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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

“SKAM”’s universal appeal


Norwegian show takes the world by storm

I’m usually not a fan of shows about teenagers because the characters tend to be cliched stereotypes, and the storylines are too “out there.” Where are everyone’s parents? Do these people ever go to school? Why couldn’t they just text each other in this crisis situation? So, as crazy and exciting as show premises may be, not many people want to stay tuned if there is too large of a disconnect between what we are willing to accept as “believable” and what we are seeing on the screen.

And this might be why the hit Norwegian show SKAM (translated: “shame”) has taken the world by storm; it all just feels so real. I often felt as if I was overhearing a personal conversation between the characters because the acting is incredibly authentic, and the dialogue doesn’t feel scripted even for a moment. Maybe that’s why it’s watched by people of all ages in Scandinavia. I also love that SKAM focuses on the daily dramas and heightened emotions of young people that are often dismissed.

The show centers on the students of Hartvig Niessen School, with each season focusing on one character and a specific dilemma that they are facing. The audience watches them struggle, learn about themselves and eventually accept themselves. They deal with rape culture, Islamophobia and homophobia, and it’s all addressed in an authentic way, unlike the preachy, afterschool special vibe present on so many teen shows.

Besides the realistic dialogue and acting, the series also has each episode posted online in real time. For example, if a character texts another that there will be a party on Wednesday night, that segment of the episode containing the party will be posted online on Wednesday night for viewers to watch – almost as if they were right there with them, and were personally invited. Then, all of the segments are combined at the end of the week to form one complete episode. The characters also have their own Instagram accounts, and text messages between them are also posted sporadically online. The young actors themselves, however, are incredibly sheltered from the public to maintain the authenticity of the show. They have made few promotional appearances and are strictly forbidden to talk about the show, which only adds to the mystery and allure.

The creator of the series, Julie Andem, auditioned over 1,200 actors for the roles, and built the characters around the chosen actors, adding to the realism. I have reluctantly gotten used to 25-year-old male models playing 16-year-old sophomores in high school, so I was a little taken aback by how accurately young and acne-ridden the characters are — truly a refreshing sight today in television.

Since the show is entirely in Norwegian, some fans have been adding subtitles themselves and spreading the content online. NRK, the Norwegian producer of the show, will not be providing subtitles for the show despite its massive popularity, stating that “the music rights are only negotiated for a Norweigan speaking audience.” This has apparently caused issues, as no one expected the show to blow up quite like it did, and it’s become a complicated process to work out music rights of featured songs by NAS, Justin Bieber, Lana Del Rey and N.W.A. Hopefully, this will all be worked out in time for Season 4, which is set to premiere in March.

So far, each season has ended on the character on whom the following season was focused, but the answer isn’t so clear for the fourth season, and there’s been a lot of speculation online. Looks like we’ll just have to wait and see.

Written by: Pari Sagafi — arts@theaggie.org


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