On Friday 13 July 2018, RTL Television series Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times) launches a big new story with a socially relevant context: the topic of bullying.
In an interview, Damian Lott, producer of the series at UFA Serial Drama, talks about the new storyline and explains why it is important to present such topics.
What do viewers expect from Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (GZSZ)?
Part of GZSZ’s remit is to tackle socially relevant topics such as bulimia, domestic violence or burnout and to tell great, moving stories. This time, we deal with bullying, which represents a daily challenge for our younger viewers, in particular. Our character Luis (played by Maximilian Braun) experiences confrontations with his very narcissistic and ruthless classmate Brenda (played by Annabella Zetsch). The story is characterised by strong emotions. We want to bring the audience closer to the seemingly hopeless situation and thus to the helplessness experienced by Luis in all its facets.
Why did you decide to deal with this topic?
The topic is extremely relevant, especially with regard to our younger viewers. In modern society, it is easier than ever to become a victim of bullying. Immediate and direct communication via social networks means that anyone can be a target. Like Luis, those affected soon find themselves falling into a downward spiral from which it is difficult to escape without the help and support of friends and family.
Why is it important for you to present stories that move and involve so many people on a daily basis in a soap?
GZSZ offers us a platform that reaches many millions of people every week on television, over 1.6 million Facebook fans and over 200,000 followers on Instagram. This reach comes with a responsibility, especially to infuse the stories with socially relevant topics time and time again. When we receive feedback from people affected during the broadcast, who tell us how seriously and realistically we are dealing with these topics, and what kind of energy they draw from them, it’s just fantastic. Sure, we want to move every person sitting in front of the TV with our stories, and to draw them emotionally into the GZSZ world, but we also want to use these stories to keep raising awareness.
Also, on the subject of bullying, will you show how those affected can seek help and that perpetrators do not simply get away with bullying?
Since we are working closely with experts, in this instance the foundation “Mobbing stoppen! Kinder stärken!” (Stop Bullying! Make Children Stronger!), and their prevention and intervention programme “Du doof?!” (Are You Stupid?!) to combat bullying and cyberbullying, it is vital that we tackle a topic seriously. This is as natural to us as the emotions in our stories. We feel such a sense of responsibility that we would never tell such a story simply because of our wish to entertain.
What is “Du Doof?!” and how does it work?
“Du doof?!” is a nationwide, donation-financed prevention and intervention programme launched by the foundation “Mobbing stoppen! Kinder stärken!”. The goal is to counteract the growing problem of bullying at primary schools. Schools are supported by training events and free, innovative teaching and learning materials aimed at sensitising pupils and the school community to this topic. In addition, “Du doof?!” draws attention to the topic with media-effective campaigns which too often unfortunately remain taboo.
Tom Lehel, founder and chairman of the foundation “Mobbing stoppen! Kinder stärken!”, on the collaboration:
Should a topic such as bullying feature in a daily series like GZSZ?
Absolutely. Bullying is a serious societal problem that needs to be highlighted as much as possible, so that a change for the better is possible in the long term.
How do you cooperate with Stiftung RTL – Wir helfen Kindern (Foundation RTL – We Help Children)?
Stiftung RTL – Wir helfen Kindern supports us in our fight against bullying with TV reports about our work and fundraising campaigns, for which we are very grateful. We operate nationwide and are exclusively financed by donations. There is a massive need for preventive care in primary schools and we need the broadest possible support.
30 euros is all it takes to conduct a campaign day at a primary school. 50 euros helps to create the important anti-bullying materials for a school. 200 euros funds the coaching of an entire staff of teachers. Each donation, whether big or small, helps to help the children and make them strong – ready for a self-determined life without the spectre of bullying.
Image: Brenda (played by Annabella Zetsch) and Luis (played by Maximilian Braun) come into a conflict (Credit: MG RTL D)