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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

Sex vs Violence: Why are we even talking about MTV’s Skins?

I’m an unabashed fan of the UK version of Skins.  It was (and is) a show that doesn’t shy away from what actual teenagers do, namely fornication and drug/alcohol abuse.  It doesn’t matter if a kid was reared by good parents or bad ones, what makes them teenagers is the fact that they make mistakes.  After all, making mistakes and getting in trouble is all a part of the learning process of growing up and living a healthy lifestyle and it’s usually something we get out of the way as teenagers and young adults so that we can go on to be functional parts of society (unless you’re Charlie Sheen…sorry, too easy).

So why are people shocked (shocked!) that there is a show out there that actually has the balls to address this basic part of modern Western culture?  We were all teenagers once.  It strikes me that teenagers today are really not all that different from the young people that went to Woodstock and got stoned out of their minds on acid and weed.  Sure, kids today have replaced acid with MDMA, but it’s pretty similar.  The music has changed, computers and cell phones have made everything more attainable than they once were, but purposeless hedonism has always been pervasive amongst young folks.  The people of the Baby Boomer generation might argue that they had a sense of purpose, that they were fighting against the man and the Vietnam war and all that.  Well, I would argue that young people today are more politically aware than ever before because of the internet and that the use of mind-altering drugs and having casual sex didn’t (and doesn’t) really do anything to change the world (unless it’s really good sex).

The good Skins

But the part of the outrage that is truly, well, outrageous to me is the fact that all of this hubbub is over a show that a) really sucks and b) isn’t nearly as graphic or insightful as the UK original.  The original version of the show had copious nudity, lots of swear words, and didn’t shy away from emotional complexities.  Can you imagine what the puritanical parents’ groups in the US would do if the remake was half as intense as the original?  They’d probably lose their collective shit.  So why didn’t I hear a whole lot of outrage in the UK about the realistic (and sometimes purposefully unrealistic) portrait of their teenagers in the original Skins?  Why are we in the states so hung up on “protecting” our poor, fragile children from “graphic” imagery?

For me, this always goes back our country’s fascination with violence over sex.  Sex is taboo in our culture, but violence is everywhere.  We can turn on any of the big four networks and watch people get shot and stabbed and it will be approved for all ages, but if someone dares say the word “fuck” or shows a naked rear, it becomes transgressive television.  The same goes with movies.  The MPAA limits the amounts of times you can say “fuck” in a movie or else you’re slapped with a restrictive “R” rating, yet Transformers can have millions of bullets flying and still get a PG-13.

The bad Skins

You know why this happens?  It’s because the folks with the loudest voices are the prudes that take offense at someone having an orgasm.  The folks that don’t find such imagery offensive are likely not to find the violence in films offensive either, so they don’t speak up about it.  If there is ever going to be a change in our culture, if we’re ever going to accept sex as a natural and lovely part of life, then we have to speak up and scold the sponsors for leaving a show like Skins and scold the parents’ groups for telling us what we can and can’t watch.

I don’t like the US version of Skins, but not because it offends me in its depictions of youth (it just offends my sense of good television), and I think it’s ridiculous that in the year 2011 people will still get up in arms about sex and drugs on TV even though it’s probably happening more than they know in their own houses.

2 Responses to “Sex vs Violence: Why are we even talking about MTV’s Skins?”

  1. Garrick says:

    I agree with your point. Although, as a fan of the original I hardly think US Skins is that bad. It’s flaws have been grossly exaggerated. I think it just needs some time to find it’s footing. Queer as Folk and the Office were able to do it after a handful of episodes. US Skins is already on the right track with Bryan Elsley still at the forefront.

  2. Sean says:

    Sex vs Violence? Why can’t we have both?

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~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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