RTL with a new strategy – “We don’t need a language police”

Jolina Mennen.  The use of the program-related material is only permitted with reference to and linking to RTL+.

Jolina Mennen wants to encourage other trans people by participating in the jungle camp. Image: RTL+

jungle camp

01/24/2023, 19:3801/24/2023, 19:41

Sophia Sehermann

In the jungle camp, the participants often have to endure humiliating tests, every argument and every exceptional emotional situation is shown – and commented on humorously by the duo Sonja Zietlow and Jan Köppen. On the Instagram channel of “I’m a star – get me out of here!” however, a different picture emerges: there will be Info posts shared, for example on the topics of mindfulness, dealing with conflicts or trans*sensitive language.

That goes down really well with some. Jungle king Prince Damien writes something like: “I think your social media department is doing a particularly good job this year! Very Gen Z and millennial friendly.” However, another Insta user criticizes: “What kind of bigotry are you doing here? Put together a cast that generates as much beef as possible and comes here with non-violent communication?”

What is this dissonance between the TV show and the Instagram channel all about? Watson asked media psychologist Jo Groebel that. The scientist is considered one of the co-founders of modern international media psychology. His expertise includes the impact of TV, film and the Internet on action, thinking, feeling and social interaction as well as on consumer behavior in the market.

Jo Groebel is one of the best-known media scientists in Germany.

Jo Groebel is one of the best-known media scientists in Germany. picture: jo groebel

watson: The jungle camp is considered a “riot format” in which borders are exceeded. Conflict resolution strategies and sensitive language are pointed out on the Instagram account. How does that fit together?

Jo Groebel: Most of the active participants in the jungle camp do not necessarily live the ideal of the educated middle class. Viewers, however, come from the whole spectrum of society. The younger and more educated are then targeted again, for example through Instagram and the “Hour After”. The original, now traditional trash cult is combined with a little more trendiness and even a dose of depth.

Why is RTL posting such content on Instagram?

At Instagram, it’s a younger generation that hasn’t known the jungle camp as a cult show for years and that linear TV can no longer reach. They should be addressed via Instagram and are more sensitive to certain social issues. In addition, there is the so-called line extension: You have a brand, in this case the jungle camp, and you use different channels and new formats that expand the brand in order to get broader attention. From a journalistic point of view, RTL creates another level of publicity for the show.

Does the statement on Instagram hit the right people? Do the people there still have to have such content explained to them?

That’s not the background. The broadcaster’s self-perception is certainly not that a lot has to be explained here, or even that a kind of euphemism has to be offered. That may also play a role, but I don’t think that’s the primary motive. The program is hardly ever questioned publicly, so you don’t have to protect yourself against possible attacks. But a bit more socio-political sensitivity suits the broadcaster well with such a format and also strengthens the image.

During the “hour after” it was said in the moderation that the transgender candidate Jolina Mennen was “once a man”. The social media post previously noted that the correct wording in this case is that she “lived as a man”. Does it make the social media presence inauthentic?

No, you can’t expect people to always express themselves perfectly. Not everyone has already internalized an appropriate language in this way. This is normal language used by people who, even if they are sensitive to the subject, have trouble choosing the right wording at any given moment. There are many people who think appropriately and still don’t always find the right words automatically.

“We don’t need a ‘speech police’ to catch anyone who didn’t think before they spoke.”

To what extent is criticism then justified?

It’s good when there’s a reaction, because that creates sensitivity. But such a slip-up can easily happen to those involved. It’s important to create sensitivity, but we don’t need “speech police” who “get” anyone who hasn’t thought before speaking. It is commendable that there seems to be awareness, but not in the sense that everything is controlled.

Are the jungle camp and similar formats problematic?

For decades I have been critical of malice and malicious joy being made into a business model and that in other formats even the less gifted were actually publicly presented. Yes, people take part in the formats voluntarily. Nevertheless, this also happens for financial reasons or out of a desire for recognition. But that applies to the genre as a whole and not just to the jungle camp.

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What are the social consequences?

It is a propagation of an unfriendly treatment of one another. The gossip, the slander and the mutual beating up are generally part of these formats. Then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many people find hurtful and insulting interactions with one another completely normal. And even as an individual career model, reality shows are dubious. The smarter earlier participants, especially the jungle camp, have been able to take advantage of the short-term fame. It is not a formula for success for tens of thousands.

“The jungle camp is nostalgic and offers distraction, without doomsday scenarios, catastrophes and wars.”

Are there also positive aspects?

It is positive that someone who has always been perceived as very clichéd, for example Djamila Rowe, can show a different side. As a viewer you can see: These are people who are or can be extremely lovable and concerned. Many have presented themselves positively who may previously have been viewed as the “nation’s dorks.” The audience also likes the participants better who weren’t the meanest, meanest and craziest. This caused a sensation in the short term. But queens or kings are more likely to become those who have shown social behavior. And that’s a positive message.

So the jungle camp can also do good?

There is already a certain wear and tear effect. Due to the current crises, however, it is definitely a relief to return to formats that you had actually had enough of, but which are now very comforting. It’s nostalgic and distracting, devoid of doomsday scenarios, catastrophes and wars. A pleasant reminder of seemingly or actually better times.

After four days in the jungle, Claudia Effenberg noticed two things in particular: gossip and complaining. During a night watch with Verena Kerth, Effenberg starts getting upset about objects lying around and clearing them away. The 55-year-old was quickly given the nickname Sergeant by the moderator duo Sonja Zietlow and Jan Köppen.