a Gesamtkunstwerk for the Internet age
June 27, 2018 10:40 AM   Subscribe

“The substance of the show wasn’t that different from “Riverdale”: it offered the usual roundelay of broken hearts, bruised feelings, and hookups. Teens kissed. They zoned out in class. They shared earbuds. But “skam Austin” had many hidden layers, and the producers wanted viewers to uncover them all. The characters, some of them played by local teen-agers, all had Instagram accounts, and, like real people’s, the posts offered insights into the characters’ pasts and their hopes for the future. Collectively, the video clips, photographs, and comments imbued the characters with a depth that not even flashbacks provide in conventional TV.”

“SKAM,” the Radical Teen Drama That Unfolds One Post at a Time: Is a narrative built from Facebook comments, texts, and Instagram Stories the future of TV?
posted by Grandysaur (15 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Both creating and consuming this series sounds like so. much. work.

I accept the possibility that this may mark me as an old media dinosaur shaking her cane at the kids on her lawn.
posted by egypturnash at 11:06 AM on June 27, 2018 [9 favorites]

This is interesting. Shows like Dexter and Hannibal have tried a lot of ARG stuff too, but the YA demographic is definitely where it's gonna be best served. Phenomena like Five Nights at Freddy's, Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, Salad Fingers, and Doki Doki Literature Club have galvanized the mob-detective genre for kids.

I personally think it's great. It teaches kids to be critical and skeptical and do research by making insight cool. No amount of critical lit theory could make that real for me in middle and high school, and I considered myself a book nerd. (looking back, I think I had Tool and NIN and Bright Eyes to lead me down that path, instead) So getting kids to think critically about the social internet is brilliant. Like getting fish interested in water.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:12 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Both creating and consuming this series sounds like so. much. work.

Creating it, probably, though old school tv series were a lot of work too, just structured differently. Sounds like Skam is made up of shorter, more easily digestible segments that might just spread a roughly equivalent amount of work out in a different fashion. As for consuming it, it seems like a collaborative effort that builds interest among those who enjoy the "show", so it isn't necessarily the case that any individual viewer would have to watch everything as if it was an old school show so much as take it in like their usual friends feeds and share the exploration of the back stories and other info with their friends that also enjoy the show, further filling those same feeds with posts over what each found. It wouldn't feel very different than your usual feed other than it being about this specific thing more frequently.

If it captures interest, it's kinda ingenious in how it builds and maintains its community. It isn't that different than how people use social media to talk Game of Thrones or Star Wars stuff exactly other than the show itself joins the feed rather than existing as some outside element brought into it. How long that can work before burn out sets in is hard to say. It might work better as a series of different "programs" focusing on new characters and stories, with maybe some occasional updates about older ones that lost some interest from their audience. Or not, it's a interesting new idea that could work well or end up a short lived novelty at this point. I suspect though that the basic premise will continue to be mined in hopes of finding a winning formula since it does offer some real promise for creators, and, of course, those who want to make money from it.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:32 AM on June 27, 2018

I was initially confused by the post’s date—October 10, 2017—because Facebook Watch didn’t announce that it had acquired “skam” until about a week afterward. Looking further, I could see that the two girls’ accounts included posts that had supposedly appeared in the summer of 2016. I thought about how thrilled Magnus and Andem must have been when they realized that, because Facebook owns Instagram, “skam” characters could now have fake Instagram histories that went back years.

uh, interesting. and potentially problematic.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:55 AM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was going to tell my daughter about this, but

“We were terrified they would hear their mothers say that NRK had recently made an awesome show for young people,”

Oh yeah. I guess I'll just blow her mind by already knowing about it when she mentions it off-hand in two weeks.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:11 PM on June 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Both creating and consuming this series sounds like so. much. work.

I've read all of Homestuck. Bring it.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:51 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank God for Betteridge's law.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:16 PM on June 27, 2018

I loved the original SKAM, I have enjoyed all of the remakes, and living in Texas, I really liked how very Texan the Austin remake has authentically been.

(I am looking forward to someone explaining Texas homecoming mums to Julie Andem, it’s exactly the sort of detail she’ll flip for)

I’m an Old (well, 41), and I picked up the original series in the third season when it crossed my Tumblr dash. I didn’t know about the social media aspect, only the clips that would be assembled into a full episode at the end of each week. I found it perfectly possible to follow the series without the social media, although I did appreciate it when translators would aggregate it and post it to Tumblr, later. It enhances the experience, I think, but isn’t completely necessary.

