How is it that a low production teen drama project manages to become a viral hit and build a global following? Norwegian TV-show Skam has certainly cultivated people around the world, but does its glorification of youth in Norway present a fake reality for viewers? International editor Stefanos Yowhannes (from Norway) introduces Skam to Amsterdam.
Skam was created in 2015 and is currently in its fourth and final season. The show is based on a real time plot, following a group of students at Hartvig Nissen high school in Oslo, Norway. Every week a clip, conversation or social media post is released until a full episode is aired.
The lead character changes every season, as does the topic, which is influenced by a number of situations today’s Norwegian teens go through. Whether it is relationships, puberty, or, most popular, social pressure, they are all featured in the show and are therefore very relatable.
Putting Norway on the map
When a TV show receives massive exposure like this one, viewers tend to become a bit more critical and watch with greater expectations each time. Skam has crossed barriers and it has changed opinions on important issues in not only Norwegian society, but also Western-European societies in general.
The fact that Norwegian is now a recognizable language is because of this show, or the fact that Norwegian high schoolers have a three and half week graduation celebration tradition called Russ* is now also known in more places than Norway. This is quite remarkable for a show with no advertisements and that is one of the reasons for its success : the ability to change the course of entertainment culture globally.
There are many levels of society not shown on the show, and therefore it does not reflect Norwegian society as a whole.
However, even a show of this magnitude and with this level of success has its limitations. Skam portrays students in a very good neighborhood in Oslo, the capital of one of the richest countries in the world. The showcase of societal groupings in Skam is not a frequent talked about topic but it is equally as important.
In the show we see characters forming their little groups and there is a clear part of the Norwegian teen environment that the producers want to show. Yet, there are many levels of society not shown on the show, and therefore it does not reflect Norwegian society as a whole. Even though it is mentioned and touched upon in certain episodes, Oslo’s multicultural societies are often overlooked.
Diversity – but is it enough?
The matter of the fact is that teens from all over the world are idolizing this show, and there is a danger to that. The notion that this is a high school experience in Norway is not correct, and neither is the environment that is shown.
Skam has most certainly captivated a whole generation of viewers with their direct approach and clever way of engaging with their following, but they are promoting only one side of being a teen and does not reflect all walks of life. It is leaning towards the comfortable life of growing up in Norway, and I believe that a show that influences so many should not only document one side of society.
Diversity is what makes culture strive forward.
One of the shows producers, Håkon Moslet, states firmly that “Norway needs Sana” (a main character in season 4) because of her multicultural background and her stern personal traits. As true as this is, Skam has the chance to showcase even more multiculturalism than what they have done up until now, and there is no need to limit themselves. After all, diversity is what makes culture strive forward.
*The Russ celebration involves drinking and continuous partying from late April up until the 17th of May, which is Norway’s constitution day. This tradition goes back to the early 20th century, and every year senior high school students look forward to this period. This celebration is a quite big part of the TV show as the preparation for this period is a topic the show explores.