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Into the Skam-verse

Unless you still have a Tumblr or you’re well-versed in international pop culture, odds are you have no idea what Skam could possibly be. Our story begins five years ago in Oslo, Norway. In late 2015, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK premiered a new teen drama called Skam (English: Shame) from the mind of relatively unknown writer Julie Andem. No one knew it then, but what began as a show aimed specifically at Norwegian teens would grow into a global phenomenon.

The first season, which follows a young woman on her journey to rediscover who she is amidst the chaotic and unforgiving backdrop of high school, was met with critical acclaim in Norway. The series was praised for its realistic depiction of teenage experiences and outstanding performances from its young cast. The second season explored a different character from the main cast and was revered for its gentle approach at more serious subjects, such as sexual assault. Yet the third season is what truly put Skam on the map. 

In the fall of 2015, Skam season 3 premiered on NRK, offering positive queer and mental health representation that was beautifully done, and the show’s popularity skyrocketed. Thanks to the internet and social media, the word began to spread about what had previously only been viewed as a niche Norwegian drama. Teens around the world, myself included, were increasingly becoming exposed to the beauty that was Skam. These stories that were all too familiar to young people were being told in such intimate and reassuring ways, that it’s no wonder that so many people found comfort and perception in them. What drew me to Skam was its unique form of storytelling. Short clips are released daily, in real time, along with social media posts and text message threads, allowing the characters and events that occur to feel as real as possible. Skam isn’t simply a show, it’s an experience. At its heart Skam has always been about friendship, about being accepted for who you are by those whose love matters most to you. For a teenager who’d never felt like they belonged anywhere, watching Skam was like coming home.  

In the spring of 2017, the fourth season of Skam arrived, telling the story of a young muslim woman and the pull she feels between two differing worlds. This season debuted at the height of Skam’s popularity, so it came as a great shock to fans when NRK announced that it would be the last. No one knows for certain why the series came to such a sudden end. Of course, there are fan theories out there postulating anything and everything, but Andem holds that it was her decision, and that every story she needed to tell was told.

That would be the end of this story, but ultra-popular fandoms seldom disappear instantaneously, and that’s where the remakes come in. Less than a year after Skam’s conclusion, in February of 2018, Skam France premiered on France.tv Slash, making it the first international Skam remake. Druck (Germany), Skam Italia (Italy), Skam Austin (United States), Skam España (Spain), Skam NL (Netherlands), and wtFOCK (Belgium) quickly followed. With many of the remakes still airing today and new ones constantly in development, Skam’s legacy won’t die anytime soon. 

As each remake cropped up, they began to put their unique stamps on the timeless stories of the original, by tweaking certain characters and eventually by writing original seasons. Regardless, Andem’s heart and vision always remains present. If the remakes are any indication, Skam and the message behind it is universal. I discovered Skam when I was in a very vulnerable place in my life, and the lessons it told about friendship and being true to oneself still resonate with me as a sophomore in college. I can always come home to Skam and its characters. When you watch, hopefully you feel a bit of that magic too.

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