'SKAM' Makes me Wonder if I Messed up my Teenage Years
What the hell is that deep, nostalgic feeling I get every time I watch the show?
This article originally appeared on VICE Denmark
Season one spoilers ahead.
If I were as obsessed with real life 17-year-old girls as I am with Eva, Noora, Sana, Vilde and Chris – if I read their text messages, discussed their sex lives with my friends and spent my nights following every detail of their lives – I think society would greet me with a nice mix of both judgement and jail time.
I'm a 27-year-old man but nobody judges me for being obsessed with SKAM. When I (like everyone else right now) initiate conversations with "do you watch SKAM?" people respond with excitement and to ask me what character I got when I did the quiz, which is a must if you're a real fan. (I got Noora obviously, and I use every opportunity I get to mention it). SKAM is a huge success in its native Norway, and the Danish audience is growing rapidly, as does the Swedish. But as an even bigger testament to its cultural relevance, I already have more than one friend with a Noora-haircut and bright red lipstick onevery day.
I didn't date anyone in high school. The closest I got to dating was when the guy I was in love with broke my heart in the parking lot at a fancy dress party, while I was wearing a Mr. Incredible costume.
I recognise a lot from my own teenage years in the show. I remember the pre-parties in IKEA-furnished bedrooms, drinking bring-along beer and listening to Britney's auto-tuned robotic vocals moaning "Gimme More" in the Sony Micro Stereo. I remember it all so clearly, and I have great memories from my three years in high school.
However, I don't miss all that. So what the hell is that deep, nostalgic feeling I get every time I watch the show?
Besides all the recognisable stuff, there is a certain part of the teenage experience as portrayed in SKAM, which I never got to experience myself. I didn't date anyone in high school. The closest I got to dating was when the guy I was in love with broke my heart in the parking lot at a fancy dress party, while I was wearing a Mr. Incredible costume. Other than that proud moment, life in high school was always about someone else's drama – dating related or not.
To me, all the flirting, fucking and jealousy felt like a party I wasn't invited to. There was always a friend, who had a problem with another friend. (Why was it always at the peak of the party that they had to "talk things through"?) If not that, it was my best friend who would sail off on a soul-draining, gut-wrenching emotional free fall, every time there was a girl who didn't wanna hook up with him. I always played my part as the supportive friend with pride and joy, while secretly wishing that for once, the drama could be about me.
I'm the one kissing Eva. And Jonas. And both of them at the same time.
Flash forward about eight years: I'm on my couch in my underwear and socks, staring intensely at my 13 inch Macbook Pro. There's ten minutes left of the season one finale. Eva lets Jonas into her house. Last time they spoke, he said she shouldn't contact him before figuring out who she is. Burn. Now she's invited him over and they're having tea in the kitchen, so she must have figured something out, right? Maybe they will get back together or are they going to break up? Before we get to that, I'm treated to strong one of the greatest characteristics of teenage drama – the lustful stare while the other person looks away. Then Eva talks:
"Do you remember the first time we kissed?"
This is textbook stuff. The two lovers reignite their flame by telling each other the story of how they first got together. I've seen that a million times before. But not like this. Eva goes on to tell Jonas how she became "insecure and desperate" because Jonas's opinion became more important than her own, and that she now needs to form her own opinion and find herself – without him.
Surprisingly enough it's not corny at all. This is not Brenda Walsh with her resting bitch face covered in stone washed denim in the halls of West Beverly High. I believe it. I feel it because I'm right up in there with the tears, the skin imperfections, and the running eyeliner. I'm the one kissing Eva. And Jonas. And both of them at the same time. And that's why I'm tearing up when Eva's monologue reveals that she's breaking up with Jonas, and the flash forward cut-aways are leading to break-up sex instead of make-up sex as I expected. I remember this feeling – even though I was convinced it was reserved for everyone but me back then.
SKAM is not just your average boy-meets-girl story about innocent teenage love. It expands beyond that when Eva openly and honestly explains how she had to give up her entire group of friends – the aorta of adolescence – to be with Jonas. That is not just youthful nonsense. That is the complexity of life as a teenager taken seriously. It is an honest depiction of love, integrity, self-awareness and lust – and it's told without judgement or condescension.
After each episode of SKAM, I'm left with a weird emotional mixture of nostalgia and relief. It's both take me back! and thank God I'm older now. I have reached an age where I use terms like "I have reached an age where..." I'm not 17, 21 or even 25 anymore. I am smarter, stronger and I finally know what hairstyle looks good on me. But sometimes I miss the magic of feeling everything for the first time.
I wouldn't do it all over again, but I sometimes feel like I could have done it better. In the "right way". SKAM reminds me that I did it my way.
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