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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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Less than twenty years now separate us from the twenty-first century. In the course of its existence, through its peaks and troughs, cinema has travelled a long and tortuous path. The relationship that has grown up between artistic films and the commercial cinema is not an easy one, and the gulf between the two becomes wider every day. Nonetheless, films are being made all the time that are undoubtedly landmarks in the history of cinema. Audiences have become more discerning in their attitude to films. Cinema as such long ago ceased to amaze them as a new and original phenomenon; and at the same time it is expected to answer a far wider range of individual needs. Audiences have developed their likes and dislikes. That means that the filmmaker in turn has an audience that is constant, his own circle. Divergence of taste on the part of audiences can be extreme, and this is in no way regrettable or alarming; the fact that people have their own aesthetic criteria indicates a growth of self-awareness.

Directors are going deeper into the areas which concern them. There are faithful audiences and favorite directors, so that there is no question of thinking in terms of unqualified success with the public—that is, if one is talking about cinema not as commercial entertainment but as art. Indeed, mass popularity suggests what is known as mass culture, and not art.”
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