The series has its problems and blind spots across all the remakes, and of course I am not at all the key demographic, but I liked the individual character stories and the innovative real-time aspect - from a storytelling standpoint, there is a lot that’s clever and compelling. For example, in the original series, the character of Isak is struggling with internalized homophobia and inadvertently insults his roommate Eskild, who is out and proud. Eskild gently but firmly educates Isak in a powerful moment that went a long way towards setting Isak into a more understanding mindset, that humanized and fleshed out a previously clownish secondary character, and that, in the real world, created a lasting and educational impression on people who needed to hear what Eskild had to say.
posted by angeline at 2:44 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Bringing back memories of The Spot.
posted by zompist at 2:46 PM on June 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

And Pemberley Digital shows.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:14 PM on June 27, 2018

Not seen the Remakes but watched the original; someone mentioned homecoming moms above; one of the key strengths in the original is the utter lack of adults (other than Sanas mom, and possibly the school nurse) does the Austin one have a lot of involved adults? I didn’t really get the absolute freak out my colleagues were having here in Scandyland about the show and (rightly I think) assumes it was due to it being outside my frame of reference, I didn’t go to a mixed school, as a queer youth very little of my time was spent on boydrama or competitive girldrama/cliques, trying to find ways to drink, etc. Then they had Isaaks eps and I totally got the hype. Despite the almost thirty years beteeen me and the characters, despite it being about young men, it captured the essence of (my part of) queer youthdom so we’ll, we just kept saying “oh god, do you rememmmmber” and we mean being like that, feeling like that, doing those type of things with those type of people, at that type of time in life. I guess whether you’re writing paper notes or mobile texts, whether your shame is in Norway or USA, our fears and needs and hopes are the same regardless and that’s pretty interesting.
posted by Iteki at 11:05 PM on June 27, 2018

Ah! Sorry, no, my fault for not taking linguistic differences into account. Homecoming mums as in the flower, chrysanthemum, not as in mothers.

In Texas (and to a lesser extent the surrounding states) fake mums are assembled with ribbons and charms and bells into truly enormous and unwieldy corsages that young folk wear during Homecoming, which is an autumn football game tradition. Homecoming queens and their courts are elected, there’s a semi-formal dance, some towns have a parade...

...god, I had forgotten that we actually do have something here in America that really is nearly as inexplicable as Russetiden.

In SKAM Austin, Megan’s mother shows up about as often as Eva’s mother did in the original - which is to say not much. The hands-off of adults remains a theme so far in all of the remakes.
posted by angeline at 5:28 AM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine published a YA novel about ten years ago and then continued the story on FB in real time with accounts created for all the characters. It was kind of interesting, and I even participated in it every now and then, but I couldn't figure out how it was ever going to get the traction a book could get. (Meaning, you could buy the book, and then read the book, and not have to friend and follow a bunch of fake FB accounts.) FB was quite friendly to his idea at the time. I dunno what's going on now as I bailed on FB completely.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:49 AM on June 28, 2018

Oh, this is cool! It sort of reminds me of those Harry Potter role play fanfictions that were popular on Livejournal back in the day - you know, where there was one main account where all the characters posted, but each "character" maintained their own separate livejournal account, so you could click onto their personal accounts and read their own personal entries as well as see dramas unfolding in the various comments sections. It was fun, if time-consuming (seriously sometimes I look back on the hours I spent immersed in Harry Potter fanfiction and find it hard to believe that I ever had that much spare time). I'd love to check out SKAM, in some imaginary future where I have lots of time to go poking around ancillary materials.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2018

I watched the first two seasons of the original SKAM when I was learning Norwegian, and they were really, really good. For me, the big draw was the cast. The main cast were all actual 15- and 16-year-olds at the start of the show, and amazing actors too. It was really disappointing when NRK started blocking users outside of Norway from watching SKAM online. I should find a Norwegian VPN sometime so I can watch the later seasons. (If you watch on the NRK site you can turn on Norwegian subtitles, which I still rely on quite a bit for understanding different accents and unfamiliar words.)

I'm not surprised the remakes have been successful, because the underlying stories feel universal.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:09 AM on June 29, 2018

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