‘Skins’: A New Low, Even for MTV

MTV has bumped up the smut and sleaze level on television with its new show “Skins” – a take off on a successful BBC series. The scripted show’s attempt to portray the real lives of high school students showcases casual sex among minors without consequences, a 16 year-old child purchasing four ounces of marijuana, an adult woman stripping for an underage peeping tom, parental verbal abuse, an overdose on narcotics, and sexual assault of a minor – all in the series premiere.

Titled “Tony,” the episode’s plot revolves around a group of illegal drug-using, pill-popping, casual sex touting group of friends attempting to get virgin friend Stanley’s “cherry popped.” “Stan’s gotta get laid before he turns 17 or he’s not my friend anymore,” said the main character, Tony.

In a press release, MTV’s boasted about the premiere’s ratings, and its success among the 12-34 demographic, despite its TV-MA rating. On January 18, “Skins” drew the “network’s largest P12-34 audience for a series launch…and drew the most P12-34 viewers for a show launch in the network’s history.  MTV’s newest scripted series drew 3.26 million total viewers and 2.7 million viewers in its core demo,” read the release.

The hour-long episode follows the teens’ wild quest to persuade formerly hospitalized mental-case Katie to have sex with Stanley. She agrees on the condition that he gets her some “good narcotics.” Viewers follow Stanley’s visit to a drug dealer’s home where, after selling him marijuana, the adult male drug dealer sexually assaults him. There are several shots of the teens smoking joints, participating in casual sex, and viewing pornography. The episode ends with an erratic, law-breaking drive to the hospital in a car the teens stole, in order to save Katie who has overdosed on mysterious pills before Stanley could have sex with her.

Sadly, this is MTV’s attempt to portray teenage “reality.” But in truth, lewd, illegal and dangerous behavior like the characters engage in would inevitably bring some of them diseases, pregnancy, jail time and even death.

“Skins” is hypocritical programming for MTV, which has been praised for its portrayalof the reality of teen pregnancy with the hit show “16 and pregnant” and its follow up series “Teen Mom.” The platform of casual sex and living life without consequences as appears in “Skins” stands in direct contrast to the harsh realities that actual teen mothers face and as Michael Inbar for the “Today” show put it, “the often painful resultsof youthful hookups.”

To further entice indecent behavior among teens, the MTV website for “Skins” has launched a new section called, “Where it went down.” Readers are encouraged to anonymously post on a mapof the world where “every kind of trouble” occurred. The website whereitwentdown.com actually encourages posters to “Browse and share the places where memories were made - and the scattered pieces of nights you can’t really remember. Post the truth about the biggest parties, heartbreak, friends, sex, and every kind of trouble.”

Despite the nasty content, one media critic still found a way to praise the show. “‘Skins’ feels raw and gritty... Only the show’s target audience will know how true its portrayal of adolescence is, but it should make many parents pay closer attention to what’s going on in their teenagers’ lives” wrote Amy Amatangelo of the Boston Herald.

Despite its success, the media need to accurately report the consequence-free filth that this show and this network are promoting. Truthful reviews such as this onefrom James Poniewozik from Time magazine can go a long way in exposing the muck of this program.

“There’s far more flesh, swearing and toking on Skins than on the edgiest CW soap, but what may be most shocking to an American audience is how insouciantly it defies teen TV’s unwritten mandate of consequences. 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…Skins, like the movies Superbad and Dazed and Confused, instead admits that teenagers seek out sex and drugs because they feel good.”


MTV calls itself as “the world’s premier youth entertainment brand,” and “a pioneer in creating innovative programming for young people. That’s undoubtedly true, if innovation means pornography, underage sex, drug use, peeping toms, vulgarity, grand theft auto and sexual assault.

“Skins” appears on Mondays nights at 10pm on MTV.