Hollyoaks launch new online campaign to tackle bullying!

by Anna Howell

The award-winning teen drama, Hollyoaks, Channel 4 Education and BeatBullying have all joined forces to tackle online bullying.

The hit Channel 4 soap, Hollyoaks is set to explore the issues around bullying, cyber bullying and the related problems of social media in a digital age in a challenging story-line and special online project, in light of one of its current storylines already tackling the subject.

Viewers will already have seen sixth form student Esther (Jazmine Franks) suffer bullying at the hands of her group of friends, in particular Maddie (Scarlet Bowman) and Sinead (Stephanie Davis), and while to some it may seem like harmless ‘banter’ and ‘mickey taking’ to Esther the constant teasing builds to a much more serious issue leaving her feeling isolated and scared to go to college.

We reported yesterday, how Maddie’s torment of Esther is set to intensify next week when Esther is set up by the gang for a horrid prank.  Believing that she is going to meet a new friend she found online, she is horrified when she gets a call from the friend on route to meet her, saying that she had been followed.

When Esther turns up she finds what she believes to be a dead body, before being grabbed from behind by an unknown assailant.  In reality, the friend was made up, controlled by Maddie, the dead body was Ruby (Anna Schafer) and the grabber, Bart McQueen (Johnny Clarke), but poor Esther was so terrified, she ends up wetting herself, which of course Queen Bee Maddie captures on film and instantly posts online!

This is just the latest of a long line of bullying that Esther has been subjected to, having already had two indident of her underwear showing posted on line at the hands of her so-called-mates!

The launch is set to take place on screen, when fellow student Dylan innocently decides to create a bespoke micro-blogging site, ‘DocYou’ to enter a filmmaking competition. The other sixth formers misuse it and it becomes a public forum to broadcast humiliating content about Esther leaving her unable to escape the torment. With her peers posting embarrassing videos and comments 24 / 7 the mistreatment becomes constant and unbearable. Her own bedroom is no longer free from bullying.

DocYou will explore the issues raised in the main TV drama, taking the lives of its sixth form characters online with the creation of Channel 4’s first fictional micro-blogging site within a TV show. Renowned for its ability to confront difficult youth issues, the award-winning Hollyoaks writing team have created a range of compelling and exclusive content, building on the in-show storylines and released in the form of videos, photos and text posts, highlighting major challenges faced by British teenagers including cyber bullying, relationships, privacy and the dangers and pitfalls of revealing too much online.

Created by Lime Pictures’ digital team and commissioned by Channel 4 Education, the project is supported by BeatBullying and will explore the impact of social media on everyday life, and what happens when somebody is constantly picked on in small ways. This ground-breaking initiative will add a whole new level of depth to the story and highlight how easy it is to miss what is really happening on a site full of seemingly benign content and how this content can become an additional source of bullying for some people.

Advice and support will be provided on the official Hollyoaks website (www.e4.com/hollyoaks), including behind the scenes videos of the cast talking about the issues raised and their own experiences of beating the bullies, as well as a dedicated Facebook page which allows the audience to get involved by expressing their views on the events taking place and sharing their own experiences.

Hollyoaks will also work with BeatBullying offline in a series of events and initiatives that will see some of the Hollyoaks cast train and shadow as cyber mentors to raise awareness of the issues of bullying and the fantastic work BeatBullying engages in with young people. As a further commitment to tackling the issue, Channel 4 Education have funded BeatBullying Cyber mentor training schemes in four schools across the country to coincide with National Anti-Bullying week in November.

Hollyoaks is the only continuing drama for young people and has long been credited for tackling difficult youth issues with sensitivity and integrity. Recent story-lines include; gender dysphoria, mental health, teen pregnancy, rape, youth homelessness and drug and alcohol abuse. The youth drama has been tackling the issue of teen bullying since May and the story-line will develop right through to the New Year. The story realistically approaches the issue with subtly as we see the ‘teasing’ progressively worsen leaving a once confident and self-assured young woman in a very lonely and desperate situation.

Lime Pictures have also previously explored digital story telling in online spin off dramas Hollyoaks: The Morning After the Night Before and Hollyoaks: Freshers; the former being an anti-binge drinking project in association with the Home Office.

Bryan Kirkwood, Executive Producer of Hollyoaks comments, “Hollyoaks has always had a youth focus and we never shy away from tackling difficult youth issues. I am really proud of this story and how it realistically approaches bullying which is so relevant to our audience.”

Channel 4 Education Editor Gemma Brady said, “We are delighted to be working with Hollyoaks on this project. The show has a strong track record of tackling difficult issues and feels like the perfect home to explore the complexities of bullying in a connected age.”

Hollyoaks is on C4 week nights at 6.30pm with a first look on E4 week nights at 7pm. Viewers can also catch up on demand www.C4.com/4oD.

DocYou will go live on 25th October straight after Hollyoaks at 6.30pm on Channel 4 – www.e4.com/docyou