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ACMI Re/commends: Skam: Austin

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Skam (which means shame in Norwegian) brings viewers into the lives of its teen protagonists through daily, real-time video drops and interwoven social media content, revolutionising the way we consume television. The Norwegian web series became an international success thanks to dedicated fans who translated the show for non-Norwegian speaking viewers, often using blogs and Google Drive to share translated content. Skam: Austin is one of eight Skam series to be released after Norway’s hit original and the first from North America, now in its second season.

Like its European counterparts, Skam: Austin follows a group of teenage girls as they navigate high school life in today’s political climate. Each version of Skam includes elements specific to its locale. In Skam: Austin we see football, school dance groups, house parties, and prom. Refusing to shy away from tough topics, this season included discussions about eating disorders, Islamaphobia, queerness, slut shaming, and sexual assault. Skam: Austin’s representation of sexual assault is careful, articulate, and harrowing to watch due to its nauseating realism. Skam chooses to champion female friendship and support as a key part of the recovery process from such a trauma; an important and timely emphasis.

Following the original format, Skam clips were dropped daily via Facebook Watch in real time with the events of the show, while screen caps of the characters’ group messages and Instagram content were also shared with viewers. This method of content sharing embraces a new way of experiencing television – and it works. The comment sections on the clips are filled with vulnerable accounts of fans’ own experiences and feelings, which reveal the show’s unique connection with its viewers.

Skam’s sense of realism is perhaps its greatest achievement. It is unusual in its ability to be deeply rooted in the very moment it is shared. This is a series unconcerned with appearing ‘timeless’. It is far more interested in reflecting the exact social moment its viewers are living through by including the latest slang (‘fit’ short for ‘outfit’) and music (like Lizzo’s hit song ‘Juice’). References like these allow the teen audience to feel included and seen in a society that often dismisses their demographic.

Skam delivers further authenticity by taking its time and including imperfections. The characters fumble, make mistakes, are at times dramatic in ways only teens can be, and there are long pauses when the subject of conversation is awkward. The result is a deeply relatable, intentionally unpolished text that mirrors the modern teenage experience. If parents really want to know what it’s like to be a teen growing up in today’s technology dense, post-Trump society, Skam: Austin is a window into their world.

Summer Gooding, staff writer