Follow This

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Follow This TV Poster Image
Thought-provoking show digs into quirky internet corners.

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Positive Messages

Themes include respect for opposing points of view, the importance of being able to work and live safely and happily. Investigations are considerate and curious and treat subjects with dignity. Spotlighted people are sometimes members of controversial groups: sex workers, men's rights advocates. They may say iffy things viewers may not agree with. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women and people of color are well-represented in BuzzFeed's reporter pool. Journalists treat their interviewees thoughtfully and kindly, though they may ask questions that make subjects or viewers uncomfortable.

Violence

Violent visuals are low to nonexistent in most episodes, but a few contain content that may disturb some viewers, such as a segment in which a survivalist skins and guts a just-shot wild turkey. Some episodes talk frankly about violence, such as a subject who non-graphically relates being raped and forced into sex work when she was 12, and a sex worker who describes her fears that she'll be assaulted or even murdered on the job. 

Sex

Subjects can verge on the sexual, such as an episode on intersex people that frankly describes genital variations, and another in which a woman talks about the many sex work jobs she's had, including stripping and "camming." 

Language

Language varies depending on the segment. Some have no cursing at all, others allow "f--k" and "s--t" to slip by unbleeped. In other episodes, language includes "damn," "f--ked," "whores," "ho," and "hell." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most episodes don't touch on drugs and alcohol, but one episode that targets opiate addiction shows users in a "safe injection" site, mixing and cooking their drugs and sitting blankly after shooting up, but not actually using the syringes they hold. A woman talks about alcohol's role in her rape and human sex trafficking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that documentary series Follow This features BuzzFeed reporters investigating controversial subcultures. These include men's right advocates, sex workers, opiate addicts, survivalists, and more. Each may say or do things that viewers may find iffy or unacceptable, but reporters treat their subjects with respect and allow them to freely air their views and talk about what they do and why. Subjects may be connected with violence, sex, and or addictive substances, such as an episode on opiate addiction that partly takes place inside a safe heroin injection site, where we see users preparing their drugs and in a daze after taking them (but not actually sticking a needle in their arms). Sex workers talk frankly about rape, the danger of assault and murder, and children who are forced into sex work. An episode on survivalists shows a hunter skinning and gutting a wild turkey. Language is clean in many episodes, but some allow curses ("f--k," "f--ked," "s--t") to be aired unbleeped. 

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What's the story?

The daily work of BuzzFeed's culture reporters involves digging into the interesting, unusual, and just plain weird things that people do and say online -- FOLLOW THIS puts visuals to the words these journalists create. Viewers shadow the reporters as they take a look at the intersex community, men's rights activists, sex workers, and ASMR enthusiasts, among other subjects, seeking answers to the questions the uninitiated have about each subculture. Quirky and curious, yet respectful, these reporters detail the who, what, where, when, and why of modern phenomena most can only read about. 

Is it any good?

Bent on investigating some of the odder corners of the internet, this thought-provoking show ferrets out intriguing details and treats its subjects with dignity and respect. That last point is important, because in the wrong hands, these types of social/cultural explorations can all too easily turn into a freak show. But the BuzzFeed reporters featured on the show are both game and empathetic, if occasionally nonplussed by, say, the sight of an African American survivalist pulling the guts out of a freshly shot wild turkey, or a session at ASMR sensory spa Whisperlodge that begins with all the participants donning blindfolds.

Primarily, the reporters are there to get to the bottom of just why people come together online to do something unique: talk about intersex issues, plan a sex worker uprising, disseminate information on safe heroin injection sites. And while we're getting a good long voyeuristic look at BuzzFeed's subjects, we also get a satisfying blast of "Did you know?"-type info, the kinds of anecdotes that make you look smart at parties. We also follow a sex worker who had to accept "riskier" work when advertising for her services was restricted online: "It's terrifying," she says unblinkingly, admitting that she brings pepper spray and a knife along in her purse. "Every day I go to work and think 'This could be the day I don't come back.'" Intense. Moving. Engrossing. That's Follow This in a nutshell. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the news. Do you think Follow This is reporting real news? How is it different from a traditional news show? Is it better? More entertaining? More or less valuable?

  • How do the BuzzFeed reporters featured on this show demonstrate curiosity and empathy in their reporting? Why are these important character strengths?

  • Have you read BuzzFeed online? Is this the sort of show you would have expected to be connected to that website? Why or why not? How is the subject matter on Follow This different from the content online?

  • How do you think the makers of Follow This want the viewer to feel when they are done watching the show? Do they want to inspire action or emotion? What brings you to this conclusion?

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