Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MTV's "Skins"

For this blog project, I decided to look at MTVs new series Skins. Its been raising quite a bit of controversy, so I wanted to analyze it and see if the controversy is for good reason, or if Skins actually does accurately mirror culture today. I watched the first two episodes. MTVs version of Skins was actually adapted from the UK version, which has been on Channel 4 BBC over there since 2007. I have watched all 4 seasons of the UK version, and I watched them before I even knew MTV had plans to adapt it. Along with other people who have seen the UK version, I did not have high expectations that the USA version would live up to the UK version. Even though the majority of people who will view the MTV version will have never seen the UK version or even know it exists, for those of us who have, the USA version will get harsh critique. But first, I will start with a description of the plot and characters.

MTVs Skins airs at 7:00 pm (On dish network, could be different on cable, I'm not sure) right after Jersey Shore. This was obviously a tactic MTV used to try to get the maximum amount of viewers, since Jersey Shore is their most popular show. The storyline of Skins is very basic. Skins is a drama that follows 8 high school teens, 4 girls (Tea, Michele, Cadie, and Daisy) and 4 boys (Tony, Sid, Chris, and Abbud). It is really just about each character getting through life and encountering issues. It focuses on school, relationships, partying, questioning your sexuality, family problems.... basically any problem you can think of a teen having, one of the characters encounters it eventually. Skins is different from many shows in the fact that there are 10 episodes in a season, and the first episode focuses on everyone, and then after that, each character gets an episode mainly focused on them, with the other characters making appearances. The last episode is also an "Everyone" episode. This method allows you to really see into the character and get a deeper sense of what they are going through, but it also doesn't really allow you to know what the character is really about until their episode. For example, the second episode was based on the character Tea, who is a closet lesbian. Her friends know, but her family does not. She goes through meeting a girl she likes, but not wanting a relationship with that girl. She feels like no one matches up to her. She has a short romance with Tony, but realizes its not right. She makes a few attempts to tell her family she's gay, but is overshadowed and ignored. In the end of the episode, she is speaking with her Grandmother, and her Grandmother confesses she was in love with woman before she married Tea's grandfather.This a very emotional scene and allows you to see deeper into Tea.

The advertising during commercial breaks was a pretty wide range of things. The majority was movie trailers, including 2 romantic comedies, 3 action dramas, and 1 thriller. I noticed that the movie trailer that played the most was for No Strings Attached, which appears like its going to be a movie about 2 friends who are "friends with benefits", so I found that to be interesting because one of the controversies surrounding Skins is that its "basically child pornography" and that it is based alot around sex. I guess its okay for movie trailers to be based around that, but not the show for which they are advertising during? I also read a few news articles and found out that Taco Bell, Subway, H&R Block, and GM pulled their advertisements from Skins after the first episode and after the child pornography accusations. PETA and LifeStyle condoms bought the available space. Other advertisements were for acne treatments, Redbull, typical stuff you'd expect. I think these advertisers chose a good spot to advertise, because its mostly teens aging from 14-20-something that will watch this and teens go to the movies and eat fast food and have acne, so thats the right target audience, right demographics.

The attitudes and styles used in this show are extreme, to state it simply. Its explicit. But this show was made to raise eyebrows and be blatant and out there. That is what makes it unlike other shows. If people are freaking out over USAs version, which bleeps out curse words, has revealing clothes but no nudity, and which so far has stuck to only alcohol and pot, then they would probably literally explode if they saw the original UK version, which goes waaaaay past all of the limits MTV has. I think that why people don't approve of this show is because instead of just portraying or hinting at drugs, alcohol, and sex, there are extreme or close to explicit scenes showing the characters doing all of those things. People who are against the show raise the point that the actors are underage, which is what makes it wildly inappropriate, but then what about shows like Gossip Girl or 90210, where the characters are in high school but the actual actors are not underage? Is that different? I think people don't like this because Skins doesn't sugarcoat anything, they show it how it is.

I think that parents or other people who disapprove of the show are going to think that the shows content is going to persuade teenagers to act the way the characters are acting, which is not true. If it wasn't Skins that was showing teens these things, it would be some other show. This stuff is everywhere, its unstoppable. Sex sells nearly everything in this country but as soon as its actually shown or talked about, people throw a fit. I will admit that this show probably does make it look like every teen is a closet partier that their parent has no idea about, and I think that is the stereotype within this show. It makes it seem as if all teenagers are having sex and smoking pot and partying and being wild, but thats so far from true, just like its so far from true that watching this show will influence teens who aren't doing those things to change their path. I don't do anything even close to what the characters in this show are doing, and after watching it, I don't still don't do them! I've been watching the UK version since last year and it hasn't influenced my behavior in the slightest. You can appreciate something for more than what is on it's surface.

As I said in my introduction, people who have viewed the UK version of this show will find the USA version to be watered down, plain and simple. I guess its because of cultural differences, but the UK is more open to the extremities that this show presents. They are more than open to it, in fact, it is a phenomenon in the UK, one of the most popular shows on television. If someone from the UK were to see the USA version, I'm sure they would only think we are trying to rip off their show, and are doing a poor job of it. Not only are the episode plots the same, many of the scenes are complete copycats of the UK ones. Much of the dialogue is copied too. I don't understand why MTV copied so many scenes and dialogue, and then saved only the original names of 3 of the characters (Tony, Michele, and Chris) and then changed the remaining 5 (Sid to Stanley, Cassie to Cadie, Jal to Daisy, Anwar to Abbad). The biggest change MTV made was creating Tea. In the UK, this character was Maxxie, a gay blonde boy who Tony (pretty much the main male character) played with Maxxie's heart and hit on him in one of the episodes. MTV ruffled this storyline up, making the gay character a girl, and having her and Tony have a short lived romance. I'm curious to see how else Tea changes the storyline in upcoming episodes.

My opinions are obviously different from the critics (at least the ones of whose opinions I've read). I think the reason for this difference is that the critics I've read from are older, and one was a parent, and these people probably cannot relate at all to this show. If you were to ask a teenage critic, I imagine they would speak of Skins similarly to the way I have been, and say that while, yes, it is extreme and blatant and out there, it's also true, and captivating, and interesting, and relatable (to a point). I think what makes this show interesting and captivating is that it's very up and down, and unpredictable. A character can be on top of the world one second, and then something huge happens and they are in a very different mood. Or maybe everything is going well, but then they accidentally drive the Escalade they stole into a river, while taking their friend to the hospital because they thought she overdosed on pills, but actually she was just asleep and now she woke up. See what I mean? Its unpredictable. I think this is what makes the show memorable and stand out.

Many sites and TV shows reported that MTV was going to be cancelling Skins, because of the controvesy and upset people, and because their second episode had less than half of the viewers the first episode had. MTV has said that they are not even considering cancelling Skins, and that they will air all 10 episodes of the first season. So if you want to see for yourself what all the hype/hate is about, tune in to MTV on Monday nights! I reccomend watching at least once to form your own opinion on the show. Maybe you will agree that is it wildly unappropriate, or maybe you will find a deeper message, or a way to relate to it.

Below are a few links to articles I read about the show, and also links to the pilot episodes of both the UK version of Skins and the USA version, in case anyone wants to compare the 2 for themselves!
Skins wikipedia page
Fox News Review
Skins cancellation false
USA Skins season 1 pilot
UK Skins series 1 pilot

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