SKÅM: Season Four Review

 cr: skam.wikia (clickthrough link)

cr: skam.wikia (clickthrough link)

This season was a breath of fresh air in comparison to your typical teen dramas and their even more archetypal teenage characters. Impervious to peer pressures, Sana is a young woman who advocates for her beliefs and defends her friends, making her an honorable lead character. Her hardships are tripled by that fact that she is a young Muslim woman from an immigrant family living in Norway. And if that’s not enough to pique your curiosity, the SKÅM series also explores topics such as sexuality, mental illness, and violence in relationships from various lenses.

Below is an excerpt from the first episode of season four, where Sana establishes the mood for the entire season with this unsettling, awkward scene that had me devoted to watching and begging for a greater sense of closure:

“Do you have to share every detail of your sex life with Magnus?” Sana interrupted.

“I understand that it’s difficult for you to listen to because you can’t have sex—”

“I can have sex, Vilde; I just choose not to.”

“Yeah, I’m just saying it’s okay if you get sexually frustrated” said Vilde, defensively.

“I’m not sexually frustrated.” Sana confirmed. “It’s not as if I go around all the time thinking about boys and sex and feel like I’m missing out.”

In this scene, Sana stands firm on her values when she interrupts Vilde, who has been rambling on about her love life during a casual get-together between friends over some pop and pizza. Instantly, I was emotionally invested in this resilient female lead. Like a golden baguette (or havrebrød, to be true to the show’s Norwegian roots), Sana’s demeanor appears tough and her social interactions crisp, but her strong values, faith, and love for her friends soften her sensitivity.

Throughout the show, viewers watch as this young Muslim girl does her best to harmonize in Nordic society, while maintaining her unique tone and sense of self. Although Sana is not surprised by the normalcy of the casual sex, partying and binge-drinking that her peers partake in, she is frequently discriminated and ostracized because she is seen as deviating from these norms by not participating herself. Much to her credit, Sana refuses to succumb to these pressures to fit the Norwegian teenage mold. But, in an act to assert that she is a force to be reckoned with, Sana becomes the leader of a russebukse: a Norwegian cultural phenomenon where high school students rent a bus to party hard for the three straight weeks leading up to graduation to relieve the stress of exams (yes, this is a thing!). Controlling the russebukse gives her power and influence over those who disfavour her and she does whatever she can to keep it. Despite briefly losing sight of who she is during this period of power, Sana relies on her morals and her friends to guide her back onto the right path.

Naturally, what would a teen drama series be without a love interest? In the show, the cool and collected Sana is attracted to her older brother’s kind-hearted friend, Yousef, who shares the same feelings. Unlike the relationships of her peers, their deep bond is free of sensual desire, and is instead based on spiritual and emotional connection. Their meaningful conversations explore topics including the paradoxical nature of religion and having faith in a higher order. As a firm believer in Allah, Sana initially feels distraught to learn that Yousef is an atheist. However, she finds refuge in her brother’s words: is believing in Allah more important than living like you believe in Allah?

Looking at the show as a whole, I am blown away that a homogenous society such as Norway has produced a television series with such progressive values that is not only adored within Norway, but also internationally. Although the series is over, the lovable and sassy Sana - played by Iman Meskini - continues her badass journey off screen — as part of Norway’s military! So I ask you, how can you not love her?!