a synopsis of s3’s remakes (minor spoilers/cw)
Challenging Cultural Norms in Skam Italia
As LGBT+ people, we’re often accustomed to hiding. Hiding our true selves, our fears, our feelings, our weaknesses & vulnerabilities. So, when the main character (Martino) removed the mask from his Halloween costume on the back of his boyfriend’s bike & tossed it on the ground in the front of one of the most profound locations in Rome, I recognized the true importance for each country & culture to have its own remake.
Skam teaches people that it’s so much easier to forgive someone or accept something when we understand why. Everyone has a backstory, reason, motive etc. Our hearts open up with compassion & empathy once we become aware of the bigger picture & our perspectives change & our perception expands. The problem is, most people are too ashamed to share their big “WHY” or they’re afraid they won’t properly articulate their thoughts & feelings in a well received manner, without being judged, ridiculed or criticized.
Normally (& naturally) viewers would be offended by these plots, except this show provides direct insight into why they’ve made the choices that they’ve made at that particular time, & that made all the difference. Older generations cling so tightly to generational beliefs, habits & traditions.. so much so, that letting go of them gets interpreted as a form of betrayal.
Sometimes, the older generations are a little bit more rigid or stubborn when it comes to changing their minds or their beliefs, in general. Professionally, my challenge is- when my passion for something becomes entangled with my emotion about it, it can be concerning because I’m limited with the amount of time I have when speaking with parents in session & I’m aware that I have this one shot to impact them, influence them & open their eyes, hearts, & minds to unconditional acceptance of their child.
Coming out can come with compromise to the family- sometimes resulting in physical, mental, emotional, or financial abuse & even homelessness. Knowing this, many people don’t ever decide to come out at all. Not just because they’re ashamed of their sexuality, but because they’re afraid of what will happen to them because of it. Family support means everything. & in Skam Italia, that is thoroughly expressed.
When the main character downloads a local dating app out of curiosity, he quickly deletes it shortly after. But, often times in life, this scenario plays out much differnetly. Due to hidden or unaccepted sexuality at home/school, they venture out to explore other possibilities that can remain confidential. This sparks a concern for safety, for many reasons. & most parents won’t know that this is the chosen alternative. All they know is they don’t want a gay son & think by openly proclaiming so, that will change everything. Unfortunately, it sometimes does.
Like Isak from OG, Martino starts dating a girl while he is in love with a boy that he’s afraid to break up with because he’s trying to maintain appearing straight. Eventually he does, but unlike Isak, Martino’s father is unaccepting of his sexuality & his relationship with his boyfriend. This is not something reserved only for Italian culture, but especially in Italian culture, as expressed by its many viewers.
Skam Italia is available to watch on Netflix Italy with a VPN.
Skam Belgium’s Deep Dive Into Homophobia
Another s3 remake of Skam has come to an end. Each time a remake is made, we get deeper insight into the country’s culture in how LGBT+ & mental health/illness representation is portrayed, as well as how it’s perceived. This time, however, viewers experienced something no other season 3 has chosen to show before- a homophobic hate crime. The scene itself isn’t very long, but just enough time to encapsulate the feelings of a couple experiencing extreme feelings of joy to extreme feelings of fear within in moments, simply for publicly sharing affection, as couples often do.
There were some viewers that were upset by watching this, as the possibility for being attacked for simply being who you are, is all too real. The truth is, it’s not that these things don’t happen in the real world, or shouldn’t be represented in Skam, it’s that its viewers are used to Skam being their safe space where queer representation had no extreme repercussions.
While many viewers are LGBT+, there are plenty of s3 viewers that are not. The thing about films with LGBT+ representation, though, is that not everyone that’s watching is an ally either. In a different s3 remake, people made homophobic comments about one of the actors for not identifying as straight. When confronted about why they were choosing to watch a series that the two main characters were in a m/m relationship, most said, “..but it’s not real, it’s just a series.” Which is, in my opinion, why that scene was relevant in the Skam Universe, not just for the new viewers, but for longtime fans as well. Because after the series is over, there are still homophobic hate crimes taking place- & not just in Belgium, but throughout the entire world. In the USA, most people that claim to be tolerant, neutral or in support of LGBT+ people, don’t often support family/friends when they come out as LGBT+. Surprisingly, the least tolerant people are between the ages of 18–34 years old. This is also somewhat within the target age of Skam’s audience. The message is clear for the non-LGBT+ audience, that tolerance & acceptance is key. Not just for the future generations that become parents, but as allies, as research has shown that even having just one accepting adult reduced the risk of suicide by 40%.
