Amy Poehler Implores Her Generation to Start Taking Gen Z Seriously

The ‘Inside Out 2’ star asked why adults are so critical of the kids who will have no choice but to fix our mistakes
Amy Poehler Implores Her Generation to Start Taking Gen Z Seriously

As Inside Out 2 continues to teach kids and adults alike about the machinations of young minds, the movie’s star Amy Poehler pleads for people her own age to stop talking down to the kids who are going to have to clean up all of their messes for them.

Poehler is promoting the second installment of Disney Pixar’s critically and commercially beloved animated film series about the anthropomorphic emotions in charge of a young Minnesotan’s psyche as she navigates a move to the San Francisco Bay Area, a burgeoning youth hockey career and all the trials and tribulations of teenagerhood in the modern era. In both Inside Out films, the SNL legend plays Joy, the dominant emotion in young Riley’s brain, and during a recent stop on the Inside Out 2 press tour, Poehler advocated for other adults to learn from her experiences inside a modern teen’s head and stop the incessant “kids these days” slander that so many other comedians over the age of 50 peddle in pandering rants about participation trophies and safe spaces.

In an interview with The Guardian, Poehler defended today’s youth to her crotchety colleagues, asking those old folks who trash Gen Z and below, “Are we asking them to fix everything, or are we making fun of them for not being equipped to do so, for not having fought a war? What are we doing to them?”

“Young people are dismissed, often very marginalized and feel really out of control of their lives,” Poehler said of the state of todays youth, many of whom helped to propel Inside Out 2 to a massive $155 million box-office return over this past opening weekend. “It feels like the world is on their shoulders, but we also treat them like they’re silly and foolish, and the stuff that they like is silly and foolish.”

Poehler said that the early reaction of Generation Z and their younger siblings has been distressingly excited about the sequel, which introduces anxiety and other complicated, adolescent emotions to the colorful cast of personified feelings. The star recalled being told by one fan, “This is exactly what I wanted to see,” inspiring a similarly complex reaction from Poehler, “Which is like: ‘Oh no!’ But also: cool!”

On a personal level, Poehler, a mother of two teenaged sons aged 15 and 13, hopes that her new film will inspire other parents to take a similarly empathetic approach to their own kids’ inner lives. “That’s what a parent is,” Poehler explained, “You just want to weirdly crawl in your kid’s head. … You’re always like: what’s going on in there? And of course, it’s usually at the time when they have bouncers outside of their door.”

“I don’t think we — meaning myself and people my age and above — really understand how isolating it’s been for young people,” Poehler said of the last decade of instability, in which a pandemic shutdown schools, social unrest upended communities and nearly half of American adolescents struggled with mental disorders such as anxiety. I really don’t think we do.”

“Anxiety feels like a word that’s been felt a lot,” she added. “You don’t have to teach people what that means any more.” 

On that point, Gen Z may beg to differ — not all of their parents are as in touch with emotions and mental health as Poehler is, and almost none of them could ever pull off playing Joy personified.


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