SKAM, Toxic Masculinity, and My Boyfriend | Teen Ink

SKAM, Toxic Masculinity, and My Boyfriend

February 3, 2019

I like to think of myself as a documentary connoisseur and viewer of only quality television, but for some odd reason, I’m completely obsessed with SKAM. SKAM is your ordinary teen rom-com, chronicling the lives of Norwegian teens. The show is "woke," consciously weaving LGBTQ+ romances and social-cultural issues into all of its plotlines. The female characters are far from one-dimensional. The girls in SKAM struggle with their weight, self-confidence, and identity, but I can’t say the same for the guys.  One of the main characters, Noora, has a relationship with William, a playboy. William toys with one of her friends and publically dumps her in front of their school. Noora whirls hurtful insults in his direction, mocking his relationship with his family and his penis size, and tells him to "stop being a f***ing cliche." During the series, William remains your typical tall, silently brooding, dream-boy. For a show that’s "woke," isn't this one-dimensional portrayal of a male character pretty old fashioned? We learn a lot about Noora's experiences with sexual assault, body image, and feminist ideas. Do we hear about William's insecurities about his body or his struggle with his identity? Of course not. That would break the illusion of male perfection which has been instilled within society from an endless stream of media consumption. Real men, the kind heterosexual women want to be with, don't have insecurities. They don’t cry. These men are non-existent; everyone has vulnerabilities and complex emotions. Why, then, do all straight boys in a romance, even one like SKAM, have the same (nonexistent and/or basic) insecurities?

William has a plentitude of ground-breaking potential for character development, but instead, audiences see the same things as before: a hot teen with mommy issues, who drives a Maserati and is 6'1. As I rewatched SKAM for the third time; I soon realized the striking similarities between William and my own boyfriend.

My boyfriend is the perfect foil to this trope: aesthetically he’s your typical "real man," an American William if you will. He is 6'4, silently brooding, and will be making an insane amount of money working at an investment bank this summer (a good alternative for a Maserati). My boyfriend doesn’t have mommy issues and isn’t silently brooding because he has “never been loved.” Boys have more issues than just that; my boyfriend is a real person with real problems. He cries, feels insecure about his body, and doesn’t hold back his emotions. He gets stressed about school, his family, our relationship, and how many calories are in a chocolate bar. He cares about more than just “getting laid” or looking cool. The alternative to the Williams of media is the “sensitive, straight, nice-guy nerd” but that can be just as toxic. SKAM and other “woke” pieces of media should portray its male love interests in a fleshed out real way; Netflix’s Love has made great headway, but it's time for more representation. Diverse and accurate representation of LGBTQ+ and POC characters is a necessity in 2019, but there should also be more diverse narratives for all kinds of characters, minorities or not. The perils of student loan debt, the terror of plucking that one grey hair, and of course, the shame of stretch marks are all emotional adventures characters with romantic story arcs should go through. My boyfriend, like every other human on earth, does not exist solely as a love interest or romantic partner; he has dreams, fails, and has flaws, and media should show that. By making all types of characters more realistic, the media can help portray all people in a better light, which in turn can decrease toxicity. A majority of the adversity men face on TV is a misrepresentation of reality. We, as a society, need to "stop being a f***ing cliche" in how we portray men in romantic roles.

The author's comments:

A new look at representation in media. 

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