There are a few common elements that the majority of teen soaps on television today share: the glamorization of sex and drugs and the chunk of cash the main characters possess to make it possible for them to obtain those things.
The CW shows “Gossip Girl” and “90210” may be considered less taboo because it is pretty clear that those lives are nothing like the majority of American adolescents, who do not all live on the Upper East Side or in Beverly Hills. But MTV took a stab at creating a more realistic presentation of American adolescents — much to the dismay of parent advocacy groups — in its newest teen drama, a remake of the UK’s popular series, “Skins.”
“Skins” premiered in America on Jan. 17. The show takes audiences into the lives of a 16-year-old named Tony and his friends as they experience their teenage years, experimenting with various narcotics and sex.
“Skins” is unlike other shows in its approach at portraying middle class teens. Rather than showing teens as being seduced simply by the allure of drugs and sex, it shows them as being more open and honest about their conscious pursuit of those things — they pursue them because that is what they want to satisfy themselves.
James Poniewozik, a critic for TIME Magazine, explored the difference between “Skins” and other shows on television in his review of the show.
“On U.S. teen dramas, you can titillate the audience with bad behavior so long as, at some point, there’s a pregnancy scare or a cautionary drug overdose … ” Poniewozik wrote.
Who can forget the Marissa Cooper overdose in Tijuana during “The OC”? Or more recently, Georgina Sparks’ pregnancy on “Gossip Girl”?
“‘Skins,’ like the movies ‘Superbad’ and ‘Dazed and Confused,’ instead admits that teenagers seek out sex and drugs because they feel good,” Poniewozik continued.
So while it is a step away from the glamour of The CW or “The OC,” does “Skins” truly portray being a teenager today?
“I don’t think kids are that clever with sneaking around their parents nor do I think parents are that naive about what their children are doing,” said Yaelle Tuvy, an undeclared freshman. “Also, I think drugs are a lot more accessible to kids these days. They definitely don’t have to go out of their way to a whore house or a pimp’s house or whatever that was just to get drugs.”
There has been quite a bit of controversy, with parents making complaints that MTV is giving teenagers bad ideas and teaching them things that are not appropriate.
Rachel Ginzburg, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, felt that the show could instead create a platform for parents to talk to their children — much like the Canadian TV show “Degrassi” attempted to do. In fact, a recent Ohio State University study found that college-aged women who watched a televised drama of teen pregnancy (think “The OC” or “Glee”) were more likely to reconsider their birth control options.
“I think that if MTV can show ‘Teen Mom’ and ‘True Life: I’m Addicted to Everything’ that they can show a fictional show about fictional teenagers going through real-life stuff,” Ginzburg explained. “I think that if children felt comfortable enough to talk these issues out with their parents, ‘Skins’ would have no place in the media as a tool for raising children and would be purely entertainment.”
“Skins” airs 10 p.m. on Mondays on MTV.