All the things that Skam got right

2016: the year in which you could tell your friends they needed to be watching a Norwegian teen drama and they (mostly) didn’t look at you like you were mad.

“Are you watching Skam?” my friend Dudley asked me a few months ago. I wasn’t, and in fact I didn’t know what he was talking about – and when you write about television for a living, finding out that people are talking about a TV show that you’ve never even heard of is always a little professionally embarrassing. So I asked him what it was, and he told me that it was a teen drama from Norway – their answer to Skins, as far as I could determine – which was currently in the middle of a gay love story between two boys called Isak and Even, one that he assured me was being handled with great sensitivity.

At the time, I was smack in the middle of one of my busiest periods of the year at work, and I had a Sky+ box at home threatening mutiny if I didn’t start clearing out all those sexy vampire shows I keep recording, so the last thing I needed in my life was a new show to start watching. Besides, I thought, it can’t possibly be as good as he’s making it sound, right? (Sorry Dudley.)

And yet, I kept hearing from other, equally reliable sources (it’s alarming how so many of the people I follow on Twitter have pretty much the exact same taste in television as I have) who were singing Skam‘s praises, so eventually I cracked, broken by the assurance that most of the episodes clocked in at 20 minutes or under so it really wouldn’t take up that much of my time. And it quickly became clear that Dudley was right all along (again: sorry, Dudley) – this really was a show that was doing an incredible job of quietly and honestly portraying a love story between two teenage boys.

There are two things I should make clear at this point. The first is that, in my capacity as a professional television-watcher and a card-carrying homosexual, I have watched a lot of gay storylines in my time. A lot. In fact, many’s the time I have started watching a series just because I knew it had a gay storyline coming up and I wanted to see how it turned out. (In the vast majority of cases, “not great” was inevitably the answer.) The other is that I have not been a gay teenager myself for nearly 20 years, so I can’t necessarily speak to how accurate Skam is to teenagers today. But I do know that it hit me, unexpectedly, in a very emotional place because so many of the plot beats reminded me of exactly how I felt when I was sixteen and fell in love with a boy for the first time, and I suspect these things might be fairly timeless and universal. So as the series drew to a close, I decided that I wanted to write something in praise of all the things Skam got right, and in appreciation of the fact that there’s a show out there aimed at teenagers that really seems to get what it’s like to have that first flush of love with a person of the same sex. Not before time either: when I was a teenager, it was pretty much either Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek getting a quick peck on the lips with another dude in the season finale every year (only to get the “I’m just not that into you” speech about five seconds later) or staying up late to illicitly watch Queer As Folk on Channel 4 and getting vicarious thrills as Nathan Maloney got rimmed by Stuart Jones while also being acutely aware that there weren’t many (/any) places that I knew for a shy, gawky kid to go looking for under-age sexcapades in late-90s east Kent. I saw teenagers coming out on TV, but I didn’t really see much that reflected what it felt like for me.

So what exactly did Skam get right, then?

The Focus: Well, first of all, it cleared the decks for the gay kid to get the spotlight. As I said, I’ve watched a lot of gay plots in dramas over the years and I’m struggling to think of another show that gave over an entire series to one character’s coming-out story. Some shows admirably made it an A-plot (off the top of my head: Sugar Rush, series three of Skins, that point when Hollyoaks realised what a good thing they had going with John Paul and Craig before they inevitably drove it into a wall) but there was always inevitably a point where the action would have to drift off and focus on someone or something else for a while. Skam, on the other hand, devotes each series to a particular character and their story, so by handing the third series over to Isak and essentially telling the whole thing from his perspective, there was never another plot to transition to. It was all Isak, all the time – and to me, that’s huge. I’ve seen so many shows rush their coming-out plots and making it abundantly clear that it was just another issue-of-the-week for them, so knowing that somebody, somewhere sat down with the specific intention of exploring this kind of storyline with the detail and respect that it deserves in the first place – considering that this is a pretty earth-shattering moment in a person’s life – is a massive deal. And maybe this is just a misty-eyed middle-aged gay getting caught up in hyperbole, but I think it’s hugely important for gay kids to be told that their own stories matter, that they amount to more than just playing the sarcastic sidekick in someone else’s tale, that they can be the lead.

