In 2015, a small Norwegian web series premiered online with a simple premise. It followed Eva, a high schooler as she struggles to make more friends, temptation, and her boyfriend's troubled behavior. "SKAM" literally translated to "Shame" is a multi-season web series that follows a group of high school students as they navigate typical teenage problems: school, love, sexuality, religion, and family. Since it's humble beginnings in 2015 SKAM has turned into its own brand, titling different versions in various countries: Italy, France, Spain, America, and Germany. But how did a simple web series spawn several remakes and a passionate fanbase? SKAM's innovative and interactive integration of social media into its narrative has transformed the way in which it is consumed—for the better.
In any given iteration, each character has their own Instagram with posts that date back years. During the running season, characters will post Instagram stories, posts, and screenshots of text messages between the characters. Filmed clips of scenes are posted almost every day, eventually culminating into a weekly episode that is an hour long.
What's incredible about SKAM and the SKAM model is its genius to play into social media. Unlike most teen shows that are currently airing, SKAM embraces the new era of social media. Characters are real and authentic to the 2019 high school experience. In an era where we're all on our phones constantly checking Instagram, the show and characters find its way to us. SKAM doesn't force the social media aspect onto its viewers either, the Instagram posts are purely supplemental. For casual viewers, the weekly compiled episodes are enough to be engaged in the story. And for die-hard fans, the Instagram posts offer an authentic view of each character, making them feel more like real people.
In the new age of social media, SKAM has given a voice to otherwise voiceless characters. In the original SKAM, season 3 follows Isak, a boy learning to accept his homosexuality and falling in love with a classmate. In season 4, Sana is a Muslim girl living in a country with prejudice and falls in love with one of her brother's friends who has recently left Islam. SKAM doesn't shy away from hard subplots—but instead dares to show you these very complex high school students. SKAM doesn't talk down to its characters or audience but instead embraces and tackles the complexity of teenhood head on.
SKAM Austin, the American iteration of the story, has done an excellent job translating and including American culture to bring us more diverse characters that reflect our population. They've included characters of all different backgrounds and sexualities, making it the most diverse SKAM iteration yet. In a space where the TV sphere is crowded with 30 somethings playing high schoolers, it's refreshing to see SKAM Austin's push for casting actors that look and feel like they belong in high school.
There's a reason I keep coming back to these stories, keep watching every version and finding myself in every different iteration. The characters feel so real, like old friends I've ended up watching through social media. No matter how many times I see the same plot line done over in different countries—they still ring true every single time. This show just understands what it's like to be a student, a teenager, and most importantly a human.
Season 2 of SKAM Austin begins on March 15th, only on Facebook Watch.