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Teenagers interact via virtual soap operas

Posted July. 07, 2021 09:00,   

Updated July. 07, 2021 09:00


"Let's break up. Let me be honest. You are not attractive.” A teenage girl named So-yeon, who does not usually get all dolled up, is dumped by her boyfriend, a believer in lookism. So-yeon has a complete makeover thanks to her friend. Then, her ex-boyfriend begs her to reunite. However, she is already dating another boy who loves her inner self no matter how she looks superficially. "Don't even think about texting me again,” So-yeon yells at her ex.

It is quoted from "Girls’ Change Is Not A Sin,” a virtual soap opera created on Metaverse platform ZEPETO run by NAVER affiliate NAVER Z. Since its start in 2018, ZEPETO has gained popularity for its virtual character service with around 200 million users across the globe. Characters on ZEPETO appear in the drama "Girls’ Change Is Not A Sin” with background music and subtitles added by a video editing program to the video. The director of the drama is presumed as a teenager who uploaded it in September 2019. It has gone viral for the recent one year to record more than 540,000 views. Although the plot is based on a simple story full of clichés, the drama has earned attention among teenagers as it talks about how stressful they are about their looks.

ZEPETO-based dramas are becoming popular on YouTube. "How Punks Turn A New Leaf” describes delinquent students sharing friendship and consolation with one another, recording 510,000 views. "If I Like You” is a love story of high school students, earning 160,000 views. Thousands of ZEPETO dramas are available on YouTube.

Gen MZ produces and enjoys ZEPETO dramas, most of which tell a story of teenagers sharing friendship and love against a backdrop of school life. Main characters reflect where Gen MZ is interested or attracted – boy bullies and girls whose no. 1 interest is to look attractive. Some dramas consist of a 10-minute-long single episode while others have as many as five episodes. MZers want not only to enjoy watching dramas but also to produce their own. They even share know-how to produce dramas on internet forums. Some young students do their part in a script, create characters and cooperate on editing. It is a kind of co-production works.

ZEPETO dramas are reminded of online novels that gained popularity in the 2000s according to experts. Just as teenagers in the 2000s would enjoy reading online novels about lives of their peers rather than stories written by professional novelists with boringly serious themes, Gen MZ, who is familiar with video content, creates and enjoys ZEPETO dramas. Jeong Deok-hyun, a critic of popular culture, said, "MZers are open-minded to content, albeit not sophisticated, that talks about their interests,” adding that ZEPETO dramas serve as a playground for them to share their interests and stories as they are accustomed to editing and enjoying video content.