The Isolation: One thing I remember vividly from my years as a teenage gay is that it was very isolating. Even though I was comfortable with being gay as soon as I realised that that was what I was, I still stayed in the closet for a good 18 months because I lived in a small town with a lot of potentially judgemental people and coming out would have meant everybody knowing my business and having something to say about it, which I wasn’t ready for yet – so for quite some time, my homosexuality was something that only really existed inside my own head. That’s something that Skam captures better than any show I can think of, because we spend so much time with Isak, alone in his room with his own thoughts and laptop or his iPhone: searching all of the social networks trying to find Even on them, downloading Romeo + Juliet after he finds out that Even likes Baz Luhrmann, downloading Grindr and deleting it in horror about 30 seconds later after a total stranger invites Isak to cum in his ass, ultimately leading to this particularly poignant lowpoint:

The Gay Test
how to get turned on by girls if you are gay

Although as the series goes on it becomes clear that Isak’s isolation is at least partly of his own creation (since none of his friends give a shit whether he’s gay or not, but we’ll get to that later), you can’t help but feel for him as the laptop screen reflects onto his glum little face. Those early days of knowing who you really are but not quite being ready to tell anyone about it can get deeply, devastatingly lonely.

The Pacing: Which leads me, in a roundabout way, onto my next point. Skam takes its time to tell this story. (One of the show’s main conceits is that each season’s plotline unfolds more or less in real time, with scenes set very specifically on a certain day at a certain time, and generally uploaded to the show’s website at that day and time so fans can watch the action “as it happens”.) As a result, the relationship feels realistically paced, with major flurries of activity followed by long, agonising periods of inertia. Even is barely even in episode one, and only really shows up about two-thirds of the way into episode two, at which point Isak ends up following Even home and the two of them flirt coyly over the worst cheese toasties ever created by man – until Even’s girlfriend Sonja turns up and Isak’s entire world collapses. Then Isak sees Even at a party in episode three and Even continues to flirt with him despite the existence of Sonja, whose face he was devouring about two minutes previously (while Isak launched himself at poor, gaydar-lacking Emma) and the two of them almost kiss until Noora, the lead character from season two, commits the cockblock of the century by returning home unexpectedly from the UK and interrupting them. They finally kiss at the end of episode four, but the relationship is still far from established at that point – they’re still figuring each other out, and thanks to various missteps made along the way (including one fairly major one made, entirely unwittingly, by Isak – which we’ll get to later) the relationship ultimately plays out like a high-stakes game of chicken, where at any moment one or the other of them makes a bold move and then scans the other’s reaction to see if what they’re feeling is reciprocal, and that’s why it makes sense to play the development of the relationship so slowly: this is (presumably) new ground for both of them so they want to be damn sure they’ve read the signals correctly before doing anything that will leave them vulnerable. As a result, it’s the end of episode seven before the two of them are finally comfortable enough with each other to have sex – over two thirds of the way through the series. I’ve seen quite a few shows where teenage gays have irrational amounts of sexual confidence for their circumstances (most egregiously in Tyrant, where Sammy Al-Fayeed was somehow too afraid to tell his liberal Californian parents that he was gay but also somehow brash enough to go out openly soliciting for cock in a Middle Eastern dictatorship where homosexuality is punishable by death) so it was nice to see a show actually acknowledging for once that sometimes two horned-up teenagers can still experience enough self-doubt to stop them from leaping straight into bed with each other.

