#11: Skins

Posted: January 25, 2011 in TV

Dear PTC, Taco Bell, GM, Wrigley, H&R Block, Subway and everyone else who wrote off MTV’s Skins without really watching it or after only watching the pilot,

Tea.

Love, Things that are Totally Awesome

So in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, there’s this new show called Skins that premiered on MTV last week and everyone and their mother (literally) decided to hate it before it even aired. Now, the haters can largely be divided into two groups; the purists and the Puritans. The Puritans are the PTC; who – before the first episode even aired mind you – declared Skins “the most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children!” and all those who listened to their nonsense, including the aforementioned corporations who allowed themselves to be bullied into pulling their advertisements from the program. The purists are those who loved the UK version and refuse to believe that an American version can measure up.

I can see why both parties are up in arms.

First to the purists: I get it, I watched the UK version and it’s phenomenal and yes, the first episode of the MTV series (which was practically a carbon copy of the UK pilot but with different actors and some small differences that felt glaring in comparison) hurt my heart a little. Eura is no Effy and Cady is no Cassie and Abbud is no Anwar, I get it, it’s trying to be the same as the show we love and it’s not. To you I say: Tea.

The one ray of sunshine in an otherwise disappointing pilot also happened to be the one completely original character. Coincidence? Not in the slightest. Last night’s episode surrounding Tea was completely original and it was everything we’ve come to expect from Skins; complicated and nuanced and layer upon layer of beautiful storytelling. Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain know what they’re doing, people, TRUST THEM! I don’t really understand why they chose to reuse the UK characters, but the thing is, they’re not the same, because of Tea. Not just because she’s so awesome – though WOW – but because we are all the product of the people in our lives, and if you change even one player, you change the whole game.

Now to the parents: I understand that there is a lot of filth on television today, that this world is an awfully scary place to raise a child, and you just want to protect your children. I get that. In the PTC’s original call to arms they talk about how other shows like Gossip Girl have also had things like sex and drugs, but not to the same extent, pointing out also that the Skins actors are younger, thus making their actions more disturbing. The same groups of people are crying child prostitution because of a nude scene in next week’s Chris episode, featuring 15 year old Jesse Carere. I get what it looks like on the surface, but to you as well I say: Tea.

Watch Tea’s episode and tell me that this is the most dangerous show for your children to be watching. In the episode you’ll see Tea drinking, having sex, masturbating and doing drugs and you will see that IT’S NOT ABOUT THAT AT ALL. It’s about a very real, very complex teenage girl who is trying to figure out very real, very complex teenage things like who she is and what love is. And anyone who bothered to watch Chris’ episode would know that the nude scene could not be farther from sexual; it’s about a teenage boy who is ill-equipped to deal with the very frightening reality he’s facing. Gossip Girl, The OC, 90210 and all of these other teen shows may be less explicit in their use of sex and drugs, but those shows are both written and acted by adults, and the sex and the drugs are used for the purposes of titillation and intrigue, resulting in a glorification of those behaviors. Starting with the UK series and continuing into the American version Skins has been adamant about including real teenagers and their stories in the writing process as well as casting actual teenagers to play the teenagers on the show (I know, CRAAAZY, right?). This results in a show that is ridiculously true, and the explicit stuff, rather than being glorified vaguely from behind a mask is shoved in your face with all of its crudeness and grit for you to struggle with. And as creator Bryan Elsley said in his recent reply to the controversy, maybe the truth is painful and scary, but NEWSFLASH, your kids are living in this world, and if you can’t talk to them about the painful, scary stuff they’re facing, someone should, and Skins does it quite well.

I know this is a bit more serious than I usually get here, but through the UK series I’ve come to have a lot of respect for the creators of Skins, and I’ve been sitting around for weeks now reading about everyone attacking them and the new version and then last night I watched Tea, and it was truly one of the most compelling hours of television I’ve seen in a long time. It’s really easy to hate blindly, but if you just took a minute to really look at the thing you’re hating, you might discover that you’re hating the wrong thing, or that you don’t hate it at all. You might realize that what you’re hating is Tea; lovely little Tea, who is neither derivative nor a menace, but rather poised to be one of the greatest teen characters ever to grace American television.

So to everyone involved in Skins who have been thrown into this shit storm they don’t deserve I want to say, keep doing what you’re doing because

Skins is TOTALLY AWESOME!

Shwabam!

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