After the scene was over, I, amongst others had concerns about why one of the main characters refused to report it to the police. Although it wasn’t made clear on exactly why, the truth is there are many cases that go unreported for many different reasons. Especially involving bullying at school where many students aren’t ‘out’ yet, & by reporting, it would force them into coming out. Coming out is a very personal choice. There are many teenagers that choose to wait because their home environment isn’t safe for them to do so. Fortunately, this remake portrayed an accepting family. In ‘real life’ this isn’t always the case, so it’s refreshing to see when LGBT+ characters (& real people) can have ‘happy endings’ too, even if the chain of events leading up to that point might be different. WTFock can be found on Youtube.
How Minor Changes In Skam España Made A Major Difference
In 2016, an article was published titled, “Bisexuality On The Rise” referencing a study done in the USA. The question is, is it really on the rise, are far more people finally comfortable with being visible & using the bisexual label, or had it been buried beneath bi-erasure, both personally as well as professionally?
We’re seeing more organizations raise awareness about it & we’re seeing/hearing it on TV now more than ever. The representation previously available didn’t focus much on romantic love, until recently. With the season 3 storyline highlighting mental illness & bisexuality, Skam Espana is the 1st remake to switch the storyline’s main characters to girls. Most longtime viewers had been asking for this representation, as they also wanted to feel visible on screen, in a non-sexualized/fetishized way. There are a few clips in OG Skam & remakes where the scenes between girls are not about having an actual relationship, but a drunken party hook-up (with the exception of Skam France that also introduced an openly bisexual character.)
The main character, Cris, discovers & comes to terms with her sexuality after meeting the co-main, Joanna. Joanna, although confident in her sexuality, is coming to terms with accepting her MI. While she seems to struggle with her fears of Cris not being able to accept her for having BPD, Cris is afraid that Joanna is not capable of authentically loving her because of her MI. This storyline is handled with such care, providing representation for the LGBTQ+ community as well as people with MI.
By the time the season ends, unlike the OG & its remakes, Cris has not yet formally come out to her parents. During an argument, she does tell her mom she has a girlfriend, but her mom immediately dismisses it as Cris being angry with her. I think this scene is especially important because it addresses the culture as well, as far as the brushing off of something so important because it wasn’t able to be communicated seriously or taken seriously, because of the fear attached to both saying it & hearing it — which is why no matter how many times this story gets told, it never gets old. Each country recreates the storylines to uniquely represent its own culture. Of course many others can still relate, especially those that share the same or similar cultures outside of that particular country.
In the final episode, Cris is surrounded by her girlfriend & their friends that support them in their relationship as a couple, as well as the individual support for her BPD. You can watch Skam Espana on the network’s YouTube channel with English subs.
How Skam Revolutionized TV By Introducing A Trans Storyline
Why was this both timely & important? Because the biggest question that people immediately had was, “How could the main character be gay if his love interest is trans?” The answers to this question varied, & as many times as it was answered, some discrepancy remained because there were people that either didn’t agree, or refused to accept the answers. The wonderful thing that Druck provided, was a Q&A video (that you can have auto-translated with English CC/subtitles) which addresses a lot of the common misconceptions & stereotypes that people have.
As we’re taken through this journey, we see David (the co-main) get misgendered by his teacher. I’m sure Germany’s laws are different, but in the USA, it’s important to know, that we still have schools that have NoPromoHomo laws in place. This means that some schools are not allowed to have LGBT+ inclusive Sex Ed classes. This also means that certain states only allowed people to change their gender on their birth certificate if they had a sex change, because doctors didn’t agree that people could be trans without having gender dysphoria & thought people should be ‘evaluated’ to avoid “irrational decision making” that would later lead to eventually de-transitioning.
