What You Need To Know About The Viral Norwegian Teen Drama Tackling Sexuality
But I don't think I've ever excitedly devoured a show more quickly than “Skam,” a Norwegian teen drama that you're either already obsessed with, or haven't yet seen.
I had been seeing recommendations to watch “Skam” for a few weeks before jumping in myself. I actually put it off, thinking nobody had ever heard of this niche Scandinavian show, so I shouldn't really worry about getting invested in it.
That's when I discovered the audience for “Skam” is much larger than I ever would have predicted, taking up huge pockets of Twitter and Facebook, and most especially Tumblr.
Though the teen drama had been popular in its native Norway since premiering in late 2015, it reached an unexpectedly massive international fanbase just a few months ago after its (magnificent) third season aired.
The reason its latest season blew up so much? It deals with a main character's coming out story in an incredibly intimate and profound way.
Before I get into that story that's setting the internet ablaze, I'll outline a few basics for newcomers to the series.
What is “Skam” about?
The show follows its main cast of 16- and 17-year-olds as they enter high school. The feel is very similar to the UK's hit teen drama “Skins,” in that the episodes will follow stories from the perspective of its different main characters.
Season one is told from the perspective of Eva as she faces struggles with her longtime boyfriend. Season two focuses on Noora, who finds herself falling for an older boy whom she initially abhors.
And finally, season three is all about Isak's struggle to accept his homosexuality.
Where can I watch it?
Unfortunately, this is the tricky part. The Norwegian TV station NRK actually geoblocked “Skam” at the beginning of 2017 despite numerous requests from fans for subtitled episodes.
Because of this, it's pretty much impossible for anyone outside of Norway to watch an official version of the show, but the fanbase and demand has grown so much that multilingual fans are now uploading their own subtitled versions of the series.
There are a bunch of Tumblr accounts devoted to sharing Google Drive files of each episode.
I won't be linking to any of these watch-sites here, but Google is your friend.
Is it hard to understand for non-Norwegians?
Once you've found a good, subtitled version of the series, it's easy to follow the stories. There are a few terms that I had to look up when I watched, though, so I'll share them with you here so you can go into the show with no worries.
Basically, the only thing you might need clarified is the Norwegian school system. Students enter high school at age 16 and it lasts three years, so you'll hear a lot of talk about year ones or first graders (freshmen), versus third years (seniors).
There's also the concept of Russ, and buses. Third years are called Russes as they near graduation, and toward the end of the year they have massive parties on buses they've purchased with a group of their friends.
Russ is such a big deal that students will start finding their bus groups and saving up for a bus in their first year, which becomes a central element of season one.
So what's so great about season three?
As I've said before, it was the show's most recent third season that launched “Skam” from a local favorite to an international obsession.
I personally thoroughly enjoyed the first season, and though season two does drag a bit (it is by far the longest, time-wise), it also tells a really gripping story. But season three really took me back with how much attention it gave to Isak's coming out story.
While seasons one and two do an amazing job telling stories about issues in relationships and friendships, season three stands above the rest by shining a light on aspects of sexuality that are very rarely depicted in mainstream media.
In one episode, Isak takes an online “gay test” that asks him superficial questions about his fashion sense and time at the gym. Since he doesn't fall into the stereotypical mold of what society sees a gay man as being, the quiz tells him he's only a little bit gay.
Later, he comes out to his gay roommate Eskild, and rationalizes his recent man-on-man hookup by basically saying he's still straight-acting, unlike the flamboyant Eskild.
I won't spoil Eskild's response, but it is a magnificent and timely take on the toxic “masc-for-masc” discrimination within the gay community.
It's these small, incisive moments that show just how much “Skam” understands and cares about the issues it portrays. No wonder half of Tumblr — the most youth-oriented of popular social media — is already devoted to the socially conscious series.
Should I just skip seasons one and two?
Though the show has the same main cast throughout its seasons, each season does work as its own self-contained story, so you can watch season three on its own without running into much confusion.
There are little bits of backstory you might miss, but if you just want to watch the best season and nothing else, then that should work out perfectly fine for you.
I would recommend watching seasons one and two, though. Season three might be the standout, but that doesn't mean the first two aren't great as well. I actually went into the show knowing season three was the one to watch, and found myself really enjoying one and two, and then keeping three as kind of a dessert.
Will it ever come to America?
As fans await season four of “Skam” to drop in the next few months, they also have an American adaptation of the show to look forward to!
The American series “Shame” (the English translation of “Skam”) is scheduled to go into production this year.
But judging from that horrible American adaptation of “Skins” a few years back, I for one am not putting a lot of faith in “Shame.” It might wind up being good, but I'd definitely recommend watching the Norwegian version first.
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