrobs. While Generation Z's infatuations once centered on men like Josh Hutcherson, Dylan O'Brien and Harry Styles, teens are now obsessing over stars like Jacob Elordi and Timothee Chalamet.

While crushing on trending actors and musicians is nothing new, fangirl culture manifests itself in different ways and has drawn the attention of major brands. 

To specify, fan-made edits of celebrity heartthrobs are growing in popularity. One video of “Saltburn” star Elordi edited to "Never Be Like You" by Flume went viral after being posted by @oorsz on TikTok. Major brands, including Quizlet, Pretty Little Thing and Fortress posted about the video to connect with audiences on TikTok, solidifying Elordi's status as an "it" man. 

Since brands and businesses have taken to TikTok to grow their platform, it's become increasingly popular for brands to exploit Gen Z's celebrity obsessions. Duolingo, for example, posted a video stitching a steamy fan edit of Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson. 

As a result of these viral edits, it's easy to keep track of which men are the current idols of teens and young adults. Furthermore, it's clear to see that the criteria for celebrity crushes have broadened. 

For example, another actor trending for his sex appeal is Timothee Chalamet, whose lanky appearance is a striking contrast to Elordi. 

While it's safe to say that varying preferences and "types" have always existed, the wide range of men trending in the media now was not the case in the early to mid-2010s when the ideal man was some variation of Zac Efron, Ryan Reynolds or Chris Hemsworth. 

Now, the accessibility of the Internet has fostered obsessions from Gen Z in older men like Pedro Pascal and Adam Driver and "short kings" Josh Hutcherson and Barry Keoghan.

According to Newsweek, research has found that 18-24-year-olds become fixated with one or more celebrities at 12 times the rate of their parents' generation. 

Social psychologist Ruth Simms attributes this to the fan connections fostered by social media.

"Back in the day you'd have fan clubs for celebrities and they'd put out a magazine three times a year ... and that was it unless they (the celebrities) happened to be on the news or something that was as much as you found out," Simms explains. 

Social media has provided a space for fans to get a closer insight into celebrities' day-to-day lives, enabling these parasocial relationships.

Another possible influence for Gen Z's celebrity obsessions dates back to the teen sensations of their childhoods. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, musicians geared toward the hearts of pre-teens and teenagers were majorly successful. 

Artists like Justin Bieber catered to Gen Z fangirls and encouraged obsession through merchandise and music videos. Obscure merchandise ranging from toothbrushes, board games and school supplies were sold and marketed to Gen Z as young girls, embedding their favorite band into every aspect of their lives. 

When considering how teen sensations were marketed toward Gen Z as kids, it's not surprising that their interests are amplified into obsessions. Furthermore, it's not surprising that brands are, once again, exploiting these obsessions for profit through social media marketing. 


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