Norway, 2015. The new online youth series ‘Skam’ is launched. The series uses an innovative storytelling format to follow the daily life of teenagers. It covers topics like friendship, school, love, mental health, and identity, and so on. They upload a new real-time video every day to the broadcaster’s website and combine all of these updates into one episode by the end of the week. Skam broke all viewership records, received a lot of praise in Norway, and became hugely popular in other countries. So when Telenet and Sputnik Media wanted to make a Flemish remake called ‘wtFOCK’, it was up to Allyens to make sure this version would be a success too.
From research to authentic representation
One of the reasons Skam is so popular is because it has a very authentic depiction of the lives of Generation Z-ers. It is important to see things you can actually recognize and relate to and that is why we wanted to truly discover what is on the minds of 15- to 17-year olds these days. All in all, we conducted 6 months of research, with 50 in-depth interviews with teenagers. The topics of these interviews included friendship, family, communication, language, style, school, music, media, love, sex, relationships, spare time, going out, food, money, religion, and how they look at the future. This gave us a trustworthy insight into Generation Z culture in general.
The importance of diversity
The series needed to realistically represent today’s world. That is why we made sure we had a good mixture of respondents. On top of that, we prepared specific questions for different minorities. For example, we asked gay teenagers who should take the first step in a relationship, or we asked teenagers with a headscarf how they feel about wearing one. The conclusions from our research helped Sputnik Media stay away from stereotypical representation and exaggerated situations. For instance – and spoiler alert – you will not see a teen pregnancy, but you will see a girl who visits her doctor after she had unprotected sex. A situation that will not only be more relatable for a lot of teenagers but also teaches them something.
Inclusive representation leads to success
wtFOCK currently has 4 seasons each of which centers around a main character and theme. It is one of the most successful online series in Belgium ever. Thanks to the extensive research and preparations behind it, it is very well made, credible, and authentic. And this is reflected in the views. The first season attracted 100,000 unique viewers. During the first weeks of the second season, the audience grew to 200,000 viewers. The third season finished with 450,000 viewers. Inclusive representation matters!