The Acting (And The Casting): As I mentioned earlier when I was talking about the long scenes of Isak alone in his room surfing the internet, some of the most important scenes on this show have little to no dialogue in them. A lot of the story, then, isn’t told through words but through silence, and actor Tarjei Sandvik Moe really proved his worth with his expressions and reactions: the way Isak’s face lights up when Even walks into a room, the way his expression slowly crumples when Even introduces him to Sonja, the dreamy, half-awake grin when the two of them are lying in bed together. That’s not to downplay the contributions of the rest of the cast either: Henrik Holm as Even matches him point for point (and arguably has a more difficult job, because for most of the series he’s not so much playing Even as he is playing Isak’s idealised, patched-together perception of Even), and the importance of their onscreen chemistry together cannot be understated. The best script, direction and intentions amount to nothing if your romantic leads don’t spark on screen, but these two absolutely sold the characters’ attraction to each other, even in the moments where the characters were trying to convince themselves the relationship could never work. And the moments when they were apart also proved the strength of the rest of the ensemble, with several actors having such a perfect grasp on their characters that they threatened to steal entire episodes even if they only popped up for one scene with a handful of lines – the best among them being Ulrikke Falch (Vilde), Iman Meskini (Sana) and David Alexander Sjøholt (Magnus). Quality of acting aside, the other strength of the casting is, and I can’t stress this enough, that they actually look like proper teenagers. They’ve got pimples and acne scars and just-rolled-out-of-bed hairstyles (particularly the boys) and on the rare occasions where somebody has to take their top off, none of them look like underwear models. When you watch as many shows on The CW as I do, it’s refreshing to remind yourself that a six-pack is not necessarily an essential part of an actor’s toolkit.

The Missteps: Perhaps the most important thing that Skam does is remind us, over and over again, that generally when kids are attempting to come out, they fuck up. It’s understandable: there’s a lot going on in your head, it feels like the most important thing that anyone will ever have to understand, and quite often you forget that other people have stuff going on too. Over the course of 10 episodes, Isak fucks up repeatedly – and often with the best of intentions. Telling Even “my mum’s insane […] We haven’t spoken since I moved out, I decided my life would be better without mentally ill people around me”, having no idea at this point that Even has bipolar disorder. Telling his gay flatmate Eskild that he’s hooking up with another boy, and then immediately following it up with “But this doesn’t mean I’m gay. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, it’s just that I’m not gay-gay, like you. You know what I mean, how you talk about sucking cock and Kim Kardashian and lavender fragrance. […] It seems like everyone associates being gay with being ‘like that’, and that’s kind of a bummer for those who aren’t like that,” a classic idiot teenager no-homo speech that climaxes with the announcement that he’s not going to start wearing make-up and going to Gay Pride, at which point Eskild delivers a world-class “I’m not mad, just disappointed” rebuttal reminding Isak that without those boys in make-up and tights with whom he does not want to be associated, Isak wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sit there in his fuckboy hat having an airy discussion about his attraction to a boy in the first place. After Eskild delivers the kicker – “I think that until you’ve fought those battles yourself, until you’ve had the guts to stand up for who you are, you should be really fucking careful about talking about and putting yourself above Gay Pride” – Isak is left alone with the realisation of exactly how much of a dick he’s just been, just as Even texts him (presumably as a direct response to Isak’s careless earlier comments about mental health) to put the brakes on.

Now I don't really feel like talking to you any more
I need time, sorry

That was a refreshing turn for the storyline to take, too: you’d think that Isak’s gay friend would be the obvious person to confide in, and on a lesser show they would have sat and shared all of their secrets, but Skam doesn’t make it that easy. Skam makes a point of acknowledging that being gay is a complicated business of self-identifying and that some people can’t help turning it into a hierarchy. (I’ve had more “ugh, those gays” moments during my life than I care to admit, though I hope I’ve learned my lesson by now.) What I particularly like about Skam’s handling of this moment is that it shows how easy it is to lapse into behaviour like that: we know that Isak and Eskild have been friends for a while, there’s no real sense that Isak has ever shown any discomfort with Eskild being gay (or at least nothing that couldn’t be chalked up to the exact same kind of “dude, spare me the details” conversation he’d have with, say, Magnus), and Isak clearly doesn’t consider himself homophobic in any way, but internalised homophobia is insidious, and Isak is the proof that being gay and having gay friends won’t necessarily save you from it: like in the scene in episode three where the boys are sat around watching the girls’ dance rehearsal and Isak – presumably unsettled by the fact that he’s not quite having the same response to it as Jonas, Mahdi and Magnus are – feels compelled to comment caustically on the dance teacher’s swishiness.

