At the end of Skam’s third season, three words shine across a dark screen: “ALT ER LOVE.” “Everything is love”, in Norwegian. If you spend as much time on the Internet as I do, you may have heard of the little teen show from Norway that has become a viral phenomenon. It’s easily one of the most binge-able shows ever (flashback to me marathoning season one on New Year’s Eve, and only stopping because my plans got in the way) and it will briefly take over your life. Of course, an American adaptation has already been announced. In the grand tradition of teen shows, Skam deals with a variety of issues. But show creator Julie Andem wanted it to be as honest as possible: no character is wholly good or bad, and they all have a lot of learning to do. And isn’t that exactly what growing up is? Eva must face the consequences of betraying a friend; cool feminist Noora can be preachy and hypocritical; and Isak’s internalized homophobia rises when he falls for the enigmatic Even. The issues aren’t high drama; they’re relatable. And it’s all handled in such a normal way that it’s easy to forget it’s fictional.
So how will an American translation be successful? Part of what makes Skam so authentic is the adoption of technology as a storytelling device. Just like in real life, cellphones feature prominently: characters text each other on screen, stalk their crushes on Instagram, and spread gossip at the speed of light. Any teen or millennial can appreciate the potential for drama that a cellphone holds. The format of the show is also shaped by technology: clips and text messages are uploaded online in real time, blurring the lines between reality and television.
But if I can get political for a second, I’d argue that Skam is one of the most important shows out right now. In a world of sensationalized drama, Skam dedicates itself to fair, authentic representation, without judgment. This means that things like mental illness aren’t overwrought. Some characters are sexually active and others are not. The boys’ love story is remarkably natural. And—perhaps most importantly—there is Sana, a hijab-wearing Muslim girl who is just a regular part of the girl gang. “If you hear anybody use religion to legitimize their hate, don’t listen to them,” she tells Isak, “Because hate doesn’t come from religion, it comes from fear.” I strongly believe in media’s power to shape minds, which is why this sort of low-key, honest storytelling is necessary when adapting the show, especially now with a certain new American president in power.
To be less serious, this show is just cool. Besides offering fashion inspiration (there’s an entire blog dedicated to Noora’s outfits), Skam has a killer soundtrack that feels like a character in itself (Spotify recently released an official playlist). Seriously, every memorable moment is set to the perfect song, whether it’s the “girl squad” slo-mo power walking to Peaches (language NSFW), or William and co.’s Kanye-style entrance (language NSFW), or the infamous “Call Your Girlfriend” scene. I don’t think I’ll be able to hear certain songs without thinking of the corresponding Skam scene for a long time (sorry, The Weeknd).
If you’re interested, a quick google search should lead you to the show. In the meantime, check out the following links:
- Get into the music: The Weeknd, Kanye West, Childish Gambino, and Robyn are among the top-played artists
- Oslo’s official Skam travel guide
- What in the world is a “Russebuss”?