Why Gen Z Loves Christmas | Nostalgia, Films And Campaigns

Many people, especially Gen Z, are nostalgic for a time before adulting got stressful (think the pandemic, wars, rising cost-of-living – we could go on) and it’s no secret that the ’90s and early ‘00s have made a huge comeback to remedy this. Recently, we’re seeing this in the films Gen Z are drawn towards, films that are a reflection of what life used to be like which offer comfort or a sense of nostalgia, transporting them to a ‘safe place’. But which are really doing it for them this year?

What Christmas films are Gen Z watching?

Elf (2003)

Elf is a Christmas classic, from its cast of Will Ferrell (for most Gen Zers, Elf was their introduction to this iconic actor) and Zooey Deschanel (who drew in younger audiences later down the line thanks to her role in New Girl), to the authentic  Y2K aesthetic and, of course, its memorable scenes that have since become popular Tik Tok sounds.

Elf tells the story of Buddy, a human who grew up in the North Pole and was raised by Santa’s elves and later travels to New York to meet his biological father. At its core, Elf is the story of an overworked family who ultimately remember the joy of Christmas – something that we’re seeing Gen Z promote across social media with wholesome and nostalgic content.

Brand case study – ASDA

Buddy the Elf was featured in the ASDA’s 2022 Christmas campaign, which, thanks to Rotoscoping technology, brough original scenes and footage from the film into a modern-day ASDA store. The campaign charmingly captured Buddy’s wide-eyed wonder and passion for all things festive as viewers humorously join him for his ‘first day of work’ at Asda. The clip plays homage to the iconic Christmas character and celebrates the moments that make Christmas special. 

Home Alone (1990)

This classic film also has a special place in the hearts of many Gen Zers due to its entertaining plot. Home Alone takes a slapstick approach to comedy (similar to Elf) with an implausible plot that follows eight-year-old Kevin devising a series of tricks to defend his home from two persistent robbers. The mischievous thrill of being home alone without parents mixed with the ingenious and cheeky traps results in a tearful family reunion that really hits the sweet spot for many Gen Zers. This film is undoubtedly a hit with young people across the world thanks to its emotional complexity, charming aesthetic and ‘traditional’ festive feeling – something that brings a sense of bittersweet nostalgia to all viewers. 

Brand case study – ALDI

Aldi’s 2022 Christmas campaign stars Kevin the Carrot, who’s accidentally left home alone for the holidays. The clip shows Kevin the Carrot protecting himself from intruders in a similar fashion to that of Kevin from Home Alone, by devising a series of traps against the unexpected guest… who turns out to be Santa Clause. At the end of the campaign, Kevin and his family reunite and enjoy a Christmas feast of ALDI’s food – a fun, festive and nostalgic way of getting Gen Z shoppers to engage with the brand.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Although not your standard Christmas movie, Nightmare Before Christmas is considered by many to be one of the greatest Christmas movies ever created. The reason for its success?  It was wildly ahead of its time. Sally, a the main character, is a strong female protagonist who proves herself to be brave, practical, and resourceful, saving herself from the clutches of her mad creator, and was/is an iconic character for many female Gen Zers growing up.

Throughout the film, here’s a strong theme of acceptance and celebrating the unfamiliar – something which is incredibly important to this open-minded and authentic generation. 

Brand case study – ColorPop

In 2021, ColorPop released a Nightmare Before Christmas makeup collection inspired by Jack, Zero, Sally, Oogie Boogie, and other characters from the film. The beauty retailer collaborated with Disney to celebrate the magic of Tim Burton with an exclusive release of an assortment of eyeshadows, pressed powders, glitter gels, and face crystals. The packaging had neon illustrations that combined both Halloween and Christmas and tapped into that sense of nostalgia and creativity that Gen Z love both in the marketing the consume and the products they buy. 

And which Christmas films aren’t Gen Z liking?

Love Actually (2003)

Recently, younger audiences have started to share that they dislike this Christmas classic due to some problematic themes. From the body-shaming of Martine McCutcheon’s character to romanticising cheating between four key characters, the ‘I guess it’s okay to take your best friend’s girl at Christmas’ attitude doesn’t sit well with compassionate and respectful young viewers, particularly given the additional questions around inappropriate work relationships and powerplay. Many young viewers consider Love Actually to go against their progressive views and expectations of how relationships should be portrayed in the media, and thanks to that, the movie doesn’t stand the test of time for Gen Z.

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones’ Diary proves that plot is really a driving force on whether or not a Christmas movie will remain relevant for future generations. The main character is overly fixated on her weight and finding a man,  which plays into a number of stereotypes (ones Gen Z are desperate to challenge). Furthermore, there are moments of homophobia and fatphobia in the film – something which, rightly so, does not sit right with Gen Zers, who are trying to move forward from harmful stereotypes and less progressive actions.

Key takeaways

  • A large part of Gen Z’s loves for these films is their ability to transport viewers into a time when they felt happy and safe. Even if it is subliminal and subconscious, watching a classic Christmas movie evokes memories of childhood.
  • Gen Zers feel relaxed when watching Christmas films – they know the plot and know what is going to happen, which provides a sense of comfort and stability. 
  • Christmas films, in general, focus around reflecting on the past and bringing hope for the new years to come. Many of the classic Christmas movies are still relevant and cherished by many, with underlying messages and themes that Gen Z relate to. 

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      [Cover image 📸: ASDA]

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