- Only 24 out of 50 states require it
- 27 states require it be ‘abstinence based’
- Only 13 states require it to be medically accurate
- 7 states prohibit the “promotion of homosexuality”
- 3 states (Alabama/South Carolina/Texas) require “only negative information” when it comes to the “promotion of homosexuality”
- Only 9 states require LGBT+ inclusive Sex Ed
The teachers are uninformed & are being misinformed, the students are uneducated, & the LGBT+ Community is suffering. This is why organizations like GLSEN are important to have in schools, because they better help students, teachers, & staff understand & learn about LGBT+ inclusive terminology & equality in Sex Ed. There are parents that protest thisbecause they are uncomfortable with their children learning about the genders & sexualities of others, but the lack of information causes a lack of acceptance & intolerance, often causing more harm than good.
- Only ¼ of LGBT+ youth always feel safe in their classrooms
- Almost ⅓ miss school because of it
- Less than 15% are comfortable talking to their school counselor
- Less than ½ have access to a support group
- 4 in 5 don’t see positive representation in their curriculum
We’re then made aware of David’s living conditions. They make the viewer very aware that the neighborhood isn’t the greatest, & that he & his sister are living without their parents. We never get direct insight as to why exactly that is, but if it’s the unfortunate circumstance where he was kicked out due to being LGBT+, then it’s not too far off from how this also plays out in “real life” as well.
- About 40% of homeless youth are LGBT+
- 68% indicate that family rejection was a major factor
- 54% indicate that abuse (in the home) was another factor
Although there are some moments that are tough to watch as David struggles with accepting himself after being outed by a student, it’s a must watch show that’s both heartwarming & educational. Skam Germany/Druck is available on Youtube on their official channel using a VPN.
Why Skam France Isn’t Just Another Remake
Because of Skam’s originality & impact, when most people discovered there would be remakes, the responses were mixed. Some were thrilled to finally have their favorite show translated into their language & culture, while others wanted the original series to be preserved & untouched, in a museum-like fashion. Admittedly, I was one of those people upon discovering that the U.S. was getting one for many reasons, but was definitely intrigued.
Although all of the seasons carry their own important messages, due to the nature of the the advocacy part of my work, the main focus is on s3 because of how well it portrays mental health, mental illness, & coming out as LGBT+. For some people, it’s the first time they’ve felt seen with a relatable character on screen: a closeted gay character, Lucas, as the season’s main with his love interest, Eliott, an out pansexual with bipolar- because representation matters.
From the moment you start watching, it’s not hard to tell that Skam France isn’t just telling you a story, but asking you a question. The question that this show is repeatedly asking us as the viewer is: Can we forgive others for their actions when we don’t understand their motives? & more importantly… Can we forgive others for not being what we needed them to be during those times?
There is a lot of behavior exhibited throughout the series that normally would be deemed as problematic & unacceptable, that once provided with deeper meaning, also provides deeper understanding. It takes the time to show us that once we understand, we can respond with compassion & care, not just to forgive, but to accept & to unconditionally love. There is such a clear & distinct difference in the choices that we make when we feel supported, inspired, & confident vs insecure, desperate, & ashamed… ashamed of what others will think & how they’ll react once they discover ‘the real you.’
Unlike the OG plot, Skam France challenged its viewers to experience this exact scenario when instead of receiving support from his best friend during Lucas’ coming out scene, he quickly discovers he wasn’t getting the support he had hoped for. With many changes & additions to the original, we gain a fresh perspective on Lucas number 1 instead of Isak number 3. & while I’m biased as a therapist, my favorite scenes are the bipolar manic & depressive episodes that provide keen insight to the behind the scenes of what happens before, during, & after with much need dialogue between the characters. I was so grateful for this addition that I had to share it via twitter for World Bipolar Day.
With topics such as mental illness, general acceptance can seem vague due to the stigma attached to it. The generalized fear isn’t always: If I am myself, will they accept me- it’s also, if I am myself, will they accept me even when they can’t understand me? & while we owe explanations to no one, the drawback & the result often leads to miscommunication & misunderstandings. If we don’t clarify our intention, people will only be able to receive it by how they perceive it, in how it looks & feels to them at the time.
Did you know: Men are less likely to seek treatment for their mental health? This is why MI representation is so important — especially for LGBT+ youth. Many people have shared how much the show helped them with coming out &/or addressing their own mental health. Although it’s full of love, s3 isn’t just a love story. It’s meant to start conversations, even the difficult ones we’ve been avoiding. Watch Skam France s3 on Youtube.