The Internet, TV Shows, LGBTQIA+, Pop Culture

‘SKAM Italia’ is giving my country the heartfelt stories we’ve so desperately needed

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead!

If you’re a millennial and you spend any time on the internet, you may have heard of SKAM, originally a Norwegian web series created by Julie Andem that won the critics’ praise and the audience’s heart and was a beacon of hope for millennials of any identity. The success of SKAM was so great that 8 countries bought rights to adapt the show and rewrite the story in a way that would fit their culture.

Italy’s reboot of SKAM might be the most beloved yet, and I don’t say this because I’m biased.

SKAM Italia follows the format of the original SKAM, with each season focusing on a different main character. The first follows the story of Eva Brighi, a sixteen-year-old girl who, despite being madly in love with her boyfriend Giovanni, is lonely all the time.

Hers is a tale of jealousy, heartbreak, and learning that friendship is as important as romance. The second season follows Eva’s friend Martino Rametta, who the audience believed to be secretly in love with her. Joke’s on all of us, because Martino realizes he may not be as straight as he thought when he meets Niccolò Fares, a brooding rule-breaker who wishes the entire world could just disappear for a while so that he could quietly go to the zoo and ride a giraffe around Rome, just to see what that’s like.

If Eva’s growth is about overcoming past mistakes, the ever-present shadow of guilt, and finally putting together a group of friends so that she’s not so emotionally dependent on her boyfriend.

Martino has a tight-knit group of best friends who are his support system, the self-dubbed foursome “little Luca’s smugglers” (original: i contrabbandieri di Luchino) that destroy all aspects of toxic masculinity. His story is about getting to know himself, where Eva’s was about exploring others and the emotions and possibilities that interpersonal relationships offer.

SKAM is not quite a coming of age story, far from the classical journey that a hero would undertake in a Bildungsroman. The protagonists are too young to fully come into their grown-up identities and the show is far from wanting to teach anybody a lesson. The audience gets to experience progress not only through conventional episodes but also via the characters’ texts, WhatsApp group chats and social media posts that are put online live by the show’s producers.

We’re not just witnessing the big events that made a mark, we’re there for the smallest things too, throughout a significant year in the life of all characters, fully aware that their journey will never truly end.

Season 2 of SKAM Italia is a true gem because it focuses on the coming out of two young men in a country that doesn’t seem ready to welcome LGBTQ+ in public spaces yet, let alone in the media.

The cultural implications of the show’s importance aren’t at the center of the narration, because the story doesn’t deal with big scale issues, immersed as it is in the immediate culture surrounding Martino and his high school friends, but it’s not ignored either. He quickly develops a friendship with the self-dubbed “king of Roman gays” Filippo Sava, who is much more of an activist than Martino will ever care to be. In one episode, Filippo gives a touching speech about what it’s like to be a gay man in Italy in this catastrophic time and age.

Martino and Niccolò riding a bike in the Vatican
[Image description: Niccolò and Martino riding a bike, the Vatican in the background] Via TimVision
Martino coming to terms with his sexuality is a realistic process that is told through exquisite visuals and music. Some of the most beautiful scenes remain those where his friends learn about his sexuality and how they react, and they did wonders for the Italian audience who desperately needs queer communities to be normalized.

SKAM offers representation for so many minorities that are oppressed in this country. Niccolò suffers from a borderline personality disorder, something else that most people in Italy will tell you doesn’t exist; his mental illness is portrayed with care and rawness. One of Eva’s best friends, Sana, is the first Muslim regular character that Italy has ever had, and she’s a badass that the audience loves.

SKAM Italia never tries to be anything more than it is: a low-budget teen drama about kids experiencing first loves, friendship, and growing pains. All is told with a spoonful of shocking realism, spontaneity, and rawness.

It is almost tenderly painful to watch, as a more mature millennial, to see a younger version of myself in what every character is going through. I remember all too well the struggles of high school, where you feel like every text message could be the end of the world and like you could die of embarrassment any minute or like your heart might explode of happiness the next. It is no coincidence that “skam” is Norwegian for “shame”.

I would’ve loved to see a show like SKAM when I was a child growing up in Italy or even during high school. It would’ve helped me cope with emotional growing pains, and it would’ve smoothly shown me that the world is a beautiful place because of how diverse it is. It’s not hard to see why the show is changing so many lives, in Italy and across the world, and I can only rejoice.

(There are thousands of people streaming SKAM Italia illegally all the way to China!)

Ludovico Bessegato, showrunner and director of SKAM Italia, had an incredibly hard task in adapting and writing this show for a country that wasn’t ready for its themes, and he fully delivered and exceeded expectations, bringing awareness to issues that are deadly important and that people need to hear. Hopefully, SKAM Italia can contribute, however infinitesimally, to this country transitioning to the 21st century.

You can watch all episodes of SKAM Italia with English subtitles on Youtube. Season 3 is currently airing on TimVision.