Thank you Norway

It’s been almost two months since I’ve received my master’s degree and because I’m still choosy about my job applications, I’m still unemployed. Woot. While this is something I don’t thoroughly enjoy, I welcome the fact that I got a break from the panic-inducing responsibilities of work and university. I’ve started playing my ukulele, learning Spanish, taking care of the dog, reading books and, most importantly, binge-watching shows from the farthest corners of the earth.

skam-season-4-sana-isak-even-nrk-interview.jpg
 Illustration by Minna Gilligan, with photos courtesy NRK.

And this led me to Skam, a four-season Norwegian series that ended last year. Norway’s answer to Skins gives the British hit a run for its money.  I love Skins, I really do, but Skam is så jævla bra! I actually learned about the show last year when a classmate of mine posted about it on Facebook, but I never got around to watching it until this year. It’s set in a Norwegian high school and each season, a character becomes the main focus of the entire storyline. Season 1 is about a girl and her search for identity after being dumped by her best friend; Season 2 is about another girl whose convictions get tested when the school jock sets his eyes on her; Season 3 is about an erstwhile straight guy who falls in love with another man and Season 4 is about a Muslim girl and forbidden love. The show reached its peak in 2016 when it won Best TV Drama and when a particular scene in the third season won TV Moment of the Year in Gullruten, one of Norway’s biggest awards shows for television.

It’s safe to say that Skam is like Skins, if Skins were less dark and angsty, the characters are more straightforward and seem to have a high level of emotional maturity for their age. A central element in the series is the Norwegian high school tradition called russefeiring, where students in their final spring semester buy (because Norwegians are fucking rich) their own party bus and drink from April 20 until May 17, Norway’s Constitution Day. Despite tackling hot-button issues like body dysmorphia, homosexuality, mental illness and religion, the show’s strength lies in understated moments where the characters unpack the issues with such finesse and maturity. Skam’s characters go beyond stereotypes – they often say and do things not expected of them, and yet they still make themselves relatable. I can blabber some more but this article gives a pretty good take on the show.

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