Does that guy really need to be that gay?

What’s interesting and unusual here is that Isak’s straight friends are having absolutely none of his bullshit:

What's up with you dissing people for being gay?
Like, you're just pointing out that he's gay?
Really good observation, Isak

Leaving us in the unusual position of watching a coming-out story where the most homophobic character involved is the gay one.

The Outing: Hands up everyone who’s ever come out to someone only to have them say “I always knew?” (I got that one from my dad. And my brother – apparently he twigged when I started buying Men’s Health, having realised just like I did that it was the closest thing to gay porn a 17-year-old boy can buy in a small town without arousing suspicion. Or so I thought.) It’s a response that is intended to be comforting, but can often feel quite patronising – particularly if you thought you’d actually been doing quite a good job of passing, up to then. The negotiation of that fine line is another carefully-handled point in Skam, as Isak’s eventual self-outing isn’t a surprise to that many people, it turns out. I’ve yet to watch the first two series properly, but I know that Isak’s sexuality has been something of a question mark right from the early episodes of the first series, and people haven’t exactly been shy about pointing it out.

I'm rooming with the gay guy?
Why is everyone calling me gay?
You are gay.

(Not even remotely related to any of the points I’m making here, but just going to say it anyway: Isak’s series one hair ♥)

Before the aforementioned scene with Eskild went rapidly downhill, Eskild kindly pointed out to Isak that he’d suspected for a while because “the first time I met you, you were alone in a gay bar at 2am and you didn’t want to go home” (with Isak grumbling characteristically that he “told you I didn’t know it was a gay club”, and frankly Eskild is a better person than I am for not digging out his phone just to flash a Marcia Brady “sure, Jan” gif in Isak’s face). Apparently it’s pretty clear in the first series of Skam that Isak has a crush on Jonas, so it’s fitting in a way that Jonas is the next person that Isak comes out to. (Something else that Skam acknowledges that many other shows gloss over: coming out is not a “one and done” affair that you can get through in a couple of hours, it’s a fairly laborious, ongoing process that has to be repeated with everyone you know, and pretty much every person you meet in a social situation for the rest of your life, and while for most of us it eventually becomes less of a big deal, it never becomes much fun.) Isak’s approach here is one that, to my shame, I remember deploying quite a few times in my youth: the ‘no, you say it’ approach. First he buys Jonas a kebab and takes him to the park so that he can guarantee his undivided attention for a little while, and then he comes out via the most indirect route possible – explaining that he’s been acting weird lately because he likes “a person”. After establishing that this person is not Emma (the girl Isak was using as his cover to get closer to Even), Isak asks Jonas to “take a guess”. This is a favourite approach because not only does it get you out of actually saying the words “I’m gay”, but it also allows you to casually investigate whether your crush has been as obvious to everyone else as you worried it was. While Isak does have to steer Jonas a little bit to get him on the right track (“I’ll give you a hint, it’s not a girl”), Jonas does eventually work out that he’s talking about Even. And he’s a total mensch about it, admitting that Even is a good-looking dude and telling Isak that if he’s serious about making a go of things with Even, then Even needs to break things up with Sonja. Isak eventually has his hand forced into coming out to Magnus and Mahdi when it turns out they’ve already heard rumours that he’s gay (since Emma has been talking, apparently) and they’re both cool about it as well: later that episode they’re all sitting around a table discussing what Isak’s next move with Even should be, as casually as they would if they were discussing his relationship with a girl. Interestingly, the part of the coming-out process that’s usually portrayed as the most traumatic – telling your parents – is the part that’s handled almost as an afterthought in this show: Isak tells them both via text, and even his Bible-obsessed mother takes it pretty well. I’m sure that’s at least partly determined by Skam’s lack of interest in adults in general (one of the running gags of the series is that adults are usually out of focus and only seen from the neck down), but it’s clear throughout that the acceptance of his peers matters far more to Isak than anything his parents might have to say.

