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.

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 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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What are you watching

Early this week my housemate convinced me to see Shameless (US version) on Netflix, and I’m glad I did. I’ve been meaning to start it last year, but I was deep in Fresh Meat, Stranger Things, You’re the Worst, Fargo, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (lol), Bojack Horseman and other shows that make me feel human, like Chef’s Table.

There’s something about shows set in a house that gets me. Maybe because I’ve started living with strangers since I was sixteen, and now I’m living in a sharehouse in a foreign land with sitcom characters from different parts of the world. There’s currently eight of us in the house – five Filipinos with only two speaking Tagalog (that includes me), an Italian, a German and a Pole. For the most part, we’re a pretty normal, fun-loving bunch – drinking and smoking together in the garage, watching movies together, going to the beach together, talking about sex and consoling each other afterwards. But there’s also the occasional shouting matches in the kitchen snowballing into a confrontation extravaganza with at least one person crying, leading to a grand assembly where we take note of our realizations and promise to move forward as better people. I love those idiots.

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Shameless is about a dysfunctional Chicago family, and that’s about all you need to know to give it a try. The dad is an absolute scum of the earth; Fiona, played by Emmy Rossum looks like an adult Nancy from Stranger Things; Steve the boyfriend is played by that actor from the spectacularly problematic Dragonball live action movie where he played white Goku; and Veronica is that girl whose face became the basis for Rochelle’s character from Left 4 Dead. I’m only on the eighth episode of the first season, and I’m glad I still have a long way to go because it’s already on its seventh season.

The characters themselves were conjured from a fiction writer’s wet dream. There’s the genius kid who loves to fuck around, the gay kid doing ROTC, the little girl who acts like a fifty-year-old mom and a sadistic boy who loves to destroy things and put live animals in the microwave. Even the supporting characters were thought-out: an agoraphobic, high-strung but well-meaning neighbor, a charming interracial couple and perpetually horny white girls. The show gives a pretty interesting nuance to the lengths poor people go to get by (hence the title), and it is equal parts eye-opening, disturbing and heartwarming. It touches on sensitive topics like race, inequality and homosexuality, but it’s more of an exposition rather than an attempt to evangelize. Watch it!

PS. The soundtrack is amazing.

We sell quilts at discount price, living in an Amish paradise

I have a list of things I’m genuinely fascinated about, and the Amish people are in there, along with zombies, honey badgers and gingers.

The Amish are immigrants from Switzerland who went to the United States in the 1600s during the schism in Christianity. They are known for their plain clothes, their religious convictions and their aversion to electricity and technology- they’re much like our grandparents. They also have their own language called Pennsylvania Deutsch, which when spoken sounds like a non-angry version of German. Here’s Weird Al Yankovic making fun of them:

Continue reading “We sell quilts at discount price, living in an Amish paradise”

The best Skins characters of all time

One of my most favorite television shows ended last Monday, after seven seasons, 61 episodes and an undetermined number of broken hearts.

After six seasons, the seventh and final season of Skins showed two-episode parts on the lives of returning characters Cassie (Skins Pure), Effy (Skins Fire) and Cook (Skins Rise).

Continue reading “The best Skins characters of all time”