How did a Norwegian teen drama set in Oslo quickly become an internet sensation and spawn numerous remakes across Europe and the US? We delve deeper into what resonated with fans and inspired so many to put their own spin on this story.
In 2016, the original SKAM’s third season focused on gay teenager Isak (Tarjei Sandvik Moe). The season drew huge international attention across the internet and the Scandinavian teen drama quickly became an online sensation and gained fandom on Twitter and Tumblr.
Following a group of friends who attend Hartvig Nissen high school in Norway’s capital, SKAM (meaning ‘Shame’) was a realistic and relatable portrayal of modern adolescence. Not only did the show explore staple themes of coming-of-age stories such as sex and relationships, friendship and societal/parental pressures, but also hard-hitting social issues. Later seasons didn’t shy away from difficult topics such as homophobia, Islamophobia and eating disorders. The approach taken to writing teenage characters who aren’t free from discrimination and showing the impacts from their personal perspectives is ultimately what resonated with so many people.
Trailer for the original SKAM’s final season, which focused on Sana (Iman Meskini)
The show’s writers travelled around Norway interviewing teens about what kind of issues matter to them. The series cast actual teenagers to play their school-aged characters, with series creator Julie Andem noting the numerous societal pressures teenagers currently feel under. All of which created an authenticity to the genre of teen drama which has been lacking with recent shows.
Unfortunately for SKAM’s fans, the show officially ended with its fourth season in the summer of 2017. However, that was far from the end for this once unheard of series. The initial worries that a show that celebrated its Norwegian culture would fail to translate to outside audiences (much of the series takes place in preparation for the Norwegian high school leavers’ tradition of ‘russefeiring‘) was seemingly unfounded.
Within a handful of months in early 2018 four, yes FOUR, new SKAM adaptations aired in different countries. SKAM France was the first to air in February of last year, closely followed by a German version, DRUCK (meaning ‘Pressure’) and an Italian version, SKAM Italia, in the following month. An American version, SKAM Austin, followed in April, which included the involvement of original show creator Julie Andem.
These national adaptations have been dubbed ‘remakes’ due to their replication of not only the original show’s main characters and storylines, but also the format of releasing new content online and creating real social media accounts for the shows’ fictional characters. Criticisms have been made that been made that these adaptations feel rushed or are too similar to the original, with entire scenes from the OG series being remade to be exact replicas, with only slight changes in characters’ expressions and dialogue.
That being said the format of SKAM is not only one that has now been proven to be easily replicated, it also has mass appeal. Using social media platforms to upload new content, as well as using it as a tool to flesh out your characters and blur the lines between fiction and reality is an ingenious way of using modern tech to consistently engage with your target audience of teens and young adults.
These remakes also give creators in other countries the opportunity to put the experiences of their teenagers in the spotlight. Exploring real world issues through different national perspectives, such as what it means to be an immigrant or be gay in their particular societies. Norway’s SKAM has ultimately given them the confidence to do so, showing that these kinds of stories and representations are deeply craved and appreciated by real adolescents worldwide.