Thursday, February 17, 2011

Skins UK vs. MTV: Still Controversial

MTV has released a remake of the BBC UK's "Skins". A remake made for seemingly no plausible reason, given that the UK version is indeed in english and by the looks of it, is far better on all levels. America's obsession with remakes is puzzling in and of itself; most Americans dislike subtitles and seem to prefer a worse-made remake to a great movie with subtitles. But when a show is in the same language and the world of the teenager is universal, the concept truly loses all logic.

The first episode is a scene-for-scene remake, only with more makeup, bad actors, and is far less watchable (I love the original series and couldn't stomach MTV's version and I AM an American, only one of those rare ones that appreciates the media of other cultures as well). I'm not sure why MTV felt they couldn't just buy the rights to air the UK version, that sounds like a much cheaper and sensible option.

Many critics have jumped on the Skins-bashing bandwagon, much as they do with other reviled MTV shows. They allege that the show has too much skin, sexuality, and drugs, is too controversial and unrealistic. The reality is that sex and drugs are realities found all too often in high schools across the country and teens needn't turn on a channel to learn those lessons the hard way. The UK show is far more explicit as international broadcast standards differ. If MTV was concerned about the potential for the show to be considered "child pornography" which it obviously isn't, they should have stuck to casting older actors in younger roles as is often the case in productions involving high school characters, especially knowing the nature of the show going into it. Sponsors have even pulled out due to the show's depiction of sex and drugs, including Taco Bell and Subway - comical hypocrisy in that these very companies pretending to bring "values" at the forefront are selling nothing short of poison that will surely cause far more harm to teenagers than any fictional depiction.

Skins UK has one healthy advantage - the teenagers on the show actually look like *gasp* teenagers. If the actors have acne, guess what - so do their onscreen counterparts. Even Tony (the only name that remains the same on both shows) the hearthrob is subject to extreme closeups in which acne and skin blemishes are present - and he's still the most desirable kid on the block. If only the characters living in the MTV version could be afforded the opportunity to present teenagers with a real face free of pounds of makeup and visual enhancement, THAT'S unrealistic. Body issues run rampant amongst teens watching these shows or reading magazines loaded with airbrushed pictorials. Having a character with an eating disorder on a show geared towards teens can only be a step in the right direction, if only the creators of the show didn't then turn around and cancel out this concept by making its cast look completely unreal.

The issues on the show are widespread and include themes involving drug abuse, death, eating disorders, homosexuality, religion, and numerous other societal pressures and issues facing modern teenagers. If the MTV version continues down a path similar to its UK cousin, many of the characters will teach their audience unexpected lessons; The characters do experience negative consequences for certain actions which is revealed in a way that does seem realistic and not preachy, a tone teenagers can relate to.

Censorship is not an answer to media problems. Messages to teenagers aren't just seen on MTV but every channel and on billboards, magazines, and all over school. A teenager isn't going to make a bad decision because they saw it on TV, they are going to make a poor decision because the weren't raised properly. Parents need to take a proactive role in developing their children and teenagers for a harsh world, giving them tools at their disposal to confront life's challenges and to develop a strong sense of self so they can make the strongest decisions possible. This is the best protection, scapegoating MTV will do little given that it's a very small slice of a large world where possibilities are endless and messages abundant in all directions. Nudity and sexuality seem to send American censors in an uproar, yet the amount of violence and crime on television is rarely complained against. Priorities? This reminds me of the Janet Jackson's 2001 Nipplegate incident at the Superbowl (see previous article), fines and lawsuits for emotional distress over a nipple that aired for a second. The backlash never made sense, especially compared with the fare children, teens, and adults are met with on television that is really worth an eye roll and a call to the networks.

So, to MTV critics I say, yes I agree with you - the show is awful. Teens, if you want to see a really good show, watch the UK version, currently available on Netflix (only the first three seasons are noteworthy). The acting in the MTV version was so bad I could barely watch it, I stomached it just for you (my loving readers from around the world, who I appreciate so much). This is just another outlandish MTV attempt to gain attention and ratings. However, I disagree with all the controversy the show is generating and critics seem just as out for attention as MTV. I suggest they go run home and parent their children and champion their school boards for media literacy programs in this country, much as they do in numerous others. Instead of placing the blame on a media that will always be there, they should focus attention on winning more logical battles, those on the homefront.