This past Thanksgiving break, I got to catch up on one of my favorite shows. Skam (or Shame in English) is a famous Norwegian web series that follows the lives of high school students through social media. The show is similar to Degrassi and Skins in that it contains the old, cliché high school tropes. But it is presented in such a unique way that makes the show fresh and appealing to audiences of different ages. Short clips and text messages and Instagram/Facebook posts are released in real time. Then on Fridays, the clips are combined to create the episode. This has never been done before by any marketing team.
Each season is centered around a different character and a societal issue. For example, the main character of the first season is Eva Mohn who is a victim of cyber bullying. In the second season, Noora Sætre is a victim of sexual assault. In the third and current season, Isak Valtersen struggles with understanding his sexuality. I think the reason why this show has cultivated a large following is because it does not address these issues just for the sake of being the new “teen-friendy” show. The show addresses these social issues through characters we have become emotionally attached to. It makes us question our stance on certain beliefs and changes us.
My favorite character of the entire series is supporting character, Sana Bakkoush. Sana is a brazen, Muslim high school girl who is unafraid to stand up for what she believes in. During Season 2, Sana comforts Noora and says one of the most important lines of the season:
“War doesn’t start with violence. It starts with misunderstanding and prejudice… you have to try to understand why others think and act the way they do. You have to accept that not everyone sees the world the way you do.”
After hearing this, I was immediately reminded of Said’s Orientalism. According to Said, “Orientalism was ultimately a political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar and the strange.” Orientalism is the re-presentation of the “other’s” cultures. The “West’s” misconception of “the East” causes prejudices and a separation of “us vs them.” Like Sana, I think the majority of the problems in this world is all caused by a big misunderstanding. Our failure to understand each other and actively communicate causes these prejudices and complications to occur. The separation of people into these categories is a binary that must be addressed and shut down. In order for an empire to fully thrive, both sides must acknowledge each other on the same level. Not one should be inferior over the other. Once we do this, the world will be at peace.
Unfortunately, Skam has only become popular in the European countries. One of the reasons why the show is not as well-known in the United States is that the NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) has not made any English subtitles due to to music rights issues. Another reason why it is not as famous here is because the show has been called to “risque for foreign audiences.” The show does feature heavy drinking and drug use, but I think that by blocking the show from airing abroad for that reason misses the point of the show. Despite all of this, there are some kind souls who have generously translated the whole series for English viewers. I do believe that in a couple of years, Skam will become a renowned show, and I hope you watch it soon.