The Straight Best Friend Every Gay Teenager Deserves: And that bring us to Magnus. Magnus, whose main purpose in the first half of the series was to serve as the blue-balled sexually-oblivious comic relief, completely comes into his own in the second half. Sure, he’s the idiot who asks Isak which one is the woman out of him and Even, but he’s also the one who’s the most disappointed when Isak ushers his friends out of his flat before Even can meet them, the one who acts completely starstruck when he finally does meet Even, and the one who won’t just settle for a simple handshake like Jonas and Mahdi do:


(Gifs sourced from heartsmistaken on Tumblr, whose account no longer seems to be there :-\ )

And, after Even has a manic episode that results in him leaving the hotel room that he’s been sharing with Isak and walking through town naked in the middle of the night in search of McDonalds, and after Isak has concluded (with a little steering from Sonja) that Even’s attraction to him was only ever a manifestation of his mania, it’s Magnus – whose mother has BPD – who steps in with the benefit of his life experience and points out that there’s no way Even has been manic the entire time, that bipolar people can still be wonderful and loyal and loving, that you just have to learn how to cope with the manic episodes, and also that unquestioningly accepting the word of your partner’s ex-girlfriend when she says he doesn’t love you and he never did is pretty dumb. And it’s Magnus who, in the final episode, wants constant updates on the relationship, has taken to calling them “Evak” and says that he would watch a reality show about them on NRK, up to and including scenes of them boning each other. Okay, fine, so he made it weird at the end, but still, after watching this, I feel like a benchmark has been set. Kids: tell your straight friends that Magnus-levels of support are the bare minimum you expect from them in future.

The Sympathy For The Girls: Okay, this is the area where even I’ll admit that Skam skates pretty close to the edge. One of my least favourite tropes in fiction (possibly due to the copious amounts of badfic I read in my livejournal days) is that of “the bitch who stops the gays from being together”, and initially I feared that Skam was going to fall into that trap. First, there was Emma, and after she breaks ties with Isak at the end of episode five once her gaydar finally starts working (making it very clear to him that she’s furious he took advantage of her attraction to him when he knew he was never interested in girls), Isak gets a message from Vilde asking if he’s gay, because she heard it from someone at school who “heard it from Emma”. Now, I’m fairly conflicted on this, because Isak treated Emma terribly and he doesn’t deserve to get away with it (and I say that as someone who didn’t break up with my high school girlfriend even once I knew I was gay because I didn’t want people to start asking questions, and while this was a self-preservation measure on my part, there was never a moment where I didn’t feel like an absolute shit for doing it), but on the other hand: outing someone when you do not have their express permission to do so is never okay under any circumstances. Badly done Emma, indeed. I am however willing to give her the benefit of the doubt because this is a story that we only ever hear second-or-third hand, and it’s plausible that Emma told a friend, in confidence, and it got out of hand. Either way, the show isn’t interested in demonising Emma in the long term and brings her back for the final episode, where Isak apologises in characteristically third-person fashion for being a dick and invites her to the party he’s throwing for the kosegruppa (fun fact: ten episodes later, and I’m still not entirely sure what a kosegruppa is or does), and she politely declines but thanks him for asking. Similarly, the arrival of Even’s girlfriend episode Sonja in episode two seemed like a direct invocation of this trope, to the extent that she even became a meme:

hi i'm here to ruin everything

My concerns weren’t exactly assuaged by Sonja’s reappearance at the end of episode eight where, as I mentioned above, she turns up after Even’s disappearance to inform Isak that Even isn’t in love with him, and that Isak is just this year’s equivalent of that time Even had an episode and decided to memorise the Qur’an in Arabic. Again, however, she gets her redemption in episode ten when Isak calls her so that she can let Even’s parents know he’s safe, and Sonja apologises for getting angry with him and making him think any of it was his fault (and Isak is decent enough to tell her that it doesn’t matter, that he knows she was just angry and frightened and ended up taking it out on him). She even tells him that she thinks it’s good for Even to be with him right now, and offers him the “take it minute by minute” advice that he lives by for the rest of the series, and presumably beyond. So while I still think it’s a shame that Emma and Sonja’s both ended up fulfilling the “saying something horrible to the gays in a moment of intense emotion” plot device, I at least appreciate that the show cared enough about them not to allow them to be defined by one lapse of judgement, and to show that they were both generally good people who got the worst deal out of a bad situation. (And I maintain that it would be very interesting to watch this series retold from Emma or Sonja’s perspective, because I’m pretty sure Isak and Even wouldn’t come out of it that well either.)

