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Meet Bouldin High’s newest extracurricular: the as-of-yet-unnamed non-Kitten dance team! In the original Skam, the girl squad came together to form a “bus” for Russefeiring celebrations, a very Norwegian thing that does not translate to American culture.
Luckily, SKAM Austin has no shortage of American group activity options to use as an excuse to get this core group of characters together. After all, as SKAM Austin established in its opening monologue, to be an American teenager today is to have your schedule carved out by organized group activity. To avoid this community of extracurriculars is to opt out of the high school hierarchy altogether. You will still be judged by it, for better or worse, and your lack of willingness to “join in” will be part of that equation.
It’s something the Marlons of the world—who answer stock English class questions about what The Great Gatsby teaches us about “The American Dream” (it’s bullshit”)—have no problem with. Marlon, Shay, and Tyler are comfortable with their own group of friends. They may not be part of organized extracurriculars, but their lives are full with other forms of community and passion: they attend local psych-rock concerts and start a band. They have their music and they have each other, and that’s more than enough.
But Megan isn’t like that… at least not yet. Right now, her only “activity” is Marlon, and, as he told her, he can’t always be there, he can’t be her everything. It’s not fair and it’s not practical to ask one person to do that. The thing is: Megan was an active part of the Bouldin High community and, on some level, she wants back in. It’s whys she attended Talent Night, even when she didn’t have anyone to go with. She’s trying to recapture that feeling of belonging she seemed to have before we met her, when she was best friends with Abby and she sat at the same lunch table as the rest of the Kittens.
Kelsey’s new dance team might not be as shiny as the Kittens, but it already has the rough trappings of belonging. As new character Zoya points out, they’re all losers, but at least they’re a team of losers now, and at least they are starting to formulate some kind of plan. Zoya suggests getting in with the football dudes. She understands how American culture works. We worship masculinity in the form of organized sports: Save the football player, save the world.
Zoya’s clear-eyed insight into the social hierarchy of Bouldin High is no doubt informed by the fact that, due to her visible identity as a black Muslim, she will always be treated as an outsider. She probably has to deal with shit like Kelsey assuming that Zoya isn’t allowed to dance because she is Muslim everyday.
The prejudice Zoya faces as a black Muslim in one of the reddest states in America isn’t the only America-specific cultural detail that is slipped into this week’s episode. One of the most fascinating aspects of watching SKAM Austin after having watched Skam is how the experience of being a teenager does and doesn’t change based on this new cultural context. What is the same about being a teenager in Austin vs. Oslo and what is different?
At one point in “Week 2,” Jo mentions that being part of a team is part of the rules of high school, somewhere below not bringing a gun to class. It’s hard to imagine one of the Norwegian teens in Skam making a comment like this. Horrifically, gun violence has become a thing that teens today in America actually have to worry about. Jo jokes about it, but presumably that joke comes from a real place of anxiety. It’s a subtle reminder of the realities of modern American teenagehood, and an example of the kinds of America-specific and Austin-specific details SKAM Austin is including in its adaptation. From where I’m standing, this show has already made the case for the necessity of its adaptation.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the translation is SKAM Austin’s depiction of social media. As with Skam, there are whole scenes of characters scrolling through their social media feeds. For me, it’s these moments that really make both shows. TV and pop culture in general has not been very good at representing how technology has changed our lives. We hardly ever see scenes of characters watching Netflix or lurking on Facebook.
I understand. It’s hard to make that visually dramatic, but, instead of abandoning the representation as a lost cause, both Skam and SKAM Austin lean into it as a viscerally relatable part of modern existence. When we watch Megan scroll through ex-best friend Abby’s Instagram, it isn’t boring. It’s heartbreaking. We feel Megan’s loneliness in that moment because we know what it’s like when social media only exentuates our loneliness. (Note: Though my example is a negative one, Skam doesn’t depict social media as inherently negative, which is nice.) In other words: SKAM Austin‘s good, modern storytelling extends past its real-time release format.
Megan spends much of her social media time this week looking for clues that Marlon and Abby are secretly hanging out behind her back. There does seem to be more to the situation than meets the eye, but, for now, Marlon explains their social media interaction away with a story about Chemistry homework. It’s fishy, but also easy to give Marlon the benefit of the doubt. Though he acted immaturely in not letting Megan know he wouldn’t be able to go with her to Talent Night last week, he’s, generally, a pretty mature teenager. He is the one who encourages Megan to find friends because he wants her life to be full. He is also the one who asks Megan to tell him what’s wrong when she is giving him the cold shoulder. Dude also knows what’s up when it comes to the ridiculous inflation of smoothie prices.
In other social media news, Grace and Megan are Instagram friends! The two are totally friend-soulmates, already joking together and wordlessly communicating. When Kelsey is awkward about letting Zoya join the dance team, Grace and Megan step up to say they will. Though they don’t explicitly discuss it (they can’t—this is all happening in real time!), you know they are on the same page about supporting Zoya and trying to make Kelsey’s dance team of losers more inclusive.
All in all, this was another solid episode of SKAM Austin. The story really came together when the five girls sat down to discuss their new team. This is when Zoya, and her sharp wit, really had the chance to shine. Megan, Grace, Zoya, Jo, and Kelsey make a strange group of future-friends, but they’re also so sweet and alive and eager in their own way. Most of all, they’re all looking for a place to belong and, with each other, they’ve found it.
For more information on SKAM Austin, see our SKAM Austin hub with links to all of the character’s Instagram accounts, and a full episode guide.