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girls walking around Oslo beside a tram
girls walking around Oslo beside a tram
Original photo by Lauren Zweerink

Revisiting Surprise Hit Skam Five Years Later

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

In 2017 I watched the most unlikely hit show. Skam, a Norwegian TV show, started in 2015 and was immediately popular in Norway before becoming something of a global cult classic. You were either obsessed with it or you’d never heard of it, there was no in-between, and recently I decided to sit down for a rewatch. For those of you who have never heard about it, Skam follows the lives of a group of teenagers in Oslo and deals impressively with themes including loneliness, friendship, sexuality, love, religion, and sexual assault. Rewatching this show was a bit like rediscovering music you loved years ago: comforting and nostalgic. I highly recommend anyone who’s never seen it to check it out after I break down some of what makes Skam so special!

One of the most interesting aspects about Skam was the release style. Originally, it was published in real-time on the Norwegian broadcasting website in the form of clips, text conversations, and social media posts before being combined into one episode each week. However, because of music licensing restrictions, Skam could only be shown in Norway. This meant that the rest of us had to get creative. English subtitled episodes were uploaded to Google Drive and shared across social media and now, on my rewatch I’ve discovered a Tumblr account dedicated solely to compiling all four seasons. I also really enjoy the filming style of the show, which is done in more of a documentary style, with a shakier camera and choppy cuts. I think it adds to the authentic and realistic feel, even though it lacks the stylization or sophistication of other teen favourites.

When I first watched Skam I remember the friendships between the characters to be one of my favourite aspects of the show. On my rewatch that has not changed. I think Skam does an excellent job at portraying realistic friendships and more importantly, realistic, well-rounded characters. There’s someone everyone can relate to. With a new central character each season, the show has a diverse and wide-ranging spread of themes and ideas. Whether it’s Eva’s isolation and insecurity, Noora’s strong opinions and independence, Isak’s struggle with his sexuality, or Sana’s balancing of religion and culture, Skam offers a diverse and realistic look at high schoolers. There’s an undercurrent of identity throughout the entire show, something that I think everyone struggles with at some point. Identity often gets overlooked in teen media in favour of more glamourous and scandalous drama and by embracing it Skam is a breath of fresh air. The first season sees Eva navigating her relationship with her boyfriend and dealing with insecurity, identity, and loneliness as she struggles to make friends and find herself. It also serves as an introduction to the world and characters who make up Skam, and the way storylines weave together seems natural and cohesive. The next three seasons see main characters Noora, Isak, and Sana dealing with their own issues and give the viewer an insight into their lives that had previously only been lightly touched on in other seasons. I really enjoyed this form of storytelling as it allowed the viewer to essentially become one character for a season and follow them while the other characters’ lives continued.

Skam is truly a one-of-a-kind show. Its ability to become an underground global sensation that spawned multiple different versions in other countries without any promotion is unprecedented and a true credit to its quality. Rewatching Skam reminded me how interesting I found the Norwegian culture. The differences to my own Canadian high school experience were captivating, however, I loved how relatable I found the characters, and I think that is the show’s biggest draw. I highly encourage anyone looking for their next binge to give it a try!

Anabella is a fourth year student at Queen's University majoring in global development studies. She loves reading, music, movies, writing, and travelling!
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