Youth Aesthetics – in Scandinavian Television

Skam, Lovleg, Doggystyle, Semester, Yes No Maybe, Skitlycklig, Blank… We’ve been hit by a massive flow of Scandinavian youth series in television the last couple of years. At least here in Scandinavia.

The series give a nice little insight in the young peoples lives: Parties, studying and problems in relationships and with friends. Basically the same themes as 25 years ago, when Beverly Hills 90210 was the shit.

Despite the similar themes, I find the Scandinavian series to be much more interesting than Beverly Hills was 25 years ago. The main reason is probably the culture: It is much easier to relate to the stories from fellow Scandinavians. I am Scandinavian myself. So I’ve spent evening after evening watching youth television, eventhough many would say I’m too old. And I have enjoyed it!

One of the things I’ve noticed that the series have in common, is an unfinished, unpolished, raw, snapchat- and instagram inspired aesthetic. In brief: Time isn’t spent on the details. Title sequences, for instance, look like Wordart from the mid 90s (see makewordart.com).

Trailer for DR3’s drama series Doggystyle – notice the aesthetics

Why do I like the aesthetics?

When I first started making videos, my equipment was very basic. I tried different DIY camera hacks in order to make interesting visuals, and the editing software I had was very basic compared to those on the market today. So title sequences were typically very bombastic.

But it was fun to make videography because experimenting with the visuals, both physically and digitally, was a must. And it didn’t really matter if it didn’t look perfect. Errors were after all the most interesting part of a production.

And, as far as I see, this is also true for the new wave of youth television. They use a lot of jumpcuts (visible jumps from one clip to another), handheld/shaken footage, and the subject sometimes goes in and out of focus.

All those visual imperfections are typically seen as errors, and errors I’ve been trying to avoid the past couple of years. But in these series, they give a lot of mood and authenticity. It almost feels like travelling back in time, back to my own youth.

However, the part I find most inspiring is the use of title sequences. None of the series have spent much energy on motion graphics. The titles are typically large, static displays with heavy lettering, big-ass font-sizes and hefty colors. Have a look at a couple of title seqeunce examples below for inspiration.

  • Screendump of Yes No Maybes title sequence
  • Screendump of "Semesters" title sequence
  • Screendump of Doggystyles title sequence
  • Screendump of Lovlegs title sequence

The transition from one scene to another is typically also highlighted with big and bold titles. See the examples from Skam and Lovleg below.

  • Titel, der markerer overgang fra en scene til en anden i serien Skam
  • Titel, der markerer overgang fra en scene til en anden i serien Buksemyndig (lovleg)

Smartphones are vital for the Young people in the series, and their use of text messages, facetime calls, and social media is often illustrated in different ways in the series. See examples from YES NO MAYBE and Doggystyle below.

  • Text messages are often used as part of the narrative in many Scandinavian Youth series, for instance as seen here in YES NO MAYBE
  • Doogystyle - the story format / snapchat is often used as a visual, narrative element in the series

My guess is that the aesthetics in the series are inspired by smartphones – for instance, big and bold titles are often seen in the story format on Snapchat and Instagram. And basically everything on a smartphone is often shaky and unpolished, and then made visually appealing with a simple instagram-filter or the likes. So, are the aesthetics in Scandinavian youth television basically just inspired by smartphones?

Anyways: I find it liberating to see the unpolished aesthetics. And for the next project, I’ll embrace the imperfections, and tell myself that I’m just making a hip youth-like production.

Cheers;-)

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