Need a New Obsession? SKAM Fits the Bill.
In recent weeks, a small but growing portion of the internet has become obsessed with a Norwegian teen drama called “Skam,” which documents the struggles, dreams, hookups, and hangups of a group of 16 and 17-year-old students. “Skam,” which translates to “shame” in English, is an easy binge-watch and one of the only high school series with mildly relatable characters. After finishing the series and realizing I hadn’t gotten out of bed in three days, I reflected on how American high school is portrayed in television, and had a few questions. Where is the acne, the hormones, the long conversations, the silence, the bad angles, the promiscuity, and the vulgar language? Where is real life? “Skam” answers each of these questions with believable, flawed characters, that evolve and transform during full seasons dedicated to each of them.
When it made its debut in September 2015, the series followed 16-year-old Eva, who had been ostracized by her friends and was navigating a rocky relationship with her boyfriend. The first episode became the most viewed NRK TV (Norwegian government owned station) online episode of all time.
While “Skam” continued to gain massive popularity throughout its second season, this time about strong-willed feminist Noora, it’s the third season that appears to have cemented “Skam”’s status as a progressive hit. Season three focuses on a storyline that has been bubbling over ever since the show’s pilot, where main character Isak is forced to come to grips with his sexuality.
With pragmatic dialogue, natural acting, and visually impactful scenes, we get close both in a frame as well as emotionally to the characters, beginning to root for them even when they are at their worst. The shows strength is in its authenticity, the realness inside each tiny moment.
Each conversation and issue faced takes a realistic amount of time, no matter how hard or uncomfortable they may be for the audience watch. The actors themselves seem to be unfazed by these sometimes racy or intense scenes; in fact they seem to be somewhat easy for the actors to portray, as they are conversations and moments that occur in real life.
Aesthetically speaking, “Skam” is beautiful. The colors, lights, and soundtrack tell a story entirely on their own. The camera is never still. It moves along almost imitating a person’s gaze, which creates more realistic and hard hitting scenes.
But beneath the LED lights and the perfectly helixed beanie hats, there is a drama that’s compelling without ever feeling like it’s falling over itself to deal with cliche teen issues. The series touches on important topics for its target group as well as the entirety of modern society, in an intelligent, straightforward and not cliched manner. The issues tackled feel authentic because they are presented sincerely.
Julie Andem, “Skam”’s creator, spent half a year traveling around Norway, interviewing teenagers about their lives in order to make her characters as realistic as possible. To get strong performances from these characters, most of which were first-time actors, Andem auditioned 1,200 people and created their personalities only after she cast them.
As she writes each episode, she uses feedback from the actors and viewers to maintain an authentic storyline. Off air, make-believe profiles on Instagram and Facebook allow fans to interact with their favorite “Skam” characters.
According to Andem, “Skam” aims to reduce kids’ shame about partying, sexuality, loving those who don’t love you back, struggling on social media, and living life in general.
“We found one main need,” she said. “Teenagers today are under a lot of pressure from everyone. Pressure to be perfect, pressure to perform. We wanted to do a show to take away the pressure.” “Skam” is playful when it comes to genre and style, with a mix of realism, drama and comedy; using humor to show that we all are human, we make mistakes. And it works.