2021 saw the premiere of Genera+ion, a new HBO Max dramedy that follows the lives of a group of LGBTQ teenagers living in California. In a delightful twist, a real-life queer family created the series: married couple, Ben and Daniel Barnz, and their 19-year-old bisexual daughter, Zelda.
The show stars Justice Smith, Chloe East, Haley Sanchez, Uly Schlesinger and Chase Sui Wonders as a group of teens just trying to navigate high school amid the threat of school shootings, teenage affairs, and of course, meddlesome parents. It also doesn’t shy away from presenting its young cast as sexually aware, with two siblings hooking up with the same guy.
The series breaks new ground both in terms of its content and in the way it portrays young people comfortable with their queerness… and in the way their once-progressive parents struggle to keep up.
For the Barnz family, showing an accurate portrayal of LGBTQ teens became a driving factor in making the series. As Zelda told Queerty in March:
Ultimately, I really wanted to see myself and people that I care about represented accurately and authentically on screen. Initially, I’d just planned to write this as a book. I brought the idea to my parents hoping for guidance and help in developing characters and plot. My parents were just like why don’t we try writing this as a TV show. So we took that approach. Initially, I was like, I don’t know how to write a script. So, my dad, Daniel taught me how to write a script. And it was born from there.
Her dad, Ben, echoed that sentiment:
Zelda had come out as bisexual. Our son had come out. So we became a fully queer household, and both our kids were talking about what it meant to be queer in high school. They were educating us. So there was a lot of laughter around our dinner table conversations. I think that the show organically stemmed from those conversations. It was also it was an opportunity to work on a show together. Yes, it was going to get sensitive and weird and awkward, but it was also going to be something to allow us to open up as a family.
For Zelda and Ben, Genera+ion marks a first foray into the world of entertainment. For Daniel, production of the show added yet another spark to an already burning career. As the successful director of indie films as Cake and Phoebe in Wonderland, he took great pleasure in bringing his daughter and husband to work every day. He also noted that working on the show strengthened their bond.
The gift the show has given our family is hard to describe because it has opened up so many pathways of communication. When you’re a parent, and your daughter is about to go to college and leave, to have the opportunity to spend time together is such a blessing.
We love watching their family succeed. We also take pride in having them as part of our LGBTQ family.