Not everyone has such an understanding grandmother: “Do you still have laundry for me?” she asks in her grown-up granddaughter’s room: “One second”, replies Malaika (Maddy Forst). She’s still working. Grandma nods and closes the door. Malaika keeps taking pictures of herself, first in her underwear, then she takes off her bra. For money, she takes photos for WatchMe, a fictional version of the real platform OnlyFans, a kind of social media for pornographic content. Users pay for revealing photos, videos and live streams of their favorite actors, they are called “creators”. In the ZDF series WatchMe the storylines follow the different ways of using the platform. Some see themselves as porn actors, others as sex workers. For some it is an act of self-determination, others feel pressure.
But Malaika sees herself as an activist. She gets sexualized anyway by uploading selected photos of her body to WatchMe, she takes advantage of it – that’s how she sees it. Another, Josh (Simon Mantei), has sex with his younger friend Tim (Michelangelo Fortuzzi) in front of the camera. Toni (Anna Werner Friedmann) initially sees WatchMe as a quick buck. Then the single mother actually finds a connection to her sexuality again through the platform.
But the limits of pornography also begin to blur – when a customer visits Toni at home (“I’m not a prostitute”). Self-determination disappears for Malaika when her manager publishes her pictures without her consent. The reactions of their fans move them to a cosmetic surgery.
The series was only shot in early 2023, within a few weeks
The camera gets close to the protagonists of the series, even in the quite ruthlessly filmed sex scenes. They work in WatchMe real and less sugarcoated than other productions, the series has been rated FSK16. An intimacy coordinator, Marit Ostberg, acted on the set, director Alison Kuhn (“The Case You”) staged. In the explicit negotiation of sexuality, also in the diversity of the protagonists WatchMe a little bit of the successful British series Sex Educationwhich is now in its fourth season.
A deeper story emerges in WatchMe but no, the main characters mean little more than their job on the porn platform. The series also consists of only six short episodes, each between fifteen and twenty minutes long, and it was made in record time. WatchMe was not filmed until the beginning of 2023, in the format that ZDF calls instant fiction. This is what happens within a few weeks serieswhich are intended to cover current topics particularly quickly.
This is also the case for the OnlyFans platform, which has been the subject of controversy since it was founded in 2016. Does it encourage self-empowerment? Or rather abuse of power and data? This debate was last covered in the media as a podcast (“Hype & Hustle – the OnlyFans Revolution”) processed and in public-law documentation. With WatchMe a small fictional production has now emerged – but in order to really take part in the success of a series like Sex Education to be able to continue, one should have taken time for more depth.
WatchMe, six episodes, in the ZDF media library.
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