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Editorial Part 1: Skins, The Most Dangerous Show On TV?

Editor-in-Chief’s Note:

Because of the incredible amount of discourse raging on about MTV’s new series Skins, Poptimal.com’s Editorial Board felt it necessary to give our view about the new series and its impact on America.  However, we learned that much like the rest of America, our writers were split on what to say about the provocative British reboot.  So, our Editorial is divided into 2 parts espousing 2 different views.  This is not our attempt to keep our coverage even-handed, that is not our purpose.  However, it is our attempt to our continue with our our mantra to bring reviews from people like you.

Below is Part 1 written by Keshvar Alikhani.  Part 2, written by Keith Kuramoto will be published on Monday, January 31, 2011.  Let us know what you think in the comments section at the end of each article.

Editorial (Part 1): On Skins, PTC Finally Gets One Right – it is the Most Dangerous Show On TV

Usually, just hearing the words “Parents Television Council” (PTC) invokes a Pavlovian response in the form of an eye roll from me.  I am a Berkeley educated liberal progressive with a mind open to a variety of artistic expression.  I am religious, but not devout and I don’t try to force my morals down the throats of others.  I am fiercely loyal to the First Amendment right of free speech and expression.  To be honest, I even get a ghoulish feeling of excitement and pride when my parents complain about the “scandalous,” “trashy,” and “vulgar” self-expressions of my generation.  Oh and by the way, I love Gossip Girl!  That is why I can’t believe that I’m applauding the PTC’s stance on MTV’s new hit TV series Skins.  In short, this is one instance where the PTC got it right — Skins is unsuitable teen television.

When the PTC called the CW’s behavior “grossly irresponsible” for airing an episode of Gossip Girl that featured some of the main characters engaging in a threesome, I rolled my eyes. When Glee twenty-somethings Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, and Diana Agron posed for sexy pictures in GQ, the PTC said the photos bordered on pedophilia because the actors play underage characters on TV. (See GQ Pictures) What came next? You guessed it, another eye roll.

Then, the PTC  seemed overly sensitive and completely clueless. Dan, Vanessa, and Olivia’s threesome was a passing thought in a season that was much more about corporate intrigue, true love, and shopping than a one-time sexual experiment. And the adult Glee cast’s photo shoot in a magazine for adults was not only legal, but typical in today’s media culture.  For all of its well-meaning worry, the PTC usually gets it wrong. Even worse, it calls attention to scenes and actions that would ultimately have been nothing but soon-forgotten moments in television history.

 

Cast of MTV Skins

I recently sat down to watch MTV’s new series Skins. If you haven’t already seen a million articles about it by this time, Skins is the reboot of the British scripted series depicting actual teenage actors engaged in bawdy, violent, illegal and oversexed behavior.  Each episode is a racy, sexual, and drug infused sprint that has garnered a TV-MA (Language, Sexual Situations) rating.  Knowing MTV’s prowess for the pushing the envelope with shows like Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant, and Jersey Shore, I was ready for controversy, for grittiness, for shock.  However, what I wasn’t ready for was to be completely appalled by the show.  I wasn’t ready to have my usually freethinking, open-minded self saying things I’d only heard my parents say during episodes of Jersey Shore.  And, as I explain later, I surely wasn’t ready to agree with the likes of the PTC, but I did.

When I read the PTC’s outraged reaction to the premiere, for the first time, I did not roll my eyes (Read PTC Response).  The PTC’s argument against Skins centered on their belief  that the sexual actions portrayed by the underage actors in the series constitutes child pornography, which is defined by United States law as “any visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.”  On  Skins, the youngest cast member of the series is just 15, with the rest of cast ranging in age from 15 to 19.  Skins is overflowing with this type of sexually explicit content, and according to the PTC, is “the most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on . . . children.” Based on what I saw, the council is absolutely right.

 

Glee's Lea Michele in controversial GQ photo

Although this is not the first time the PTC has used the buzzword “pedophilia” to fuel their media outcry, it might be the first time they’ve got a leg to stand on. In the end, the legal battle will have to be worked out in a court of law, but for now, the PTC’s statements are enough to get the rest of the country talking about the harm a show like this could do to society and win in the court of public opinion. What’s more, it’s made a solid enough point to cause multiple companies to pull their sponsorship from the show.  Specifically, General Motors, the Wm. Wrigley Jr. division of Mars, the Taco Bell division of Yum Brands, H&R Block, the Schick division of Energizer Holdings and Subway restaurants have all pulled advertising from the series.

Ultimately, the worst thing about Skins is that it is one hundred percent focused on sex and drugs. Unlike many of the other scripted television shows the PTC has taken issue with, Skins story lines revolve completely around the sex lives and drug usage of high school students, without much focus on anything else. All other issues are tackled through the teens’ use of sex and drugs to vent their problems, as if it is impossible for kids to think of any other way to express themselves. The sex and drugs are p
urely, overtly, and outrageously gratuitous.  Simulated masturbation, teen sex, chemically enhanced erections, and drug-induced promiscuity were all flippantly featured in the first two episodes alone.  I was actually nervous that younger, more impressionable people might be watching the show and idolizing anything and everything to come from MTV as the ultimate standard of cool.  I know . . . I know, it had a rating of TV-MA and parents should monitor their children accordingly. But lets be honest, even goody-two-shoes in high school like me found ways to blatantly disregard the TV-MA ratings even with the most vigil of parental units.

