Skins — Another Challenge for Parents of Teens

Posted on January 22, 2011 at 8:00 am

MTV’s latest series is Skins, an American version of a controversial British television show about teenagers and starring teenagers. It was co-created by a teenager, the son of a television writer who was challenged by his father to come up with an idea.
Skins-popup.jpgThe characters in both the US and UK versions use drugs, have casual and sometimes predatory sex, and engage in a great deal of irresponsible and highly risky behavior. Hank Steuver of the Washington Post wrote:

By and large, “Skins” is a repugnant, irredeemably nihilistic viewing experience for grownups – the very thing for which “off” buttons are made.

For actual teenagers, “Skins” might be something of a vicarious thrill, in which a scheming, savvy twerp named Tony (James Newman) arranges a debauched social life for himself and his other working-class friends, each of whom have their own overblown emotional issues and troubles at home. Imagine a kid with Ferris Bueller’s self-assurance and Eddie Haskell’s duplicity plunked down with his ethnically diverse peers in a den filled with drugs, porn and a stack of unmade “ABC Afterschool Special” scripts with the final scenes (i.e., the saccharine conclusions) torn out.

That is the key point. Some shows try to have it both ways; they display all kinds of bad behavior and justify it with a moral lesson by showing the consequences. These can range from the “very special episodes” that put favorite sitcom characters in the path of danger to movies like “The Hangover,” which let us enjoy the out-of-control behavior of the characters and then let us enjoy even more the pain of coping with the consequences. “Skins” doesn’t seem to care about anything but giving audiences a transgressive thrill. Knowing that the actors really are as young as the characters they portray adds to the shock value — and the appeal.
Parents should know that this series pushes the boundaries already pushed very far by shows like “90210” and “Gossip Girl.” New York Magazine reports that MTV is concerned that it might violate child pornography statutes. Wrigley, GM, and Taco Bell have already pulled out as advertisers. If you are going to give your children permission to watch, I strongly suggest you watch it with them — though it’s hard to say which of you would be most uncomfortable doing so.

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