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TV Review: 21 Again

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BBC Three’s 21 Again challenges the mothers of five Gen-Z daughters to immerse themselves in the world of zero-hour contracts, online dating and social media success.

Mothers and Daughters // Image Credit: BBC

The premise is simple: the 21-day experiment sees if these mums can keep their cover as 21-year-olds, online and offline. While it seems unconvincing at times that they are able to pass for 20 years younger, the four-parter is an enjoyable, light-hearted watch which explores how the generation gap can be lessened. Seeing the relationships flourish and the understanding grow is heart-warming, but it is far from perfect.  

It’s safe to say that the experiment covers many challenges facing Gen-Z. The series opens up with the frivolous elements of youth, with makeovers, hairstyles, and clothes all being rehauled… the mums not only have to play the part but look it too. The makeovers are somewhat successful, with pink hair and animal print being prominent themes on my Instagram feed, though I’m not sure if sequined trousers and slogan tees saying ‘I can’t relate to 99% of humanity’ screams Gen-Z.

As a 20-year-old, I’m not sure if the daughters in the experiment are reflective of the majority of people I know. The five daughters are so similar that they fail to represent the scope of ambitions, interests and achievements held by people in their teens and twenties. It was frustrating having the women of generation being presented as social media-obsessed, with all sights set on gaining followers. Social media may permeate much of our society, but for it to be put forward as the most aspirational career for me and my peers is exasperating.

But fortunately, while the influencer industry is glamorised at times, it does reveal the insecurities, instabilities and hardships that go with it. This is where 21 Again hits the mark: it notes where the desire to pursue a career in social media comes from, but does not idolise it as the dream job.

And whilst the discussion around mental health in episode two is vital, it is quickly moved on from and replaced by the social media influencer dinner. Taylor is the only one who gives us an insight into her mental health struggles, with a quick NHS quiz being the only other content on the matter.  

But conversations surrounding gender and sexuality in episode three salvage 21 Again, alongside the conversations surrounding veganism and environment in the final episode. From LGBTIQ+ bingo to a women’s march, episode three puts a more serious twist on things. I’m not sure how they didn’t give the game away when they didn’t know what ‘cis-gender’ or ‘beard’ meant, but it’s incredible to see them learn. Devon’s journey to accepting and celebrating her disability is also a really insightful, beautiful moment.

I also love that the political awareness of the younger generation is focused on, with a women’s march and meetings with university politics students showing the political engagement of Gen-Z. Whilst it is painful to see that some of the mums were pretty clueless about politics or homelessness, their open-mindedness instils a lot of hope.

Though many in our generation have shared concerns and challenges, having a wider range of individuals within the group of five would be more beneficial for the mothers too, seeing the range of issues faced by their children and their peers. And not all Instagram accounts are littered with boobs, filters and general narcissism; sometimes it’s worrying enough that we relentlessly post pictures of us socialising, eating and generally living our lives (I am definitely guilty of it as well). The broadcasting of the every day is something that parents don’t necessarily understand and would have been a more interesting way to approach the social media side of the program.

While it is an entertaining premise and an easy watch, transparency is simply not there. When the mums are on the dates or working, it is unclear what story the employers and dates have been sold, especially when there are cameras and interviews surrounding them. It’s little things like this that could make a world of difference to the authenticity of the show.

Despite its flaws, 21 Again is an entertaining and binge-able mini-series which exposes just how wide the generation gap really can be. With so much disillusionment surrounding teenagers and young adults in a world of constant change and uncertainty, it’s satisfying to watch mothers understand the struggles of the younger generation.

All episodes of 21 Again are available on BBC iPlayer now.




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