The Youth Are Coming For Your Necks

Cam Wade
5 min readSep 3, 2022
Promotional Poster for Rim of The World that has the four main characters from left to right: Gabriel, Dariush, Alex, and Zhen Zhen.
Rim of the World Promotional Poster||IMBD.com

Yeah, that’s right. You did indeed read the title of this article correctly.

If the success of shows and films like Riverdale, Bodies Bodies Bodies,Stranger Things, and Euphoria prove anything, it’s that the youth are making their impression and we intend to keep on. While each of these is definitely different in the way they approach youth empowerment, the result is the same.

YA novels, teen dramas, coming-of-age films, you name it. Youth empowerment isn’t something new. In fact, many counter-cultural movements were led by youths and their subcultures. The founding of the Black Panther Party and even the current March For Lives movement centered around gun control in response to the rise of mass shootings are examples of the youth leading the way to try and build a more inclusive and diverse world. The youth are literally the future, and that is not even being ageist.

A large group of students holding signs to protest against gun violence.
March For Our Lives Student Activist||Voanews.com

Now, imagine my confusion when I saw all these negative ass reviews for Rim of the World. A Netflix original directed by McG and written by Zack Stenz, Rim of the World is genre blend of science fiction, action, and coming-of-age narrative that follows the lives of teenagers Alex, Zhen Zhen, Dariush, and Gabriel as they try to navigate rapidly growing up, while the world around them as they know it begins to crumble because of an impending alien invasion. Now, I know what you’re thinking.

Cam, this sounds like the most generic run of the mill science fiction bullshit I’ve ever heard off.

You would be correct; the movie is very generic, even cheesy at times. This was something too many Rotten Tomatoes critics were quick to point out, chile. And honestly, that’s fine with me. Like my ancestors probably said trying to escape from slavery and familial betrayal , just become something is for me, don’t mean it got to be for everybody. I was eating the movie up for more than a couple of reasons.

Dariush, Zhen Zhen, Alex, and Gabriel arriving back at the campsite
Commonsensemedia.org

The plot itself seems like pretty standard science fiction film, which is kind of the point. Stenz himself remarked that the movie came about as being a modern take on the classic kid-centered movies of the 1980s. Despite this though the film embraces one of the most important political messages of our time: the Youth can do a lot more than what people bargained for, and the characters themselves prove this on more than one occasion.

After arriving at Rim of the World summer camp and getting introduced to all the staff that work there, Alex, Zhen Zhen, and Dariush(along with their other campers) are taken to the local river to go canoeing. After discovering that someone has had a somewhat “messy” encounter with the boats, Alex wanders off and stumbles upon Dariush. Dariush, smartass that he is, tries to force Alex over his fear of heights by holding him over a cliff. Without hesitation, Gabriel rushes in to save Alex from meeting a not-so-fun premature death. The camera lingers on this scene for a second too long that almost would have you thinking there’s some queer sub-text going on. Regardless, this scene cements a recurring trope and theme of most coming-of-age films: found family.

The core four struggle at various times with getting along with each other. Alex is scared of practically everything( which doesn’t help during an impending alien apocalypse). Dariush’s selfishness knows not a single fucking boundary, Gabriel’s suprisingly deceptive about his past, and Zhen Zhen doesn’t speak…

The four heroes being attacked by the Alien antagonist.
The four heroes being attacked by the Alien||CGSsociety.org

I’m not joking, y’all. My good sis didn’t say a word for at least the first 40 minutes of film. It was definitely giving racial stereotypes about Asian girls and women being docile and hyper-feminine. Not to say that this stereotyping only occurs at Zhen Zhen’s expense. This film more than a couple of times rips some strange, 0odd– and I do mean fucking odd– dialogue that confused me because the humor was so out of left field. It doesn’t help that when I looked up Zack Stenz and McG, they both came up as white men, giving me far more ambiguous and mixed reactions about some of the humor.

Even Dariush, who I can relate on the level that were both Black, snapped me out of the fantasy of the film with lines like calling Gabriel(who’s very obviously racially coded as Latino) “Dora the Explorer.”

–OOP!

I was gagged. Truly gagged. Not defending Stenz or McG but I will say that I appreciate the route they took in addressing race through the wild-ass almost surreal comedy, especially with dark jokes also making fun of whiteness and thereby refusing to allow whiteness to be seen as normal and default with the way that Alex becomes of the butt of jokes at time.

Despite as much conflict as they get in with one another, they always try to find their way back to each other. From cheesy Polaroids, teaching Alex the magic of riding a bike for the very first time, or comforting Gabriel when he reveals his true origins that he escaped from a juvenile detention, the four of them are tight. An unlikely group to get along.

Polaroid photo of Dariush, Alex, Gabriel, and Zhen Zhen all holding each other.
Pinterest.com

In their own words a group of made up of a

–Nerd.

–Criminal

–Orphan

–Joke

The end of the film sees the four being able to activate the secret military weapon “Excalibur” that is able to wipe out the impending Alien invasion. The four iconically stare up in the sky lit brighter than the 4th of July, as they watch the Aliens’ plans all come down. By the end, you don’t know if Alex, Gabriel, ZhenZhen, and Dariush are ever able to find their families. But you’re not worried for them.

You’re not worried because these four kids were able to do something even the adults themselves couldn’t handle. They quite literally saved the world from total fucking destruction. And most importantly, they have each other. Shit ain’t always sweet, and all they have is each other. And there’s a greater strength in collective action rather than having to do everything on your own.

Honestly, the four of them remind me of some college “kids” I used to know. Maybe that’s why I’m such a fan of the film.

A photo of my friends and I against the backdrop of blue-ish purple sky.
Me with my own “Rim of the World” buddies minus all the stereotypes and race-based humor that this wild ass movie has going on.

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