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‘SKAM’ Season 3: A Story About Accepting Yourself, Challenging Stereotypes and Living in the Moment

Looking back on a groundbreaking series, one year later

Credit: NRK

Set in Oslo, SKAM, or SHAME in English, is a Norwegian, coming-of-age TV drama broadcast on NRK that follows the lives of a group of teenagers and the challenges that they face throughout high school.

Season 3 of the hit series was certainly monumental, bringing the show onto the worldwide stage with an average of 800,000 views per episode. Its 10 episodes are shown through the perspective of blond-haired, green-eyed Isak Valtersen (Tarjei Sandvik Moe) and primarily focuses on a coming out story that also follows Isak’s flourishing relationship with third-year Even Bech Næsheim (Henrik Holm).

The season came to an end one year ago, but the impact that it is still having on so many people around the world is impossible to ignore. So, what makes SKAM Season 3 so special?

“I like someone. It’s not a girl.”

– Isak Valtersen (Season 3, Episode 6)

Our protagonist begins the season as an insecure, deeply closeted teenager, dealing with self-identity issues and hooking up with girls to try and hide his sexuality. He is first drawn to third-year Even after seeing him in the school cafeteria, and he soon becomes central to Isak overcoming his struggles.

Credit: skam.p3.no – Hjernen er alene

Isak and Even’s story was ultimately one of two boys falling in love. It wasn’t overdramatic or oversexualized, and it didn’t end in tragedy — the trap that so many other LGBTQ+ storylines have fallen into. Their story was simple, raw and real. It was about sharing clothes and food and cuddling. It was about going on bike rides, kissing underwater and talking about parallel universes. It was about awkward but beautiful firsts, making each other stronger and learning what it meant to fall in love with someone new. All in all, it was a refreshing and much-needed positive portrayal of an LGBTQ+ relationship that gave a genuine platform to so many LGBTQ+ people.

“Before you’ve fought those battles yourself and before you’ve dared to stand up for who you are, you should be very careful with talking and raising yourself above gay pride.”

– Eskild Tryggvason (Season 3, Episode 5)

The season also shows a deep understanding of the struggles with self-identity and internalized homophobia that so many LGBTQ+ people go through. We see Isak having difficulties with the idea that the person he has a crush on is a boy, taking “Am I Gay?” tests, researching “how to get turned on by girls if you are gay” and asking why a dance instructor at his school “has to make it so obvious” that he’s “ultra-gay.”

Credit: skam.p3.no – Grindr

When he does tell his roommate Eskild (Carl Martin Eggesbø) about Even, Isak says the fact that he likes a boy doesn’t mean he’s going to start wearing tights or mascara or go to gay pride, because he’s not “like that.” His roommate challenges him, saying that the people whom he doesn’t want to associate with have chosen to endure harassment and hate — they have been beaten up and killed just so that Isak could be there and have that conversation with him. Eskild tells him that, contrary to Isak’s beliefs, those people aren’t ridiculously keen on being different, but they’d rather die than be something that they’re not.

“Hate doesn’t come from religion. It comes from fear.”

– Sana Bakkoush (Season 3, Episode 8)

Isak’s reservations about religion vs homosexuality also linger in the background for most of the season. As is the case for many LGBTQ+ people in religious families, Isak was petrified of coming out to his deeply religious mother in fear of her not accepting him, however, an unlikely but important friendship blossomed between Isak and his biology partner Sana (Iman Meskini), who — by using her own faith as an example — was able to help him to overcome his internal dilemma. She ultimately challenges the protagonist’s view that religious people are inherently against homosexuality and tells him not to listen to anyone who tries to use religion as an excuse for their hatred, reassuring him, as well as some of the show’s viewers, that a person’s sexuality shouldn’t come between them and someone they love because of their faith.

Credit: skam.p3.no – Even

“I want my life to be real. Even though it will be absolutely awful at times, that’s still way better than for everything to be fake and boring.”

– Isak Valtersen (Season 3, Episode 10)

By the end of the season, Isak has overcome most of his setbacks and is learning how to live comfortably with his newfound way of life; he is at his happiest once he has accepted who he really is. His progression from a deeply closeted teenager to someone who is learning to fully accept and embrace himself and his sexuality is something of comfort to so many LGBTQ+ people. Isak is showing them that it’s OK to be who you are, and while it might take some time, you should be proud of who you are.

“He’s not crazy, he’s bipolar.”

– Magnus Fossbakken (Season 3, Episode 9)

Perhaps one of the most important issues that Season 3 sheds light on is the one of mental illness. Although it is not known for most of the season that Even suffers from bipolar disorder, it is brought to the forefront of the plot, after he runs outside naked in the middle on a manic episode. Isak, hurt and confused by what happened, tells Even to stay away from him, in turn causing Even to shut himself off from him.

Credit: skam.p3.no – 15:15-01:01

However, Isak soon sees that Even is so much more than his mental illness. He realizes that, while his disorder brings difficulties with it, Even is still someone that Isak wants in his life; there is a major development from the protagonist saying that he was “better off without mentally ill people in his life” just weeks beforehand. Isak’s own growth in understanding also helped to educate SKAM‘s audience on mental illness, showing that, despite the negative stereotypes, people suffering from mental illnesses are not “crazy” and are not defined by their illness.

“What about asking Even how he feels?”

– Magnus Fossbakken (Season 3, Episode 9)

Isak reaches the peak of his redemption arc in one of the most moving scenes of the season, when he sprints through the streets of Oslo in the middle of the night to hold Even and tell him that he’s not alone. Isak realized that this was something that Even needed to hear after spending the entire week following his manic episode trapped in his own head, thinking that all he was capable of doing was hurting people. For someone who was feeling like he didn’t deserve any happiness and that every day ahead of him would be a struggle, these words offered Even some much-needed reassurance, relief and, perhaps most importantly of all, a sense of safety. They also came as a sense of comfort to many struggling viewers, telling them that, no matter how much it might feel like it, you aren’t alone, either; you have people there for you just like Even does for him.

Credit: skam.p3.no – O Helga Natt

“Just take it one day at a time.”

– Isak Valtersen (Season 3, Episode 10)

In the midst of a depressive episode, Even was constantly worrying about the future and what it might bring for him. Soon enough, he and Isak began to learn together to not stress about the future, but to live in the now and take things slowly and comfortably as they come — day by day, minute by minute. As Even found a new sense of control, his feelings shifted from that of dread, despair and emptiness to that of relief, hope and security. He found a sense of peace in knowing that his mental illness wasn’t the be all and end all; he could have the happy ending he deserved, despite it, even if it wasn’t the stereotypical fairytale.

Credit: skam.p3.no – Minutt for minutt

The characterization of Even was something that so many people could truly connect with and appreciate. His mental illness wasn’t at all romanticized, and his story truly felt like one that was reaching out, offering the much-needed message that you can be happy no matter what, and you deserve to be happy no matter what.

“Life is now.”

– Isak Valtersen (Season 3, Episode 10)

SKAM Season 3 is undeniably one of the most monumental series that our screens have seen in recent years. The raw and realistic portrayals of so many prominent issues in today’s society were able to give hope, comfort and a positive platform to so many people, and the fact that the show was able to do this through gripping episodes and without feeling forced is a truly impressive feat. Although it’s already been a year since its end, this is a series that has touched the hearts of so many people and will certainly withstand the test of time.

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Written by Hannah Jeffrey

17 year old humanities student and violin player who probably goes to too many concerts.

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