Obviously Skins is not the first teen show, scripted or non-scripted, to feature sexualized and scandalous content. However, it is one of the first to be so casual about making sex and drugs the center of every character’s life. Even when Gossip Girl‘s characters engage in sexual acts as part of malicious scheming, or Glee‘s cheerleaders reference a lesbian past, the focus of the show is not on the act itself. And more importantly, the sexual acts are never as graphically, gratuitously, or explicitly portrayed as they are in Skins.

Even worse, Skins attempts to send the message that it is simply attempting to tackle “real life” teen issues in realistic ways. An MTV spokesperson claimed, “Skins is a show that addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way.” Skins actress Sofia Black-D’elia echoed those remarks saying, “It’s what teens are doing….And so, um, the drugs and the sex, they’re vices, and that’s what teenagers have.” While I’m sure there are many teenagers in the world struggling with issues like underage sex and drug addiction, I doubt that most teens spend their days chugging alcohol, smoking pot, taking pills, having sex, and partying to the level that the characters in Skins do.

 

MTV Skins Cast members: Daniel Flaherty & Britne Oldford

It is true that in many instances, art imitates life.  But, it is also true that life often imitates art.  It is the artist, or in this case the benefactor, that is responsible.  That is the problem here with Skins.   If MTV is trying to convince teenagers that these actions are normal, understandable, and acceptable, soon the lives of real teenagers could mimic that conduct.   I agree, such activity is not only harmful to society, but also to our children.

Call me a puritan, a hypocrite, or a prude, but I believe this teen-targeted show, on this teen-targeted network, which features a teenage cast is dangerously close to influencing society for the worse, all in an effort to push the boundaries of a reality that doesn’t exist for most of its viewers. Then again, I guess watching teenagers play video games and ignore their parents like they would in real life doesn’t make for good television.

Photos Courtesy of MTV, IMDB Pro, GQ.com.


4 Comments

  1. This is ridiculous. Number one, even hinting that you agree with the PTC’s “child pornography” claim is insulting. It’s an insult to a) journalism, and b) all the children who suffer due to real child sexual abuse. This is not the first time underage actors have had to do scenes of this nature. It’s happened in movies multiple times before, just because it’s on television now does not make it different. It wasn’t “child porn” on Kids in 1995, and it’s not “child porn” on Skins in 2011.

    Number two, Skins is not 100% focused on sex and drugs past the first episode. A lot of teenagers have sex, do drugs, and drink alcohol. Quite a bit actually, I would know – it was just under two years ago I graduated. All Skins does is show that. It’s still heightened reality (seeing as it’s television) but there’s certainly an element of truth to it. If those parts are all you choose to take away from it, that’s on you.

    The second episode focuses on a young girl’s realization that for all the confidence she exudes, and all the self assurance she possesses, at the end of the day, she really doesn’t know who she is – like most teens. The third episode focuses on a young boy who had his father walk out on him as a child, only to have his mother do the same years later. His friends find out that despite the huge smile and happy-go-lucky personality he puts on in public, he’s actually quite sad, and quite lonely.

    Of course, the sex and drugs are what’s important about those episodes. Obviously. There’s nothing else to be taken from them.

  2. This is ridiculous. Number one, even hinting that you agree with the PTC’s “child pornography” claim is insulting. It’s an insult to a) journalism, and b) all the children who suffer due to real child sexual abuse. This is not the first time underage actors have had to do scenes of this nature. It’s happened in movies multiple times before, just because it’s on television now does not make it different. It wasn’t “child porn” on Kids in 1995, and it’s not “child porn” on Skins in 2011.

    Number two, Skins is not 100% focused on sex and drugs past the first episode. A lot of teenagers have sex, do drugs, and drink alcohol. Quite a bit actually, I would know – it was just under two years ago I graduated. All Skins does is show that. It’s still heightened reality (seeing as it’s television) but there’s certainly an element of truth to it. If those parts are all you choose to take away from it, that’s on you.

    The second episode focuses on a young girl’s realization that for all the confidence she exudes, and all the self assurance she possesses, at the end of the day, she really doesn’t know who she is – like most teens. The third episode focuses on a young boy who had his father walk out on him as a child, only to have his mother do the same years later. His friends find out that despite the huge smile and happy-go-lucky personality he puts on in public, he’s actually quite sad, and quite lonely.

    Of course, the sex and drugs are what’s important about those episodes. Obviously. There’s nothing else to be taken from them.

  3. We decided to advertise on this show, to send out a positive message to teens and parents watching this show. Myteensavers has seen and treated adolescent drug abusers. If this show is going to be on TV, we want there to be some positive family content, and we will make it happen in the advertising. http://bit.ly/gx70xp. We understand that the Parents Television Council believes this is child pornography. We strongly believe that there needs to be pro-family and positive family messages within the hour long broadcast.

  4. We decided to advertise on this show, to send out a positive message to teens and parents watching this show. Myteensavers has seen and treated adolescent drug abusers. If this show is going to be on TV, we want there to be some positive family content, and we will make it happen in the advertising. http://bit.ly/gx70xp. We understand that the Parents Television Council believes this is child pornography. We strongly believe that there needs to be pro-family and positive family messages within the hour long broadcast.

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