Let me give you a scenario. An adult male has an idea for a show he wants to put on YouTube. He recruits about a dozen male and female teenagers ages 15-19 to be in the show. He then proceeds to shoot a bunch of scenes with them undressing each other, wildly making out, simulating masturbation, and acting out all kinds of sex scenes that range the gamut. In one scene he shoots what looks like a drunken orgy of high school teens, pouring hard liquor done their throats like it’s water, popping pills like it’s Pez, fondling, humping each other like animals, and every kind of lewd behavior you can imagine. He then puts this up on YouTube for all the world to see. Keep in mind this are real teens, ages 15-19. Should he go to jail? Or is it artistic expression and fully protected under his first amendments rights.
Well, you don’t have to wonder because there is a show exactly like that on MTV called “Skins.” And before you make the argument that the show is on TV not YouTube, watch this (and read the comments from the kids. It’s sad.) The age range of the actors on this show is 15-19.
Frankly, I’m at a total and complete loss. The NY Times reported that future episodes of this show may actually fall under the legal description of child pornography. Frankly, I think even what I’ve seen so far fits that description. At its core, pornography is mindless and baseless imagery designed to appeal to the lowest, basest, most carnal aspects of the human nature. Whether its pornographic sex or pornographic violence, it’s sole purpose is to titillate and delight the senses. There’s no redemptive value. No exposition of consequences for people actions. It’s just wanton, selfish, self-indulgence.
Honestly, I cannot even write about all my feelings with regards to this show. All I keep thinking is “Do any of the people who created this thing, who shot it, or edited it, have kids of their own?” And “Why in the world are the parents of these kids allowing their children in a show like this?” Oh, wait, that answer is easy. The almighty dollar. What other possible reason is there for creating a show that lauds instead of laments drunkenness, drugs, and excessive, irresponsible sexual behavior among teens?
What’s even more disturbing is that in that NY Times article, they report that “MTV states in news releases that it is ‘specifically designed to be viewed by adults.’” Wow. Really? You mean to tell me you created a show of teenagers engaging in these kind of sexual activities and half-nakedness to entertain ADULTS? (which in truth you know is adult males.) Are we supposed to believe that? Either they’re lying and you know this is meant for teens, or they’re telling the truth and then I just don’t even know how to respond to such a motive. It’s no wonder there’s a rise of the sexual exploitation of under-aged girls and boys in this country when a show like this can get green lit by a major studio like Viacom (owner of MTV).
But Ron, It’s Real Life
The argument you’re going to hear is that the show is a real portrayal of the teenage life today. They even have a teen advisory board providing this spin. Here’s the problem. Sex trafficking of under-aged children is real too, but I don’t want to see a show lauding the day-to-day lives of pimps and the issues they deal with in their business.
Nothing I’ve seen from the trailers, clips or interviews of “Skins” addresses the issue of teenage drug use, alcohol use, or sexual promiscuity as a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The marketing is definitely geared to get teens excited about watching and relating to these characters, not learning from their mistakes. All I hear them say is “This show is real. These are real issues we’re dealing with.” Well, that’s great. But is there not a way to address the real issues teens deal with in a way that doesn’t perpetuate the problems? (All you have to do is read all the comments from teens on the videos and Facebook pages.)
It’s because of shows like this that my wife and I created the Teen Identity Network. But, I gotta tell you. The task is so daunting. According to that NY Times article, the show attracted 3.3 million viewers to its premiere on Monday night and set a new first-episode record for the channel among viewers ages 12 to 34. What are we doing to our children?
If you want to watch some quality content about teen angst, shows and movies that address real issues, but in a way that doesn’t seemingly encourage or edify the real issues that teens face, check out one of these:
- My So Called Life: the show that put actress Claire Danes on the map.
- Freaks and Geeks: unfortunately, another short-lived TV series that was critically acclaimed, but suffered from poor marketing and bad program planning. I believe this was the show where James Franco got his big break.
- The Breakfast Club: this John Hughes classic from the 80s is as relevant today as it was a quarter century ago. It’s poignant look at the teen class system still strikes a cord for us as adult.
- American Teen: this 2008 documentary is essentially a real-life “Breakfast Club.” The stories and the “characters” draw you completely in, as if you’re watching a narrative film.
I also want to go on record as saying I’m not at all against depicting these activities on film. After all, even “The Breakfast Club” technically has drug use in it. My issue is that “Skins,” as marketed to teens, and based on clips they’ve shown, does not seem to be handling the topics in a way that yields healthy outcomes. Nothing I’ve seen shows any redemptive value to the show to offset the extremely excessive amount of the physically, emotionally and psychologically destructive activity portrayed.
What are your thoughts?