Season 3 of SKAM is already half way through and I’ve been sucked in, again. After the latest revelation (no spoilers) audiences have had to wait a whole extra week for the next set of installments, which resume tomorrow.
Skam (meaning ‘Shame’ in English) is a Norwegian drama about the everyday life of a group of 16-17 old school kids in Oslo, with each season focusing on one character in an ongoing story line (usually involving a love interest/relationship). Short segments are published every weekday online via the dedicated website, with full episodes combining all the week’s segments broadcast together by NRK every Friday.
The series might be aimed at and watched primarily by teenage girls, but it has created a much wider following, winning three awards at Gullruten this year (equivalent to the BAFTAs in the UK) including best drama and best new TV series. The reasons become clearer the more you watch it. Admittedly when I first decided to check it out (for language learning purposes, I hasten to add), the first episode had me cringing. Partly at myself for choosing to watch such a show (‘teen drama’ isn’t exactly my usual choice) and partly for being transported back to all those awkward moments as a teenager, trying to navigate parties and social circles, with all the hormonal-driven dramas around young female friendships.
That realness however is one of the many appealing and praised aspects of the show. I am by no means an expert on how today’s teenagers behave in Norway (or anywhere for that matter) but Skam seems to offer a strikingly realistic portrayal, for which the actors deserve applause. The characters afterall are what drives the show and despite them sometimes being annoying (as teenagers are) and drinking at a LOT of house parties, they are mostly multi-dimensional, with enough sass to make you vouch for them.
Take strong-willed feminist Noora, who admirably holds onto her beliefs in the peer-pressure high school environment, but who’s vulnerabilities become apparent as the series goes on. There’s also the ‘take-no-shit’ attitude of Sana, a muslim girl who effortlessly bats away ignorance with her sharp tongue and quick, sassy responses, making her in particular a pleasure to watch.
The story lines and themes covered in Skam are typical of teenage life, with all the dramas of first loves and first relationships. But what makes the show stand out is it’s unapologetic approach to more current issues, touching on topics such as the Syrian refugee crisis and date rape in the digital age. This season focuses on a gay relationship, which is also refreshing in that it steps away from the usual stereotypes and deals with emotions and situations many young people in the LGBT community might relate to.
The show is further pushed into the realms of modern television by it’s innovative method of broadcasting. Aside from being primarily an internet-series, Skam makes extensive use of social media both within and outside of the show, with characters holding real-life social media accounts and messenger conversations posted online between episodes. Personally I don’t buy into that too much, but the sequences with characters messaging one another, Facebook-stalking and other typical online activities (which most modern programs forget people do), help Skam seem all the more real. Whether the show is a totally accurate portrayel of today’s youth culture in Oslo, you would have to ask the younger crowd there.
Unfortunately despite the series’ popularity, media reports say Skam has been considered too ‘risque’ by potential foreign buyers, with the show’s internet based set up thought to be too advanced for foreign audiences to follow. Considering in my youth we had Skins, portraying a hedonistic, drug-fuelled view of youth culture in Britain at the time (more idealistic than realistic), I find the idea of Skam being too ‘daring’ in 2016 laughable. Kudos to NRK and P3 (the youth version of the channel) for not underestimating their audience. Though it would be a nice to think more young people outside of Norway are able to relate to and benefit from this series.
If you want to check it out yourself, all seasons and episodes are available to watch for free on the NRK website*. Unfortunately it’s not available in English (yet), though if you’re a Norwegian learner like me, the subtitles make it easier to follow. You’ll also be down with the latest lingo, learning what exactly teens mean by ‘hooking‘ and what it means to be called ‘helt psyko‘.
* Edit 26.02.2017: NRK have now blocked the show for viewers outside of Norway – Apparently there was a licensing issue with the music featured in the show. Sorry guys 😦 Hope it’s resolved by the next season.
Here you can also find a video of the English trailer for the show.