‘When They See Us’ Earns 23M Viewers And Becomes Most-Watched Series On Netflix DirectExpose
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‘When They See Us’ Earns 23M Viewers And Becomes Most-Watched Series On Netflix

Published on August 11, 2019


When They See Us is a mini docuseries about the famous trial and false conviction of five men for a heinous crime in New York City. The true Central Park Five, a name given by the media for the defendants, shared their story with Netflix to create a thrilling four-part show that has captured 23 million viewers since its release. Here’s why so many people have been enthralled with this Netflix series.

The True Story Of The Central Park Five

When They See Us is based on the true story of five young men who were wrongfully convicted of rape and assault of a white female jogger in 1989. All five men, including others who were arrested and let go, were black or Hispanic. The racial undertones of this case brought to light the real struggle that people of color still faced in the late 80s and 90s — and still today — in the criminal justice system. The men were coerced and threatened into confessing for the crimes. In the docuseries, the boys were promised freedom and threatened with years in prison if they did not confess. They were 14 to 16 at the time and did not understand their rights or the brutal circumstances in which they were placed. In 2002, after a confession by a serial rapist and murderer serving a life sentence, DNA evidence was used to exonerate the young men. The docuseries portrays the events of the arrests and trial with the help of the five men’s personal stories.

Praise For When They See Us

When They See Us has been praised by the media for its compelling and emotive portrayl of the dark reality people of color face in the criminal justice system. Produced by breakthrough filmmaker Ava DuVernay, the series has exploded in popularity on Netflix.  Recently, on June 12, Netflix released a statement that When They See Us was the most-watched series in the U.S. on the platform since its release. It received 16 Emmy nominations including the nomination for Outstanding Limited Series alongside HBO’s Chernobyl. The show also won four African American Film Critics Association Honors awards. One of the series’ stars Jharrel Jerome won the AAFCA’s award for Breakout Performance, while the show won Best Limited Series, Best Ensemble, and Best Writing.

Director Celebrates Victory For POC In The Media

When They See Us is not only a commercial success for Netflix, but a personal success for director Ava DuVernay and the cast. After Netflix announced the staggering numbers, she tweeted a heartfelt thank you to the cast and viewers who helped make the story a success: “Imagine believing the world doesn’t care about real stories of black people. It always made me sad. So when Netflix just shared with me that 23M+ accounts worldwide have watched #WhenTheySeeUs, I cried. Our stories matter and can move across the globe. A new truth for a new day.” After the Emmy nominations, she also thanked the real-life Central Park Five, who helped create the series to be accurate to the events that took place. Fans on Twitter shared their sympathy for the Central Park Five and their feelings after watching the powerful series. One fan tweeted, “For anyone who has Netflix, #WhenTheySeeUs is an unreal series…it’s scary to think that things like that happened not even that long ago.” As social media buzz for the show grows, more and more viewers will be inspired to act and ask for change in the world. Stay tuned September 22 to see if When They See Us will win a 2019 Emmy for the cast and crew’s outstanding work. 

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