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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that SKAM Austin is a drama about a group of Austin high schoolers that takes on mature themes and is told in a unique format. Episodes are posted in short chunks as if they're updates from real social media accounts (and later gathered together into more traditional episodes), and characters have their own accounts and post from them frequently. In its original Norway, the format proved to be a giant hit, with fans waiting breathlessly for each new update. The sexual content may be the most worrisome aspect of this show for parents, with lots of teens making out and references to off-camera sex. Girls' looks and sexuality are frequently assessed, with one girl harshly called a "slut" by another. Yet the diverse cast represents a wide range of viewpoints, and their stories are sensitively told. Characters also grow over the course of the series and learn to be more authentic and kinder to each other and themselves. Iffy language includes "hell," "s--t," "bitches," "a--hole," "loser," "slut."
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What's the story?
Based on a Norwegian teen drama that was a massive international hit beginning in 2015, SKAM AUSTIN realistically chronicles the lives of a group of Austin teenagers. Like the original Skam, it posts episodes on many different channels: as short clips on Facebook and Instagram that are timed to drop at the same time as the event would have happened in the characters' lives, and collected at the end of each week into more traditional 30-ish minute episodes, with credits and background music. Each character on the show has his or her own (fake) social media accounts, and viewers can keep tabs on what's going on in their (fictional) lives outside of the narrative of the episodes.
Is it any good?
The American remake of the international Norwegian smash hit Skam isn't the ratings juggernaut that the original is, but its charms are many, particularly for those new to the series. The marquee feature of this series is, of course, the innovative way it's published -- and getting updates that there's a new post "from" the characters of the show, right alongside notifications that your friends and family have posted a video or gone Facebook Live certainly does make SKAM Austin immersive and vital in a way that appointment television hasn't been of late.
But even those who don't keep up with the Instagram posts and screenshots posted as if from SKAM Austin's teens may get sucked in. For one thing, the teens on this show are played by age-appropriate actors, not impossibly gorgeous 20-somethings with suspiciously elaborate hairstyles. They stammer. They hunch awkwardly. They spend the majority of episodes with their noses two inches from some screen or another, trying to work out why everyone else seems so fabulous and so happy when they feel so isolated and overwhelmed. It moves a bit slowly, true. But so does real life -- and though SKAM Austin is no vérité documentary, it reads a lot more authentic than Riverdale or 13 Reasons Why.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the issues raised in SKAM Austin. Have your teens witnessed or experienced racism, homophobia, or cyberbullying or more traditional bullying? What different forms can this behavior take these days? What defenses can you use against it?
Families can also talk about how SKAM Austin's characters show empathy and teamwork by launching a new dance team and standing up for themselves even against opposition. Why are these important character strengths?
Teens: Do you find your peer group to be mostly inclusive or exclusive? Can social media be a curse as well as a blessing? How does our constant connection to other people via cell phones cause stress? On the other hand, what are the benefits of this culture?
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