The Honesty: While Isak and Even eventually reconcile in episode ten, the show credits the audience with enough intelligence not to assume that this is their “happily ever after”. In fact, a fair bit of their time together on screen in the final episode involves the two of them discussing the fact that, ultimately, things might not work out between them. Isak and Even’s happy ending is that they made it this far, and that everything is all right for now – they’ll just take their relationship one day at a time and hope for the best. This feels like an emotionally honest way to sign the two of them out – I’m sure there are relationships formed between gay teenagers that end up going the distance, but I’m equally sure that far more of them end up fizzling out eventually. Given the nature of audiences to latch on to gay couples in fiction (try suggesting on Twitter that Robron in Emmerdale aren’t true love 4eva and I’ll see you when you get out of hospital), sometimes the writers and producers seem to get pressured into delivering a happy ending for the characters that feels dishonest (Glee ended up bucking under the weight of its own determination to provide validation for gay teenagers by keeping Kurt and Blaine together at all costs, even once it became clear that they were utterly toxic for each other and they’d be far better off alone), but Skam’s “one day at a time” resolution feels like the perfect compromise between realism and idealism.

The Ending: But actually my favourite thing about the final ending was that it didn’t dwell on Isak and Even as much as it could have done. The series was, after all, always intended to be about Isak, and the finale didn’t let us forget that, so they got Even and Isak back together with half an hour to spare and the rest of the episode focused on Isak finally becoming comfortable in his own skin. That meant sorting things out with Sonja, putting things right with Emma, encouraging Magnus to finally get together with Vilde, realising what a good friend he has in Sana, agreeing to meet Even’s mum and – in a lovely, long scene that bookends Isak’s story perfectly – reuniting with series one lead character Eva to apologise for causing so much trouble between her and Jonas when they were going out and he was the third wheel between the two of them, because everything he’s been through this series has helped him realise what a little shit he was back then.

I don't find anything is awkward any more

That the series ends not with a love scene, but with Isak and Eva quietly having a heart-to-heart about how much they’ve changed. Isak tells Eva that he was “fake” before he met Even, and now he wants his life to be real. And in that final scene the show proves what I always suspected: that the real point of this series wasn’t about Isak meeting Even, or Isak coming out: it was about Isak slowly learning how not to be the kind of dickhead who’ll describe himself as “sane and sorted” on his Grindr profile in five years’ time. And that’s the sort of outcome we can all feel good about.

And there we have it. A probably not-fully-exhaustive-but-still-more-than-long-enough-thank-you list of reasons why Skam was one of the best things I watched in 2016, and more than a few overshares to tell you all how I was kind of a douchebag when I was a gay teenager too. Now I’m exhausted, because this has gone on far longer than I ever intended it to, and made me tired and emotional all over again.

cries in Norwegian

Now to go and watch the first two series and discover how many things I’ve probably overlooked…

Tagged ,

24 thoughts on “All the things that Skam got right

  1. Tori says:

    Thanks for a personal, thoughtful and thorough review.

  2. I loved the ending too – and it also reminded me quite uncomfortably how fake I had myself been in my teenage years, such a little, dishonest prig, actually, come to remember… Sadly, it took somewhat longer than with Isak to become comfortable with myself and thus with others too. A great series indeed.

    • You got there in the end, though. That’s the main thing. *thumbs up emoji*

      • Indeed! And I have to say that I would have probably been quite a bit less scared, dishonest and fake had there been such tv-shows around back then – and the social atmosphere that allowed them to be created. Instead it was gay plague times in deeply conservative rural western Finland (the middle school was so full “hilarious” aids jokes that I felt sick, I must have laughed though – and could hardly tell even myself that I did like boys). Oh well, luckily long bygone times…

      • Yeah, I don’t think we can downplay the importance of shows like this. If it helps kids to feel a little bit less scared about who they are, then it’s already done its job.

