BY RACHEL SHARPE
Since its inception, MTV has created lewd and highly controversial television programs. They have continually pushed traditional television boundaries, producing hit reality shows such as Teen Mom and Jersey Shore that have resulted in record breaking ratings. However, MTV may have finally crossed the line with their latest programming addition, Skins, a remake of the popular British scripted series that depicts the lives of teenagers and their experiences with drugs and sex. The racy new series which drew 3.3 million viewers in its debut has already raised the eyebrows of many American viewers.
The original U.K Skins was created in 2007 by Bryan Elsley and his son Jamie Brittain. The series’ conception occurred after a conversation between the father and son writing duo.
“He was acquainting me with my age and my boringness and the mundaneness of what I did,” Elsley said of his son in an interview with the New York Times.
Brittain’s harsh comment paired with his pop culture interests inspired the father and son to immediately create the teenage drama. The characters were based off of Brittain and his group of friends, including the popular and crafty Tony and the virgin, Sid, who actually represented Brittain himself.
The U.K. Skins features characters overdosing on drugs, chugging bottles of vodka and engaging in explicit sex acts. Although some aspects of the series may seem a bit unrealistic, most of the character’s come from middle to lower class homes and are dealing with difficult real life issues. Cassie has a history of drug problems and Chris is forced to live on his own, after his mother abandoned him.
The U.S. plot line is basically the same; but, it is a slightly toned down version of the British series, due to its extreme sexual and drug content. Yet, the MTV series has sparked much controversy and criticism.
“I think there’s so much controversy here in America because there has never really been a show in the U.S. that pushes the boundaries like Skins does,” sophomore Noah Avidan said. “Skins probably came as a shock to most people.”
Even before the MTV Skins premiere, it caught the attention of 500,000 Facebook fans and surfaced as Twitter’s second trending topic worldwide, with both positive and negative reactions. Many believe that Skins could be flirting with child pornography because the actors and actresses are underage; the youngest is only fifteen years old. Instead of casting older actors and actresses to play high school students, MTV decided to have actual teens play these racy roles. The Parent Television Council even went as far as to call it, “the most dangerous show on television,” and is working toward an advertising boycott and a federal investigation on the production of Skins.
Many major U.S. companies have even backed away from having their commercials played during the show. The withdrawal of big-name companies including Taco Bell, Wrigley, Foot Locker, L’Oreal and Subway could potentially cost MTV a $2 million loss per episode. General Motors even issued a statement explaining that their commercials weren’t meant to be aired during the Skins premiere.
MTV has responded to all of this controversy by saying “We are confident that the episodes of Skins will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers. We also have taken numerous steps to alert viewers to the strong subject matter so that they can choose for themselves whether it is appropriate.”
Although some viewers are outraged by the explicit content of MTV Skins, others believe that the show is, in fact, a realistic depiction of today’s society.
“There are kids and families out there that are completely dysfunctional,” sophomore Adriana Hazelton said. “While most kids don’t ever deal with issues that Skins addresses, I find it incredibly realistic for those teens that do.”
Aside from the child pornography legal issues that MTV Skins is accused of, many say the show lacks originality. The premiere episode of MTV Skins was almost an exact replica of the U.K. version. In fact, aside from the American accents and a few toned-down scenes, the only major change in MTV Skins is that an original character Maxxie, a gay teen who wants to pursue a career in dancing, has been swapped out for Tea, the captain of her cheerleading squad who struggles with her sexual orientation.
“There’s no room for creativity if they copy almost the entire show,” Hazelton said. “I don’t want to watch the same thing all over again. If I wanted that, I could re-watch the UK Skins.”
Hazelton’s opinion seems to represent the majority of the targeted teenage and young adult audience as ratings drastically declined for the second episode.
The fate of this new show is yet to be determined. However, it is clear that MTV is relying on the seemingly limitless desire for self-indulgent programming.