Doubting Gen Z’s political influence? Guess what: we’re back at it again, this time targeting ConocoPhillips and the Biden administration. The Willow Project is a proposed drilling expansion in Alaska’s Reserve region, currently the nation’s largest single unit of public lands (at nearly 23 million acres). This project would disrupt the lifestyle of the Indigenous village of Nuiqsut, as well as the region’s biodiversity. It also wouldn’t begin producing oil for another 10 years, a poor decision in a dinosaur industry, and goes back on one of Biden’s campaign promises. Young people joined the fight to stop Willow in incredible numbers, making TikToks with calls to action and rallying in DC and beyond. Over 1 million letters were sent to President Biden, and the Change petition has over 3 million signatures. Some of the petition’s comments include, “im 12 and i want a future to live and happiness to share,” “The end will be near just because of money,” and “By the time I’m twenty, I might be dead because of horrid weather conditions.” The TikTok tag #StopWillow has over 150M views. Though the campaign began years ago, a looming greenlight has energized Gen Z to fight for a livable future. Some of the videos under the hashtag are a Rihanna Superbowl edit that switches to informative content, clips of the region to a “Moana” song, and someone shotgunning a Red Bull to celebrate the success of anti-Willow advocacy. Yeah, the kids are alright. 

Gen Z are *the* side hustle generation! During COVID, young people used the extra time provided by remote schooling and work to explore new things. Many of us took to DIYing, whether it be making necklaces, rock tumbling, or painting. This passion continued after the lockdowns, with many continuing these passions while in school or in a full-time position. The #SideHustle hashtag on TikTok has over 13.6B views, with everything from drop shipping to DoorDashing. In fact, 40% of Gen Z report having 2+ jobs. Why has this trend lasted past the pandemic? Two big reasons: remote work and economic crisis. With work-from-home expanding exponentially in relevance in recent years, there is much more flexibility for people’s full-time jobs. Less regimented working hours and shorter (or no) commutes mean increased time to focus on one’s passions and explore new avenues, without worrying about a boss looming over your shoulder. The average commute in the US is over 52 minutes a day; having this time back alone is a huge gain for hustlers. The other reason, though more dreary, is a reality for many (especially young) workers right now. With much of Gen Z in the technology world — Apple, Google, and Netflix are the top three companies we want to work for, and 77% of a surveyed group identified tech as their dream industry — recent  layoffs in the field are redefining what work we gravitate towards. With a diversified work portfolio, some of this risk is mitigated. An extra role can mean the difference between paying rent or falling behind. Hustle culture, meet your match: side hustles. 

In Tennessee, it’s anything but sunny skies. On March 2, Republican Governor Bill Lee signed into law a policy prohibiting public drag shows, characterizing these performances as “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.” For anyone who’s actually attended a drag show, the inaccuracy is obvious. From drag story time to lip-synced performances, this is a form of art and expression. That same week, Lee approved legislation banning most gender-affirming care. There are many problems with this bill — it’s legally vague, it’s clearly homophobic and transphobic, and it will hurt Tennessee businesses. It’s also a dangerous precedent: what’s next for anti-LGBTQ+ legislatures? Organizers for the state’s Pride parades are looking to a dismal new reality of a month meant for joy. When a 1977 photo of Lee wearing what his bill essentially criminalizes — a wig, calf-length boots, a necklace, and a skirt — was unearthed, the internet went crazy. He responded, “What a ridiculous question … conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children, which is a very serious subject.” Some people pointed out the hypocrisy between hating drag performers and enjoying other risqué performances like cheer halftime shows. @bipcitybozo Tweeted, “Bozos out here taking their 3 year olds to hooters and forcing their daughters to do beauty pageants and they wanna ban drag shows lmao what a f*cking joke.” With 39 anti-drag bills currently in legislatures, 2023 is a scary year to be queer. 

Sam Levinson is fighting Ryan Murphy for the most problematic television program creator. Levinson, known for “Euphoria,” “X,” and “Malcolm & Marie,” is currently directing “The Idol.” He has been previously criticized for over-sexualizing teenagers, using long (17-hour-plus) work hours, a “Euphoria” second season with plot holes, character assassinations, and bad writing, and making (Black) Malcolm a mouthpiece for his rants about race and filmmaking. Now, “The Idol” is facing controversy for being, as Rolling Stone put it, “torture porn” and “a shitshow.” Though we could take an entire blog just for their article, here’s a quick summary. Amy Seimetz originally directed the show as a critique of predatory industry figures. After 80 percent of the show was filmed, Seimetz left and Levinson took her place to refilm the entire series, centering the story around bizarre, glamorized-abuse sex scenes and removing the feminist element. Between the two iterations, most of the original cast left and the budget ballooned. Levinson is developing a reputation for chaotic sets and unnecessary, pornographic sex. And, of course, he’s also a nepo baby who gained acting and directing experience by getting jobs from his Academy Award-winning dad Barry Levinson. Gen Z from all corners of the internet have been bashing Levinson. All we know is, if we were in “A Quiet Place” with him, it’s time to start singing

“Clean up the presentation” is not something most consumers would do for a retailer, but MrBeast somehow made it work. The 24-year-old YouTuber, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, is a cult favorite for young Gen Zers; in fact, he’s more popular than Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Something about the combination of his incredible passion for charity and his outlandish challenges with similarly outlandish price tags (think: quit your job for $100,000 or spend $1M in a minute) has given him ultimate clout among young people. He’s sold burgers, hoodies, and trees planted. Now, Donaldson is moving into sweets with his company Feastables. MrBeast’s merchandise, including a “Deez Nuts” chocolate (“You’ll want to put Deez Nuts in your mouth…”) were just put into Walmarts nationwide. He Tweeted, “I need your help! Next time you see Feastables in Walmart (and soon to be new retailers) if you could clean up the presentation and make it look better that’d make me very happy 🥺 I’m building a team to do this routinely, just need help in the short term ❤️.”  The post got a whopping 41.6M views, with thousands of Twitter users posting their “before and afters” of candy displays. Despite the positive side of responses, many also criticized Donaldson for making consumers perform free labor, as many were only doing it with the hope that he would award some kind of compensation. One person Tweeted, “since you asked fans so politely to do free labor for you I absolutely am going to make every display worse.” This initiative is encouraging (for influencers looking to expand their brand) and scary (for critics of late-stage capitalism). 


✨ We all have that thing we’ve come to accept. This audio captures it — being the second choice, having curly hair, being the floater friend. 

✨ I feel “bonita” after hearing this audio! Taken from a Family Guy clip, it’s used to talk about something that makes one feel pretty, from braiding someone’s hair to curling your boyfriend’s eyelashes. 

✨ First and foremost, we are Beyoncé stans. Her “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM” is being used to hype yourself, or someone else, up, both sped up and regular speed

Screenshot of the Week 

You’ve heard of Gigachad; now, get ready for his female counterpart. Twitter’s @weirddalle documents some of the strangest AI creations (think Minecraft Steve as a real person, Paw Patrol in “Top Gun,” and the Moai statue giving a Ted Talk). We held back from using the “perfect human hands, no extra fingers” photo because, well, nobody needs to see that, but this was a close second. Next up: robot girlfriends

Harmonie Ramsden