Face Down: Analysis of the Reception of the Tv Series "Normal People" Among Millennials in Serbia and Conceptualization of the Sudden Error in Research


  • Ildiko Erdei Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade




TV series, Normal people, millennials, viewer enjoyment, research error


The TV series Normal People (2020) is based on the 2018 novel of the same name by the young Irish writer Sally Rooney. The book achieved tremendous popularity, particularly among younger audiences – so-called millennials – and the TV series only added new layers of popularity and identification. The success of both of these works can be explained by the skillful way in which Rooney has managed to link and intertwine the romance between the protagonists with the social context in which it is set, thus depicting the generational experience of growing up with the consequences of ay social and economic crisis. This is something that young people could identify with, not only in Ireland but also in other societies affected by the economic crisis which began in 2008, and to which many new crises have since been added (the latest one being the health crisis due to the pandemic), while many earlier ones still reverberate in people’s experiences. Seeking to examine how the globally broadcast TV series Normal People has resonated with the local reception context and viewers’ experiences, in this paper I focus on the aspect of reception of this series by its audience in Serbia, aiming to shed light on the dimension of "viewer enjoyment" in viewing practice and to address the question of the importance of this aspect of "watching TV" for the understanding of the meaning and social impact of television texts. It turned out that the initial idea of collecting material for analysis through an open invitation to participate in online research, with an essay response to the question about the reasons why they enjoyed watching the show (or not), was flawed, as the response rate was lower than expected, which resulted in the empirical "thinning" of the research, but also provided an opportunity to consider some of the problems in qualitative (online) research on contemporary issues and media texts. Exploring these methodological and epistemological problems unexpectedly became an important part of the paper, alongside the research results. The research itself pointed to a new type of viewer, namely, expert viewers, who have become experts through being active in complex technological environments in which they watch TV content, and which they use to inform themselves about it. In addition, the results indicate that the practice of bingeing, linked to the intensification of enjoyment and identification of female viewers, is very widespread. Finally, the most important themes mentioned in their comments were the themes of gender relations/sexuality and the questions of class and social inequality, along with mental health. A "symptomatic reading" of the comments of Normal People’s female viewers in Serbia reveals shared concerns and anxieties in dealing with a rapidly changing world, which is constantly being faced with crises – past ones, current ones, those that have just subsided or those that are yet to come, creating a new sense of "collective fragility", individual, economic or political.


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How to Cite

Erdei, Ildiko. 2022. “Face Down: Analysis of the Reception of the Tv Series ‘Normal People’ Among Millennials in Serbia and Conceptualization of the Sudden Error in Research”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 17 (2):487–522. https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v17i2.3.

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