  3. Thank you for a very interesting article. Do you really want to understand what Kosegruppa is? I can explain. Regards a Norwegian.

  4. Alejandra Elizondo says:

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the first two series and how it led to this one.

    • I still haven’t actually got around to watching series one and two yet. My plan is to finish watching series four and then rewatch the entire thing from start to finish – I don’t know if I’ll necessarily have enough material for another blog, but if I do, I will post something up here!

  5. Charlotte D. says:

    What a great review (and funny). I recently just got wind of the Skam phenomenon and you’ve really put into words a lot of my response to this storyline. And added some interesting thoughts too. Especially the idea of the coming-out process taking a long time and being much more complex and ambiguous than is often portrayed. Isak’s story has been very revealing and touching to us straighties – I hope it gives teenagers and older people alike a lot more insight. What a positive thing in an uncertain world.

    To echo the previous commenter, I’d love to hear your views on the other seasons/series as a whole.

    • Thank you so much – I’m so glad you found some actual insights in here, because I did worry it might just be a load of rambling. As I said above, I’m currently planning to (re)watch all four series once the current run is over, and if it leaves me with enough material I will definitely do a follow-up post.

  6. Sara says:

    Thank you for such a well-written and thought-trough analysis of season 3, very likely the best I have read. I loved season 3 because how it handles queerness and mental illness, and how it allows Isak to grow and develop in a really realistic way.

    How do you like season 4?

    • Thank you – it’s really lovely to get such positive feedback! I’m really enjoying series four – I think Sana is a fascinating character, and while (for obvious reasons) I don’t relate to her story as closely as I do to Isak’s, there’s still so much about it that’s recognisable and familiar. I’m just getting nervous that the whole show is going to be over in a matter of weeks and it seems like there’s still so much to resolve!

  7. Eric says:

    Thank you so much for this. I discovered Skam a little over a month ago, and have since turned into a Skam evangelist. I’ve (ahem) downloaded the series and sent them out on thumb drives to numerous friends. I’m almost but not quite embarrassed how deeply the show, the character of Isak, his journey and Tarjei’s STUPENDOUS performance affected me. I’m in my thirties! But while I watched season three I suddenly realized that no, I really wasn’t. I’m still that kid, somewhere inside of me.

    As helpful and encouraging as Isak’s story must be for gay youth (holy crap I wish this had existed when I was young and utterly overcome with self loathing), I think it’s potentially even more instructive for straight people. See, we’re human, too! We go through exactly the same kind of loneliness, relationship drama and broken/mended hearts as everyone else, only for us it’s usually accompanied by years and years of self doubt, deception, and frequently self hatred. Worse, it can also come with super size servings of intolerance and abuse.

    I remember when I too worried that all of my family and friends would instantly cease to be my family and friends if they knew who I really was. One of the best things about Skam’s handling of this, as you pointed out, was that even in Norway, surrounded by a genuinely liberal society and accepting friends, every drip of poison Isak had ever overheard about gay people found a ready made reservoir within him. Those drips add up, and for gay youth, they tend to stick around. Isak was far more homophobic than nearly anyone around him. Even in Norway.

    When I was a teenager I wish I could say that my family/friends responded the way Isak’s did. They did not. It turns out my fears that everyone I knew would reject me were bang on. I too ended up living outside of my family home when I was fifteen (although I think Isak was sixteen when he moved into the shared apartment), but I didn’t move in with loving, accepting people. My parents placed me in a pray away the gay camp, full time, until I reached the age of eighteen and legally was able to flee.

    In the US right now it feels like we are moving back decades at warp speed. Well. We are. But I take substantial encouragement that there are places in the world where things are genuinely, authentically getting better. And not just by a little. Hell, the trailer for season three *alone*. The subversive humor of it, the ‘OMG did they just do that?! Can they do that?!’ shock that had me gasp aloud when I saw it. That right there? That’s more progress than fifteen year old me in a Montana survivalist compound/Christine extremist sect/anti-gay camp believed he would live to see if he’d made it to two hundred years of age.

