Are Wayne and The End of the F***ing World Really What Teens Want?

When it comes to teen drama, where do you draw the line between wish fulfillment and escapism?

The End of the Fing World

After watching Wayne, the teen dark comedy on YouTube Red, I couldn’t help but label it as the American version of The End of the F***ing World. Briefly, Wayne follows a teenage boy from Brockton, Massachusetts on a motorcycle road trip to Florida with a girl named Del to get back his Dad’s stolen car. The End of the F***ing World tells the story of outcasts boy James and Alyssa as they run away from home and try to start a new life. Now, first and foremost, both shows center around a pretty messed up teenage boy. James in The End of the F***ing World has a longstanding urge to kill someone, and Wayne in Wayne is a vigilante whose practically desensitized to pain. Then, coincidentally or not, he meets a similarly troubled teenage girl and they set off together on a cross-country expedition filled with violence, gore, and unabashedly vulgar language.

So okay, at this point they sound fairly similar, but nothing to call home about right? Well, bear with me. Because as I began to watch through both series, I started to see actual scenes that looked like they were cast from the same template. In Episode 1 of The End of the F***ing World, Alyssa walks up to James in their school cafeteria one day and tells him that his skateboarding is shit, which jumpstarts their relationship for the rest of the season. In Episode 1 of Wayne, Del walks up to Wayne’s front door to sell him Girl Scout cookies and by the end of the scene she asks him to be her boyfriend. In both instances the female lead is the one who makes the first move in sparking a relationship with the more introverted male character.

Then, not too far after that, both shows have a diner scene where the waitress serving them is dressed in pink, the teen male character barely speaks throughout the scene, and, to cap it all off, the waitress comments on the girl’s order, prompting her to completely go off on the waitress. More than a coincidence? Furthermore, over the course of both shows there is a split narrative with a pair of detectives – Eunice and Teri in The End of the F***ing World, and Geller and Jay in Wayne – on the case to find their respective show’s pair of runaway teens. Characters also reunite with an estranged parent: Alyssa reconnects with her deadbeat father and Wayne finally finds his estranged mother. Then, last but not least, the teen boy and the teen girl in both shows end up falling in love.

So, do I think that Wayne actually is an American version of The End of the F***ing World? Yeah, I really do. Not to mention, the relatively short timeframe in which both shows were released (The End of the F***ing World near the end of 2017, and Wayne in early 2019) introduces the possibility that one could have directly influenced the other. However, despite these similarities, you can still draw a firm line between resemblance and imitation. Scenes and traits from one show could have inspired another, but both shows still keep their own style and spark of ingenuity.

Both shows received big praise from both critics and viewers, specifically teenagers themselves. And as a teenager myself, I began to think critically about why shows like these were so successful in the first place. I started to think to myself, “Do teenagers really, subconsciously, want to live this life of teenage rebellion? Is that what makes these stories so attractive?”

After countless sleepless nights wrestling with the question, I came to a conclusion: Does the average teenager crave violence? Not really. Does the average teenager want to go on a road trip with a sketchy guy they’ve just met? Not on my bucket list. Is a television show with both of these things super entertaining to watch? Absolutely.

Honestly, I don’t think that these events are desirable to the average teenager, but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that a story where characters my age go against the conventional lifestyle is exciting to watch. With the monotonous high school routine of wake up, school, homework, repeat, teenagers’ lives revolve around school bells and schedules. While I feel pretty confident that I don’t need a rush of violence or a motorcycle to drive to Florida, escapist narratives like that are compelling and almost made specifically for teenagers. The language is colloquial, the plot has the potential to be real as much as it is dramatized, and it leaves us feeling as if we just clocked a gold grill-wearing Floridian with a pair of handcuffs without leaving our couch.

There’s also the idea of an “unconventional romance” presented throughout both shows. I hope I can take the gamble of saying that most couples my age don’t meet by randomly introducing themselves to each other in person. Especially not without sending a late night text or a Snapchat with the dog filter first. And then going on a weeks-long road trip with them (without your phone)? Yeah, not in my generation.

What I’m trying to say is that as so many of our relationships with people today are ingrained in social media that the relationships of James and Alyssa and Wayne and Del seem archaic and to that extent, captivating. Their relationships aren’t held together by snapchats nor was it started through a friend of a friend who asked if one person wanted to hook up with the other. Both stories are quirky, natural romances that revolve around no one else but themselves.

So, maybe it isn’t the subconscious thirst for teenage rebellion that makes these shows so compelling, but instead just the simple desire to break from the norm. To not get caught up in routine all the time. To change the social rules that we set for ourselves and our relationships. The End of the F***ing World and Wayne are two shows that potentially put how we are living our teenage years into question by examining what adventures we’re missing if we stick to our routine. Whether or not this is a message for teens to heed is a whole other issue entirely, but it does give us a glance into the mold that teen media comes from. The themes of teenage adventure and passionate relationships are both relatable as they are attractive – and as a consequence, these teen black comedies sell.

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