As a young woman born in the time of Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration, I am one of the millions of people who grew up after the invention of the Internet. I am part of a generation that, to a certain extent, identifies itself via social media.
Personally, I love social media. I know that there are a lot of controversies about the Internet but, for me, it is normal to socialise with my friends and people all around the world online. It is normal for me to educate myself online, to listen to music online, to watch TV online and to discover new things online.
Social media, more specifically Instagram, is how I discovered Skam. It was in December 2016 and I was scrolling through my Explore Feed when a video caught my attention.
The scene was filmed underwater and focused on two boys kissing each other. It all looked very serene and I remember thinking, “Oh, how cute!” but I scrolled further down without thinking about these boys much more.
However, after this video, a lot more pictures, videos and GIFs started showing up on my feed. It felt as if those boys somehow captivated every part of Instagram. I saw them laughing, talking, dancing with other boys and girls but most of the time, I saw them together.
A thing commonly known in the universe of Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter is ‘shipping’. It means wishing for two people to be romantically involved with each other. So, without knowing who these boys were, without any further information about them, I started shipping them. And then I found out where they came from. Skam.
The word itself translates to ‘shame’ in English. Skam is a Norwegian TV and online show, telling the stories of adolescents in Oslo, their everyday life, their challenges and issues, their individuality.
The show revolves around a group of friends. Each season focuses on someone from this group as the main character. You get to know this character’s story and you can also watch the plot of the whole show evolve from the character’s point of view.
In Skam, the characters are attending the sixth form of Hartvig Nissens skole, a school that exists in reality as well.
That is the thing about Skam. It is supposed to be as close to reality as possible, so close that the borders between what is real and what is part of the show start to blend in together.
The characters have their own social media accounts, where they post while a new season is airing. This gives the audience the feeling of being able to actively participate in the lives of these people, by commenting, liking and following their content.
There are screenshots of group chats being posted on the official website of Skam. Some chats get shown on screen during an episode, involving the audience even more in the personal lives of the characters.
The way the episodes get shown are another thing that make Skam one of the most extraordinary, yet most relatable teen dramas on television currently.
Normally, you have a set date where you can switch on your TV, zap to the right channel and enjoy a new episode of your favourite show, right? Well, things are different with Skam.
Let’s say the opening scene of an episode plays at a party on a Saturday night. Then the time it will go online will be in the middle of the night on a Saturday. Or if another scene plays at 9am on a Tuesday at school, then that is the time this scene will be available to watch.
Every Friday the individual scenes are cut together to form a whole episode, which airs on NRK, a public broadcasting company in Norway. That way, you can either watch the snippets throughout the week, which creates a feeling of ‘live participation’ or watch the whole episode at the end of the week. The length of each episode ranges from 20-50 minutes.
The producers of Skam were able to maintain a certain mystery to everything concerning the teen drama. The actors, all young newcomers, hardly ever give interviews. Some of them had no experience in acting at all. Even Julie Andem (34), screenwriter and director of the show, rarely accepts interview offers. This, too, is supposed to serve the purpose of illusion.
They also do not really promote the new season. As soon as season three ended in December, fans started thinking about season four. Who will the main character be? When is the first clip going to air? When does the trailer come online? Conspiracy theory over conspiracy theory but the producers and actors remained silent.
Then, last Friday, the sudden announcement: season four of Skam will start Monday, April 10. The main character is going to be Sana, a Muslim teen who tends to speak her mind. And also, season four is going to be the last.
A trailer dropped, Julie Andem shared in an Instagram post the reason why the show is going to end and now, not even a week later, we already have the first three clips of the new season.
But is this really all? Is this why Skam got so popular in such a short time? Because it is so close to reality?
No. There is another reason.
Everything about Skam, the plot, the characters, the issues, is relatable for today’s youth. There are a lot of teen shows out there, telling you stories about teenagers transforming into supernatural creatures, stories about mysterious deaths, stories about the life as a high school princess, a high school jock, a high school outcast. But all these stories vary too much from our own lives. Sure, you fawn over all these characters, but is that because you can relate to the plot or because you find these shows entertaining?
I do not want to say that Skam is not entertaining, because it definitely is, as well as heart breaking and infuriating but most of all, it is authentic.
Skam was made to be for adolescent girls in Norway but it soon became of universal appeal.
A quarter of Norway’s four million people is already hooked and watches the show throughout the week. Some even skip school or stay up all night to make sure not to miss a new clip.
Skam has also gained a lot of popularity all around the world after its main topic in season three was homosexuality. Even though there is no translation besides fan-made subtitles, it is being watched in the UK, the United States, Germany, Spain, Russia, China, the Philippines and a lot of other countries.
The show addresses a lot of issues that matter to most teenagers more than adults may think. Throughout the seasons, they talk about relationships, feminism, eating disorders, mental illnesses, loving and becoming yourself, sexualities, friendships and politics (eg the refugee crisis).
Now, with a Muslim girl as the main character, I am sure Skam will provide a great insight into what it is like to be Muslim. Islamophobia and xenophobia have never been as big an issue as they are right now and therefore I believe that season four will educate the whole audience of Skam on this very urgent topic.
Skam offers an authentic storyline and a realistic portrayal of its characters, their lives, issues and challenges. The show does not dumb down or ridicule the life of today’s youth but rather embraces it.
It values the intelligence and individual striving of each character and offers a good insight into the mind of a teenager. This show is a rare treasure that is able to educate everyone who is willing to watch.
And trust me, it’s worth it.
Isak, main character in season three