    Skam’s given me so much hope. Especially now, I’m grateful. Thanks for helping to get the word out.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear about everything you went through, that sounds truly terrible – but I’m so glad that you managed to get out and that you’re managing to maintain positivity.

  8. Sabrina says:

    Hi I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your blog about season 3 of Skam. It summed up a lot of things I couldn’t put to words and I was wondering if you knew of the character’s instagram accounts. The show arranged for most characters to have their own instagram accounts to work parallel to the show and on Even’s instagram theres a post about how Even proposed to Isak. Whats your opinion on that seeing as how their still supposedly really young?

  9. Sophia says:

    Beautifully written article. Skam has touched my heart like nothing else ever could. I can’t remember how many times I wished I was born in Norway. They seem so accepting there, but I’m sad to say that my country is not as open-minded. So imagine me, a sixteen year old girl living in a small village in Greece, born to a typical Orthodox family. I could never come out to my family, not in person. It would shatter my heart to see the tears roll down my mother’s face and to see the disappointment in father to learn their only daughter will not be marrying a man who will look after her when they’re gone, because patriarchal views are so strong in Greece. I really cannot tolerate to be the source of grief for anyone, so I have decided that I will move to a LGBT-friendly country, maybe Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, or , wherever destiny takes me, and start a new life for myself as an openly lesbian woman. Just like Isak, I wish my life to be as genuine as possible and not fake, even if that means I can never see my parents or home that I grew up in again. I will come out to them eventually, in a letter that will be no doubt stained by my tears. Maybe I am a coward for wanting to go this path but I don’t care. My biggest dream is that they will surprise me and write back that they accept me and still love me just the same, but I have accepted the very real possibility of the opposite, or worst of all, no response. Their silence would eat me alive.
    Also, I don’t mean it to sound like Greece is a homophobic country and that gays are spat on in the streets and chased with pitchforks. Actually there’s even a (from what I hear) an LGBT community in Athens and Thessaloniki. And our laws protect gay people, so no one here lives in fear for their life or prison or anything. My point is that I want to live someplace where the majority of people won’t look at me with disapproval, and I want to walk the streets holding the hands of a future girlfriend with confidence. I don’t see myself doing that in Greece.
    Takk for alt Skam ❤ alt er love

  10. michaelanth says:

    I did a Google search for “Isak and Even analysis”. I couldn’t say why, but I wanted to read some intelligent commentary about Isak and Even (if such commentary existed.) Your blog entry came up third in the search results. And I’m thrilled to report that your essay vastly exceeded whatever expectations I had. I really, really, really (times infinity) love the Isak and Even storyline. Especially the scene where Isak is in the church, and he gets the text from Even, rushes out to the bench where they first met, and it seems for a moment like Even isn’t even there, but then he is. Such a beautiful and poignant moment that makes me choke up, every time I watch it. And there were so many other equally touching moments throughout their story. Thank you for writing such a well-thought-out and insightful analysis. You totally made my day. -Michael

  11. pauline says:

    I am so glad I came across your blog. I agree with you on so many of the points that you mentioned here. I am new to SKAM and I must say, the 3rd season, to me, was extremely refreshing. The plot did not feel contrived at all. It flowed so naturally. This is definitely one of the few LGBT story lines on TV that came closest to reality. The fact that the characters had acne, relatable clothing choices, and questionable albeit justifiable decisions (due to their youth), among others contributed to the realism of SKAM and its charm. I’m so happy that someone else thought that the emotion of the story was, in essence, told through silence (props to the uber talented actors and brilliant script writing!). I think that S3 is not only a love story between Isak and Even. It, too, and just as importantly, is a love story of Isak with himself. I absolutely enjoyed reading this. Very insightful. Kudos!

  12. kancamaga says:

    Thanks for the review! And thanks to all the folks who commented. When an important piece of media like Skam comes along, there is this need to know that there are other people out there who are affected in a similar way. We can always believe it but seeing essays like this and the following comments make it real and life affirming.
    Thank you all for the authenticity! The show, the multiple remakes across Europe, the embracing response by the current teen generation, all give me hope for the world.

Leave a Reply to stevenperkins Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: