The brand new journalistic Netflix Original series, “Follow This,” which was created by BuzzFeed, follows a new reporter in each episode on their journey deep into web as they attempt to explore new and interesting topics. Although attempting to tackle unique ventures, BuzzFeed, having already established a well-known brand of sugar-coated journalism, continues their usual habits of emphasizing entertainment over education.
Some of the episodic topics from the show include ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), black doomsday preppers, and deep fakes. These various subject matters certainly possess the possibility of creating curious and impactful discussion, but “Follow This” misses the mark here and that is the most disappointing aspect of Netflix’s new show.
Rather than opening the viewer up to fresh information and clear-cut data similar to Netflix’s masterful “Explained” show from Vox, “Follow This” wastes its
15-minute runtimes on the reporter itself. We go through the reporter’s journey of meeting their subjects, interviewing them and reporting fresh findings back to their respective editors. The emphasis appears to be on the awkward nature of those behind these communities and commodities rather than the discovery of enlightening information pertaining to episode’s titular focus.
This is most evident in the series’ first episode, which examines the odd but undeniably popular internet genre of ASMR video. After one of the very neural scientists studying this recent online explosion explains that few amounts of research currently exist surrounding ASMR’s effects on the brain, the journalist, Scaachi Koul, decides to explore a center for ASMR therapy called the Whisper Lodge.
Little explanation is given surrounding the Whisper Lodge’s overall significance and credibility in the overall ASM community and instead we are given an inside look at what occurs inside this type of environment.
The practices that transpire are slightly sexual and intentionally flirtatious whispering, teacher-student roleplay whispering and gentle makeup brush caressing. Yes, these clips are uncomfortable to experience. Yes, they appear to have reversely intended consequences on Koul, who clearly appears the opposite of at ease in her encounters with the staff of the Whisper Lodge. And yes, BuzzFeed hardly acknowledges the cringe which exudes out of this portion of the episode, instead attempting to portray a neutral stance towards the new internet fetish through their editing of the material presented. Koul’s own feelings towards the practices of the Whisper Lodge betray this stance, however, as she unenthusiastically engages in one therapeutic exercise after another.
This show feels very misguided and hardly interested in understanding the material it presents in each episode. “Follow This” simply does what its title tells it to do and follows various subsections of each community its been assigned to research without extracting anything of substantial note. Not everything in the show is a waste, as there are moments of true intrigue like the episode, “Black Survivalists” and its introduction of the charismatic Afrovivalist, a female doomsday prepper who felt drawn to self-sufficiency after experiencing past government failures. We do not get much more insight into her decision to take up this unconventional lifestyle, but our small exposure to her hunting rituals and survival gadgets that sum up her life are undeniably interesting. This is where “Follow This” shines, but these positives are still not enough to save the show from the depths of broad and surface level journalism which plague Netflix and BuzzFeed’s new show.
Consensus: “Follow This” is a documentary series which attempts to focus on interesting subjects but misses in tapping into the intrigue surrounding them. 1.5/5