Is there a Norwegian word for that feeling of being friends with sitcom characters? Because that's exactly how Skam got me.
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. 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.
So how does it work? For the casual viewer, clips dropping daily on Facebook Watch would be enough. But beyond this, the show has a massive, almost uncanny social media presence. All the characters (not actors) have Instagram accounts, and fans interact as though the characters are reading: "I love your hair like this Megan!!", and notice when fighting characters like each other's posts. One character has a YouTube channel. And of course, there's extensive networks of fan fiction. Around a key event in this season, the Facebook comment sections filled out with vulnerable accounts of fans’ own experiences, revealing the show’s unique connection with its viewers.
But the success of the show comes from more than just this Her-esque feeling of being friends with the characters. Season two sees the teenage protagonists facing 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 champions female friendship and support as a key part of the recovery process from such a trauma: an important and timely emphasis.
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.
By Summer Gooding, staff writer